After a delicious breakfast at Rosebank House, Blairgowrie where Jim and Aoife are the perfect hosts – (Jim makes the most scrummy lime marmalade and the breakfast beef & pork sausages, haggis and black pudding are the best you will taste), we took the Balmoral road, skirting the Cairngorns to the east via Edzell (my first ever McTweedie Muffin!), the challenging climb at Cairn o’Mount and over twenty miles of pine forest road we turned north at Crathie (careful to avoid tourists wandering in the road) to climb once again to Tomintoul.
We had to take A-roads but what A-roads they were! The A939 past the Lecht Ski School was a breathtaking thrill-a-minute roller-coaster ride in Riley Blue, a real gem of a road we might just have to return via on our way home.
Having never been north of Tomintoul before I didn’t know what to expect but we followed a virtually deserted, beautifully surfaced road with sweeping bends and plenty of passing places for mile after satisfying mile, our only concern was how much remaiing fuel range we might have though I knew the location of a Tesco (for 99RON Momentum) on the outskirts of Inverness.
However, after passing Cawdor Castle towards Culloden we came across a ‘Road Closed’ sign with diversions via Nairn and the A96, a road we had intended to avoid at all costs. Fortunately Nairn has a filling station and though Gulf, rather than Tesco, Riley Blue was topped up with Super Unleaded. With approaching 240 miles covered, it must have been running on vapour!
At the first opportunity we returned to country roads towards Culloden Moor for an all too brief visit; we have vowed to return.
After a wrong turn in Inverness (driver not listening to navigator again…) we were on the final stretch to Dingwall – more A-road travel but sadly no alternative. An early arrival at The Birches B&B to be greeted by Moira and shown our room – Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers in the refreshment tray guarantees driver satisfaction!
We really are in ‘bug country’. Riley Blue’s windscreen has needed to be been cleaned three times today; we’ve had to buy another bottle of glass cleaner and are rapidly using up our supply of paper towels.
Our goal, John O’Groats, is less than a day’s drive away now. It’s difficult to believe that we’ve been away from home for over a week in Riley Blue already but we had a two-day drive to Land’s End before we could even think about heading for Scotland and every mile so far (in rain or shine) has been g-r-r-r-e-a-t.