A day to remember

Dornoch is a very attractive, old townIt’s hard to sit here now and think back to the superb couple of days of sunshine in which we basked last week – while the rest of the UK was being rained on Since then, we have had snow showers and frost at night, and there is no doubt that the garden has suffered in spite of all my attempts at protecting the tender shoots and plants! However, last Tuesday was glorious…

The day began with me helping to take my friend’s cat to the vet. The vet comes over from Rogart once a month and holds a surgery in the foyer of the Village Hall where he sets up a table – and the fact that it is a small area keeps everything under control! The downside is that the customers and their animals have to wait outside. On Tuesday this was not a problem, although we were queuing in the shade provided by the hall itself rather than in the lovely, warm sunshine. Standing leaning up against the wall of the hall, I suddenly realised that I could see the Outer Hebrides on the horizon – the air was that clear. The Long Island rarely appears at sea level even on a good day, normally you need some elevation to see the islands, but they were easy to see last Tuesday! Morgana and I were third in quite a long queue, but there was a distinctly relaxed holiday sort of atmosphere among those patiently waiting to see the vet. The patients were mostly dogs this time, with the exception of Olly the cat, and Claire had one of her Shetland sheep with a blocked teat being attended to in the back of the trailer. When the vet had finished with her, I stuck my head in to say hello and admire the two sturdy lambs leaping around the back of the vehicle.

I was beginning to get a bit concerned about the time because we had to go and pick something up from our accountants in Tain, and we also needed to get pictures taken for our driving licences. It does seem sensible to have new, up-to-date pictures on our licences, I don’t mind in principle, but I do think it is a bit of a cheek that we are also forced to pay for the privilege!! Such is our world today… Chris was anxious to get these things done, so we had made a last minute decision to go that day – especially as the weather forecast was so good. The wait for the vet wasn’t too long and I was back home before 11 o’clock. Remembering to grab my camera, we set off – passing the queue for the vet which had grown even longer!

When going to Tain and such places on the east coast, we take what we call “The Top Road” which is a twisty, single-track road which runs between Ledmore Junction and Lairg on the one hand and Bonar Bridge on the other – the road forking at Rose Hall. Not far beyond the place where you go over the watershed between west and east, the road runs high along Strath Oykel giving beautiful views of one of the best salmon rivers in existence. I love that vista whatever the weather, but on this day the river shimmered in the sun and the view was especially stunning. The countryside gets ever greener and more fertile as you go east – something which I hope might show up in the pictures to go with this post.

It was indeed a wonderful day for photography and I took full advantage of this, so the journey took slightly longer than usual as we were constantly stopping! However, we got to Dornoch in time to have a very good lunch at Louigi’s, which is our favourite watering hole in that area. They do excellent coffee; and although we don’t drink it, we do admire the fact that they also have a superb wine list – the food is good too!

Hunger satisfied, I wandered round with my camera for a bit and got some good outside shots of the Cathedral. It is a lovely wee Cathedral – not my favourite as that is St. Magnus’ in Kirkwall on Orkney, but this one is visually somewhat similar – although it is some 200 years younger than St. Magnus’s which was started in 1137. As I remember its history, Dornoch Cathedral was falling down until rescued sometime in the 19th century by Elizabeth, Duchess of Sutherland – the one that Betty Hill on the north coast is named after. I can’t blame Madonna one little bit for wanting to get married in Dornoch Cathedral – it is the sort of place that would indeed make for a fairytale wedding…!

Then it was into the car again, heading south to Tain across the Dornoch Firth on the low bridge where Chris once took our previous car, which had a 2 litre engine, up to 120 mph. There was no-one at all around on that day, but there was too much traffic on the bridge last Tuesday to get up to such shenanigans! We did our messages in Tain, which included spending some time in Tescos trying to work out how the photo booth worked! But eventually we got our mug shots – I also wanted one for my bus pass – and bought a few groceries. Rather more enjoyable, for me anyway, was a visit to the wee plant nursery where I acquired a gorgeous pink azalea. We then turned for home, getting back in time for supper…

For the last couple of years, our choir has been involved in the Gathering of the Choirs which normally takes place in Poolewe around the beginning of May. We have always enjoyed this event, but this year it was cancelled as not enough choirs had come forward to take part I think this is probably a sign of the times – the bigger choirs are maybe having to budget more carefully and are only going to the bigger competitions. As a choir, we were disappointed not to be going to Poolewe this year, and probably because we had no pressing need to prepare early in the year, we now feel that we are not nearly ready for any of the other local Mòds and competitions. However, we have a couple of good workshops to look forward to and are hoping to be well up to speed in time for the National Mòd in October, which is in Dunoon this year which I’m sure will be quite a different experience for us.

French Blue de Maine cattle which thrive in Ledmore


[Photos by Clarinda]

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2 Responses to A day to remember

  1. Sylvia Roberts says:

    Having just visited Tain & Dornoch & some of the other places you mention I was most interested in your account of your lovely day. We also had marvellous weather. I wondered if you might know of a readable biography of Elizabeth Duchess/Countess of Sutherland – the one who “rescued” Dornoch Cathedral. I was most intrigued by the snippets I discovered about her life but have had little luck looking for a book about her on the Internet. I would be so grateful if you could give me any hints of where to look
    Thank you
    Sylvia Roberts

  2. Clarinda says:

    Hello Sylvia,

    I’m glad to hear that you had an equally good day on the east coast. It is a lovely area to visit for sure, especially in good weather!

    I am afraid I have had no success either in looking for books about the Duchess of Sutherland. I have tried second-hand sites such as abebooks as well as amazon, but got nowhere – except for a book by Karl Marx which I doubt is very readable at all! On the assumption that someone must at some time have written a book about her, I can only suggest that you add a request to abebooks or The Book Depository on-line, or browse a second-hand book shop. Of course, books about the Highland Clearances – especially the one by John Prebbles – contain a reasonable amount of information about her as she was very much involved.

    Sorry I can’t be any more help than that.

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