Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Back to the Highlands

I always find it exciting to drive up to the Highlands for a whole lot of reasons, not the least being that Pete and I start from home at an unearthly hour of the morning. It's about the only way I'll get up at 3 a.m - willingly. (Done more than my share of early-morning rising in Singapore, waking up at 2.30 a.m to start work at 4 a.m!).

Anyhow, this trip didnt even warrant getting up early - because I didnt get to bed at all the previous night! Neither did Pete (he was working on his software, I was packing & etc), but he deals a lot better with lack of sleep than I do. So we set off at 3 a.m Friday (or very late Thursday night, to look at it another way), intending to arrive at Crubenmore by midday at the latest. Driving at ungodly hours has its advantages - there's hardly any traffic, and Pete could belt along at 120 miles per hour. We got there at 11 a.m or thereabouts, including a 2-hour halt for some much needed sleep. Some 400 miles in 6 hours... not bad going!

The Crubenbeg holiday cottages at Crubenmore, where we normally stay, are the self-catering type, really cosy, with fantastic views all around. They're run by two very nice ladies - an Irishwoman and a Swiss. The cottages are beautifully isolated in the hills, yet it's only a 5-minute drive to the main road. The nearest village (with a shop) is Newtonmore, about 8 miles away. It was a pleasure to wake up in the morning and drive down to Newtonmore to pick up fresh bread, rolls, butter, etc and go back to the cottage for a nice leisurely breakfast, looking out of the window at the towering hills and watching the odd pheasant or quail scamper across the lawn outside.

Pete spent most of the days working at the shop in Laggan (a tiny village about 11 miles away), so I had a lot of time for solo walks. Plus our cottage had loads of books to read, and I'd taken my embroidery along. The weather was gorgeous - bright and sunny, but with no real warmth from the sunshine.

Could there be anything better than taking a few snacks and an interesting book to the Truim Falls (5-minute walk down the path from our cottage), then sit on a convenient rock beneath the bridge, reading? I dont think so! It was absolutely peaceful and relaxing. The Truim Falls are supposed to be famous for salmon that make their way upstream, but I didnt see any this time - or, indeed, any of the previous times. Perhaps spring is the wrong season... or daytime the wrong time to look for leaping salmon. Who knows!

On Sunday, Pete took some time off for a short circular walk (about a mile, I guess) by the Trium Falls and, later, a drive into the woody hills. I drove for a while - and my goodness, the forest track was a bouncy jouncy ride, allright. And once we reached the really terrible ruts (made during the winter, I presume, by whatever wide-tread machinery was used to cut down the trees), the Range Rover fought me like it had a life of its own, so Pete had to take over. We would have followed the track up to Trium Woods Viewpoint, but halfway up, the path was blocked by a huge tree across the track, uprooted whole by the wind. So that was the end of that.

As always, it was a wrench when we had to leave the Highlands to come back to Shrewsbury... they mountains are so beautiful, so rugged and peaceful, there is so little pollution. It feels like life would be perfect if we could only live there permanently. But I guess I wouldnt love it quite so much in the winter months, because the scenery would be very bleak - none of the cheerful bright greenery that appears in late spring and summer... and there would be every chance of the electricity lines going down, being snowed in and cut off from civilisation, etc. Still, I can dream...

More pics here