"Where did you say?" laughed the bus driver. Walking into the delightful little village of Tomatin, pronounced "Tomartin" I resolved to brush up on my pronunciation of Scottish towns and villages. The most bizarre example last year had been "Milngavie" (The start of the West Highland Way) pronounced "Mulgie" -Fortunately I was forewarned on that occasion.
Tomartin may have been small, but it was "happening". Checking out the notice board I saw they had a walking group - but with unfortunately no contact details. Across the road, however, in the Post Office the friendly Postmistress provided me with all the contacts I could possibly need. Why, this little place even had it's own web site! "She who knows all" also informed me that the walks Co-ordinator was on holiday this week.
Not to be deterred, I resolved to get back to Inverness in good time to a) get to the Library and onto the Internet before closing and check out the Tomatin Website and b) Get to the "Johnnie Fox Hooley Night"
All was going well until I had to wiggle from one side of the A9 to the other,and if it hadn't been for some useful information boards (i.e. "You are here") I may well have ended up in Carlisle.
Back on track, I arrived in Boat of Garten and tempting as it was to leg it down the A9 to make up time, thank goodness I didn't. Walking through the woods, up "Fairy Hill" and along the "Speyside Way" was such a delightful route. With an amazingly stunning setting for a Golf Course, it was almost tempting to take up the sport, well...maybe not. The only fly in the ointment, literally, was the pesky midges gathering around my head.
Through the headphones, the UK's leading "midge expert" A Doctor somebody or other (well worth the years of research to be at a cocktail party and asked the question, "So, what's your line of business?") was telling me, that the unseasonably warm weather had resulted in an early gathering of the blessed things.
As if I needed to know...
The Chief of the McMidge Clan had called an emergency meeting. "Ok guys, I know it's only May, but we're just going to have to start work a month early. The Barbeque's are being lit, the sun loungers are out on the patio, for goodness sake, we can't possibly let them enjoy themselves!" With grumbling and dissent among the ranks, he urged them into action "Think of the overtime!" and off they swarmed and descended on the foolish solitary woman walking through the woods.
Following a bit of a trek through the manicured "Desperate Housewives" standard suburbs, I soldiered on with the thought of a white wine spritzer, on the terrace of a chic little wine bar once I'd reached Aviemore town centre.
Well, I did enjoy the spritzer on a bench outside a pub, but Aviemore was a bit of a depressing disappointment. With a tired, "can't really be bothered" sort of feel about it, It was clear that the ski-ing hey days of the 60's and 70's were pretty much over.
Happy in the knowledge that I was heading back to the metropolis of Inverness I waited for the bus, on the wrong side of the road. Maybe it was the effects of the wine in the sun, maybe I was tired, but whatever it was, it was with dismay that I watched "my bus" sail passed in the opposite direction!
And so,with two hours to waste, I ate a mediocre meal in a dismal little cafe,and
by the time I got back to Inverness it was to late to hit the "Hooley Night"
I climbed the hill back to the hostel as grumpy as a midge dragged out of hibernation.