Taken by surprise

It was Baby Sis who sowed the seed – “I’m just telling you that I’ve decided to fly up to Inverness as a surprise for the 70th birthday…” she said in a phone call one day.

Weeks went by. There were other things to consider as well as the October Cleddau-land trip.

Then the Captain made an announcement: “I’ve booked you a seat up to Inverness,” he said, “and I’ll take you to the airport…”

Deal done then…

It was an early start to be driven to London Luton, to catch a 1010 flight to land at Inverness at 1130, to wait there for Baby Sis to fly in from Bristol at 1445…

Descending over the Moray Firth

Cromarty Gap and the oil rigs at Nigg

South coast of the Black Isle peninsula 

Whiteness Head, near Nairn

Fort George 

Perfectly on time Sheepman swept up to the airport pickup point, his errand apparently some agricultural business, to drive his secret passengers back  through Inverness, over Kessock Bridge and onward to the Black Isle.

Scottish Sis, meanwhile, was enjoying an afternoon tea at a Beauly hotel, oblivious to the fact that two of her sisters had made an airborne invasion… It’s always fun when someone is rendered speechless!

Sheepman rustled up an ample meal followed by Sunday birthday cake leftovers

with lashings of freshly picked Black Isle fruit.

The birthday dawned – there were presents to be opened,

Happy Birthday to be sung via Zoom    and an outfit fit for a beekeeper’s assistant to be tried on…   

What next? A mooch round rain-soaked Beauly and a tasty lunch.  It’s a good small town for a browse, whether in the high class Highland Hospice shop or the famous Campbells of Beauly tweed shop. (“Yes, the Prince of Wales came here to open our new tailoring department,” one of the assistants explained).

A totally splendid celebratory dinner at Coul House Hotel (west of Strathpeffer) marked the Significant Birthday that evening.

Then there was another road trip. “Oh, there’s snow on the Ben,” (Ben Wyvis)    said Scottish Sis as her little car headed down to Cromarty Bridge to take the A9 across Cromarty Firth and on up to Dornoch.  The road weaves beside the east coast, reaching Dornoch and its thirteenth century cathedral after some 30 odd miles.  It’s Highland Visitor Country – and there are plenty of examples of solid ancient buildings having been repurposed. You can get a good lunch in the former Courthouse.

Elsewhere tweed items and hats are in plentiful supply,  but not to be missed is the Dornoch Jail where a vast array of merchandise is displayed over two levels and in the original prison cells… ` .

Light was beginning to fail when there was a pause at another emporium on the way back south at Alness; the oil rigs at Nigg were lit up

and a skein of geese flew in overhead in classic V formation.

In an action packed few days craft projects began to dominate sisterly conversation. Nearly finished now is the reupholstering of Boatwif’s small chair.    Then there was a look at the Culbokie Lockdown Quilts.

There are three panels, each one comprising 16 patches reflecting the experience of Culbokie residents during the first 2020 lockdown. Scottish Sis has been a major player in the project – and too in the setting up and running of the very pretty but practical village “Sharing Shed”.

It is always hard to leave family – and the adoring eyes and glossy coat of five year old Glen. It’s hard to leave the Black Isle’s soft hills and autumnal shadows, hard to leave the drama of sea, sky and mountain range…


North of the border views of boats were in short supply  – but Cleddau remains safe and well. Post Scotland a one-night trip to Cheshire allowed for a Saturday morning inspection: she’s afloat, sprinkled with willow leaves and dry inside.

May she rest happily during her winter hibernation!

Air and car miles: uncounted; boat miles: zero


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2 Responses

  1. Carol says:

    What a wonderful, wonderful trip Sue. I loved the trompe-l’oeil picture at the courthouse and the tweed shop? I would have had to have been dragged kicking and screaming out of there! Regards to you both.

  2. Hi Carol,
    Good to hear from you – try heading further north to Dornoch next time you are in Scotland! None of it was new to me but there is much more time for quality browsing when you’re with sisters rather than a husband! There are gorgeous shops in Beauly too.
    I got the impression that post lockdowns the locals are supporting their own towns and villages and steering clear of Inverness.
    Hope you and George are keeping well.
    All the best,
    Sue /Boatwif

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