Things didn't start off too well, when we turned up at the hotel and they had no evidence of our booking. Luckily, they had rooms free so we were still able to stay. Then a hotel worker opened a door into my face. Thankfully the room was gorgeous, with a huge comfy bed which made up for everything. I say huge, but the Kiwis legs from the knee down were uncovered for the majority of the weekend as they hung down at the bottom of the bed. I guess that's the problem with being 6ft 5in.
We had one of the best meals I've had in my 24 years in the hotel. The restaurant we dined in was visited by Gordon Ramsay during his Kitchen Nightmares series. Gordon could find no fault with the food, saying the establishment's problem was that it was far too posh and luxurious for the north of Scotland. While I don't agree with that (Scots appreciate their food more than most), I have to say that the 'trying-too-hard' feel of the restaurant did almost take away from the delicious menu.
When we were presented with canapes that looked like a piece of art I was afraid that the adjectives on the pages of the menu would be tastier than the food. Thankfully I was wrong. I savoured salmon in redcurrant jelly, a cube of beetroot jelly with a piping of goats cheese, and duck with apricot and parmesan, and realised what the problem with the restaurant was - it didn't need all of the froufiness and over-stretched English - the food spoke for itself. Yes it was maybe still a little OTT, but the flavours and obvious love in the kitchen sang from the plate and into my palette. I continued to devour Mushroom Tea (!), Hare with the 'quince foam' (which was actually delicious), rack of lamb, chocolate orange mousse with pomegranite sorbet and finally a slate dish with 'textures and temperatures of chocolate, toffee and banana. Needless to say I had to be rolled to my room after all that.
We set off early on Saturday, heading for the Highland Wildlife Park, in Kincraig. I hate to say it, but I wasn't expecting much - humans struggle with the cold of the Highlands, what animals would be willing to do the same?
Boy was I wrong. The park is out of this world, and I can't remember a time when I got so close to the action. We first drove around a large reserve, taking in sights of rare wild horses, yaks and camels (yeuch. I hate camels.) Further round we saw enormous bison, which bore an uncanny resemblance to the beast out of Where the Wild Things Are.
The park's current star is it's polar bear Mercedes, who was recently transferred from Edinburgh Zoo where she's lived for the past 20 years. As a cub she kept wandering down the to small Canadian town she lived by, and the residents had her marked down to be killed. Thankfully the Royal Zoological Society stepped in and now she calls Scotland her home. Unfortunately she kept moving, and my camera battery died so this was as good as my photos got of her.
I cannot recommend the Highland Wildlife Park enough. We had such a wonderful time there, and it was great to spend some time in the Scottish countryside looking at these amazing animals. The work the park does is fantastic and you can sponsor the animals too.
Oh yeah, and although I didn't get a photo of it, there was a stunning wolf, that made me all the more excited about going to see New Moon next week!