Today started badly.
Bridget has been coughing a fair bit, and it’s been getting gradually worse, so when we got the message from her room this morning that she was really unwell, we rushed her straight off to a doctor (as an aside, thank feck for free healthcare in the UK and also Google, for finding the medical centre nearest to us -a phonebook doesn’t really work when you don’t know the suburbs around you). Turns out she has a virusy thing and is on antibiotics (and before the comments and emails start flying, we all know that antibiotics are only good for bacterial things. We think it’s to avoid a chest infection).
So, dosed up, we headed off towards Cawdor, only to find the castle closed for the season. Most things here seem to close this time of year. Make sense when you see how bleak it can be. There wasn’t much else to do other than admire the wee little village, so Sarah’s hunt for the Clan has stalled, albeit temporarily.
Early afternoon found us at the Findhorn Foundation, an incredible spiritual ‘eco’ community on Findhorn Bay. I’ve had an odd little obsession/pulling towards this place for nearly fifteen years, after I read ‘Flight into Freedom‘ by its co-founder, Eileen Caddy. It’s also been mentioned by the likes of Liam O’Manolai and Mike Scott of the Waterboys (who has a home here) both of whom I hold in very high musical regard. Providence was shining on us, as I was not sure I was going to make it all this way, only to be stopped literally miles away. I couldn’t very well leave Bridget in the car while I looked around (Findhorn offer tours, classes, and stays varying from a day to a week to 6 months to a lifetime. It’s an amazing place, mostly self-sufficient -it even has wind turbines and a state of the art water filtration system), but mainly, it’s about self-awareness, and the quest for it. I can’t really go into too much detail here, as there’s, well, too much detail.
One of the amazing hand-built homes on the Field of Dreams
When I said providence was shining, I meant because while we were in the Blue Angel cafe I spotted a sign for a healer /masseuse. Most of you know that Bridget has a bad shoulder, and needs regular work, so she made the call and found out he was 5 minutes away and did 2 hour sessions -exactly the length of the tour. So she went off and did that while Sarah and I were taken around Findhorn by the lovely Leanne. It’s a stunning place, most of it hand-built. The focus is on Common Community, shared responsibility and tolerance and respect. Nothing is taken for granted. There are potteries, a state of the art printing house (using world-class standards in recycling and acid-free inks), performance spaces, galleries, permanent housing, nurseries, and the incredible Universal Hall, easily the most incredible and inspirational venues I’ve ever been in.
The front entrance of Universal Hall. Shame the picture does no justice to the stained glass
It’s a hand-built, limestone walled, turf-roofed hexagon with amazing acoustics and that truly breath-taking feel of something made with love. We missed out on a gig here by only a little bit (date clashes) but upcoming artists include Shooglenifty and Malinky, and the Waterboys have recorded two albums here (I don’t think I mentioned it’s a multi-level centre with a top notch recording studio and even a meditative sanctuary under the floor of the hall, with its ceiling holding a frosted skylight into the amphitheater. Words can’t describe it really.
The carved whole tree trunk is the centerpiece of the stage. See the little hexagonal 'skylight' to the sanctuary below!
Sarah’s favourite place was a small drystone building called the Hobbit House, which was also hand-built, and inside contains a single circular room, used for meditation and also for singing. Of course Sarah was invited to try it out, which she did with a verse from ‘Sorrow’s Away’. The acoustics were perfect, and her voice came back to her tenfold.
The Hobbit House.
It’s an incredible place, not affiliated with any religion except your own personal oneness, and how you use it to better the planet. I have no doubt whatsoever that I’ll return here. My fifteen-year curiosity has been quelled, but more doors have opened.
From there, we shot south into the gloaming evening, across the Cairngorm National Park on our way to Dunkeld. With the clocks going back an hour, darkness seemed to fall even quicker, but there was one incredible moment when I looked over and saw a buck deer running through the woods next to the road, parallel with the car for a time before fading back into the dark. The Cairngorms are incredibly bleak, possibly some of the harshest Scottish terrain short of the Hebrides, but I’d cut things a little too fine for sight-seeing, so mostly, we travelled the winding roads with just the snow markers and the occasional croft for company. It was probably the hardest drive of the trip so far. The big Jaguar stuck to the road like its namesake, but it’s pretty heavy (with all our gear) and the road dipped, crested, swung and jigged like a mad thing. Add to this the constant scanning of the distance for eye shine that might mean a deer, a sheep, or, gods forbid, a giant Angus cow, and you have a knackering few hours. It was fun though, like my own wee episode of Top Gear, with only one really hairy moment when I misjudged a switch-back turn and poor Bridget got covered in schnacks from a toppled bag.
But eventually we wandered down out of the moors. The featureless grey to either side of the car was replaced by a tunnel of burnished copper beech trees that shivered leaves down on us. We found Dunkeld, then continued on the few more miles to Butterstone, and Dougie and Jennifer’s house.
And I’ll save that bit for tomorrow.