The daylight was creeping through the blackout blinds casting odd flickering shadows on my eyelids as feasting crows grazed outside the van. The gentle hum from the swimming pool machinery still echoing around my head. "Today is the day!" I shouted into Kerry's ear in a poetic voice, "Today we start our adventure proper!"
"Why are you shouting at me at 5am and why are you talking like Shakespeare?" was all Kerry said as she rolled back over and fell back to sleep.
A couple of hours later, after we'd battled with the showers directly from a horror film, we hit the road. I fuelled up at Tesco round the corner and for the first time since the 90's I discovered diesel was cheaper than petrol! That made me smile very hugely!
We went to see Nessie at his house, Loch Ness. He wasn't in of course but we hung around for half hour on his doorstep just in case he showed up. Which he didn't. His house was absolutely gorgeous though, a pristine expanse of water nestled between the most picturesque scenery I've ever witnessed! (so far, anyway). So vast that to the left the weather was of a different scale compared to the weather on the right! Like night and day type different!
We had a blast, playing on the stones around the waters edge, with Kerry dipping a naked toe in so she could claim she's "Been in Loch Ness!" We took the short walk to see a pile of stones that were once a Change House, described as a wretched hovel by someone who's name escapes me, many moons ago. I think we saw them, nestled amongst the ferns and shrubs.
After a quick coffee from my Aeropress in the van, we headed off towards the start of the NC500 otherwise known as Inverness Castle. We didn't actually need to go there because we cheated a little and walked there from the campsite the night before as we were well aware that you can't get a van near the start and parking is terrible at the best of times. So we kind of skimmed past in the van, chuckling to ourselves at our own smartness!
Immediately after we picked up the NC500 route we left it as we wanted to see the dolphins Chanonry Point. And I wanted to visit The Cheese House further round The Black Isle. I've never seen a house made from cheese, so was very excited at this once in a lifetime opportunity. At our arrival to the car park at Chanonry Point we discovered that it was a tiny car park and the entire world had the same idea. It was so busy in fact that I inadvertently blocked the golf causeway. It took about ten minutes for me to realise that the chaps weren't waving at me at all, rather telling me to piss off out of the way because the yellow hatchings on the tarmac meant don't stop here. A total of half hour passed before I said "Sod this" (or words to that effect) and performed an expert and textbook 28 point turn and buggered off dolphin-photo-less to the famous house made of cheese. Now two things happened at once here. Firstly, the realisation that the house wasn't made of cheese but rather it was just The Cheese House, a company that sold cheese, and secondly, that they don't sell cheese on Mondays. Or Tuesdays. Bollocks. Utterly cheesed off by now we headed back to the start line...
A few miles up the road I performed another perfect 12 point turn and called in to the farm shop I spied as we left Beauly. Well I saw the farm shop, Kerry saw a couple of Hairy Coo's, and with a screech from my tyres and Kerry's voice box, we spun around. Robertson's, the name of the farm shop, is well worth a visit! The best stocked I've come across in 30 years of driving and calling in to such places! The owner was more than welcoming, and took us over to meet Katie Morag and Jamie Mackenzie Fraser the most adorable cows I've ever seen. And that is now Kerry beef free...
Next stop was the hunt down for the Mermaid of the North. A fine statue in the foaming sea, of a mermaid with two tales. Not two actual tales as that would be weird, but a tail for legs and feet and a tale that is told. The story goes in short, she was found by a fisherman who kidnapped her, cut her tail off and kept her locked up to bear his children. She found her tail in the loft, stuck it back on and run, or swam, away with her children back to the sea. He begged her to return but she basically said sod off. Too right as well!
Dornoch Firth beach came next as we started to look for an overnight spot. We found this place on The Campervan Bible’s map but when we got there we found signs up declaring no overnighting. We decided it was too beautiful to not have a wander around so off we went. Weirdly I found the actual tap that controls the tide! Who knew! Kerry reckons it was just a stop valve for an underground pipe but I just know it’s for the tide.
After a beautiful walk about the coastline I grabbed a coffee from the rather luxurious trailer in the carpark (who also does fresh fish and meat dishes) and we checked the map once again. We found a beaut of park up in Little Ferry, so off we headed to settle down for the night.
More on that erm… excitable? night tomorrow…
Things of note: Hairy Coo's are pretty cute, The Cheese House isn't really made of cheese, mermaids have weird feet.