Driving up the A9 last week was a very exciting affair! I’m familiar with the road and as we drove higher up I began to point out the estates and lodges that I’d cooked at, telling anecdotes about each one and generally getting more excited! It’s always a great feeling to drive North, the scenery changes so dramatically and once you get past a certain point you start to see red deer stags grazing at the side of the road rather than rabbits. What made such a difference last week is that I was not on my way to a cooking job I was instead heading out on my very own highland adventure!
The first night away we spent in Dornoch. As it was also Valentine’s weekend and I was away with my fiance I thought it only fitting that we stay somewhere reasonably comfortable. I’d booked the Dornoch Castle Hotel, which from their website looked cosy, Scottish and, dare I say, slightly romantic! As part of our room tariff we had dinner included which after around 6 hours on the A9 I was ready for.
That said I was not expecting it to be so fantastic. It was like something out of a city restaurant not a highland hotel in February! It took the form of a set five course dinner with a couple of options for each course. We ordered differently for each which I
think meant that we got to try pretty much everything that was going. I had a halibut main which was exceptional and a strawberries and cream pudding which was full of surprisingly different elements. It was one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve had for some time.
That said breakfast was appalling. The standard was set very high the night before and the breakfast chef rather let the side down. My eggs tasted as if they’d been done in the microwave and it was really rather disappointing after such a brilliant evening meal. Non the less I would defiantly recommend the Dornoch Castle hotel, even if you just go for dinner. It also seems to be a great bar to go to if you’re into whisky, (I’m afraid that was rather lost on me).
The next morning in Dornoch itself was beautiful.
We took “Scoop” for a walk on the beach, which she loved after the night in the car, charging up and down on the sand (between showers).
We spotted some long tailed duck bobbing about in the waves close to the shore, and heard the
very first skylarks of the year!
We had to get to Croick estate where we would be staying the following evening, but not before having chance to stop at the falls of Shin for a quick photo opportunity. They are pretty spectacular and we both agreed to com back later in the year when we might catch a chance to see salmon jumping.
We then set out to find the Creag Mohr bothy which lies somewhere in the middle of Croick estate. Patrick wanted to stay there as part of his work (Croick esate are very kindly donating a prize draw lot to the Heather Trust sale).
I’ll be honest, I’ve never stayed in a bothy before, when he suggested that we go and stay in one I thought it was a Scottish word for a holiday cottage. How very wrong I was. We’d stopped on the way up in Tiso, to which I am eternally grateful, and bought the heaviest duty sleeping bag that I could find, which probably saved my life. It was beautiful place but it was FREEZING.
Temperature aside, staying at Creag Mohr was pretty spectacular. Inside the bothy was an open fire which meant that we were able to make tea and pasta (and not die of cold). and outside there was a blanket of stars unrivaled by anything I have ever seen.
There are plenty of deer on Croick and I saw species up close that I’ve never seen before. Although the most exciting spot of the trip for me was a golden eagle, I’ve never seen one before so watching one swoop over the bothy on a frosty morning was like nothing else. They really are huge!
It was cold, but it was worth it!