Friday, 9 June 2017

Scotland #5 - On the Road, Pitlochry to Nairn

The Weak Bridge
Yesterday we left Pitlochry and headed north into the Highlands. We took the road less traveled, through Cairngorms National Park. The narrow two-lane road sometimes became a one-lane road with places to pull over in the face of a car coming the other way. Bridges over rushing streams were almost all only one lane wide. One such little stone bridge had a sign saying “Weak Bridge”. I’m not quite sure what we were supposed to do about it. Perhaps it was there merely to absolve the state of any responsibility if the bridge caved in while we were crossing it?
The beauty of the whole drive was surreal. I’ve never in my life seen so many shades, or so vibrant a green as we
Broom-covered Hillside
saw everywhere on this day-long drive. The road curved and twisted through hills and mountains covered with heather and broom. True, to anyone who lives in western Canada as we do, even the highest of the mountains we crossed would be only foothills compared to the Rockies, but they were high enough at times to be in the clouds. The area was sparsely populated, with only occasional small stone cottages. At one point we passed a school that could not have had more than three rooms. There were bits of forest here and there, but most of the land was pasture for sheep. We saw white sheep and black sheep grazing contentedly on the rich buffet around them. It is spring, the time of rebirth, and there were many lambs cavorting around their mothers.

Highlands Sheep
Sheep were not always a part of the Scottish landscape. They were introduced by the British in the aftermath of the war that ended so disastrously for the Scots with the Battle of Culloden in 1746. This war, led by “Bonnie Prince Charlie”, was intended to restore the Catholic Stuarts to the throne of all Great Britain.
The British, in retaliation, undertook the “Highland Clearances”, a form of genocide, destroying homes, outlawing the wearing of tartans, and the playing of pipes, killing or deporting all men thought to have been in support of the uprising. It was the British who introduced the raising of sheep on the denuded hills. It was a highly profitable business.
Balmoral Castle
How times have changed.  Today, Queen Elizabeth’s favorite residence is Balmoral, in the Highlands, and many photographs of the Royal Family show them wearing kilts.  We stopped briefly at Balmoral. The gardens are open to the public.
At the end of a very long day, we arrived at Nairn, an ancient fishing port and market town around 16 miles east of Inverness. Our charming guest house, the Invernairne, faces the North Sea.
Nairn Beach
This far north, only two weeks from the longest day of the year, it remained daylight until after 10 p.m. and was daylight again by 4 a.m.
I must comment a bit on the weather.  We were warned again and again to bring warm clothing and rain gear. The weather has been mostly sunny and in the mid to high teens, Centigrade, that is. We have rarely needed our warmest coats and only once found ourselves in serious need of an umbrella. Of course this could change drastically as we approach the Isle of Skye.
Watch for Blair's newest thriller, Fatal Charm 

Coming in 2017

 Fatal Charm by Blair McDowell
A perilous scheme to thwart ruthless adversaries hurtles successful jewelry designer Caitlin Abernathy from her comfortable California studio to the streets of Paris and the beaches of Brittany as she attempts to return a priceless stolen heirloom to the Louvre.

Colin Stryker, the devastatingly handsome history professor from Ireland who has appointed himself her protector, fights to rescue her before her captors add murder to their crimes, while at the same time unraveling the torturous train of events that led to the original theft.

With every moment fraught with danger, can the chemistry already between the two ignite into passion?

Praise for Fatal Charm:

"If you love well-crafted romantic suspense where the mystery is every bit as mysterious as the romance is romantic, check out Blair McDowell's work.  I found her through a book tour 5 years ago, and she is one of my happiest discoveries."
-  Marlene Harris,

"The elegance and beauty of Paris as the central backdrop for the intrigue, adds color and movement to the drama.... I particularly liked the attention to food as a gathering point and motif throughout. I was drawn back to my memories of Paris -- the sights, sounds and aromas. It's these small touches that inject an extra dimension, a 'je ne sais quoi' into the mix."
-  Heather B,

"Fatal Charm is well-written and engaging.  The book has a fast pace which makes it easy to read and enjoy.  Blair McDowell is an illustrative writer which allows readers to visualize the scenes in their head.  This brings the characters and story to life for  me.  I thought the mystery was complex and intriguing.  I enjoyed the many twists and turns."
-  Kristina Anderson,

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 The books of Blair McDowell


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Blair McDowell