Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Scotland Day 4 - Castles, Loch Ness, Cairngorms

Another outrageously large breakfast at Fernlea greeted us in the morning, along with blue skies!
The view from our bedroom window at Fernlea
 We got an early start and stopped in Plockton, which rather unusually has a lot of palm trees in people's gardens. A's mom had been here years ago and her fond memories were reinforced by our stroll around the village, including a stop at the open air church which is now completely overgrown but you could still pick out where people might have sat to listen to a sermon.
Next was Eilean Donan castle which is indeed as picturesque as all the guide books would make you believe. In between our photo frenzies, we also enjoyed the exhibits inside (I especially liked the very realistic fake food in the kitchen, along with explanations of what the life of a scullery maid was like).
Eilean Donan Castle - just helping to make it the most photographed castle in Scotland
Sadly for Urquhart Castle, we were too impressed with Eilean Donan to care very much about ruins, so we stopped in the car park for a look and then decided to head off to see Loch Ness, up close and personal, instead.
Sneaky picture of Urquhart Castle from over the wall
We paused in Drumnadrochit to ask the tourist information people where we should go for a short walk, and they suggested the Woodland Walk that goes very close to Loch Ness. Of course, while we were on the walk, we bumped into a a guy and his dog and asked whether it was possible to actually get to Loch Ness, and he gave us a tip that involved a bit of scrambling over a fallen tree (and a tense moment when A thought he might cause my mom to fall into the creek!) but aside from that obstacle, it wasn't much farther to Loch Ness itself, and we found ourselves on the banks, completely alone. I love it when that happens. On our way back we got lost, of course, since none of us are very good at finding trails / remembering where we came from, but we did find our way back to the car eventually.

Woodland walk
Now this is where A was really looking forward to trying to ridiculously long whisky list at the Fiddlers, going so far as to call the day before to check when they served food. So when they said 12-2.30 and 6.30-8.30, we knew we wouldn't get any food, but we failed to realise that they aren't open at all in the afternoon! A was devastated, and the day was only saved when our next destination turned out to be so amazing that no one could ever be depressed there.
The Dores Inn - this could be heaven
A's uncle R had recommended The Dores Inn (Loch Ness, IV2 6TR) and we are so glad we made the effort to go.
Silvery sardines
Lamb and pancetta cassoulet
We ordered what seems like the majority of the menu and every single dish was really well prepared. We started with sardines, stuffed mushrooms, and mussels - and as soon as we started eating, we were getting excited for the mains. I had the lamb and pancetta cassoulet, and in a recurring theme, despite my parents saying that they don't like lamb, they tried it and changed their minds. It was meltingly tender and jam-packed with different flavors. A's haggis was scarfed down, as was his mom's fish and chips (again, enormous, and fried just right).  My dad's sea bass and mom's scallops and chorizo salad went quickly as well - we basically ate and grinned at each other happily through dinner. A warm bourbon mud cake to finish was the final achievement, and we joked around about coming back the next night even though we were not going to be anywhere close.

Reluctantly, we left The Dores Inn to head to The Boat Hotel in the Cairngorms - and once I saw the old fashioned bar I was thrilled - more about it in the next installment.

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