Saturday, 31 May 2008

Best laid plans...

Spending time with the cleaner at the Dornoch Inn on a fruitless search for missing headphones was not how I'd planned to spend the first hour of the day. Although we hunted high and low under tables and in rubbish bins, they could not be found. And so, I stomped out of Dornoch in a bad mood. Why? Well today was Sunday and I'd been looking forward to the "Archers Omnibus" followed by "Desert Island Discs" and an afternoon of "Pick of the Pops" (sometimes it was worth putting up with Dale Winters irritatingly smarmy voice if a the "picks" a couple of good years. It would have passed the time on what I knew from last years experience to be a pretty boring route.
To say the walking highlight of the day was lunching in the Co-Op outside Tain tells you all you need to know about today's walk. I had been sort of looking forward to finding "Scotsburn" a place well signposted from Tain, but so elusive even the locals don't seem to know where it is. I must have passed through it, although I can't say I noticed on the the long, albeit quiet, B road to Alness where I catching the bus back to Inverness.
So in the absence of anything interesting to say about today's walk I'll tell you about Dornochs rise to prosperity.
Without the advantage of a herring fishing industry, Dornoch was a deprived and poverty stricken place until the beginning of the 20th Century when some local bright spark said "Hey, we have links, we could have Golf!" And so, a few keen entrepreneurs worked tirelessly to turn Dornoch into a popular golfing destination. Their greatest coup was to attract Andrew Carnegie, a Dunfermline born lad, who'd done alright for himself. When one of the worlds richest men decides to play at Dornoch, King Edward decides to pay it a visit and while he was there clapped a Royal title on it. From there on Dornoch was the "in place" to be, attracting the checked trouser brigade in their droves. Fine hotels and houses were built, so that the Dornoch you see today, with upmarket shops and cafes is a pretty damn smart place to be. I was sorry to leave it, but also looking forward to a night in Inverness., another place with fond memories.
I'd booked a room at the youth hostel and on being handed the key to "East Side 1" the man on the desk apologised for it being so small, and indeed it was. With just enough room for a narrow bed and chair, what did I care? It may have been a cell, but at least it was a single one.
To round the night off, another major blow. Obviously I was not destined to listen to any music today, as tonight, looking forward to a meal and the live music at the "Johnny Fox" pub...Sunday was the bands day off.

Friday, 16 May 2008

The last Witch

It's a good job I erred on the cautious side of conversation this morning because before relating tales of 2007, my fellow guests informed me they hailed from the Orkney Islands. Politely scouring my brain for all the "highlights" of last years coach tour, I quickly bid my farewells and wished them a safe journey home.

Today's "highlight" was the beach walk between Brora and Golspie. Something I hadn't undertaken last year, and all because I'd spotted some youths mucking about and got scared. Determined not to be put off this year, what a treat it turned out to be! A meander of 4 miles along the beach with a slight breeze, made for perfect walking conditions. Spotting three men ahead of me, who looked a "safe 50+" I got them to take a photo of me by the "Broch" just to prove that I really was doing this walk! Perched for lunch on a wall admiring Dunrobin Castle, a fairytale folly, created by William, the Earl of Sutherland as a Summer House (some holiday home!) munching my sandwiches, I thought it was turning out to be a good day.Anticipating the delightful stroll alongside Loch Fleet into Dornoch, where if I was lucky I might spot seals and oyster catchers, the reality of course, was somewhat different. The unpredictable and ever changing weather conditions meant forcing myself through a blizzard of icy rain and sleet to finally reach the safe haven of the Dornoch Inn.

Dried off, I went to visit an old friend, The Dornoch Library (late night opening) and was highly delighted that the lovely librarian from 2007 was still there. Wanting to embrace her warmly and say "Hi, remember me" I held back, because I sensed she wasn't a touchy feely sort of librarian. What I did know, however, was we were of a kindred spirit, both believing that "Rules are meant to be bent" Which translated meant, I could stay on my computer way beyond my allocated 20 minutes as long as no-one else needed it.

The advantage of the extended stay in the library gave me the time to gen up on a bit of local history, and the story of the "Last witch" Strange, but true I must relate...

In 1727 Janet Horne was the last person to be tried and executed for witchcraft, right here, in Dornoch. She'd been accused of turning her daughter into a pony and getting Satan to shoe the girl/pony. They were both arrested and at her trial she was showing signs of madness (as if she hadn't already?) Sentenced to death, she was stripped, tarred and paraded through the streets of Dornoch in a barrel. On reaching the flames, she smiled and waved to the crowds, warming her hands by the very fire she was about to be burnt in. Onlookers were amazed and riveted, and that's when her daughter saw her chance to escape, "trotting" off through the crowds, never to be seen again. As a pony or a girl, who knows?