Last week I flew to a remote village in Scotland for a women’s “listening and hiking retreat.”
The website applecross.uk.com describes the area like this: “Between the mainland mountain masses and the Island of Skye lies the Applecross Peninsula. Home to just a couple of hundred people, and accessed by only two roads, the Bealach Pass road from the south and the coast road from the north, this is a haven from the noise and clutter of modern life.”
Ten ladies went over a mountain (not to mention, an ocean) to see what they could see. In Scotland.
As we 10 ladies, riding in two cars, ascended then descended the perilous mountain pass, Bealach na Ba (The Pass of the Cattle), into the village of Applecross, I wished we were riding on cats instead of in cars. To have their excellent balance and surefootedness. To possess their nine lives.
This video of the drive will give you an idea of what it was like. To me, the journey was more harrowing than the video shows. Because she had experience driving the pass, I called dibs on the seat behind Karen, our fearless leader.
I worried I’d be as freaked out as the time our family traversed Independence Pass in Colorado. That particular afternoon, due to my aversion for sheer drop-offs with no guardrail, I opted for the fetal position beneath the dashboard.
At this point, it probably goes without saying that:
I can be a bit of a scaredy-cat when traveling.
During the week we were there, as we visited two castles, the Isle of Skye, and more, we found many Scottish roads as serpentine as those in “almost heaven.” However, in Scotland, the roads are often a mere “single-track,” one lane. Here and there, on alternating sides of the road, are “passing places.” If the passing place is on your side, it’s your responsibility to pull over.
And if the unfortunate circumstance occurs where two cars are caught nowhere near a passing place, someone must back up to the nearest crescent-shaped space, whether there is a guardrail or not.
Red deer, Highland “Coos,” and spotted sheep–Oh, my!
On the day we arrived, as we dropped down in to the village of Applecross, we encountered several deer resting under a tree beside the road. Red deer, not white-tailed. During my one week in Scotland, I saw more bucks than I’ve seen during my entire life in West Virginia. Their antlers though, are different. Instead of the multi-pronged ones we see here, the Scottish bucks have racks that reminded me of wishbones jutting out to the right and left.
The few cows living in the village are Highland Cows. “Coos,” if you’re Scottish. Highland Coos have impressive horns, long rumpled coats, and shaggy bangs hanging in their eyes.
And then there are the sheep. Dozens of them. Hundreds even. Some are recently shorn, some not. The gorgeous house we stayed in, Eagle Rock, is located on public grazing land. If we returned home in the early evening, there they’d be. Sheep near the road, on the road, crossing the road. Always in Applecross, you “give way” to the sheep because they have no interest in “giving way” to you or any human, or any vehicle, for that matter. Now a dog, that’s a different story.
Many of the sheep sport brilliant colored spots on their wool—aqua and magenta, for example. A farmer gal in our group explained that in America this indicates which rams bred what ewes.
“What about the ewes with more than one color on them?” someone asked. Farmer Gal blushed.
“Put on your ‘waterproof.’ We’re headed for the pub.”
The food in Scotland was fantastic. Who would have thought a tiny village with 238 residents would boast not one, but two, Michelin-recommended restaurants? Applecross Inn and the Applecross Walled Garden.
Over the course of the week, we sampled tasty dishes like fish pie, venison casserole, duck confit, rump of lamb and more. The seafood dishes were also outstanding, fresh and local: Haddock topped with “squat lobster,” hickory-smoked salmon, and Applecross Bay prawns, to name a few.
Let them eat Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake!
The food highlight of the trip may very well have been Scotland’s two national desserts: Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake (The locals say the name very fast!) and Raspberry Cranachan. My goal is to recreate both recipes this month. Who knows? One of them may be featured in my foodie email next month.
By the way, if you want to receive my monthly foodie email (I always include at least one recipe.), let me know by clicking here.
To wrap up this post, here is a video of one of my favorite moments from last week–we 10 women singing a hymn in an ancient Scottish church.
Amazing Grace in Scotland
Tune in next week for more stories from Scotland.
Note: If you want to see pictures of my adventure, look me up on Instagram: writingdianet.