I’ll try to keep this as short as possible, but when you have visited a place so different from your usual haunts, and so utterly atmospheric and magical, it is hard to be terse.
The background: My sister spent two weeks on the Isle of Iona, after which I joined her for one-week stay, mostly on the Isle of Skye. While she was on Iona one of her friends remarked, “Scotland… it’s all about the light.” I agree, but would add it’s also all about hospitality as an art form. We had generally good weather, which in Scotland means it isn’t raining. Of all our days we had only one where it rained on and off all day; the rest of the time was a delightful mix of sun and clouds – which is what makes the light so delicious.
We met up on a Tuesday in Edinborough (not the original plan – for an elaboration of a travel nightmare, click here) and drove immediately to Forres, a little north and east of Inverness, where we found the very comfortable Cluny House B & B. In true Scottish fashion, when I called to tell owner Susan that we wouldn’t be there the night before (see elaboration…) she was more concerned about our discomfort than about losing one or possibly two nights of rental income. The village of Forres itself was delightful, featuring an amusing public garden full of ‘topiary’ – which proved to be iron frames in which plants were growing, rather like enormous chia pets.
Our main purpose in going to Forres was to position ourselves for a visit to Findhorn, the ecovillage and commune founded in 1962 by Peter and Eileen Caddy in a trailer park. We had wanted to see the gardens which were, over a period of years, created under rather inimical conditions, and perhaps to get a spiritual taste of the place. What we found was very much an institution, complete with property management and fund-raising offices prominently placed. Of gardens we saw only one, though it was quite pretty.
Most of the land around the many houses seemed unkempt and there was lots of junk lying around. The cottage gardens of Findhorn village were much more interesting and far better maintained. It had the feel of a place that was started for all the right reasons, but, once institutionalized had become somehow less. We were surprised when Susan told us that the community there does not do much outreach or give programs for area children. When we visited it made sense. I’m sure the programs they offer are excellent, and we were there for just half of one day – during which we felt we’d seen all there was to see – no doubt one has to immerse oneself in the community itself to get full benefit.
Our next port of call was Inverness, a small bustling city, where we stayed at the Bannerman B&B, another comfortable house where the owner fed us a huge and hugely satisfying breakfast. Chocolate Lab Hugo was extremely welcoming. The river Ness, on both sides of which lies the city, is interrupted by three islands that have been turned into a large and inviting forest park. The city has a 19th century castle on a hill which gives an impressive view of the rest of the city, including the spire-less cathedral.
But our true destination was the Isle of Skye, and that’s where we went next. I’ll tell you all about that in the next post…
Meanwhile, for a slide show of photos of the whole trip, click here.