Press "Enter" to skip to content

Windy Islands, part 12 – Garvault stay

Winter in the Scottish Highlands. Keep surprising myself. 😄 Let's see what part 12 of the Windy islands brings... 😎
Here are the part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10 & part 11.
You can also fallow the trip in Polarsteps.
Not to overload the post with pictures, most of the photos you can find at the end of it divided into galleries.

12 January 2024 – Peat picking – Garvault, Scotland

So the third member of Garvault’s winter team, Zach, has finally arrived. I had met him once when he and Ollie came to Inverness in March to see me in person. I didn’t have many memories or impressions from that time though. I had the image of a smiling redhead in a kilt who liked to play with axes and knives.

Ollie, however, was waiting for him as for a warm bread (Bulgarian saying)! “When Zach comes we’ll do this and that… When Zach comes we’ll go here and there… When Zach comes we’ll have this and that…” All in all it sounded like he was waiting for an old sweetheart, not a work buddy. I was a little confused, but was waiting to see that special Zach – I must have missed something that day in March…

A special treat breakfast Zack made for Ollie (and me, of course)
A special treat breakfast Zack made for Ollie (and me, of course)

So Zach came. The hysteria surrounding his arrival died down, replaced by other drama, but that’s another topic…

First trip to the woods ended under the rainbow
First trip to the woods ended under the rainbow

His kilt was gone (waiting for him here in the closet), but the ginger beard and laughing blue eyes were as I remembered them. He greeted me with a tight hug and a waterfall of talks. It turned out that he not only liked to play with sharp objects, but also taking care of them and using them skillfully. He was in love with the place here and Scotland in general, but he was also kind of an adventurer and survivor.

The firs trip to the woods and some peat picking.
The firs trip to the woods and some peat picking.

On the very second day, while Ollie was in Thurso to send my camera to NL for replacement (they had returned it from the standard post), we went to the woods. I was there more for company and out of curiosity, but I absolutely enjoyed myself. Not only did I have a walk in nature (I won’t go alone that far…), but I was able to give Zach a hand and learned a lot about peat peaking for heating.

First ever (for me) peat picking
First ever (for me) peat picking

I’ve heard about burning peat just recently and it was something completely new and unfamiliar to me, which automatically made it so interesting, that I was willing to listen to Zach’s explanations all day without getting bored.

In the woods for wood after the snow
In the woods for wood after the snow

Well, I still ended up with a wet, and therefore frozen bum, but that’s another topic… 😂

18 January 2024 – Under the snow – Garvault, Scotland

Unpleasant changes

Well, we met our horns with Ollie finally. On the second night after Zach’s arrival, he tried to isolate me in a very ugly way and I told him directly that I won’t take any more shit at this place, ’cause it was already too much. If he’s not happy sharing Zach with others, I will just pack and leave, I don’t give a damn about it anymore!

Beautiful morning at Garvault
Beautiful morning at Garvault

He’d already figured out, with Zach’s help, that he’d crossed all the lines with the bulldozer, and apologized several times.

Overflowing Garvault burn
Overflowing Garvault burn

Well, unfortunately things didn’t get better afterwards. Аs he failed to isolate me, he isolated himself, which is hard to ignore, but I’ve mentally given him a time limit until I get my camera back from repair. If he can’t deal with himself and his “brotherly jealousy” of Zach, I’m leaving…

Snowed in

Snow
Snow

In the meantime, we were snowed in. I waited so long for that snow, and it came exactly when my camera was gone, but whatever. After a few days isolated due to the snow storms, it was time to clear it a bit and dig ourselves out.

Snow at Garvault
Snow at Garvault

The first day, only Ollie and Zach went out to shovel (and me with the dogs for a walk afterwards 😜), but the second day I volunteered for the crew. One – I needed some proper physical exertion, Two – it was fun, and Three – it didn’t have Zach to do all the work (Ollie was behind the wheel).

Digging out ourselves
Digging out ourselves

It took us almost the whole day shoveling in front of the Land Rover (don’t even ask… 🤦‍♀️), but we made it. Even Ollie got out of the car and helped with the shovel.

Digging out ourselves
Digging out ourselves

The snow was wet and heavy and, by my opinion, unnecessary struggle doing that by hand – if the Land Rover can’t do it, just wait a couple of days to melt down. The weather was getting better and we were not in a hurry. But anyway…

Digging out ourselves
Digging out ourselves

At least it was really fun. Zach was wonderful company. Not just at the snow removal time, but in general. I was finally starting to feel here the way I’d expected since meeting the two of them in March…

20 January 2024 – Wood cutting – Garvault, Scotland

In the woods for wood in the middle of the snow…

In the woods for wood in the snow
In the woods for wood in the snow

Nothing had happened as it should since I arrived. First Eva got on my nerves, then Princess Kit (Should I explain more about him? Nah, let’s just say that he earned his nickname straight away, and it was even before my arrival. I only changed the word’s gender – a princess it is!) was doing my head in, and finally to top it off Ollie got strangely different…

Snow at Garvault and Zach burn
Snow at Garvault and Zach burn

I was ready to leave and had even started mentally packing my bags the moment of our argument with Ollie after Zach arrived. I had to wait for my camera, of course, but I was preparing myself and starting to plan my premature departure.

Snowing again
Snowing again

Until Zach stepped into the role…

Hard to describe. I haven’t have a brother, but I did have an older cousin, whom with we were literally like docked vessels until each of us got married and life unraveled. So I feel the same way with Zach – I found my younger brother! I’m relaxed and comfortable in his company. Feel connected and appreciated, looked after. At the same time, we are inundated with laughter and shenanigans all day long.

Forest beauty
Forest beauty

And, damnit, we work hard! And it is just so much fun! I haven’t had this much fun in a looooong time. We were without wood in the middle of nowhere with delivery impossible due to the snow. So guess what – Zach and Eli are going for wood in the woods!

https://youtu.be/7zZpETNjfRE

It’s routine for him. For me it was a super treat waking up oooold, old memories of a forgotten life.

In the woods for wood in the snow
In the woods for wood in the snow

I love the woods! I love working with wood! Not only did we chop wood in the forest, but when we took it “home” we chopped and split it, and we lit the fireplaces with it in the evening, because we literally had a pitiful single log left that I kept for kindling, because it was dry enough…

In the woods for wood in the snow - afterparty 😜
In the woods for wood in the snow – afterparty 😜
Talks. Candles. Massage. Smoking pipe. Wine. Fun. Walks. Whiskey. Talks. Smoking pipe. Wine. Talks. Massage. Baileys. Whiskey. Candles. I could go on and on…
Zach made a Swedish torch fire outside the hotel
Zach made a Swedish torch fire outside the hotel

The only thing that darkened our mood when we thought of it was Ollie’s illogical behaviour. Hopefully he’ll be back to his normal self soon…

25 January 2024 – Burn’s night – Garvault, Scotland

Burns’ night wasn’t what I expected, but it was fun nonetheless. At least Zach and I both had fun. Ollie made one last (as it eventually turned out) mediocre attempt at acting normal, although that didn’t work out too well. Then he totally “knocked the goats out”, but more on that later…

Burns' night
Burns’ night

Kilt. Ollie had promised me a kilt for Burns’ night, but after his breakdown I had zero illusions that it would happen. As luck would have it, Zach and I were roughly the same size. He had several spare kilts and was more than happy to outfit me with all the accessories I needed. My black t-shirt paired perfectly with his kilt jacket. 😄

Burns' night
Burns’ night

Wearing a kilt was an interesting experience. I thought the kilt was just like a skirt. Damn, that skirt weighs like hell and to top it off it has a life of its own – everywhere I turn I’m sweeping something up. It’s like I’ve never worn a skirt in my life! Or at least a kilt. 😆 I was thinking besides, by the way of logic, it must be chilly with these skirts… Well, with these umpteen layers of wool on the bum and knee-length (or mid-thigh!) wool socks, it doesn’t even cross your mind being chilly.

Burns' night
Burns’ night

I felt absolutely lovely. And here began my journey into the whisky world. I don’t drink rakia, whisky, etc. Oh well, I think it’s time to change the verb tense. I didn’t drink… 🙊🙈

Slàinte Mhath!
Slàinte Mhath!

Part of the ritual at Burns Night is the Friendship Cup. Of course the cup is full of whisky. 😄 And it goes through everyone clockwise until it’s empty. I could pretend to drink, of course. The others would empty it without my help, I have faith in them!

Friendship cup at Burns' night. And that's how everything started...
Friendship cup at Burns’ night. And that’s how everything started…

But something in me rebelled. Traditions must be observed, mustn’t it?! And a little voice was tugging hard at me from inside – You’re in Scotland, damn it, people dream of trying Scotch whisky, and you’re mad as a hatter not taking your chance to at least try what a real whiskey means! Well, okaaaay, okaaaaaay!

Slàinte Mhath!
Slàinte Mhath!

Nuts! Since I started, it can’t stop now… There’s not a bottle in the pictures that’s there by accident! 😄🙈

Slàinte Mhath!
Slàinte Mhath!

26 January 2024 – Dingwall, Scotland

The next day we went to an auction. It was interesting mainly because of the old stuff that was up for sale, but also because it was the first time I have attended something like this.

At Dingwall market
At Dingwall market

I couldn’t understand a word of the auctioneer’s crescendo and was inwardly flooded with laughter.

Dingwall auction
Dingwall auction

Unfortunately I didn’t understand much of Ken’s saying either (Mick, his wife Lynn. and Ken were staying with us for Christmas, they are friends), to which Zach was dying laughing. Only secretly for the moment. Ken is a great person, to my regret with very strong accent, which forces me to ask him to repeat again, and again, and again…

Dingwall auction
Dingwall auction

Here Zach stepped into the role very smoothly and elegantly, almost imperceptibly. I knew he had outed me the moment he started repeating Ken’s words. In a completely different way, of course, like he was trying to explain something else to me. No one else would have noticed that he was actually translated Ken’s words to me…

Another great day with Zach and Ken
Another great day with Zach and Ken

Damn, how could one not love that guy! 😄🤗

30 January 2024 – Wood cutting – Garvault, Scotland

My favorite moments were in the woods. For peat or for wood, the important thing was to be in the forest. I love the forest! I’m named after a tree for a reason…

Out into the woods for wood
Out into the woods for wood

Digging peat is forbidden except for personal use. Except we were NOT digging it, and it IS for personal use. The fireplace in the middle of the house, the library, is on peat. Besides, we didn’t dig it, we collected it from among the roots of trees that had fallen from the storms. This is Zach’s discovery, and for it to happen at all, a lot of “accidents” have to come together, and then it takes about 2 years or so for the peat to dry.

Out into the woods for wood
Out into the woods for wood

It’s easier with the wood. We find a tree that has already died and is dry enough. Zack cuts it down, I delimb it and we both cut it into chunks. Then comes the hard part – Zach has to carry all the logs out one by one on his shoulders. Through the woods, across the river!, up the dirt road, all the way to the asphalt where Ollie comes to collect us with the Land Rover when we call him that we’re ready.

Out into the woods for wood
Out into the woods for wood

Apart from that, the wine and whisky tastings continued unabated. I think the evenings in a quiet intimate setting over a glass of wine and sweet talk, are battling with the forest expeditions for the top spot. There is no winner, though, they share the championship.

Another nice cozy evening on our own. Slàinte Mhath!
Another nice cozy evening on our own. Slàinte Mhath!

Meanwhile, my camera has returned from repairs. I wouldn’t say I’m happy with what I got, but I don’t have time of sending it back again. I’ll deal with it in Ireland, where I’ll be staying for longer.

Out into the woods for wood
Out into the woods for wood

2 February 2024 – Loch Coire nam Mang, Scotland

The distressing situation here was beginning to affect Zack as well. Although we were both each other’s support, the waves of depression and aggression were affecting both of us.

Little Boo on an evening walk near Garvault
Little Boo on an evening walk near Garvault

Zach is a man who climbs mountains and hills and walks kilometers and kilometers just like that. Despite the ugly weather he had managed to get me out for short 7-8 km walks a few times (I still limp, though a bit less). And when I found out that despite the nice weather we were both finding excuses to sit on our butts, I knew I had to kick two asses.

It didn’t take much to convince him. Despite the blustering wind and the fact that we were expecting our first guests that afternoon, the walk to the nearby lake was the right choice.

At Loch Coire nam Mang
At Loch Coire nam Mang

At one point, where the road (dirt track) was flat and clear, Zach left me and jogged along the ridge of the mountain near us. I kid you not – he was running! And up and down. And I was laughing out loud, which the wind carried somewhere far away… It was fabulous!

Slàinte Mhath! at Loch Coire nam Mang
Slàinte Mhath! at Loch Coire nam Mang

And, of course, the tasting went on in a slightly more artistic version. 😜

3 February 2024 – Wolfburn distillery – Thurso, Scotland

Our first official guests for the year were six Italians who had come the previous year as well. Pleasant, loud and chatty. It turned out they were planning to visit the Wolfburn Distillery, where I wanted to go too.

On my "Italian trip"
On my “Italian trip”

In all that time no one had told me we had a free entry for staff there. Good thing Zach mentioned it and I got Ollie to arrange a visit for me. Somehow I wasn’t looking forward to it – all day in the car with the passive aggressive Ollie (occasionally not that passive). Still, it was interesting – I’d never seen how whisky was made and wouldn’t, as tours aren’t the cheapest in general.

On my "Italian trip" with all the Italians at Bettyhill Cafe
On my “Italian trip” with all the Italians at Bettyhill Cafe

The Italians came like a gift – a possibility of a whole day in pleasant company, even though I didn’t understand a word they said (they spoke Italian amongst themselves, of course)! Plus their rented car was a seven seater – perfect! There was just one subtle point – I had to somehow ask them and I’m not very good at that part…

On my "Italian trip"
On my “Italian trip”

Again, Zach stepped into the role. After trying to subtly insert it into the conversation all night, without any help from me (watching his efforts, I completely lost my ability to talk 🙈), he ended up directly asking Georgio (one of the group) if they had room for me.

At Wolfburn distillery
At Wolfburn distillery

Six people in three rooms, i.e. none of the others knew. I was ready in the morning and was wondering how to put out the question again, as no one mentioned anything.

At Wolfburn distillery
At Wolfburn distillery

When Zach, who was keeping an eye on the situation all the time, again asked directly if they had commented on it amongst themselves and if they would take me.

At Wolfburn distillery
At Wolfburn distillery

There was a slight commotion – nobody had commented anything, they were not sure if the seventh seat hadn’t been dismantled… I felt I’ll be staying behind today. Yet, in 2 minutes everything was clarified and agreed. As a result my dearness ended up at the front seat, princess-style!

Oh oh... Slàinte Mhath! At Wolfburn distillery
Oh oh… I did try ALL of them! Slàinte Mhath!

It was a great day and I owe it entirely to Zach! It was entirely his doing! And of course, as usual, he had to send me off laughing in the morning. I told him he had an egg on his beard at breakfast, at which point he just smiled archly, dug into his plate and smeared the whole egg all over his face.

Egg all over his face... I guess I asked for it... 😆🤦‍♀️
Egg all over his face… I guess I asked for it… 😆🤦‍♀️

Yeah, that’s Zach for you! 😆🙈😆

12 February 2024 – around Kinbrace, Scotland

https://youtu.be/hpb_SmpgzOo

I was sick of tiptoeing around Ollie. He was acting like a prima donna, like someone had taken his lollipop in kindergarten.

The old military bunker at Kinbrace
The old military bunker at Kinbrace

I understood Zach’s way of dealing with the situation. That’s why everyone loves him, because he always thinks of everyone else and adapts to everyone. Other’s comfort is with even higher priority. (Milenski, does that sound familiar to you?!) Yeah, but as we all know, I’m not of that breed…

The old military bunker at Kinbrace
The old military bunker at Kinbrace

We’ve been talking about going to an old abandoned bunker for a week and every time something didn’t sit right with His Highness. I could go one way on foot (about 12 km), but it was too much both ways with that sore leg. I was dependent and it was infuriating.

The old military bunker at Kinbrace
The old military bunker at Kinbrace

Until at some point something dawned on me. But wait a minute! How did I get around Europe without waiting for Ollie taking me somewhere?! Hitchhiking of course! True, few cars pass here, but then again, EVERY single one will stop for me precisely because I’m in the middle of nowhere!

The old military bunker at Kinbrace
The old military bunker at Kinbrace

The old military bunker

I told Ollie I was about to hitchhike the next day if no one wants to come with me, I don’t care. Whereupon it suddenly turned out that, see, he would let Zach (a professional driver, btw) take the car for that short distance and drive me there. And maybe he even wants to see that bunker as well…

Kinbrace cemetery
Kinbrace cemetery

You don’t say! How did I known that there was a well preserved Royal Observation Corps bunker there in first place, maybe a bird in the woods told me about it… 🤦‍♀️

An old abandoned croft house
An old abandoned croft house

Kinbrace Cemetery and abandoned croft house

So the next day, Zach and I were finally able to go wherever we wanted (within reason, of course). The bunker, the cemetery across the road, and the abandoned house that my goodness snuck into, of course.

An old abandoned croft house
An old abandoned croft house

I would hardly have braved it on my own, but I knew that if I got hurt or something happened, there was someone outside I can rely on 100%!

RSPB Forsinard Flows – Bird watching tower

The bird watching tower
The bird watching tower

After the bunker and cemetery, we decided to take advantage of the good weather and go to the bird watching tower. We were passing it every time we went to Thurso, but no chance of stopping. So it was the perfect timing.

A swampy walk around the bird watching tower
A swampy walk around the bird watching tower

Well, didn’t see any birds, yet all around is just a swamp. As you step crookedly, you’re flopping in the bog… 🤦‍♀️ Leaving that and the blustery wind aside, it was a beautiful and unique experience.

View from the bird watching tower
View from the bird watching tower

13 February 2024 – Garvault burn – Garvault, Scotland

The same mood. I was sick of being dependent. I wanted to go somewhere where I could go alone. I remembered Debbie had mentioned a waterfall nearby. I had to find it.

Garvault at the end of Garvault burn
Garvault at the end of Garvault burn

I told Ollie I was gone and got ready. Zach was on the same wavelength. He was even in the same direction and walked with me to the waterfall where he jumped the creek and headed to the mountain top. There he is in the picture – a speck on the crest of the hill. 😄

Up there on the top is the dot called Zach...
Up there on the top is the dot called Zach…

I wasn’t that daring, besides, even when I’m in shape I don’t walk really fast, so I didn’t even think of going with him. I just continued along the river to a little hill and caught back up.

Chilly walk by Garvault burn
Chilly walk by Garvault burn

Zach caught up with me at the same place he’d left me. No appointment or planning. We were just on the same wavelength and that was it. 😆

15 February 2024 – Latheron, Scotland

Gunn Museum

Misty view at Gun Museum
Misty view at Gun Museum

We finally made it to the Gunn Museum. A bit of background – Garvault is in Clan Gunn territory, and the history of the clan is collected in an old church on the banks of the Latern.

At Gunn Museum
At Gunn Museum

The subtle point is that the museum is closed in winter and Zach, who is only in Scotland at this time, has been trying to get there for 4 years. It finally worked out for him, so my goodness did he beam upon seeing it..

Misty view at Gun Museum
Misty view at Gun Museum

The thing I regret a little, and even feel a little guilty about, is that because of me, our time there was limited. I wished we weren’t looking at our watches every minute. Except Ollie had decided to cram into one day all the things he had promised doing in two days. Just to get rid of us (especially me)

Misty view at Gun Museum
Misty view at Gun Museum

The atmosphere was heated enough to add more oil to the fire, so I resigned myself to the situation. So did Zach…

Achavanich

After the museum we headed to Thurso to pick up my new glasses.

Got my new glasses
Got my new glasses

On the way we stopped at another interesting place – Achavanich. A 4000 year old horseshoe shaped stone circle with the stone blocks arranged perpendicular to the center. Usually their wide side faces the center. This style of arrangement makes it unique to all other stone circles, very unusual and mysterious..

At Achavanich
At Achavanich

John o’ Groats

The northernmost point of Scotland and the UK respectively. Of course it was all done in a rush again, constantly looking at the clock. Especially after Ollie went too far again and I “kicked him in the knuckle”. Nevertheless, I was determined to see what I had come for.

The the northernmost point of Scotland
The the northernmost point of Scotland

One of the things i really wanted to see was the lighthouse. Zach had mentioned it was a short walk along the shore to get there. I had not checked the map.

On the way to John o' Groats Lighthouse
On the way to John o’ Groats Lighthouse

Well, the walk turned out to be not exactly short and on not exactly on nice and dry terrain, but after a few scenic detours through the blinding heavy mist we made it to the lighthouse anyway.

At John o' Groats Lighthouse
At John o’ Groats Lighthouse

It was nice although a damn muddy walk. I needed a walk! To let off some steam and get some fresh air. A sip of whiskey out of the flask could help.

My Valentines Day present!
My Valentines Day present!

My flask! My Valentines Day present! A surprise from both Zach and Ken, which is a really special gift for me.

Grey Cairns of Camster

Grey Cairns of Camster
Grey Cairns of Camster

Last stop for the day – The Grey Cairns of Camster. It was already almost dark and there was no point to even try one of my cameras. The only pictures are from Zach’s phone, which has a pretty good night mode.

Grey Cairns of Camster
Grey Cairns of Camster

The Grey Cairns of Camster are two of the best preserved Neolithic chambered cairns in Britain.

The Trip Home

What started in Thurso escalated on the way home. Ollie decided it was time to play interesting again, but this time I stepped on his neck. As little kids do when they don’t know how to react, I got a middle finger waved at me. Oh, hell no. Watch your manners, dude! That was a damn mistake! The only thing that saved him from being slapped across the face, was the fact that he was behind the wheel. His hat flew off though. At least I didn’t break his snapped finger to level him with the others. 😈

Slàinte Mhath!
Slàinte Mhath!

Poor Zach, he had to play Adult to two grown ups…supposingly grown ups… I knew I was going to put him in an uncomfortable position, so I hesitated for half a second before brushing away Ollie’s cap. Sorry Zach, I can’t have this kind of behavior and middle fingers waving in my face. Not with impunity…

17 February 2024 – Loch Choire, Scotland

A Bothy. Something that I was really looking forward to and that almost didn’t happen. Kind of like our mountain shelters. Not a hut, but a shelter.

On our way towards Loch Choire Bothy
On our way towards Loch Choire Bothy

Zach loves roaming around the moors, staying overnight and keeping the bothys in as best shape as much as he can. And of course, they are all far out of the way. I’m limping. The closest, and apparently most comfortable option was Loch Choire bothy. About a 5 km hike along the shore of the lake – uneven and uncertain terrain, but what a beauty!

On our way towards Loch Choire Bothy
On our way towards Loch Choire Bothy

Zach, who taught me what it feels like to have someone taking care of you without you even thinking about it, had taken into account all that. My limp, the rough terrain, and the backpack. And he had found a solution!

On our way towards Loch Choire Bothy
On our way towards Loch Choire Bothy

When he first mentioned it, I thought he was joking. However, he was quite serious – he prepared and oiled our four wheeled cart, then loaded the chainsaw as well, so that the cart would be really worth our efforts.

Near Loch Choire Bothy
Near Loch Choire Bothy

For most of the way, my backpack sat in the cart, neatly next to the chainsaw. I tried to walk fast and close enough to at least be able to help push the cart over the bumps and uphills. Of course, every time I had to fight with him, because he wouldn’t even let me do that, yet it didn’t come to a physical fight. 😆😜

On our way back from Loch Choire Bothy
On our way back from Loch Choire Bothy

On the way back my pack was half the weight – no food, beer, water or canned food. Even the whiskey was gone! 😄 I wore it the whole way without a problem. Zachwas terribly overworked – so much so that this time he didn’t even try to argue with me and take my backpack. 😄

On our way back from Loch Choire Bothy
On our way back from Loch Choire Bothy

Instead of after breakfast, we left at 3 pm for the bothy and on the way we encountered some surprises and challenges. Like, for example, a fallen bridge. Zach was wearing heavy waterproof logging boots and was able to cross with almost no problem. Mine would be flooded by some properly wetter grass though, no chance of crossing the river with them. They would fill up to the ankles and no drying…

The missing bridge on our way towards Loch Choire Bothy
The missing bridge on our way towards Loch Choire Bothy

While Zach looked for materials to make me a makeshift bridge for the deeper part (no way to roll my pants up above the knee, can I), I got my shoes off and prepared to wade barefoot across the river. I thought quickly. The water is icy, the rocks are slippery, and I’m unstable on my sore foot. Nah…

The missing bridge on our way towards Loch Choire Bothy
The missing bridge on our way towards Loch Choire Bothy

At the bottom of my backpack were the nice slippers given to me by Siobhan (my first Workaway host in Ireland more than a year ago) with the idea of using them at the bothy until my shoes dry out. Change of the plan – I decided to use my shoes until my thermals dry. An ideal option for crossing a river. My feet didn’t even get cold (well, here the handmade woolen socks have something to do with)!

Almost arrived at Loch Choire Bothy
Almost arrived at Loch Choire Bothy

We arrived with the last glimmers of light and the first drops of rain of the beginning storm. The bothy was clean and cozy. Some of the things Zach had left behind on his visit last year were still there. Including candles and wood. Luckily for us, we had enough wood to get us through the night, so Zach set about patching up a bit the falling apart woodburner, and I set about bringing some order and organization to the bungalow.

Finally arrived at Loch Choire Bothy
Finally arrived at Loch Choire Bothy

The last visitors had diligently cleaned up after themselves, but the same could not be said for the four-legged, squeaking permanent residents.

At Loch Choire Bothy
At Loch Choire Bothy

Then something to eat. A glass of wine / beer. A sip (or several) of whiskey. Aromatic pipe. Quite Music. Cozy. Warm.

Near Loch Choire Bothy
Near Loch Choire Bothy

It was chilly at night – the bungalow gets cold the moment the fire goes out, and with that crumbling stove we dared not leave it burning.

At Loch Choire Bothy
At Loch Choire Bothy

Before I was even out of the sleeping bag, Zach had started the fire and the bothy was filling with heat. This included a smoke screen (our clothes smelled of smoke for weeks afterwards), but as my uncle used to say, every pleasure comes with a price. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Near Loch Choire Bothy
Near Loch Choire Bothy

Breakfast, a walk through the forest and some woodwork. Then housekeeping and making dinner while Zach is back for wood, this time with the chainsaw. 🙈

At Loch Choire Bothy
At Loch Choire Bothy

He was running late. I had mentally given him about 2 hours – more than enough to do what he was planing to. I decided, if he’s not there by that time – I’m going to look for him. That meant 6:30 – already dark. Definitely not a good time for cutting trees in the woods.

The wood Zach sourced for the bothy
The wood Zach sourced for the bothy

We are alone in the middle of nowhere and absolutely isolated. We can only rely on each other. We don’t have mobile coverage there. We don’t have radios. I’m going to look for him! Now!

All the wood Zach sourced for the bothy
All the wood Zach sourced for the bothy

I found him. Somewhere in the middle of the way. He was coming home loaded with a chainsaw, a wheelbarrow and lots of wood. Barely walking from exhaustion… We got home and to top it off Zach got down to slicing and dicing everything brought in! Stubborn as a mule (or a goat in that matter)! And I got on with the dinner cooking and domestic part.

At Loch Choire Bothy
At Loch Choire Bothy

The evening was like the previous one. Except it lasted until 3 am. Delightful! Absolutely delightful! And on top of it Zach kept the fire going all night while I slept meekly. In warmth…

Goodbye Loch Choire Bothy and thank you!
Goodbye Loch Choire Bothy and thank you!

Neither of us felt like going back next morning. There was no way, however, we had to go back to the hotel. Ollie would be waiting for us at the appointed place at noon.

On our way back from Loch Choire Bothy
On our way back from Loch Choire Bothy

23 February 2024 – Dornoch, Scotland

For the second time I went to the auction in Dingwall. Only this time without Ollie. Just the two of us with Zach with the train to Brora and from there in the car with Ken.

https://youtu.be/mGDum8i7c9U

After the auction, at my request, we passed through Dornoch, a small, picturesque town on the coast. We stopped by where the last witch was burned in 1727, then sat down to have a bite in a pub with a lovely atmosphere.

The place where the last witch has been burn
The place where the last witch has been burn

There, for the third time that day, I was given special attention, thanks to my (Zach’s) kilt I was wearing.

First at the auction, while we were having a coffee, a lady walked past me, tapped me on the shoulder and said – great choice, I absolutely love your outfit, well done!
Later, walking around I was stopped by another lady asking me about the history of the kilt – she recognized it – the Black Watch.

Waiting for my glasses
Waiting for my glasses


And now in the pub, coming out of the bathroom, Zach along with another lady, fell upon me without warning. And began to show and explain about my kilt. Which of course is his kilt, like all my clothes, so no wonder. Except I didn’t expect such an invasion upon opening the door. 🤣

Finally, to end the evening, before we boarded the train back, Ken took us to his place for a cup of coffee and a sweet talk.

Evening pipe
Evening pipe

Another wonderful day with wonderful people! 🤗💖

24 February 2024 – Rimsdale, Scotland

A beautiful sunny day. We went looking for something Zach had seen on a satellite map. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

The Highlander...
The Highlander…

Beauty and majesty! And Zach telling the hidden history of the places we passed. And sun. And some sleet in the distance. Wonderful!

Walk around Rimsdale
Walk around Rimsdale

Until I stepped on a crooked foot and somehow managed to strain my already painful heel. I saw stars shouting around… I could hardly step on that foot anymore.

The most reliable watercourse
The most reliable watercourse

So what?! We’re halfway there. I can go on, but then I have to come back. And I can do that too, but I’m limping like crazy, the time is advancing and we won’t make it before dark…

Walk around Rimsdale
Walk around Rimsdale

Zach declares – we are done, we’re going back! Yes, but I don’t like this option. I have no choice, I must go back, only we are halfway there – he must go on! I will walk slowly back and wait for him on the road by the car.

Walk around Rimsdale
Walk around Rimsdale

Yes but no! That donkey is even more stubborn than me! We are heading back… 🤷🏻‍♀️ We stopped for a short picnic at the top of one of the hills and slowly made our way to the car.

Yet, despite the interruption, it was a beautiful day. We both thoroughly enjoyed it! 💖

1 March 2024 – Helmsdale, Scotland

Bulgarian touch to a Scottish outfit
Bulgarian touch to a Scottish outfit

Baba Marta passed through Scotland, past Zack and Ken, leaving a few Bulgarian notes in the melody of the day.

On the way towards Dingwall with a Bulgarian martenitsa
On the way towards Dingwall with a Bulgarian martenitsa

At the auction in Dingwall, everyone asked them what it was (the martenitsa) and they proudly explained that it was a Bulgarian tradition. 🤗💖🤗

Zach with the Samurai sword he bought at the auction
Zach with the Samurai sword he bought at the auction

As always, there were many interesting things at the auction. Like the samurai sword, for example, that Zach bought last week. This time it was a copper pocket ashtray. Super fun little gadget! Never even thought something like that exists!

An old pocket ashtray
An old pocket ashtray

Also a brooch and kilt pin set. There were a lot of them, as every time, but these, I don’t know why, just grabbed me. They came out too expensive though. Well, the pictures are free. 😜

Kilt pin & a brooch
Kilt pin & a brooch

The day went by unnoticed in the company of two amazing men and many acquaintances and strangers the day met us with.

On the way towards Dingwall
On the way towards Dingwall

It was time to head back to the hotel. But…! Not before saying goodbye to two others who had captured my heart – Mick and Lynn, who along with Ken and George (from Glasgow) made my personal December holiday a real event! 🤗💖🤗

At La Mirage
At La Mirage

So we went to La Mirage – their favourite Helmsdale restaurant. It was worthy of its fame and its manager was pleasantly surprised to meet a komshu (turkish word for neighbor). You guessed it right, he was Turkish. So it wasn’t at all surprising that the restaurant owner was an overachiever, run with typical Turkish flair and mentality.

At La Mirage
At La Mirage

Dinner was wonderful. The food was exceptionally delicious, the setting lovely, and the company brimming with laughter and warmth. God, how I will miss these four

At La Mirage
At La Mirage

Instead of hanging out in the cold waiting for the train, Ken offered to drive us to the train station in Kinbrace where we had left the car waiting. Dear sweet Ken! Saying goodbye to him was not easy. Good thing it was dark and raining…

At La Mirage
At La Mirage

Zack and I loaded up into the car and headed towards the hotel. I fought the raging feelings inside me – the enjoyment of the wonderful day, the love for these wonderful people and the happiness of knowing them mixed with the bitterness of another goodbye, perhaps for ever.

At La Mirage
At La Mirage

The wonderful thing about travel is that you make friends all along the way. And the most painful part is that you always say goodbye and leave a piece of your soul with each of them… sometimes a piece of your heart in addition…


GALERIES

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *