We had a little break away from the island as the car needed a new set of alloy wheels because the lacquer on the original ones had flaked badly. The new set was ordered under guarantee and it was arranged with the nearest Main Mercedes dealer in Inverness to not only have the wheels swapped but also fit four new tyres fitted that I had shipped to them from mytyres.com. We crossed on the ferry and stayed the night at Anderson’s pub on the Black Isle just outside Inverness. Anderson’s is a great discovery by us on one of our trips in the motorhome. It is a traditional pub / hotel owned and run by a guy originally from Philadelphia, the public bar has some dozen or so guest beers on tap and many more in the bottle. As you enter the bar you are struck by the lovely traditional pub smell of beer and ‘that certain something’. They don’t have a whisky list, they have a whisky book! There is a huge selection there for you to sample in the whisky bar. The food is also great, what more do you want! If you are ever up that way then Andersons is a must stop, as is the enchanting village that it is situated in, with its Museum on the Pictish history and the walk to the ‘fairy glen’, a secluded waterfall where you could imagine a nymph bathing in the clear pool, well I could anyway!
The next day we took the car to the Inverness Mercedes dealer for the work to be done and were run into town to do some shopping. Inverness is a nearest large town to Orkney with a selection of large multiples but like a lot of towns it is currently a little run down in places. We wandered around for some time really wondering what we wanted in town, decided that the stuff from M&S could be sourced easier on-line and went off to treat ourselves to a splendid hot chocolate at So Coco, a specialist chocolate café. I don’t know if it is the effect of island life, but neither of us could work up much enthusiasm for any retail therapy so we wandered around a bit more and then got a lift back from the garage.
When we went to pick up the car all was fine except we were told that now we needed new brake pads and discs! But of course they didn’t have these in stock so could we book the car in again! Errr no, the round trip and ferry costs enough in itself! However we had already planned to drive that day down to Edinburgh to visit the Celts exhibition and had a hotel booked for the next night. So I rang the Edinburgh main dealer and they could not have been more helpful. If we could drop the car off the next morning they would replace the pads and discs ( as it happened the rear discs did not need replacing ). So we drove down to our Hotel, The Dunstane, a rather nice boutique hotel, well placed and had a rather lovely meal that night followed by a good sleep.
The next morning we made a fairly early start as we wanted to be at the dealer around 9.15 ish. After the handover of the keys they offered to drive us to the nearby tram park and ride. The car they used was the new all electric B Class Mercedes and rather nice it was too. We were dropped off at the tram stop near the airport, a ten minute drive from the dealer and we bought our £1.30 tickets and rode in the rather smooth and quiet new tram system right into the centre of Edinburgh. This tram system only opened last year and it seems a great way of getting into the centre of the city from the airport. If you are planning your stay, next time consider a hotel outside of the city but near a tram stop, much better that trying to drive in Edinburgh!
The Celts exhibition was fantastic, lots of items from all over Europe that have not been displayed together before. We arrived just as the museum opened at 10am and stayed most of the day, breaking only for a rather disappointing meal at the now vegan Hutchinsons. This place used to be a great place to eat, but this time the food was not only dull but very expensive, I doubt if we will be returning there.
A pleasant trip back on the tram, a call to the dealer and our chauffeur driven electric car awaited us. The work was all done and so after paying them we had a little look around the showroom ( well it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it? ) we headed back to our hotel. We had planned to eat out at a very famous Indian restaurant nearby, the Verandah, but I forgot to book and as it was Saturday night we were unlucky. We decided to eat at the hotel again as we were rather tired and the restaurant was rather good.
Next day we set off to drive the 350 miles to the ferry, crossing at around seven that evening. The crossing was thankfully uneventful, the sea being very calm, a brief view of some Orcas brought some excitement to those of us on deck. But the most amazing sight greeted us as we drove back over the Ness of Brodgar around 9pm. The air was very still and it had been quite warm, perfect conditions for a type of Mayfly called ‘Caenis’ to hatch, although at the time we thought they were some sort of midges and did not feel inclined to get out of the car so the photos are not as good as they might have been. This sight was amazing! The road was white with their bodies, it was almost like a snow storm, I could hardly see to drive and the insects were swirling arounds in great clouds making all sorts of exotic patterns, what a sight!