Friday, July 25, 2008

July 6, 2008: Plockton

Since our hostel in Edinburgh didn't include breakfast with our lodgings, the Plockton Hotel provided our first taste of the traditional Scottish breakfast. Most of the cooked plates included various types of fish, though our waiter was happy to accommodate Michael's interest in a vegetarian version. I hope I'm not being too condescending when I say that there's nothing much cuter than one grown man asking another if he'd like tattie cakes with his breakfast! To me, they really sound like a treat a mother might whip up to comfort her child. I was expecting something round and puffy like a scone, though funnily enough they are more like Johanna's potato scones: flat, dense pancakes consisting mainly of mashed potato and flour. The gummy texture didn't win me over on first bite, but they are actually quite addictive.

The other novelty for us was the couple of oatcakes that were served with our tray of toast. They looked a little like digestive biscuits, but were actually harder and not at all sweet.

After breakfast, we set off towards Duncraig Castle. On the previous day we had noticed a signpost promising that it was only 1 mile away through the woods.

Once we circumvented the loch and entered the woods properly we encountered another sign: Duncraig castle, 1 1/4 miles. Hmmm.

The path became muddy and there were a lot of low overhanging branches - not the easiest to get through for a tall feller and a girl with a limp. The scenery was lovely, though, and we persevered.

We took the wrong way down a forked path and were rewarded with a rest stop in the long grass.

Duncraig railway station. You have to hail the train if you want it to stop here.

I was pretty exhausted by the time we reached the castle. Though it looked incredibly grand at a distance, it has clearly fallen into disrepair. A lone workman with a dusty truck wandered around what we had thought would be a lively tourist attraction. The windows offered glimpses of rooms stacked with junk and wonky furniture. And most perplexing of all was the hideous multi-storey boxy extension to the castle (I couldn't bear to include it in any of my photos).

There were still glimpses of beauty, to be sure. I couldn't get enough of the roses growing untamed here and around Plockton.

We discovered later in the day that Duncraig Castle has been featured in several episodes of Hamish MacBeth, along with other films and series I care much less about. The Castle's official website tells the story of the Dobson family purchasing and tending the site, offering it as luxury accommodation as well as a film location. However it seems that the family is now feuding and there's not a lot to be seen or done at the castle.

Seeing these cows hurtling around the corner towards us made me more than a little anxious! We paused as they made themselves comfortable drinking at the creek. The chaperoning bull looked rather wary of us but we didn't end up causing each other any trouble.

Back in Plockton, we wandered a corner of town that we hadn't yet seen (running into what I'm sure was the home of Isobel Sutherland, Hamish's enduring love interest) before trying the local takeaway for lunch. There was a whole range of baffling and probably-not-vegetarian options (sausage and pudding dinners, anyone?), but Michael did track down a passable vege burger.

I bravely had a go at a chip butty, only half knowing what it was. Stale chips in a super-processed white roll, with salt and vinegar on my request. This was sooooo bad, people. I only got half-way through it, even with assistance from Michael. Regular readers will surely know what a chip fiend I usually am - this seriously scared me off.

Sweet onion rings eased the pain.

Our afternoon engagement was on Calum's dolphin trip. His guarantee to only charge customers after the promised dolphins or seals are spotted inspired the Hamish MacBeth episode 'In Search of Rose'. We were thrilled to get some bonus seals on our dolphin trip free of charge.

There was a little nervousness on Calum's part, but the dolphins did eventually put on an excellent show. They were too sprightly for our camera though!

We tried dinner at the Plockton Inn, just around the corner from our cottage. Surprisingly they had a few vegetarian mains on the menu.

My eggplant parmigiana was a long on oily cheese and short on eggplant, but was appreciated nonetheless.

Michael couldn't stay away from the vegetarian haggis!

Though it wasn't an adventurous dessert, the chocolate torte was great (the cream-from-a-can, not so much).

What Plockton might have lacked in vegetarian culinary delights (and it still out-did the average Aussie country town), it more than made up for with its natural assets. I won't forget its cute olde-town atmosphere or its stunning views for some time.


  1. Great adventures! I only started to make potato scones because I couldn't find the shop ones like you had when I returned to Australia. i think michael might need to try making veg haggis as it sounds like he has got the taste for it (it is not hard and tastes good)

  2. oh, more lovely shots! and you did some exploring, yay... i was worried for a while there that you were going to end up walking miles and miles further than you expected and getting lost! i'm glad that didn't happen.

  3. Johanna, I remember there's a veg haggis recipe on your blog - I think there's every chance that Michael will have a go at it sometime. :-)

    NixWilliams, the risk of getting lost was very real to me at the time! We took a slightly different route back to Plockton after seeing the castle - I'm not sure that either way was particularly direct. :-D