Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Day 16 - Bludging and scenic driving to dinner at Gille Brighde, Lower Diabaig

We are both awake for a bit at 3 am but manage to get back to sleep. The black out blinds and curtains here are fabulous. I didn’t wake until 7 am (almost unheard of) and Hubby’s still snoring at 8am by which time I do a bit of rousing so we can go down to brekky, thinking that it only had a one hour window… oops it’s on until 10. Never mind he can come back and go back to bed after brekky.
So, what’s on the breakfast menu? Buffet with the usual juices, cereals, yoghurt, fruit and nuts, some sweet little jars of peanut butter and sachets of Nutella. Hubby’s Ordered the full Scottish (surprise surprise) and I’m continuing my porridge research project. The waitress asks me to repeat that. I’m guessing not many people order the porridge. She seems like she’s wondering if she’s heard right. Yep I DO want to order the porridge. No dram thanks.
Meanwhile we have some mixed toast which has been brought out on a little rack. It’s a bit unevenly toasted and a little over-browned and burnt in places. That’s OK. You bring it to me like that, what else can I do but scrape it neatly into the dish. So. Hubby’s breakfast. I shudder as I look over and see that the mushroom this time is another big flat cap. It has a tomato sitting on top of it and I can’t smell it thank God. I’ll just look away. Now, this Scottish breakfast is also interesting in other ways. The bacon is moist and superbly flavoured, the sausage ditto but perhaps the star of the show was something new to us – a potato scone. This is about 3 or 4 mm thick and triangular and it’s clearly been pan fried. I beg a sample of that too before it gets contaminated by mushroom juice on the plate. I don’t know that there’s mushroom juice on the plate but there might be.  It’s these big flat cap mushrooms that I hate most of all edible fungi. Ewww.
I think the potato scone would be better if it were just a bit thicker.
My porridge experiment isn’t running too well. This version is the runniest consistency we’ve had so far and I believe it’s made with water. They must have salted it very slightly because it doesn’t scream for salt, but it’s not as salty as the porridge Dad used to make. Wow. It’s a completely different species to the delicious porridge at the Tufted Duck Hotel. It’s amazing what a difference making it with milk and a little bit thicker does for porridge. I can’t say I enjoy this one today. This is more like mum makes it and why at home I only eat oats cooked with a little bit of water to soften them or as we call it, lumpy porridge, but I suppose it's not actually porridge at all, just cooked oats. No question about it, the Tufted Duck Hotel really took the prize on a number of fronts, not least of all their porridge!
Brekky concluded we head outside where it is lightly raining. The midges are bothering Hubby and he’s happy to race back indoors. Biting insects LOVE our daughter too. She’s a great decoy. Looks like we know where she got her particularly tasty blood. Sure wasn’t from me although the midgies like me better than the sandflies in NZ did. I’ve got a couple of spots on my arm now. Didn’t get any at all in NZ even without repellent.
Back in our cosy room with the windows in the roof looking out on the trees and hillsides, we get back in our jarmies. I work on the journal and catching up with email etc. Hubby goes back to bed and uses his phone to have a look at xbox games available free for this month.
Our day is spent in delightful isolation. Me working hard on catching up the journal and during the latter part of the day, struggling with the internet to finally publish the darn thing. Hubby reads and compiles a list of souvenirs and presents and has a nap in the early afternoon. We have an early dinner and neither of us is particularly hungry so when I fetch my nature identification books and raincoat from the car Hubby has me fetch his Maryland cookies he’s found and we skip a proper lunch. These Marylands are not a patch on their Australian namesake that was discontinued. Evil foreign takeover people interfering with a true classic.. grrrrrr.  These British Marylands will have to do. “We need to get some more of these before we go home.” Hubby says while munching. “Mmm” I reply while typing.
I also bring up the strange Mars mini rolls we found at Tesco. We’re not sure why you’d bother with them when you could have a Mars Bar. Puzzling.  Also we’ve noticed on the wrapper for the Caramel Wafer bars which we bought to try but which are also left for us in our room here, that 5,000,000 of them are made and sold every week. Seriously!
It’s rained steadily here all day. I was toying with going for a walk around the site, but I haven’t and don’t really care. 4.35 I call time and Hubby hops in the shower and prepares to go. I do similar and we’re away.
We have been blessed with rain today. We discover that like Fiordland in New Zealand, Wester Ross really comes into its own in wet, cloudy and misty weather. Loch Torridon is looking great. 
The drive from Loch Torridon around to Lower Diabaig is not a drive to rush. It is a one lane road with precipitous drops and quite sharp crests that you do not want to take at speed. That said there are abundant passing places and people are courteous and so are we, so it's not a difficult or stressful drive, you just need to be careful and take it easy. Perfect for our purposes today. 
The views are outstanding, breaks in the cloud shine the rich afternoon light down on the loch like molten silver. The rain soaks through the peat and cascades down little burns bit through the landscape to fall in a little torrent that draws my eye, tantalising glimpses hinting at what remains just out of sight. We dip down into valleys and rise up again to discover new splendours, passing a cairn that as I turn to look back appears to be an established lookout point. I’m glad we’re not planning to be driving home in the dark.
I’m very pleased there’s not more traffic because we pause briefly here and there as I photograph out the window and move on. In the CD player we have our new Tartan Chillout CD and the music collaborates with the mists and moods of the highlands as modern voices and composition cry the heart of the landscape. Perfect choice.
We reach Gille Brighe Restaurant in a break in the weather, the evening light playing on the weedy rocks and a wreck laid bare by the retreating tide. I loiter, capturing scenes before we wander in for our early dinner booking. 
It’s a small room and there’s only one other couple here this early. The evening dining doesn’t actually start until 6pm but we start out with a drink. For Hubby a Pict a ruby beer by Loch Ness Brewery. This sparks our interest as the beer is matured in whisky casks “to give a mature and fruity taste”. That’s pretty cool. The whisky industry gets cast offs from the Bourbon industry and passes the casks on yet again to the beer industry. I wonder how many times the beer brewers can use them. We really should see if there’s a tour we can do of a craft brewery to round out the story.
I’m nursing water and most of the diners here tonight are taking photographs. I start the trend when my pen fails and I am obliged to get Hubby to get up and photograph the menu which on a large chalk board above the heating stove. This inspires a similar activity by the man at the other table. Soon the lady gets up to photograph the view out the window with the wide sill and decorative shells in the frame, which I can see from where I’m sitting. Yes, that would be a nice photo of the rowan trees protecting us, thinks I and before long I do the same.
We’re all happily seated again when our starters come out. I’ve gone for the hand dived local scallops to start followed by the Thistly Cross Cider Braised Game Casserole. Hubby is playing an unusual hand with the Spicy Veggie and Quorn Koftas with Chilli, Lime & Mango dip and Raita followed by the Citrus Baked Hake fillet with Prawn, Caper and Parsley Butter.
Clearly the winner dish tonight!
All our food is delicious. Hubby blew me out of the water with the Koftas. Quite an achievement for a no meat starter up against scallops but the home-made dip was a perfect balance for the flavours of the kofta balls and the raita. A truly memorable dish. I am no huge fan of fish at the best of times, so I think I won the main round with the richly flavoured casserole, though Hubby enjoyed his fish too. We figure we’re even going into the decider.  We’ve been mulling over what to have for dessert as we wait for our meals. I’m opting for the Spiced Pear Eve Pudding with Custard. Hubby is again going with an out of the ordinary choice – Aart’s Amazing Sticky Toffee Pudding with Ice Cream. They’re right. Aart’s Sticky Toffee Pudding is amazing. Much nicer than the one we had at Andersons which would have been better sans toffee and with a sharp complement such as crème fraiche to break up the richness of the cake.
We’re all finished and back on the road just after 7.30. It’s been raining while we’ve been dining and it’s quite cold. We make a dash to the car and struggle to get in quickly to minimise the midge infestation and start on the half hour journey back to Loch Torridon. 
The scenery is amazing as the evening falls, brought forward by the brooding clouds. We make a stop or two here or there including the lookout that we learn is called Bealach na Gaoithe View Point. I brave the chill without stopping to do up my coat and head over to the cairn. It’s hard to believe the view gets even better than what we could see at the car. Hubby’s staying warm, dry and on watch in the vehicle. I snap a few inadequate stills and go again for a video, wobbling the camera as in desperation I grab one handed at my coat that is flapping in the wind, trying to conserve a little more body heat. It is so cold out in the elements this evening. Massive degree of wind chill. I could probably do better with the video but survival takes priority and I dash for the car. Fantastic view in ideal conditions but impossible to do justice to with the photography gear and skills I have. I tried.
The light is failing and we drive the rest of the way home just enjoying the sights, slowing for a couple of sheep that are grazing by the road. Stopping as one of them decides to cross ahead of our car. We do the midge dance on the way inside at the inn. I wish I had the camera on the ready to catch Hubby trotting to the door flapping his hands around in front of his head. Haha.

Just the usual night time ritual and we’re off to the land of nod. 

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