Day 6: Loch Ness cruise and driving the coastal road to Wick
I was worried that an 8am cruise would mean mist and fog with nothing to see. How wrong was I! Although it was chilly out in the air, we could not have asked for a better day. What a glorious morning to take a cruise on Loch Ness. No wind. No rain. No mist, just bright sunshine. The waters were like mirrors reflecting the banks. The only thing that would have topped it off would have been spotting Nessie.
The captain told us the story of the Wellington Bomber and Loch Ness.
On New Years Eve in 1940 a training flight went horribly wrong when a Wellington N2980 Bomber suffered engine failure. Most of the crew was ordered to bail out, leaving the Captain and a second pilot to deal with the failing aircraft. Luckily, the pilots spotted a nearby body of water and managed to make a perfect landing on Loch Ness – bailing from the bomber before it vanished beneath the water. Aside from one fatality when a parachute failed to open the crew survived the ordeal. The plane, unfortunately, was lost beneath the waters of the Loch.
The wreck had lain beneath the water for almost 40 years before divers stumbled across the wreckage in almost perfect condition. It was finally recovered from its watery bed in September, 1985. The aircraft is now in Brooklands Museum, Weybridge and is one of two Wellington Bombers still intact.
Our drive to Wick took us along the coast road of the North Sea. Crofters houses dotted along the coast. Very like Iceland in the way they faced hardship head on, but here there were many, not just one standing alone. Interesting that Norwegians once ruled this area. We are not far from Scandinavia.
The bus navigated country roads through pretty villages, fields of cows and sheep and deer. Oil rigs could be seen off shore out at sea. I even managed to see some heather still growing which was a bit of a treat for September especially this far north.
Wick is a harbour and town in Caithness that was once a booming hub of herring fishing. In the early years of the 19th century Britain’s leading civil engineer, Thomas Telford, was commissioned to design and supervise the creation of a major new herring fishing town and harbour at the estuary of the River Wick. Telford also designed Edinburgh and Bath. The herring boom is clearly over now. Most of this beautifully planned and designed town is derelict and home to pigeons. It has a sad, depressing feel about it and I can’t imagine what it must be like to live here in winter when its wet and cold.
Pulteney was once a separate town but is now a part of Wick. The distillery tour was fascinating but as it was undergoing some sprucing up, the stills were not functioning. I really don’t want to explain how whiskey is made. You can google for yourself!
What I did find interesting was the saying ‘Angels share’ that described the process of evaporation. We went into the warehouse where this was happening and I would say it’s possible to get drunk just breathing in that room! The whiskey that remains after this time is known as the ‘Devils Cut’
We were treated to a taste of the 12yr Old whiskey and as one fellow traveller described it “it stains your throat going down”. They also made a whiskey liqueur and I rather liked that. Very warming in the throat.
We enjoyed quite a long walk around the town this afternoon. Wandering down to the harbour and through the streets of Telford’s old town.
We ended up at a skate park and made friends with a dog that simply wanted to retrieve a thrown drink bottle. We happily obliged!
Harry has a few favorite passengers: Marie (who was late on first day in Oxford), Jana from Canada and a couple from Singapore. Tonight at dinner he insisted on waiting for Marie and seating her with us. She’s a lovely ex midwife traveling with her hubby.
Dinner was accompanied by a surprise group of musicians playing old Scottish and Irish favorites as well as Waltzing Matilda. The Skye Boat Song was a favorite for me and we all sang along to “Its a long way to Tipperary”.
The next three mornings are very early starts. Tomorrow we cross the North Sea to the Orkney Isles. Let’s hope this weather holds out. I bought sea sickness tablets today and I have a feeling we will need them on this ferry crossing!