So after the debacle with hotels the night before, I have to say that the Boat Country Inn was a far nicer and far better place to stay than the corporate sh*t show that was the McDonald Hotel. The place had a lot of charm and it didn’t hurt that the weather was spectacular.
Now the only reason I had come stopped in Aviemore (other than it was on the way to Dundee where I would be staying for 3 days while I attended the Open Championship in St. Andrews) was to take a ride on the Strathsprey train, another steam train that used to ply the Cairngorm Mountains. In 1978, the train was resurrected after ten miles of the original Highland Railway Line was restored and now it makes three trips a day on the line. I was going to take the first trip of the day.
I arrived at the station shortly before 10:00 a.m. and was handed a ticket for my first class compartment. Fancy! By 10:15, we were boarding, and I was shown to my little compartment where found that I was the only one in the cabin. I was soon served tea and shortbread and by 10:30, the steam whistle blew and we were pulling out of the station to our first stop in Boat of Garten, literally a stones throw from my hotel.
As we chugged along, the train made a click-clack noise at it travelled along the track. We passed little clumps of Scottish pines, as well as a golf course and lots of farms with cows grazing (no hairy coos). We eventually pulled into Boat of Garten where the train refilled its water supply before the train whistle blew and we were on our way again to out last stop in Broomhill.
We passed a little river and could see the Cairngorm Mountains in the distance as we pulled into Broomhill. The engine made a quick switch around while we were entertained by a pasture full of sheep. By 11:30 we were heading back to Aviemore and a short hour and a half later, we were back where we started.
I decided to walk around Aviemore and find a place for lunch before I went back to my hotel. And what did I find outside the train station? Another of the Hairy Coo art installations. And I say another be a cause I have seen these in Fort Williams and Inverness as well. It appears to be some kind of coordinated art project with these lovely little statutes installed all over the highlands.
I ended up looking up the website and found out that there are 22 Heilan (hairy) Coos that make up ‘The Great Heilan Coo Trail’. Apparently, from April to August, the Heilan Coos are located in every town that has a Highland Hospice Shop and are part of a fundraising effort for the hospice shops. I had pictures of at least three, but would have loved to track down the others.
Anyway, by 2:00, I was sitting outside in the little patio area of the Boat Country Inn enjoying the lovely gardens, a cool drink and the warm summer day.
I ended up taking a walk around Boat of Garten and through a tiny little garden before walking back to the Boat of Garten station to watch the Strathsprey train pass by the station and my hotel. It had been a lovely, relaxing day. Tomorrow I head to Dundee where I take up residence for three nights while I attend the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews, which is the primary reason I came to Scotland in the first place. The weather forecast keeps changing so I really have no idea what I am in for other than the chance to see the best golfers in the world tee it up at the legendary home of golf! I cannot wait.