Today the steading was shrouded in early-morning fog once again with visibility reduced to perhaps twenty feet; even the car was bathed in mist. It lifted briefly to reveal blue skies above but soon rolled in again smothering everything in its white blanket.
We made use of the morning by having an unhurried breakfast and I had no choice but to start a cleaning session in the kitchen when the tiny flies that have been plagueing us since our first day here became too numerous to ignore. The cupboard that held the waste bins seemed to be an attraction so I set to emptying the bins, scrubbing them with bleach and cleaning the cupboard that housed them. I sprayed with fly spray and managed to clear the kitchen of the little pests.
In my sudden burst of cleaning activity I also discovered that the inside of the oven door was none too clean and that the inside of the cupboard door beaneath the oven was in a simialr state. Mr Muscle and Harpic to the rescue! I've decided that some people's standards are a tad lax and I'm no paragon when it comes to cleaning.
Of course, I then had to tackle the floor as the bins had leaked water onto it when I was cleaning them and found a shrivelled and dessicated mop in the cupboard that looked as if it hadn't been used for weeks if not months but perhaps I'm being too hard and it had just dried out between uses. Burst of domesticity over I spent a bit of time catching up on my blog and when I next looked up the sky was blue and the sun was out.
Time to get out of the house and forget the mundane. Today we had Elgin on the agenda and we spent a pleasant hour or so wandering around. The weather was so warm and sunny that we were in t-shirts and it was quite nice to occasionally find shade and a cool breeze. A visit to Waterstones (always a mistake!) netted us the OS Explorer maps we needed as well as a pocket guide to Wester Ross and Lochalsh for the next leg of our trip. Alex also found some beautiful adult colouring books and we bought one of those, so then we had to find something to colour-in with which prompted a visit to WH Smith. We paused for lunch in the pedestrian mall outside St. Giles' arcade - a disappointing cheese and onion roll (after we had set out minds a cheese and onion cornish pasty which, sadly, were still in the oven) - then, after a circuit of the precinct headed for the cathedral.
We walked around the perimeter of the ruin and took photos from every angle, opting not to pay the GBP5.50 to allow us inside the fence. It just didn't seem worth it. With nothing else to tempt us in Elgin we drove on to Nairn. It was still beautifully sunny but as we travelled further west the weather was deteriorating and we could see threatening clouds towards Inverness.
Parking at the harbour we donned jackets as the wind was decidedly cool and it looked as it if might rain. Having been caught in a downpour on our last visit to Nairn we knew it was better to be safe than sorry. As it happened it stayed fine and the dark clouds remained a distant threat.
Nairn has a beautiful sandy beach and it is no surprise that it's a popular holiday destination. The tide was out so the expanse of beach was enormous and with the perfect blue sky above it might have been a beach in Australia. A circuit round the harbour and then it was back to the car and the road home. Unable to resist the pull of the Sainsbury's Superstore we dropped in to buy some snacks as lunch had been underwhelming. As always we came out with a lot more than intended - who could resist gingerbread-flavoured coffee, Scottish gingerbread, crumpets and eccles cakes - and an armload of booze.
As is often the case our next discovery came as somewhat of a happy accident as we looked for somewhere to stop and eat our sandwiches. Going back onto the Coastal Route to finish off the last section (albeit in the opposite direction to previous days) we saw a sign to a Pictish hill fort and found ourselves in the very pretty town of Burghead, between Findhorn and Lossiemouth. Winding through impossibly narrow streets we parked at the very top of the hill near the fort and made use of one of the many picnic tables on the grassed area to eat our late lunch.
Perched above the town the remains of the hill fort are long gone and instead the site is the home of the Tourist Information Centre hidden beneath the white-painted coastal lookout which, today, was occupied by a number of men with impressive cameras. We could only speculate that they were whale watching as the sea was a massive expanse of nothingness as far as we could see.
So, having completed the Coastal Route in several stages, we made our way back to the main road. After a false start where we took the road to Elgin and then had to double back, we motored happily on towards Keith. Here the tale takes an interesting turn as the GPS decided that we should return home via an unmarked, single-lane road that saw us navigating hair-raising twists and turns over roads that looked as though at any minute they might dwindle to nothing and turn into someone's driveway! It became even more confusing when the GPS told us to make turns where there were no roads at all. Finally we recognised the huge wind turbines near the steading and realised that the computer had brought us straight over Towiemore and we emerged to join the road a few hundred metres from the house. I think the phrase "May you live in interesting times" was coined for us!
Safely back home, I returned to domesticity and did some washing before settling down with a sparkling white wine to watch TV followed by a late evening meal of tortellini arabiatta. After tackling the ever-frustrating job of uploading photos until the Mac told me there was only 16% battery left Tomorrow we will be tackling our first big hike with an outing to Ben Rinnes which is only a few kilometres away and should take us 3 to 4 hours to complete.