Happy New Year from the Highlands!

We said goodbye to lovely little Braemar and headed for the stuff of legend … the Highlands. And the Highlands … are closed. It turns out that it’s winter, and the holidays, and the Highlands are high and blustery. So virtually all castles and attractions are closed, as are at least half of all accommodations. But, we are still managing to hopscotch our way to at least the lower part of the Highlands proper.

We took an incredible road from Braemar to Inverness, winding us through the Cairngorms and endless moors of heather (to imagine them in bloom was bittersweet). Our royally-blessed trip to the first distillery inspired us to visit another, Glen Ord (scotch is fun). Then on to Inverness for Hogmanay, the Scots’ New Year’s Eve celebration. And do the Scots love New Year’s Eve. The city was awash in big, burly men in their kilts (a knee-weakening combo), and things got very loud and very friendly. After finding a restaurant to squeeze into, we found a bar to squeeze into for a few drams, and then to the Red Hot Highland Fling, where we saw the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, granddaddies of “bagrock.” A little schticky, yes, but superb musicians, and when they let loose on the more traditional Scottish tunes, the place felt like it was going to explode with cultural pride.  Then, spectacular fireworks above the cathedral. Joris’ first New Year’s Eve away from the monastery in nearly 17 years, and we made it a good one.

We spent New Year’s Eve at Loch Ness, and I think we discovered Nessie’s true identity.