Day Fifty Four

We continued our north western coastal route today, wrapping our
way around the coast and through the mountains and lochs. Most of
today’s path was farm land as opposed to national park, but other
than some foresting, the landscape didn’t differ that much. More
grass, certainly, less trees and more sheep, but still utterly and
beautifully wild. The sheep have claimed the road as their own
(luckily what little traffic there is can see them in plenty of time) and
are to be found wandering with varying degrees of nonchalance. We
came across one who had decided to take a little nap in the middle
of the road. As one does. The lambs are fun to watch. They still
bounce when they run. Very cute.
In my never ending quest to see an otter, today I might have just
seen one. All prior false starts proved to be unmoving rocks, but this
one bobbed up….and then down and away, but by the time Chris
had registered my squealing we we well past with no place to turn.
Hmmm. Will need further proof.
We also saw many instances of peat cutting – the bricks cut out of
peat bog, and left to dry out in the sun. It’s so boggy and wet when
it comes away, it’s amazing that it ever dries enough to burn. I have
mixed feelings about the peat cutting. Ireland has moved to stop it,
given its age, and the prehistoric and archeological finds it keeps
furnishing. I can see though, that historically it would have seemed
like an endless source of fuel.
On today’s route we see many many motor homes, lots of bikers
both cycling and motorbiking and one brave soul who was doing it
on foot. In the rain, backpack on, miles, MILES, from anywhere.
We spend most of the day on the road, and towards the late
afternoon, we realise that we won’t make John O’Groats today, and
instead chose to stretch our legs at a castle we see marked on the
route – Castle Mey on the top of the north coast.
We make it in just before the cut off time, and are surprised when
we are met by a personal tour guide at the front door. We’re even
more surprised to find out this isn’t some random castle, it’s the
Queen Mother’s personal home, bought after her husband’ death in
the 1950s and the only home she ever owned.
It’s beautiful, apart from the accompaniments of royal life (personal
chefs, a room for her lady in waiting and staff) it was like your typical
granny’s house. Warm, comforting, lots of family and pet photos,
special spots for her treasured corgis – full of personal touches and
connections to the local community that made it a home. Just
lovely. The tour guide knew her stuff backwards and took us through
each special piece in the house. I was very pleased, as was she, to
delight in the Queen Mother’s love of high heels and her wearing
them into her late 90s. She loved to dance and and was often found
on the dance floor into the wee hours…and loved a drink. My kind
of girl.
After the castle tour, we toured the garden, which was divided into
a walled vegetable and flower garden, set in maze hedges within
the walled section – stunning flowers and a lovely cottagey feel. The
rest of the grounds were either treed, or farm land. They still have
Black Angus Cows, and many heritage breeds of sheep, goats,
chickens, goats, ducks and geese.
The castle was a such a lovely surprise. When we walked into the
front door, her pale blue coat, wellies and seashell collection, picked
in her daily beach walks with the corgis, very much gave the feel
that you had dropped in on a friend’s house. On her death, it was
left in trust to be managed by the Prince of Wales.
He’s doing a great job.