Sunday August 19th

 
Dear Family & Friends,
 
Another couple of days and more sites and adventure.. Yesterday we left Ullapool and rode north east. Our route took us along the coast to the very north east tip of the British Isle and then down the east coast to Inverness.
As we rode along in the morning we passed Castle Mey so we decided to stop in and get some culture. We got there just as it was opening and took the tour. I have seen lots of castles before but the two things I really enjoyed about this one was first it was not gigantic. The rooms were elegant but livable. You could imagine living there on a daily basis.
Second even though the castle is over 500 years old the tour guide concentrated on the past person to live there, the Queen Mother from 1951 until her death in 2002. The guide related so many stories about her life there, about her family coming there and normal family activities that the Royals did there that  they could not do anywhere else. I wish I could have taken photos of the inside but no photography was allowed.
A couple of good stories I can relay is first the Royals for all their wealth are actually a fairly frugal family. The refrigerator in the pantry was the original until installed in 1951 by the Queen mother!
When the Queen Mum bought the place in 1951 it still had no running water or electricity. When she brought that to the castle she brought running water to the nearby village which didn’t have running water either so she was very popular there after that!
The TV set in the castle were never changed because the Queen Mum said she didn’t want to learn how to use a new set.
When the Queen Mum turned 97 the castle keeper installed a hand rail on one of the two entry way staircases. When she entered the castle she walked up the side with no hand rail and then when she was at the top landing she politely asked, “who was the new hand rail for?” Sounds like she had a good sense of humor.
A lot of the stories were about her grandchildren, Edward and Andrew the current princes. You could see that when they were there they were able to act like normal children. One day they hid toys high up on the edges of the living room rafters. The house keepers were trying to get them down when the Queen Mum walked in and asked what they were doing. She was told the grandchildren were up to mischief. The Queen Mum said that the toys should never be removed and they are still there to this day.. It revealed a real human side to the Royal family.
Once we left the castle we rode another hour or so to John O Groats. This is not a city or town but more like a spot.. It is also the northern most tip of land on the mainland of the UK. It was founded by a Dutch man named John O Groats who built a hotel there and started a ferry service to the off shore islands. The hotel is still there, the ferry service still runs, and he is buried on the grounds.. A nice story.
I added another sticker to my bike, got Bonnie another tea towel and refrigerator magnet and then we started riding down the east side of the island. In general the weather is always better there since it is a bit drier. (the storms come in off the Atlantic on the west side) Other than a gale force 9 wind it was a great ride. A wide two lane twisty road following the coastline all the way. And an entire day without rain!! My riding gear is actually drying out.
We stopped for lunch at what was a restaurant not much bigger than a two car garage. The lady running it had a good sense of humor and served real genuine Scottish food like Haggis on a roll and something we had never heard  of.. Cullen Skink. Doesn’t sound very appetizing but she insisted we try it and brought out a bowl with four spoons. It was surprisingly good. It is a thick potato soup with smoked fish in it. On a cold windy day it was quite warming.
By the end of the day we ended up in Inverness, a fairly large city. I thought I had never been to, but as we approached our hotel on the river not only did I recognize the city but the hotel was the same hotel we stayed in five years ago!! (I didn’t make the reservation this time). 
IT is a grand old city and I enjoyed walking around it that evening and the following day.
Tomorrow we are off to Edinburgh!
For photos and more commentary go to:
 
 
Jason

Our morning ride along this beautiful coast line and NO RAIN!!

A visit to the Castle Mey

One of Scotland’s fine road side dinners…

Hmmmm. Cullen Skink, what could sound more appetizing?? If that doesn’t do it for you there is always a Haggis Roll.

This was actually quite good. A baked potato with Prawn Marie with a red sauce and Chorizo.

A cheat sheet to help us learn some of the local phrases.

The John O. Groats marker, indicating the northern most point of the UK main island.

The John O. Groats inn.

Notice we added our travel sticker to the pole!

My sticker collection is growing by the day.

The Inverness Castle.

Inverness as the sun goes down.

Some wise words on the pub next two our hotel.

You know your in Scotland when you see a man dressed like this nonchalantly walking down the street.

We walked up the hill to tour the castle but it was closed. It turns out this is not a castle used for tourism. It is still actively used to house government functions..IE: Courts, city offices, and more.

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