I thought that it would rain all week end so I had practiced to play golf in the rain the previous week so as not to be too disappointed. And the weather was so sunny in Dornoch, the town forty miles north of Inverness, that we could not believe it. A four day week end in Edinburgh and Skibo castle via Beauly, the seat of the Fraser family, was a series of miraculous encounters and discoveries including the Scottish National portrait gallery which holds treasures I had never seen. And I read “The Edinburgh Skating Club” by Michelle Sloan which tries to solve the mystery around the Sir Henry Raeburn‘s painting of a minister skating on Duddingston Loch.
Driving up north via The House of Bruar was already an experience with hundreds of people flocking to buy their winter tweeds and catching a fish and chip. In Beauly, the experience was more refined at Campbell’s where my favorite jumper was awaiting me and across the street at Petra Palumbo‘s where Drusilla Fraser was painting the windows with winter decorations. This dog painter who portrays your favorite animal with huge talent, is the greatest hostess and her knitted cushions and cashmere baby sweaters are just to die for.
Off to Skibo castle, where a good and very successful friend invited me to stay at the Carnegie Club. A delicious high tea with little sandwiches and scones were awaiting us by the fire place. In this extraordinary place built by Andrei Carnegie in 1900, enough Scotsmen entertain you all day long in salmon fishing, shooting and golfing, that you have the illusion of sharing insiders’ knowledge on lochs and firths, haggis and Scottish dancing. The landscapes are extraordinary and the bright November sun was a great bonus. Since it gets dark at 4 pm, one starts drinking quite early on and the use of golf buggies to navigate around the estate is precious. I did not eat haggis but freshly fished turbot and was offered bacon buns and coffee with whisky at 12 pm during my golf game. This makes for a very relaxed game.
In the nearby Dornoch village I indulged in Wedgwood at the Antique shop and saw a Saturday wedding with all men wearing kilts. We were in another world which belonged more to the sixties than to nowadays. There were roses still in bloom everywhere and sweet peas and bright pink heather in Skibo’s closed garden. On my way back through Edinburgh I returned to the Scottish National Gallery where the mysterious “Reverend Walker skating” struck me again in its modernity. Many scholars think that it was painted by Henri Pierre Danloux, a French painter who was in Edinburgh in 1790 and not by Raeburn. A fun new novel by Michelle Sloan suggests that it was painted by a woman. After being very amused by the portrait of Tilda Swindon by her former companion John Byrne, I indulged in a classic Cullen skink, smoked haddock in a potato and cream soup at the National Gallery restaurant. This is the sort of dish which keeps you going all day in windy Scotland.
I could not end this piece on beloved Scotland without raving about my dinner at the Palmerston, set in an old bank, which has become the place to go to in Edinburgh. Lots of vegetable and fine meats are served by a fun waitress from Aberdeen. And they had the same organic wine from Ardèche tasted at Huthopi recently. What a coïncidence…
Air France and Easy Jet both have flights to Edinburgh. Then rent a car and drive up north to the Highlands and Paradise.
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