Britain By House Sits – Inverness and the Scottish Highlands By Rob Shackleford
Other of our Travelling with Traveller Inceptio Blogs
|India by Royal Enfields 1
|Britain by House Sits
|Faces of Scotland
|House Sit Bath
|Faces of England
|House Sitting UK
|Faces of Wales
|Visit to London
Inverness – Scotland – 2019
If given the opportunity to travel wherever you like, here would you choose to go? When given the freedom to travel, we love to pick a place far from home, and exciting! Inverness definitely fits that description for someone who lives in steamy, and at the moment smokey Queensland, Australia.
Like many Australians, we absolutely love to experience Christmas in cold weather. After all, a typical Christmas for us involves the beach, being too hot to want to eat, and not much Christmas anything from our media except product advertising. Having experienced one Christmas in the UK, we recalled is as the best ever because it felt so damned Christmassy! We wanted to repeat the experience.
Inverness is in the far north of the UK and, even more exciting, is close to the famous Loch Ness. I knew little more about the place than that. To take us far away from home into any part of Scotland was a dream, but to the far north is even more wow!!
As stated in my last blog, we like to engage in House Sits as a means to travel. It’s a sensible and fun way to visit a location and make friends. Our opportunity came to Inverness when Deb enlisted us to care for two Scottish Border Terriers and, after months of anticipation, we were on our way. It was a bloody long flight. The Emirates flight via Dubai took almost 2 days. For people in the northern hemisphere, be reminded that Australia is far from just about anywhere, especially Scotland.
Our impressions of Inverness and the Scottish Highlands
Scotland! What an amazing and unexpected place, loaded with names that hearken from my childhood. We drove past Loch Lomond (as in “the Bonny Bonny Banks of …”) and north via Loch Ness, home of Nessie – the Loch Ness Monster, to Inverness at the tip of the longest Loch in Scotland. A Loch is a long, skinny glacial lake, except the Scottish pronunciation of the ‘ch’ is a shortened version of the sound made when an Indian beggar hawks to spit.
If you think that’s weird, wait till you get to Wales!
To realise our stay in the Scottish Highlands was even more thrilling. I used to think the Scottish Highlands was in the mountains, but it is the area best described as the northern half of Scotland. Check the link above gives more technical details. It was a place I never expected to visit and it’s mystique and magic will always remain.
Our stay began as we met our charming hosts, Steve and Claire, and their bonny wee puppies, Dexter and Boomer. We probably weren’t great company, for after our super-long flight and a few hours drive from Glasgow we had to hit the sack, exhausted. Steve and Claire left before we arose the next day and our house sit began. Our schedule, besides feeding the dogs, was to walk them each morning and sometimes take them with us to places they could go. Unlike home, dogs in the UK are welcome in national parks, pubs and cafes. In Australia, it would be unheard of. To take a dog into a cafe is convenient and charming. While we enjoy our coffee, the dogs sit expectantly for treats either from us or the workers in the cafe or pub. Dogs are adored and Dexter and Boomer, by nature of their Scottish breed, are unexpectedly popular, receiving a fuss from almost anyone who walks by.
They are charming, friendly little dogs. Their exuberance and joy of life is infectious, though they sometimes jump when I bend down to them, causing me to get a mouthful of wet nose or tongue on more than one occasion. You just can’t spit that out!
Just a quick observation on British coffee. Four years ago, British coffee was not great. Australians and New Zealanders are terrible coffee snobs, so we judge harshly. But now, most coffees are superb, especially in Scotland. How quickly things can change in four years. The only issue I have is with the cakes, scones and slices. They are dangerously good.
Inverness is a charming, vibrant town. Located on the River Ness, Inverness rings to the cry of local seagulls that are so much larger than at home. These big birds can be seen paddling the lawns in a little dance that causes worms to rise to the surface and be gobbled up. The people are friendly and often speak in Gaelic, pronounced ‘garlic’.
Our location in the Scottish Highlands allowed us to explore Loch Ness, take walks in the country and the national park of Glen Affrick, and take a trip into Mackay Country that runs along the very top of Scotland. There, John O’Groats is as far as you can go without sailing across to the Orkney Islands. Scotland is sometimes stark, yet always beautiful, where the snow-dusted rounded mountains meet valleys with crystal streams run and the woolliest sheep that coat the hillsides. Chill, wild waves pound the rocky beaches. It’s a land that is surprisingly empty, where small villages and farms dot the expanse, compared to the more populated England to the south. Medieval castles sit cheek by jowl with ancient remains of forts from peoples in the misty past; Picts, Celts, or even older.
Dexter and Boomer were always eager participants as they ran through the gorse, along the beaches, or explored mountain tracks. A couple of times Deb feared they would plunge into wildly flowing mountain streams, but we always kept the trust of our pet owners and new friends as we managed to return them to their home, happy and exhausted.
Rob and Deb live at Burleigh Heads, on Australia’s Gold Coast.
Deb is a yoga teacher and administrator par excellence.
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