Friday 17 October 2014--We take a look around Kylesku Bridge this morning before leaving town. Drive north through Scourie
to Laxford Bridge, then turn southeast toward Lairg, where we take a coffee break. Along the A839 east of Lairg, we find a monument
erected by the Canadian government, on the site of John A Macdonald's grandparents' homestead. Sir John A, first Prime Minister of
Canada, was born in Glasgow; presumably, his father was born here. The migration from the rural Highlands to the industrial Central
Belt to faraway Canada was a common one in the 19th century.
We pull into Dornoch for a look around, including a poke into the bar of the Dornoch Castle Hotel, which has an impressive array of whiskies. Stop at a superstore just outside Tain to restock toiletries--I seem to have left mine somewhere--and then make our way to the Black Isle.
Just outside Munlochy, we visit what might be the most peculiar "ancient site" I've ever seen, the Clootie Well. The well itself, a trickle of water that collects in a small stone trough, is easy to overlook. The visitor's attention is overwhelmed by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bits of cloth affixed to every available branch of tree and bush. The tradition is to leave a piece of cloth that has been in contact with an ill loved one, using the holy well water in a ritual now mostly forgotten. When the cloth rots away, the sick person will be well. Likely pagan in origin, the practice was once common in the Celtic regions, and tolerated by the early Christian church. It was suppressed as the influence of the Roman church spread, and outlawed outright following the Reformation. A few such wells survived, anyway--the one here at Munlochy is the only one I know of. Modern users likely include New Agers and neo-pagans, but probably most are people who just like the idea. That they are somewhat unclear on the concept is evidenced by the vast number of scraps of polyester and other synthetic fabrics, which do not degrade. The Clootie Well is nonetheless a rather eerie place.
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Thursday 17 October 2002--Snafu morning...somehow the lump of a young woman we dealt with at the guesthouse last night did not catch on to the fact that we were leaving early this morning for the ferry to Orkney. There were two consequences to this: we did not get the promised box breakfast, and there was no one around to take payment for the room. It's tempting to think that the proprietors deserve it for their inattention, but I phoned them later to arrange to send a check. The more serious snafu involves the ferry itself. We arrived at 6:00 for the 6:45 departure advertised on the Northlink website, only to find that the ferry had left at 5:30. The next trip, at 2:00, was much too late for us to catch our onward connection to Sanday at 3:00. Fortunately, Pentland Ferries had a trip scheduled from Gills Bay at 9:45.
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Check into our B&B on Cathedral Square in Fortrose, and then go for a walk, starting up the road behind town. We get a nice view from there over the Moray Firth, Chanonry Point, and Fort George. Then we descend into a pretty little wooded glen called the Fairy Glen (a fairly common name in Scotland for pretty little wooded glens). The glen emerges in Rosemarkie. From there, we walk along the beach back to Fortrose. Dinner and pints this evening are in the Anderson, where Jim Anderson greets us like long-lost kin. I wish we could spend more time here--the food and drink are, if anything, even more splendid than that at the Kylesku Hotel, and that's saying something.