I’ve visited the Highlands of Scotland a few times to research The Highland Hens and another novel (yet to be announced,) and I’ve totally fallen in love with the place.
So, here is my top ten count down of things about the Highlands that I love, all of which find themselves in the story of The Highland Hens. Try them for yourself…
10. Food and drink
As a vegan, I had to ask other people about the haggis, Cullen skink (a fish soup), venison (Ew!), Scottish tablet, cranachan, (an oat and raspberry dessert) and the Athol brose (whisky cream liqueur). They are all highly rated. I stayed in a lovely inn in Drumnadrochit with a hundred whiskies on a separate menu, and I tried several of them. They are beyond belief. Each morning I’d be given porridge with maple syrup, which was the best I’ve tasted, and the oatcakes are super delicious. Then, of course, there are the haggis crisps…and the neeps and tatties…
This episode found its way into The Highland Hens: I was driving past Loch Ness on the way to the Isle of Skye, as you do, and I had to slow down to allow a small wild boar to trot along the road towards me, ambling at its own pace as if it had all the time in the world. A beautiful creature.
8. The forests
The forests are incredible, the pine smell, the freshness. The episode in The Highland Hens when Jess goes into the forest at night and hears a thundering waterfall is something I’ve done myself and it’s such an incredible feast for the ears. You can hear it, almost feel the power of it, but it’s so dark you can’t see a thing. It was like being in Valhalla among the partying gods!
7. Snow on the mountains
There is just something incredible about snow capped mountains stretching for miles. Living in the south west of England, I’m always like a happy kid when it snows. But there is a majesty and a danger about the snow which excites, and it’s great to be in a place where snow is normal and part of daily life in the winter months. I love it.
6. The beaches
From Gairloch beach to Dunvegan beach in Skye, there is a wild beauty to Scottish beaches. In The Highland Hens, Mimi says the air in Scotland is clean and sharp as whisky. And she’s right.
I’m a complete sucker for deer. Whether it is a single young deer bounding across the road towards the forest, or a grazing group, or a massive stag perched on a rock, its antlers held high, I’m just in awe of them. Every time I’ve been to Scotland, I’ve been out in the forests in the midnight darkness searching for wild deer. I’ve never been disappointed.
4. The Isle of Skye
It’s a place that should be on everyone’s bucket list, Skye is beautiful, a place of contrasts with its beaches, wildlife, waterfalls, castles and mountains. One woman I spoke to said that the deer in her garden were a nuisance as they came to feed off her parsnips. In all honesty, that’s a problem I’d be happy to live with on a daily basis. Spending an hour on Dunvegan beach, climbing to the top of a hill and watching the weather come in from the Hebrides while leaning into the embrace of the strong wind is just therapy.
3. The castles and the history
I love a castle. I spent a day in Urquhart castle on Loch Ness and I was thoroughly engrossed in the history. The setting was sublime – old stones, a view of the loch and the mountains. Then the snow came in and filled my eyes. It was food for the imagination.
2. The mist over the loch
The first time I drove towards Loch Ness, I couldn’t help the squeals of delight. It was early in the morning and the mist hung over the water in a way that was so moody and atmospheric. I had to reach for my notebook and pen – and my camera. It’s wonderful.
1.The warmth of the people
I met so many wonderful people while I was in Scotland, every one a gem. Most of them were Scottish although a couple were from Birmingham: from the nice man in the Co-Op in Drumnadrochit to the kind woman in the pub and the knowledgeable guide at Urquhart, I couldn’t have met more helpful and warm people. And of course, a Scottish voice is always so lovely…
I highly recommend a trip to Scotland, and to the Highlands south west of Inverness and beyond, to the north – Skye, the Hebrides. I’m going back as soon as I can – autumn, winter and spring are the best times for me.
And meanwhile, if you want a taste of Scotland, have a look at my novel, #TheHighlandHens. I know my appreciation of the beautiful location and the wonderful people will shine from every page. I really couldn’t help it!