I had the most horrible trip back down to Inver from Wick. Although it was still daylight the fog made it almost impossible to see any real distance ahead and I soon accumulated a trail of traffic behind me, though with nowhere to pull over and let them pass. In those circumstances I tend to get uptight and a bit flustered, and probably drive a little faster than I would normally if left to my own devices. On a narrow part of the road a large European artic loomed out of the fog on a sharp bend in the road. Our mirrors touched but only just, but it upset me even more, and I was very glad to pull into the carpark at Inver
I though Phoebe would have been really pleased to be back somewhere she knew, but she still seemed subdued – also her appetite had been fading since she had started her season, and one of the parcels waiting for us at Inver contained a Vit B tonic which had worked well in the past for her. The trouble with Great Danes is that when they start to go off their food they can loose condition very quickly, so I like to keep her reasonably well covered and in hearty condition.
My mound of parcels from Amazon rapidly filled the recyling bin with cardboard – sometimes the smallest thing comes wrapped up to the nth degree, but I am hopefully now well equipped to survive the midge onslaught
Travelling to the far north of Shetland has obviously given me confidence, because on the way up I was longing to try some of the Scottish Fish and Chips, and wasn't brave enough to stop anywhere – but arriving back at Inver I called into the local restaurant The Bay Owl, about a half a mile away which has an excellent reputation for quality Fish Suppers and I was not disappointed. The fish was beautifully fresh moist and tasty,with a huge piece of haddock coated in nice light crispy batter, and some quality home made chips. Driving off from the carpark there was a scraping sound from Wretched Rack, even though I had obligingly turned in the opposite direction from that which I wanted to go, in order to give him the best chance of clearance. I shall be glad when we can part company, assuming he survives the roads of the Western Highlands and Islands which I am constantly advised are very narrow with pot holes like tank traps!!!
Having caught up with my mail and sat out more fog I decided to risk it clearing a little in the hope of seeing the Whaligoe Steps. I knew that getting up and down them would be completely beyond my current mobility issues, but I thought if the fog would lift even a little it would be an interesting place to have seen, and so it proved to be, after a minor parking problem
I had phoned ahead to see what access was like as it looked pretty tight on the maps. You'll be fine was the cheerful reply. I asked it there was room to turn Thebus and described his size. Loads in the car park! - and when I said I was not a good walker and was only going to look at the steps from the top the lady said – Just come on down and park up right against the cafe.
Arriving everything looked narrow and the main carpark itself was about as long as Thebus plus a few feet, which would have been okay but there were already five cars there all parked in different bits of the car park. I had a tentative go and Wretched Rack scraped and moaned, even though there was hardly much of an incline. I am not sure if its my imagination or if the 'swearword' thing is getting even lower than it was a few weeks ago.
I was almost on the point of just leaving Thebus where he was, which meant at least three cars would have been hemmed in, when the owners of the car which was giving me most bother came back from their walk of the steps. Once they had gone it was fairly easy to turn and get into a position where I had a reasonable hope of escape if more cars arrived.
Everywhere was still shrouded in a thick blanket of fog, though as it was not as thick at the day I drove down from Wick. Having got a little of the measure of Scottish weather I thought I had better take at least some photos in case it got worse instead of better, then popped into the cafe for a light lunch.
Whaligoe Steps looking over in the mist with not much to see
The cafe is in an old stone building which was once the salting shed for the herrings which were carried all the way up the steps by the women and girls in baskets. I hoped for their sake that they then went off by cart, rather than having to be carried all the way back down the hill again once pickled.
The cafe had a lovely maritime feel with scrubbed wooden floors, and beautiful, big rounded sea pebbles arranged in the large windows overlooking the sea. Well it would have been overlooking the sea if the view had extended more than about fifteen feet. But I had a lovely lunch. With local hot smoked salmon and fresh home made “Hearth Bread” - I am not sure if that is a traditional local thing, as the menu had a definite Turkish slant, but it was really good, and tasted as though it had been freshly cooked in a wood oven. Then home made ice-cream and poached green figs (one of my favourites) Just as the sweet arrived so did a shaft of sunlight, so I rather rushed eating it, as I wanted to see bit more of the steps and the haven below if it was possible, and on past experience the fog clearing might not last long.
Whaligoe Steps looking up towards the old salting shed
which is now the Whaligoe Steps Cafe
Whaligoe steps looking down part of the way
Top of Whaligoe Steps
looking out to sea when the mist had cleared a little
I should think the steps will be a picture indeed before long. There was already thickly covering of primroses in big clumps on the cliff top close to the path, and running down the steep sides where the steps had been cut from the cliffs were many drifts of sea pinks and thrift, plus wild thyme and various maritime plants I had not come across before, all ready to burst into flower before long.
I would have dearly loved to have got down to the bottom to see the Haven, but knew that even if I had made it they would have probably needed to helicopter me out, or maybe get someone to carry me up in a herring basket! So having contented myself with a little way down and a few photos I decided to see The Hill of Many Stanes.
The Hill O Many Stanes
Enigmatic and possibly slightly underwhelming for one who had not long visited The Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness. The fact that the stones are in the middle of a gorse plantation doesn’t make it easier to see either, but interesting nevertheless.
Apparently they are in straight lines which form a fan shape, but I must have been standing in the wrong place as I couldnt make out any sort of pattern.