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NICKY MARR: Appreciating what we have right here

By Nicky Marr

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Nicky Marr at Black Rock Gorge.
Nicky Marr at Black Rock Gorge.

This week, good friends from Manchester have come to stay.

In more normal times this would hardly be news, but it’s the first time since last March that anyone other than our immediate family has spent the night, and it’s the first time we’ve welcomed these friends to the Highlands.

In more normal times we would have been on holiday together in Greece or France.

But – in case you hadn’t noticed – these are not normal times.

It’s not the first time they’ve been here – M worked as a GP in Ross-shire for a few years in the late ’80s, and N had visited him once or twice.

But it’s now decades since they’ve been back.

We spent the weekend clocking up steps on our Fitbits as they revisited old haunts and graciously allowed us to show off some of our favourite spots too.

Rosemarkie’s Fairy Glen and Swallow Den elicited appropriate levels of visitor appreciation.

It’s a walk that has it all, with the beach, the burn and the waterfalls, a million shades of green, and flower-strewn country lanes.

There are the dens that inspired geologist Hugh Miller in the 1800s, and that panoramic view over Chanonry Point and Fort George.

There was even a stall selling fresh Black Isle berries. We scoffed the berries on the beach.

Cromarty never disappoints. The quaint wee streets and indy shops (Cromarty Pottery for souvenirs), the rigs and beach, Hugh Miller’s house, and my favourite of all – the pirate’s graveyard.

It’s the atmosphere there that keeps me returning; that and the skulls and crossbones and the view across to North Sutor. Gravestone inscriptions, dating back to 1675, remind us how fragile life is.

We swam in a loch (of course), walked at Rogie Falls, and rediscovered Black Rock Gorge and Evanton Community Wood.

We ate incredible fish and chips in MacGregor’s Bar, and drank local beer, gin and whisky.

As I write this they’re heading into Inverness with a “hit-list” of highlights – Leakey’s bookshop, Eden Court and the Ness Islands among them.

Then they’re taking their golf clubs to the Cairngorms National Park for nine holes at Carrbridge.

It’s fabulous to see our friends, but I am struggling.

You see, I’m furiously resentful to be working this week.

Their enthusiasm for the landscapes and the history we have here has reignited my already zealous passion for this corner of Scotland.

I wish I could join them on their daily adventures; to Ullapool, Assynt and the beautiful north-west, to the beaches and dramatic cliffs of the coastline, to the brochs and castles of Caithness, and into the splendour of Moray Speyside, from Cairngorms to Firth.

Burns wished we could “see oursels as ithers see us”.

But more rewarding is to see our home through the eyes of others.

Our friends’ photographs are of the views we daily take for granted.

Their holiday highlights are the lochs, mountains, beaches, and paths of our weekend walks.

All I can think, is lucky, lucky us.

Read more from Nicky Marr here.

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