The team met up in Glasgow on Monday morning and prepared ourselves for the first leg of our road trip. The first stop on the tour would be Drumnadrochit, which is located at the head of Urquhart Bay on the northern shore of Loch Ness. It is a popular spot for Nessie Hunters. I was looking forward to the trip as the driving was going to be split between Laura (Cellist) and I. It was my first time driving an 8 seater people carrier, but I felt calm after my stage manager, Ali, took me out for a test drive the week before so I could get to know the vehicle better. After making sure the tank was full, no illuminations on dashboard and a variety of snacks had been packed, it was go time! I took the first leg of the journey and we stopped at The House of Bruar in Pitlochry. It has a lovely department store, food hall and very clean toilets (seems funny to highlight but an important feature on any road trip). Laura then took on the second part of the drive and we were happily in Drumnadrochit in no time.
I had the pleasure of staying at Polmaily House Bed and Breakfast . Our Hosts, Brian and Debbie were wonderful and they prepared a delicious breakfast, easy conversation and supplied equipment for a variety of lawn games, which myself and the team were happy to make the most of between performances. My personal favourite was croquet! I’ve not played that since I was a child. On Tuesday we performed two shows at the Craigmore Centre, which is attached to the local High School.
We were back on the road again on Wednesday and we arrived in Fort William where we gave three performances at the Nevis Centre. The atmosphere at the centre was delightful as Iona and her team were preparing to re-open and welcome back visitors. It was really special to be part of that atmosphere and the community were really engaged and a pleasure to perform to. We stayed overnight in Spean Bridge at the Coire Glas Guest House. The view from the garden was mesmerising as it looks out over the spectacular Grey Corries and Ben Nevis. Katie and I took advantage of this and the beautiful weather by rolling out our yoga mats and had a morning stretch following a video that my Pilates teacher and friend Chiara Favaretti, had prepared in advance. I really enjoy having a pre-show stretch, as I find that I’m more mentally alert and my body is ready for action. It is also a great start to a vocal warm-up.
We arrived in Kingussie on Thursday, ready to perform two shows in the beautiful Gynack Gardens. In my opinion this location was the most beautiful pop-up auditorium space so far. The gardens were recently renovated by the local community, who transformed it into a tranquil recreational space, with colourful flowerbeds, picnic benches, and a modern paved entrance with a thistle sculpture. The aim for the rejuvenation was to encourage the local community and visitors to enjoy spending time in the town watching pop up events and take pictures which can then be shared with others all around the world, showcasing a wonderful town with modern thinking. It was a joy to learn about this project from one of our hosts Claire, who was a fellow opera singer who moved to the Highlands from London and opened an independent music shop, Fuller Music.
The final destination for this week was Ullapool, which we would call home for four nights and where we would perform six shows. We held our performances at the local High School and the gorgeous weather continued to shine. I had a fantastic time with the team in this picturesque fishing town. My favourite thing about Ullapool was the cuisine. The fish and seafood were so fresh and delicious, I couldn’t get enough! – and now I am hoping I will still fit into my wedding dress – eek.
My top recommendations are:
The menu here changes daily to reflect the catch that has been brought in. If you are lucky enough to be in when they are serving the tempura battered haddock wrap with salad and pesto mayonnaise be sure to try it!
The food here was delectable. I even treated myself to a homemade black pudding scotch egg for a starter.
Not only did this restaurant offer a scrumptious dinner menu, they also do marvellous a walk-in breakfast and their delightful book shop has a great collection of postcards – a whimsical way to keep in touch with friends and family.
For week four we will catch the ferry to the Isle of Lewis and explore the wonders of the Outer Hebrides.