Day 6 - swimming with seals & seeing Birds of prey

Trip Start Jun 12, 2010
Trip End Nov 18, 2010

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Scotland,
Friday, June 25, 2010

After a good sleep, we didn't get up till 7.30 which was not a problem as it was indicated to us that it would be preferable if we waited till 8.30 for breakfast.  We found out why as the breakfast room seated 6 and was still full at 8.30.  Malcolm burnt the toast and Sally burnt the kippers and both set off the fire alarm, ensuring we were fully awake.  When we did get to eat, the food and service was very good and once again we were able to talk to our hosts and learn a little of their life which is a very enjoyable part of this journey.Did another weigh-in this morning and now Keith's clothes, pocket contents, and backpack are a fairly trim 21 kgs, while Debby's are about 9.5 kgs. (It may be we'll reduce further when we do the tough footpaths and hills of the Pennine Way but at present these weights seem quite manageable.)  After bidding pleasant farewells, we headed straight to the beach and within 1/2 hour Keith was in his element, swimming, watched by a colony of seals.  It was magical.  Although the water temperature was a chilly 8-10 deg, Keith warmed up quickly on the beach afterwards with the weather probably the best we've had so far, and temperature in the high teens
Walking this morning was the best yet, following a path along open grassland, with the coastline one side and woodlands edging a meadow to our right.  By 11.30 we'd reached Dunrobbin Castle, home of the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland for a thousand years.  Most fascinating was a bird of prey display led by a passionate trainer who dedicates his life to bonding with these impressive birds.  All the birds at the Castle had been saved from an early death.  Apparently only 10% of these birds live to reach one year old in the wild (not surprising as they have to fend for themselves from the ripe old age of five weeks - equivalent to 25 weeks in human terms!).  We watched a 15 year old owl, a 10 year old Harris hawk and a 1 year old falcon.  The falcon was found with no tail feathers, which means 'no brakes'!  The falconer was able to rebuild his tail feathers using cocktail sticks and discarded feathers.  Remarkably he was soaring high above us with no impediment at all.  As this sage trainer said "to know what is happening to the environment, you only have to study these birds, they are the top of the food chain and if they are doing okay it means everything down below on land is okay." 
Moving on after a quick tour of the lovely castle, which would have been easy to spend the entire day at, we continued along a glorious woodland/coastal path.  Noticing the effect of the fresh smells of the beach, Keith commented that he was transported back to Brighton (England) and Whitstable in the late 1950's walking with his mum and dad (the real ones!), taken there by the particular seaweed smell on this beach and which was obviously stored deep in his genes.  The sound from the circling seagulls, not like those heard in Australia, reinforced this powerful effect.  Surely our senses, when really open and receptive, are channels through which we can top up our spirit and replenish our soul. 
We arrived at the unexpected delight of Golspie for lunch and spent 2 hours over cauliflower soup, while making full use of their free computer usage to catch up a few blog days. We happily walked out of Golspie feeling we had at last been able to do our bit by the blog and all was well with the world. By 5 pm we'd done our 18 kms for the day and were at our B&B at Cambusavie which was fairly modern but pretty remote.  We had to call on our host, Tom, to drop us off at Dornoch, 6 miles (9 1/2 kms) away for dinner and embarrassingly to call him again to pick us up at 10 pm as the only taxi in the village was already in use on a run to Inverness airport!
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