Flying Burns Night trip to the scenic Scottish Highlands
The day started damp and cold with little signs of improvement when we boarded the plane at Manchester airport but just an hour later the sun was out and the air was crisp, fresh and clean.
We had arrived in the Scottish Highlands, having flown with Loganair to Inverness, the latest airport to be added to the Scottish airline’s list of destinations.
It was a perfect flight too. Inverness is far enough away to fly at at a high enough altitude to miss out on any turbulence and after a complementary cup of tea and biscuit and a stunning view of the snow-clad Cairngorms were down on the run way.
We were there to celebrate Burns Night and as it was only a one night stay the challenge was to see as much as possible before the Burns Night celebrations at MacDonald Drumossie Hotel at Inverness began.
There is plenty to see in the area around Inverness so making a shortlist of sights is tricky but for my bag you can’t go wrong in Scotland with a castle, a loch and some good food and we managed to pack all those in, and more, before dusk. The kilted pipers, haggis and malt whisky came later.
First stop and only a short journey from Inverness Airport was Cawdor Castle for an exclusive tour organised by the Dowager Countess Cawdor herself who still lives at the castle.
The castle has 74 rooms, 14 bedroom and two kitchens much of them open to the public and arranged with the same furnishing over the years to retain the visitor experience. The old kitchen was in active use between 1640 and 1938 and still has the original well dug straight into the red rock on which the castle was founded and a 19th century cooking range with gearing for a spit plus all the flat irons, pans and cooking paraphernalia of the day that would put most of us off cooking for life.
Interestingly, the legend goes that the Thane of Cawdor, who had a small castle a mile away, decided to build a new stronger tower and was instructed in a dream to let a donkey choose where it should be sited. This he did and a thorn tree was planted in that spot which can be seen in tower to this day.
The thane of Cawdor’s Shakespearean connection is a little off the mark as Cawdor Castle was not built until the late 14th century well after King Duncan lost any blood or Lady Macbeth much sleep in this particular house.
Outside, Cawdor’s three outstanding gardens with herbaceous borders, roses, rhododendrons, a rare blue poppy, spring bulbs, contemporary sculptures and a wild garden are not to be missed.
Next on the list was lunch and what a lunch this was. Right on the edge of Lock Ness is Lock Ness Lodge, an elegant and intimate retreat where we were welcomed by Willie Cameron, aka ‘Mr Loch Ness’, suitably attired in kilt and sporran .
His executive chef, Adam Dwyer, pulled out all the stops for our private dinner. Loch Ness Crispy Lamb Shoulder to start followed by a Pan seared Fillet of Wester Ross Salmon with spiced lentils, foie gras and apple and plum chutney. Then to finish, baked mango cream, coconut macaroon, mango gel, coconut sorbet and nougatine tuille. Five star delicious.
It was then time for a bit of monster spotting with a cruise on Loch Ness. Jacobite started offering cruises of the legendary Loch Ness in 1973, and we were soon out on the open water n the warmth of the boat. We didn’t spot Nessie although we heard plenty of tales and we did see the views of the great glen and Urquhart castle ruin.
Our hotel for the night and venue of our Nae Ordinary Burns Supper was the excellent MacDonald Drumossie Hotel just a few miles outside Inverness.
The Burns Supper starred well known Scottish singer Fiona Kennedy and featured ceilidth band, highland dancers and the University y of Aberdeen Chamber choir. It was full-on entertainment , food, wine and whisky that started In true tradition with the bag pipes. The main attraction of the night, he Haggis, was addressed splendidly by actor George Drennan who is a regular on the stage in Scotland and has appeared in Taggart.
After Cullen Skink Soup, the haggis was served in a modern way with chicken and whisky, delicious.
Next day, after a full Scottish breakfast in the hotel, we were at Inverness airport and in less than an hour safely back in Manchester with our memories of Scotland still fresh in our minds. All this in just over 24 hours - flying to Scotland with is the way to go.
Loganair has up to 3 flights a day from Manchester to Inverness and 3 returning flights from Inverness to Manchester.
The winter schedule runs until end of March and operates;
Mon-Fri 08:40 ; 16.15; 19.55
Mon-Fri: 06:40; 14:30; 18.05
The summer schedule adds two flights on a Saturday and Sunday.
Prices are from £61.99 each way including 20kg luggage
Manchester Airport has premium lounges, fastrack security and and parking