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Friday, April 14, 2017

Visiting Nessy

I found the ever elusive Nessy - in a manner of speaking. Today we left Fort Williams and headed north to Fort Augustus, located on the very edge of Loch Ness. Fort Augustus is quite a small town, with little shops located at the edges of the town's main asset - the tail end of the 60 mile long Caladonian Canal.
View of Loch Ness & the Caladonian Canal 
The canal works just like its bigger cousin, the Panama Canal. It has gates with water that runs in or out as it eases small pleasure craft from one

Spent an hour or so lollygagging on the canal itself, crossing from one side to the other on its retractable bridges.

View from the middle of the canal, taken from a retractable bridge
A crowd gathered to watch this sailboat work its way down the canal
We had a photo opp: Ila petting baby Nessy as its Mama watches
This is the coolest butcher shop

I was sooo sorry I wasn't staying someplace in Ft. Augustus with an oven so I could give boiling one of these haggis balls a go. They're pretty safe eating these days - as they no longer contain offal, i.e., lungs and such.

I mean... look at these baked beauties, I had to look at but pass on. I'd eaten so much breakfast there wasn't any room left for a Scotch or a steak pie.

And there were antlers for sale... tough to pass up but where is there that much room in the luggage?
Bloody hell. Who am I kidding. I bought a wee one.
Leaving Fort Augustus we continued on our highlands drive, first north along Fort Ness.
NESSY! You out there Lassie?
We stopped briefly at Urquhart Castle overlooking Loch Ness. Beautiful, but we didn't take the time to hike down to the actual castle what with a long day of driving ahead.

Urquhart Castle dates back to the 1200s.  
We hit Inverness up north, some time around noon and went shopping for a bit at two different Tescos. I love foreign food markets. For me it's like entering a museum with edible exhibits. There was lots of interesting eats but here're the ones that left me gap-jawed.

Ila loves chips and she bought some Thai Pepper Chips, or 'crisps' as Brits call 'em. She offered me some when we were on the road and I about Died at the wheel, they were so good.

Here's the thing. When we stopped down the road for a bit, I read the label. My reasoning is when I've read the unpronounceable chemical soup that is the processed food I'm about to eat, I am put off my feed and I do not eat as much, or I don't eat any to begin with. So... I read the label so as to gross myself out. Here's the what's in the Spicy Thai crisps.

Holy crap. The worse thing on that label is the Fructose and if you want to be fussy, the Hydrolyzed soy stuff, whatever that is. Note, the rest of the ingredients are... well, they're pretty much food - real food. I ate my damned chips with about only .0001 gm of  guilt.  I bought the chips below, and may I assure you, they. were. Awesome!
And what do they taste like? Just what the label says. Really. Exactly.
If those chips were available in the states, I'd need a crow bar to get through my garage door. Dear me... was I just rabbiting on about crisps? Uh... let's get my mind out of the food trough and continue. 

Where was I, or rather, where were we? Toodling from Inverness south. I was tickled silly as I could often spot BIRDS in the fields. You know me and the birdies.

These are Ring-necked Pheasant which I can seen near my home but still, these are Scottish Ring-necked Pheasants. They aren't wearing ordinary feathers, those are tartan feathers - or maybe not.

And so that means the Cocks are called Laddies and the Hens are called Lassies. Ok, in my head that's how it goes.

Now, the most exciting birds I saw all day were in Glenvivet, which is famous not for its birds, but is
famous for its single malt whiskey.

Sweet auld hoose 
Nevertheless, we were leaving Glenlivet, driving past old farm fields and I about had a heart atttack. Northern Lapwings! Yay! I blocked the entire road to take as many shots as I could manage of the shorebirds that don't stay at the shore. The flock probably were numbered around a hundred birds, but they were fairly far off .

On the photo below there is actually wire that I 'focused through' to get the bird. You can sort of see a gray band across the center of the photo. Have no clue how I got the bird and the wire. It's MAGIC!

That lovely long crest and iridescent feathers are amazing
I saw a car at the crossroads with a driver politely waiting until I was done getting my shots. No horn honking, no dirty looks, just quite politely waiting for the nutcase to get her photos and leave so he could go have a go on using the road. Whomever it was in that car, I totally adore them.

The next few hours were a peaceful drive with scenery that looked like backdrops for a Disney movie.
I think the brown-ish looking  patches are Heathers
Closer look at the Heather
The views considerably lengthened the drive. HAD to stop and stare.

And it kept getting better. We got onto yet another one way road with fun stuff along its way.

Wee Heilan Coos
A darlin' little farmhouse with field full of fun
  European Bunnies! Similar but different from American Cottontails 

Wonder how the farmer feels about them

And fat, red partridges

And wee triplet lambs

A little more over hill, over dale and finally...
We arrived at Crawford Grange BnB in Stonehaven

The room we booked was adorable & all you could want in a BnB.

Wish I'd taken a picture of our room key which was 18th century and too me, too freakn' adorable, though Ila wasn't having none of it. I see her point, but I was tickled silly by it.

When we'd made our selves at home, we went right back out again for dinner at a restaurant our hostess Wilma recommended. All is well.

And now yee wee bairns, no good reason, and no great payoff, here's a Hooded Crow feeding its overgrown brat of a chick. Filmed earlier in the day, on the banks of Loch Ness.

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