Scotland Adventures 8

We rushed to a little café to take away scones and coffee, then drove off north to Quiraing, a geologic area of craggy black rock rising out of mounded ground and valleys. We stopped at the top of a pass to hike along the side of a ridge. The grass in Quiraing is strange, looking like rippling ocean water. We think it’s because occasionally the ground gets oversaturated with water and slumps downward, resulting in bizarre wrinkles. Also, there was a frankly astonishing amount of sheep and cow poop. It must never disappear.

We drove around the peninsula on the northern tip of Skye, passing many crumbling hill forts and cottages, sheds with thatched rooves and flapping tin rooves weighed down with large rocks. As we passed through Uig on the Little Minch (which separates Skye from the Outer Hebrides) my brother turned on the radio and we got to hear some spoken Gaelic. It sounds an awful lot like someone speaking in a Scottish accent, but every other word is backward because of the profusion of glottal stops. Then there was the way that the host kept… buzzing. Maybe it was laughter? Every once in a while he stopped saying words and emitting a long string of Zs.

We passed through Portree briefly, happy to avoid the traffic coming in from the south for the Highland Games, and lunched in Broadford. I thought it was a bit expensive, but I did get to try a godawful orange drink called Irn Bru (they weren’t allowed to put the word ‘iron’ in the name) that tastes like Pixie Stix and Circus Peanuts, and the best sticky toffee pudding I’ve ever had. Oh, it was so molassessy. In a caramel cream sauce. Apparently Scotland is one of the very few places where Coca Cola is not the best selling drink–outsold, somehow, by Irn Bru.

After lunch we found our way to the bridge that crosses to Kyle of Lochalsh and went to visit Eilean Donan Castle, which we didn’t have time to tour but we did photograph. Luckily, tide was out so I got to walk out to the little humps of rock filled surrounded by kelp and tide pools. I picked up a very pretty green and yellow spiral shell that turned out to be colored by green algae; now I have a little worry shell for my pocket.

I cleaned it up on the train ride from Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness, about two and a half hours and quite pretty. We also got a deck of playing cards each featuring a different Scottish king or queen, which we carefully ordered by date (using quicksort). Inverness is a pretty cute town, though the buildings are a bit dingy. I was disappointed to see that the castle is not, in fact, high on a mountain-top above the bay, surrounded by lonely pines and howling wolves, as I had been lead to believe (please check out “The Fourth Tower of Inverness,” my very first and very favorite radio play, by ZBS Media; there’s an entire series starring Jack Flanders and including all sorts of exciting mystical and weird adventures). In fact, I am given to understand that the castle contains the city chambers, and is a reddish sandstone building with lovely sharp corners and a pristine, efficient look.

Just up the street, overlooking several gothic-ish churches, is our hostel, a charming little place with currency from all the homes of the guests taped to the walls. My father went on a walk while the rest of us sat in the lobby, revelling in the first wifi we’d seen for several days. The hostel seems to own a guitar, so my brother played The Rake’s Song while I sang. We had a good time watching him pick out Los Angeles I’m Yours as well, and now it is thoroughly stuck in my head.

We walked in a leisurely way through the streets, into a craftsmen’s/Frasers’ cemetery, and over the River Ness on a swaying footbridge that my brother insisted on jumping on, to our restaurant. It’s right on the river, and the food was quite good if a bit overcomplicated. Now we are back at the hostel and I’m about to go to bed and read in the dark for a while. Lit screens are such a beautiful phenomenon.

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