September 1998

When searching the internet for good places to see dolphins I came across the website for Dolphin Ecosse in Cromarty. This started me thinking and we planned a 4 day trip around this.

After considering the various alternatives we decided to travel on the Caledonian Express overnight sleeper train from London Euston to Inverness. The cabin was about 6ft by 4it with two bunk beds on the side, a sink and “overnight packs” containing soap, nail file, face cloth, toothbrush an tooth paste. The lounge car was really busy when we went down to have a look, so we stayed in our cabin with the bottles of pre-mixed Gin & Tonics that we’d brought with us. On the journey to the highlands I had the bottom bunk and didn’t sleep particularly well.

We were woken up by the guard bringing us tea and croissants. We arrived in Inverness at 08:40 and decided that our first task was to get a street map of Inverness. This we found at the newsagent at the station. Armed with our map we then went in search of Alamo car rentals to pick up the car which we’d reserved over the internet. We had the street name but wandered up and down until we noticed that the National Car Rental offices had a tiny Alamo notice in their window. We entered the office and went through the normal admin before driving away in a Renault Clio 1.3.

Our first mission was to drive and find the Brae Ness hotel where we were to stay for the next three nights. We located it but decided that we were probably too early (only just 9am) to check in, so we then took ourselves off for an explore.

We headed off towards Loch Ness and driving along that road was wonderful. We took a break at one of their view points and the water was so flat and calm. After heading off again we stopped at Drumnadrochit at the “Original Loch Ness Museum” and had a rest at their coffee shop. Feeling more human after a cup of tea we decided to head off over to the West Coast of Scotland towards Skye. We were in no rush and so stopped at whatever viewpoints looked interesting. We stopped at a place, in the middle of nowhere, called the “Cuanie Inn” where we had some lunch before heading off the rest of the way. We arrived at the Kyle of Lochalsh and soon discovered that the Bridge to Skye costs £5 per car each way. As we were only out for a day trip we decided not to bother as we didn’t feel we could do justice to the island in a few hours at a cost of £10. Instead we stopped in Lochalsh for a while, visiting the tourist office and buying a map of the Highlands (we’d been using the map the car rental people had given us). During the second world war my Great-Uncle, Geoge Duffield, had died whilst working in the Navy and was buried somewhere in Lochalsh. We decided to investigate and suceeded in locating the grave. The graveyard was really nicely situated and very calm.

Having found that, we decided to take a leisurely ride back towards Inverness. We arrived at the hotel at 5pm and checked into our room. Having checked in, we decided to rest a while and then woke up at 10pm, by which time neither of us could face the idea of going out looking for food, so we just turned in for the evening.

We woke up on Saturday morning feeling refreshed and went down to a much needed breakfast. The weather didn’t look very good but we hoped it would clear up as this was the day for us to go with Dolphin Ecosse out in a boat looking for dolphins. After our breakfast we took a walk into Inverness before we had to move the car (free parking only until 10am Mon- Sat) allowing me to buy some new sunglasses (poor misguided fool).We started the drive towards Cromarty and decided to stop off at Chanonnry point, a good spot for dolphin spotting apparently. The weather was prety grim and we didn’t see any dolphins. We then took ourselves off to Cromarty and decided to track down a cup of tea in the “Country Kitchen”. This was a really nice little tea shop but we couldn’ t stay there all day and os we decided to go for a walk around the town. We then took a break in the Cromarty Arms for a beer before moving off to the “Thistle” for lunch. By now it was time to report to Dolphin Ecosse so that is what we did. There we were shown an introductory video and given time to browse around the shop before going down to the harbour to get onto the boat. The weather had at least dried off so although it was still quite chilly we weren’t going to get soaked. We got on the boat and went for our trip with another 4 people, but unfortunately there were no dolphins to be seen. We drove back to Inverness and ate that night at a bar not far from the hotel “Nico’s bistro”. After that, and a stroll along the river we retired to bed.

On Sunday, we had a walk around Inverness before getting into the car, going to Tescos and then heading back to Channonry Point to see if we could spot any dolphins, unfortunately not but we did see some seals. We then headed of to Nairn, still in the hope of seeing dolphins, and still not seeing any. After Nairn, we headed off to visit Culloden Battlefield, and walked around the exhibitions and into the battlefields themselves. We stopped for a cup of tea and a sticky bun in the visitors centre before heading off down the road just a bit and visiting the clava cairns – a set of ancient stones, which were really interesting. It was starting to get dark by this point so we headed back to Inverness and went out for our tea to Bella pasta.

On Monday, we checked out of the hotel and drove along the other side of Loch Ness, and ended up in Aviemore. We drove up and around the area, up to
We then drove back towards Inverness via loch Garten which was really beautiful. We dropped the car off, having clocked up around 500 miles in the 4 days and then stopped in a pub near the station for a bite to eat and a drink. Then onto the train and straight into the lounge for G&Ts. The train made it’s way back south towards London arriving in Euston at around 8am.

Author: jane

Software Developer, Photographer and Snowboarder