As we settled down for the night in a quiet, very out of the way park up, Kerry and I both felt an odd sensation. It’s hard to explain but “eery” kinda sums it up. The air was dead still, there was a distance sound of waves crashing onto the shore and not a bird call could be heard. Everything felt muted. The place was dead calm except from one other car containing a couple whom appeared to be staying the night also. I think the female counterpart of the pair was either out of her face on mushrooms or just completely bonkers as she spent every moment dancing and waving her arms wildly like one of those wind sock wavy arm things outside American car sales joints. I would normally say “she was loving life” but she was way beyond that!
Anyhoo, as the snores left my face and Kerry without a doubt wanting to punch me in the same face, we finally drifted off to the land of slumber. At around 3am, witching hour to some, there was an almighty scream that appeared to emanate from the bowels of hell, piercing the dead night and making distant whales wonder why The Siren Of The Night was calling them.
“Shut up for gods sake” accidentally fell out of my mouth as I instinctively tried to silence the crystal glass shattering screech. Almost immediately I corrected myself with “I mean shhhhhhh there there, it’s ok etc etc” and reached out to calm Kerry who’d obviously been dreaming about me pinching her Jaffa Cakes or something.
As the morning broke into daylight and we stirred into some kind of life, I enquired as to what made the screech like a constipated Satan shitting an actual water melon.
“Oooooohhhh nooooo! Was that me?” she replied rather embarrassed. We spoke no more about it but I still wonder what the couple in the other car thought especially seeing as Kerry refused to show her face so it looked like I’d simply murdered her and disposed of the body over the harbour wall…
Several coffees from my new Aeropress and a couple of hours later we found ourselves, quite by accident, at the fantastic Dunrobin Castle, a magnificent structure indeed! We parked and took a short walk to the entrance to find an equally magnificent queue to enter. So we took the opportunity to take some photos, which included retrieving the van and parking right across the entrance for a surprisingly poor photo. Yes, ladies and gents, we were "Those Guys!"
We left sharpish to release the build up of traffic and headed for Keiss, and the famous first-come-first-parked pub stopover.
Along the way, we kept a beady eye or four open for things to see and woe and behold, a burger van! Now, I've eaten a burger or 29,000 and let me tell you, this chap does an insane burger! It's right up there! The Scoff Troff, a converted Merc Sprinter van, was sat there tucked up in a layby off the A9 near Golspie, which luckily had two entrances as I shot past the first one! Shooting past turnings I was meant to go down was starting to become a thing. Fair play young Daniel, top burger and an absolute gent!
Back out onto the A9 and just as we crested Berriedale climb we saw a sign for another castle, Dunbeath Castle. Anchors on, sharp swerve off the fast wide road and a sharp steep climb up (which made Kerry squeal but not with delight) and under the A9 and up into Dunbeath village. We called into the shop, a little post office, to keep up our ethos of buy local. We left with a can of Limeade and a Lucozade, a slice of Battenburg and 1/2 a dozen eggs. Weird, I know, but that was pretty much it in there.
About 300 yards up the top of the road was the entrance to the castle and gardens but alas, it was closed. A local lady of about 145 years old we saw on the way back down explained in a heavy thick Scottish accent that "It's never bloody open, such a shame. It's beautiful. I usually climb through a hole in the fence but I’m nae telling yous about that" I guess we will never know...
No loss though as at the bottom of the hill was a pretty little burn with two tiny water falls which made us feel a little better.
What made us feel like proper explorers though was what we discovered on the way out as we followed the sign for the loo. A tiny harbour, just a stones throw away with a most beautiful flower display funded by an honesty box. It really was picturesque and I felt I wanted to live there. Even the dead sheep skeleton on the beach that fascinated Kerry so much was worthy of a photo or two! Kerry declined some food from the shellfish van "Tasty Toes" as the aforementioned skeleton wasn’t a total skeleton if you understand, but I still went all out on some scallops for supper. (I’ve never said supper before in my life. Just seems fitting here!)
Almost at The Village Inn, in Keiss, we saw a sign flash past pointing at a beach, which after we turned round and drove past again and turned round once more was Sinclair's Bay, yet another stunning sight to behold! Beautiful crisp clear waters, and gentle rolling waves set the scene for this moment. We didn't stay long because I left my mobile telephone device on full display in the van and once we returned to get it we couldn't be arsed to go back to the beach so we decided to set off again.
A mile up the road was our pub carpark stop for the night, The Village Inn.
A meagre tenner for the night for water, safety off the road, toilets inside the pub and electric. A bargain! When I went in to pay, I was acutely aware that my Girlfriend of direct Irish decent was yet to sample some Scottish Whisky. I asked the young lady at the bar for a double of the finest and took it out to Kerry with a big grin on my face. Wolfburn single malt, 58%. I showed her the photo I took of the bottle then passed her the glass. With a squeal of delight and in a literal blink, the glass was empty!
"In the name of the wee donkey and four holy cows! Where'd that go?" It was several minutes before she could talk proper, and in between gasps and pants and acute swearing she exclaimed "down the hatch. It's how you drink whisky!"
Well all I can say is I'm glad I don't drink because I fear I'd never keep up...
We had a quick refresh and went in the pub for another drink, coffee for me (again) when the bar tender politely explained that she'd made an error and over charged me so she owed us a "wee dram!" Kerry's face lit up like she'd won a campervan in a raffle, only this time she had it with Coke...
She beat me at pool that night too. Only because I was sober and honestly, it had nothing to do with the fact that I’m rubbish.
We ate in the pub that evening. I had fish and chips, which appeared over the horizon like half a whale on a plate. Scampi for Kerry. Fine food, it really was!
A good old fashioned Scottish storm was looming on the horizon so we settled down for the night. I had my fingers crossed that no screaming was to occur and also that I wasn't in the news that day as a man wanted for a mystery murder. The whisky made Kerry the one with many loud snores leaving her face that night…