Thursday 25 October 2012--Overcast and blustery this morning, the windshield wipers on and off as I drive south out of Tongue. I can see blue sky in
the rearview mirror, blowing down out of the north. Pass through Altnaharra and stop in Lairg for a cup o' joe, and to let the front overtake me. I've
been through here several times over the years, but never stopped. It's a funny place, the largest town in the northern interior, at the junction of
several roads, on the rail line, and adjacent to Loch Shin and its hydroelectric dam. There's a hotel (where I'm having coffee), a post office, a Co-Op,
and a sporting goods shop. "Sporting" in this part of Scotland means fishing and stalking (hunting). The village is not utterly without charm...close,
though. Unlike many places I pass through, it does not tempt me to spend a night sometime.
Another ten miles or so down the road, I stop to have a stroll around Bonar Bridge. Hard to believe I've never been here before, although the reason is obvious--the bridge here, for 170 years an important link on the road up the northeast coast, was bypassed by the Dornoch Firth Bridge, built in the 1980s. The first bridge at Bonar, formerly a ferry crossing, was built in 1812 by you-know-who. (Hint: his initials are TT.) That was washed away in a flood in 1892, and replaced the following year. The current bridge was opened in 1973.
Okay, been there. I detour to the Black Isle, thinking to have lunch at the Anderson in Fortrose. Find it closed for a few days, for roof repairs. Push on through Inverness, arriving in Elgin at 3:30. Browse the Gordon & MacPhail shop and come away with a half-bottle of Balblair to get me through the rest of the trip, and a Pulteney to take home. I'm in Craigellachie at 4:30, and shortly after am in the Highlander with a venison steak and a well-kept pint of Trade Winds. I love the wild north of Scotland, but it's nice to be back in civilization.