The priority for today was to get some more fuel and provisions. We had found several garages the day before had no diesel which was a bit worrying as we only had about 70 miles left in the tank.
We headed to Inverness, about 35 miles away. If we did not find fuel there then we would be stuffed. Fortunately, we did find fuel without problems as we neared Inverness. No doubt we could have risked waiting and finding the cheapest option but we just wanted to have a full tank and not worry about running out. Price was not the most important consideration.
I had forgotten how long it takes to get anywhere in this part of Scotland. Most of the main roads are winding two-way "A" roads with widely and regularly varying conditions. Having spent most of my time in the car over the last few months on motorways, this takes some getting used to. There are also lots of smaller roads (single lane with passing places) to many of the outlying locations some of which have mostly very clear views (easy to navigate) whilst others make their way along dark valley runs with lots of physical restrictions making it hard to see far ahead (hard to navigate – you are always expecting a car heading towards you just around the corner) – locals including deliver vans hit these roads a lot faster of course as they are so familiar with the territory.
It is interesting to note the rather large number of signs reminding people to drive on the left, to not drink-and-drive, to be courteous to other drivers, to allow overtaking and – most worryingly – reminding drivers: "mirror, signal, manoeuvre" … eek!
Rather than stay in the city, we skirted the outskirts and chose a small hamlet pretty much at random where we thought we would be able to let the dogs lose on a small beach. We found Kilmuir on the banks of the Moray Firth which was very nice.
Our second mundane mission was to establish where a large supermarket was located so that we could get some provisions. We had in mind that it was a Sunday and that shops would probably be shut at 4pm. It crossed my mind that Scotland was ostensibly a more religious country than England and therefore might have even more strict Sunday trading regulations. We had passed a Tourist Information point on the way to Kilmuir so we made a way back there to get some information. We found that there was a cafe attached offering soups and sandwiches so we went for that first.
The weather was great and we sat outside with our dogs at a table and munched our lunch. We are still having a few problems with the dog we acquired earlier in the year. He tends to react badly to anyone running close to us. I think he just needs a firm hand and a bit more experience. He does frighten people though, especially kids, when he suddenly jumps up and starts barking aggressively at people. This is clearly not acceptable behaviour but we will cure him of it in due course. He was a stray we got from the local branch of the Dog’s Trust and we do not know his history. Goodness only knows what view he has of the world around him and how he relates that to normal pack behaviours.
The Tourist Information office left a lot to be desired. They had no maps for sale and the guy providing information seemed a little light on it. We wanted to know of places we could take dogs – especially beaches. He did suggest one particularly nice beach, located in the town of Nairn, but when we asked if dogs were allowed, he said "they cannot really stop them" which we took to mean that there were no restrictions.
He also gave us directions to a large Tesco store located nearby. I asked what its opening hours were and he told me 24 hour. I asked when it was open today and he repeated that it was a 24 hour store. We decided that we had better get there before 4PM. When we did find it, we were surprised to find that it did say very clearly that it was open 24 hours per day 7 days a week. It seems that Sunday trading laws in Scotland are rather more sensible than they are in England & Wales. So much for my assumption. We decided to leave the food shopping until the end of the day and head for the beach he had recommended.
Nairn is indeed a nice little place with beautiful beaches and very obvious and unambiguous signs advising that dogs are not allowed on the beaches at all during the summer months. Damn. We walked around for a while (well, I sat and did some photography whilst everyone else went for a walk). Weather varied a lot from bright, hot, dry conditions to dark, cooler and very heavy downpour conditions on a regular basis. At one point we had just finished a few chips off at a small beach cafe when the rains came down heavily and we watched scantily clad kids happily consuming ice-creams in the rain (you need to look carefully at the photo to see the rain).