13 October 2010--Having come to Plockton via Glen Moriston and Glen Shiel, I intend to return through Inverness via Glen Carron
and Strath Bran. First, however, I must take the boys to Eilean Donan Castle, perhaps the most photographed single edifice in all of
Scotland. It means doing some backtracking--we missed it on the way in because we circumvented Loch Duich by going to Glenelg and
arriving in Plockton via the Kylerhea ferry and the Skye Bridge. It has to be done, though--inevitably one of the lads would see one of
the seventeen trillion photos of Eilean Donan, and ask me if I know where it is. "Why, sure," I would answer, "we were about five miles
away from it when we were in Plockton." They would have hated me forever. I get a bit blasé about standard touristy-kind of sites
sometimes, but I mustn't ever forget that my companions are passing through here for the first time, and maybe for the only time. So off
we go to dedicate several hundred million more pixels to a site that is already embarrassingly pixelatiously overendowed. I also take
the lads up on the back road that gives a view from above, one I don't think many tourists get to. Score one for Mr Tattie Heid in the
battle against touristic mundanity.
The drive back out along Loch Carron, paralleling the railroad tracks, reminds me that I'd really like to arrive in Plockton via rail some day. Once away from the coast, the route is far less dramatic than the way we came in, through Glen Shiel. It's a pretty dull gray day, as well. Just outside Muir of Ord--home of the Glen Ord distillery, which I have not visited--there is a sign for the priory in Beauly. Win asks if it is among the many monastic sites I've seen. It is not. Off we go, on a whim. Beauly is a handsome enough town--the name comes from the French beau lieu, "beautiful place". Local legend attributes that judgment to Mary Queen of Scots, who visited in 1564; but it seems to be well established that it originated with the monks who founded the priory on the banks of the river, more than three centuries earlier. Before the Kessock Bridge was built, the road north would have passed through here, and in fact the railroad still loops around the town. Bypasses are funny things, sometimes causing previously-important junctions to dry up and die, in other cases preventing them from being overwhelmed by traffic. It's impossible to say what Beauly would have been like had the A9 been routed through the neighborhood, but it's easy to think that the town has done well with its situation.
We examine the ruined priory, and have lunch in a local café. I have really overplanned this trip for the lads, knowing that we will not get to everything I have in mind; at the same time, I know very well that it's important to be open to unplanned moments. This stop in Beauly is one of those, and to be honest, not really a big deal. Probably the spontaneity of it means more to me than it does to Scott and Win. It's all new to them.
The price for all this--there's always a price--is a stop in Inverness. We drive straight through to Craigellachie, another home away from home for me. It hasn't really been the most exciting day, I suppose, but any day that ends with dinner and pints at the Highlander Inn has to be counted as a good one. I'm pleased to find Tatsuya Minagawa, the bar manager, in--often enough he is in Japan at this time of year. Oddly, that is exactly where owner Duncan Elphick is now.
I suggest to the lads that we ought to go to the Craigellachie Hotel to see the Quaich Bar. They both say they're too tired and want to go to bed. I know we won't go there tomorrow, given what we have planned, so I beg, plead, wheedle, cajole, threaten.... Just come have a look, I tell them, you don't have to stay. We go, and once inside that extraordinary shrine to malt whisky, we look agog at the surrounding shelves, peruse the whisky menu, and have a dram. I knew I had to drag the boys here by whatever means necessary--had I not, inevitably one of them would have stumbled across some reference to this legendary bar, and asked me if I knew where it was. "Why, sure," I would answer, "we were about two hundred feet away from it when we were in Craigellachie." They would have hated me forever.