Folk will have their own personal favourites among the mountain views in the north west, but I love the road west through Oykel Bridge which gives you the first view of Suilven from the east end of Loch Craggie. I’m more than happy to admire it from the roadside – though all 3 siblings have stood on its top, as has the loon.
There’s a splendid view of it from the comfort of the Elphin Tea Room which – praise be – is now functioning again. On a beautiful day, you can sit outside and drink it all in. I only pass through Elphin maybe a couple of times in a year and have been so disappointed recently when the Tearoom had the “Closed” sign up. There are good toilets at Knockan Crag, just beyond Elphin but the Tearoom itself was like an oasis, especially if you’ve just been to the top of Cul Mor in sub-arctic conditions and you don’t have the strength to go on to Ullapool.
When I stopped last month, having seen the new signs and having had my hopes raised, the place was hoaching and the service was perhaps a little eccentric but I later learned that they hadn’t had a customer for two and a half days so no wonder the rush had caught them off guard. Yes, I had a bit of a wait but I had a very good pot of tea and a slab of ginger cake.
I called in at Elphin on my way back from Ullapool, having saved the afternoon tea slot for it. Lunch in Ullapool is always at The Ceilidh Place which thankfully doesn’t change. I did get ice in my glass as I forgot to specify I didn’t want it but nor did I want to make a fuss. But I will next time: it was October and yes it was a fine day but hardly tropical and the energy wasted on making the ice could be going on something that is actually needed. Or saved altogether.
By the way, is it a sin to put your oven on for only one item? This is what I was brought up to believe so after I made a Christmas cake today, I then used up some old eggs, out of date Stork and some poor-looking lemon verbena to make a version of Mary Berry’s lemon drizzle cake but in a loaf tin, not in a tray. It was ready to go in when the Christmas cake came out. Then when the lemon loaf came out, I was ready with some fish to put in to bake. Now the oven is off (after 4 and a half hours) and the kitchen surfaces are littered, I’m wondering if I should be feeling smugly green.
Back to the C P. A couple who came to sit at the next table left as there was no ham anywhere on the menu and I noticed some salad garnishes being taken away untouched from the plates of teenage boys. How’re we going to become a healthier nation? Folk complain loud and long about the supposed deficiencies of the NHS but what’re we doing to help ourselves and reduce the strain on it?
On the way south, I went to the Dairy at Daviot which is a place of calm, less than a mile off the madness of the A9. It’s easier to get to going south from Inverness if, like me, you’re a bit feart of doing right turns on the A9. You’re in a woodland setting, with a vast car park and a play area for children but watch out for the heavy wooden chairs – when you pull them in closer to the table , you run the risk of scraping the back of your ankle on a low bar. They do Black Isle ice cream and try the bramble sorbet though you’ll spend the next hundred miles trying to get the seeds out of your teeth.
I overheard the following exchange there which gladdened my heart:
Young boy (possibly 5 / 6) with a used plate in front of him: “Daddy, I want …”
Father: “No, you don’t”.
He immediately accepted it and a few minutes later, took his younger brother by the hand out to the play area while his parents were able to finish their breakfast in peace, keeping an eye on their boys through the huge window.
Though now in the east and on my way south, the hills of the west were still in my mind: that last view of Suilven in the mirror until you get to the end of Loch Craggie and then see it no more.