Yes, still in Scotland, heading for the coast, and our first hotel of the trip in Fortrose.
But first, a stop for essentials in Inverness.
For the first time EVER, Mrs RM and I had the same essentials in mind, as we spent an hour six minutes replenishing our wardrobes in the Eastgate Centre.
That photo was taken at 5pm on a Saturday in late June.
Where are the shoppers ? Put off by one-way systems and yellow tape ? Watching Wales v Denmark in the pub ?
Who knows ? Inverness was heaving. I’d bought my annual supply of jeans and T-shirt from Next in 4 minutes, and almost dallied to play the Flying Scotsman Automata.
But it suddenly occurred to me that my new GBG tick Hootananny* was a fun pub that would be packed with Welshmen waving leeks and singing songs about bacon and I might not get a seat.
It was closed. Very closed, not just “micro opening hours” closed. With live music and ceilidhs (not Fish’s best track, I always thought), it’s not designed for social distancing, but looking at Facebook now it talks about “undergoing some work” so like in Lost I’ll have to go back.
Which is no hardship, I’ll have to pass Inverness to get to Wick and beyond, and it’s a wonderful city that feels a lot bigger than a 50,000 odd population implies.
And now the Phoenix has risen. I think, as it seems subsumed within a Turkish restaurant called Lale or LaLe.
Still dominated by the island bar, but it seemed distinctly less “ale house” than my 2015 visit, and of course I nearly walked out when I was taken to a table with a sexist beer label.
But at least I had a good view of the Euros on the big screen. Here you see Gareth Bale diving forlornly for a penalty.
Never mind the football. It felt like a return to pubby normality, and the Cromarty Happy Chappie from up the road was a cool foamy NBSS 3+. The wrong glass, but a gorgeous chunky one.
“Are you ready ?” texted Mrs RM, and I was, and nearly bumped into her and her shopping haul as I left the pub.
*By the way, congratulations to Simon Urry and the Highlands & Western Isles CAMRA folk for their detailed and interesting descriptions on WhatPub.