Monday, November 14, 2011
The other wedding that we went to was a mere week after the first one and presented a totally different set of logistical challenges. We were guests rather than family (the groom is our neighbour of several years) so we didn't have to do anything other than turn up, but the wedding was held in Strathpeffer, a village in the Highlands which is about four hours' drive from Edinburgh.
Regular readers of this blog (ha! that would suggest there is anything regular to read...) may recall that we don't have a car, and that J doesn't like driving and I don't have a driving licence. Our total experience of long drives amounts to two trips to see J's parents, over very familiar roads. We have never driven an unfamiliar route, and indeed J had never been north of Perthshire. So that was a bit stressful in prospect.
However, it was all fine, and much of the route was rather scenic, although neither of us understands why 90% of drivers break the speed limit. Clearly we are both actually old ladies.
Strathpeffer is a pretty little village almost entirely composed of largish hotels. It was a spa resort that had its heyday just before the First World War, and the land round about is very scenic, divided between arable land and wooded hills. It's a gentler landscape than one immediately pictures when thinking of the Highlands. Our hotel was a strange mix of the grand (the exterior, the large wood-panelled lobby) and the basic (our room, which had rather 70s decor and 50s bathroom fittings). I think it mostly caters to coach parties. J said that it reminded him of Fawlty Towers and I can see what he meant - not that the service was in any way like that. In fact everyone was charming and helpful (being accompanied by a cute baby seemed to make us popular) and the food was rather good - not something you can count on when your party consists of a vegetarian and a pescatarian who's allergic to nuts and gluten.
The wedding itself went with a swing - held in a pretty little church a stone's throw from the hotel, and the reception in the Spa Pavilion, just a little way down the road. So it was all very easy for those of us with buggies (not just us). It was fun to compare the two weddings - I've never been to two on consecutive weekends before - and I can tell you that it is currently the done thing to have your bridesmaids wearing teal, design your own stationery on a turquoise theme, have a "cast list" in the back of the order of service listing people who've helped out, have female friends singing while you sign the register, and give your guests badges attached to their place cards.
As usual, the Peanut wore a particularly dapper outfit.
We had a lovely time, but the next day the boys were both exhausted.
After they had caught up on their sleep, we decided to make the most of our weekend in the Highlands and go for a walk somewhere in the afternoon. What we had in mind was maybe going to a town, having a wander around with the buggy and maybe going for a coffee somewhere.
The bride and groom were still around in the hotel and we asked their advice - the bride (who is from the area) suggested we go to Cromarty. For good measure, we asked if the hotel had any tourist info, and the receptionist suggested Strathconon as a good place to go for a walk that was near and easy to drive to. We decided to go to Strathconon.
We had gained the impression that Strathconon was a valley with a road along it, where we might stop at any point and have a stroll. That last bit was a misconception (and when we thought about it, the receptionist did not actually say that). It is actually a very beautiful long valley which has a single-track road leading through hilly woods and past lochs, but for much of it there is no place you could stop without blocking the road entirely. We got a bit lost on the way there, and J (who, as I've mentioned, is a nervous driver) was somewhat unnerved by the twistiness of the road and the impossibility of turning around.
By the time we got to the car park at the end of the single-track road, the rain was hammering down.
Some of our party were inclined to be a little discouraged, but we summoned up some British grit and decided to go for a wet walk anyway. The junior member of the party had not noticed the rain.
In the event, we walked for an hour and once we got going we enjoyed ourselves - the path was OK for the buggy, and the scenery was beautiful. We went back at the end feeling that we had been rewarded for our perseverance. And that we now deserved a hot drink (and maybe a glass of wine with dinner).
The next day we did go to Cromarty, and it was pretty much exactly what we'd been thinking of - a pretty town, easy to get to (a scenic drive on easy roads), and where one can walk by the sea.
And as you can see, the weather was much nicer. I'm not sure what the moral of this little tale is: listen to your friends rather than a random lady in a hotel? Or alternatively: go off the beaten track and you may find something good even if it wasn't even remotely what you were looking for?
Answers on a postcard. Anyway, the Black Isle is a very nice part of the world and I'd like to go back sometime for more than a weekend.