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Brora to Bettyhill – Coast Road 500

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When I was a child, my family would gather round the radiogram and play old 78’s. One of their favourites was Granny’s Heilan’ Hame sung by Kenneth McKellar and by the time the record finished there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Ref 2001_329_088 No 2334 Contributor Historylinks Year 1959
(c) History Links 

I hadn’t thought about that song in years but when we left the Black Isle and headed towards Brora I saw a sign Granny’s Heilan Hame and it triggered some happy memories. I researched the eponymous granny ( Kate Mackay), and discovered more about her and the song, including a  photograph of her highland home.

Rain bucketing down we headed for Golspie and the campsite at Brora. The wind dropped enough to allow us to explore the sand dunes and we had the glorious beach almost to ourselves. We considered taking the single track rail journey to Wick the next day but were talked out of it by a fellow camper who said that most of the journey was between brown hills dotted with telegraph poles. Next time, maybe. panorama of beach at Brora

If you do find yourself in Brora consider visiting Dunrobin CastleDunrobin castle (2) - Copy(see turrets in photo on right) We’d visited years before so we headed up the A9 instead for Dunnet Bay and the Castle of Mey. We thought that touring Scotland in September the camping/caravan  sites would be empty – not so. The popularity of Route 500 meant that sites were very busy and it’s wise to book ahead.

That’s me pointing at a dead jellyfish on the beach (one of many!) and the view from our caravan window over Dunnet Bay. Bit stormy as you can see, but no midges.

 

Next day we drove into Thurso. Being used to large towns and cities I turned my nose up at the rather old fashioned shop fronts. Once inside the shops, I revised my opinion,   I found them to be well-stocked and the staff were very helpful and welcoming. So don’t drive past Thurse, take time to stop and look around. The following day we visited John o’ Groats. We hadn’t been there in twenty years so we were surprised to find it vastly improved, – fabulous cafe. cool gift shop, free wifi, and the best roast beef sandwich ever.

2017-09-16 12.40.23IMG_0450[2]was glad I was able to get on the internet  because there was a message from Amazon offering me a three month #PRIME deal on Boot Camp Bride. I had to reply before the end of the day. Did I accept? You bet I did.

We decided to visit the Queen Mum’s former home at the Castle of Mey and had a guided tour which made it well worth the visit. It’s a pity it wasn’t high summer because we were told that the rose gardens there are something else. The castle was very comfortable and I could have easily have lived there because it wasn’t too large – and it had central heating (!)

The next day, as we drove through Thurso, we were held up to allow a police convoy to pass us by at high speed. It consisted of outriders on motorbikes, and a couple of large vehicles packed with armed officers wearing SWAT gear and carrying machine guns. We never found out what the drama was, but we wondered if it was a drill or something similar. Anyhoo, undeterred, we moved on – past the former nuclear plant at Dounreay  and towards our goal, BettyHill.

 

I’ve always wanted to visit Bettyhill because that was  my maiden name, and I remember as a child wondering why a place in the remote north of Scotland shared a name with me. Just as we were travelling along the rather narrow road (sans caravan, obvs) we drove past over a thousand cyclists – luckily going the other way – on the last leg of the Lands’ End/ John O’ Groats Ride Across Britain . We stopped at the Bettyhill Hotel and had coffee and a bacon butty while we watched them swoosh past. Brave souls. Here are two stragglers . . . and a view from the hotel dining room.

 

Then it was on to Bettyhill. I discovered that the Countess of Sutherland had built it as a replacement village the to rehouse 15, 000 tenants removed from prime sheep grazing land as part of the Highland Clearances. The Countess (Elizabeth) named the village after herself and probably considered that she’d looked after her former tenants/crofters well.  We might have a different take on that nowadays. Read some of the first-hand accounts of the distress caused by the clearances and make up your own mind.

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74269077 – haunting remains of arichonan township, a cleared village in the highlands of scotland.

One of the places we would have loved to visit and camp overnight is Altnaharra but everything we read advised against taking a caravan to the site. So we pressed on the Durness and my favourite cafe – Cocoa Mountain – and the best hot chocolate in the world. But I’ll tell you more about that in my next blog post.

Meantime, if you haven’t read any of my novels, check out the blurbs and download one from Amazon. Paperbacks also available.

 

I’ve just finished proofreading my latest novel – Take Me, I’m Yours – which will be published July 2018. If you’d like to learn more about THAT, subscribe to my newsletter and be in with a chance to even win a signed paperback and other goodies.

SUMMER READING – take me with you to the beach . . .

Lifes a beach poster FINAL

It doesn’t seem possible that two years have passed since I, and the other members of the New Romantics 4, decided to stop tweaking and editing our novels and publish them on amazon. Its been a whirlwind but worth it. So, here we are, published authors and working hard on our third novels and with a poster to prove it. We have a social media presence on FacebookTwitter and WordPress. launched our books in Waterstones and produced a video which will appear on YouTube and our blog in September. Added to that we have the satisfaction of knowing that we’ve done it ourselves – with a little help from our many, talented writer friends and supportive readers.

Thank you for buying our novels and for writing us a review on amazon or Goodreads

Other fledgling (and not so fledgling!) authors have asked me what my path to publication has been and how I became a published indie author from a standing start. I’ve covered that subject on the New Romantics 4’s blog and other sites and won’t go over it again on this page. To put it simply, once I’d broken free of the treadmill of honing a synopsis to perfection, endlessly polishing the first three chapters of my novel and sweating over the dreaded submission letter to agents, I freed myself to write the novel which had been clamouring in my head for a number of years. The one which I, as a reader, would like to read and which I – as an author –  felt compelled to write.

That’s how (after a few incarnations) Tall, Dark and Kilted was born.

IMG_0952Tall, Dark and Kilted

When writing Tall, Dark and Kilted I was able to transport myself to Scotland, meet a gorgeous, sexy laird Ruairi Urquhart and fall in love all over again. Luckily, it seems that the many readers who’ve made the journey with me feel the same. My hero is the starting place for my novels and if I don’t get him exactly right then the novel doesn’t take off. So, although I fell in love with Ruairi (seriously!) and adored my heroine brave, feisty Fliss, I had to move on and create a new set of characters for BOOT CAMP BRIDE. Believe me, it wasn’t easy to leave Tall Dark and Kilted and the gorgeous laird of Kinlochmara behind. But I managed it!

Painted in Waterlogue

Thornham Beach at low tide

From the highlands of Scotland to the marshes of Norfolk – quite a contrast, you say? But the hero I created, Rafael Fonseca-Ffinch, is anything but flat or dull. He’s survived a kidnap attempt in the rain forests of Columbia and thinks life has thrown him every curve ball possible. But he’s WRONG. He meets boisterous, opinionated Charlee Montague, they go on an undercover mission together and their lives change – for the better. Do they find true love and have a happy ending in this novel? You betcha.

An added advantage in writing this novel is that I get to travel with Rafa and Charlee in their vintage VW Camper van. I’d quite like one myself if I had £25,000 to spare!

Better get writing that third novel, then, Lizzie.

Poster

I am currently 60,000 words into my next romantic comedy, but I’m going to tease you and not reveal the title – just yet. Suffice to say that in #3 you’ll be travelling with me to the west coast of Scotland  where you’ll meet my new hero – BRODIE – an American who’s travelled to Cormorant Island to seek out his Celtic roots. But he is not all that he seems. Intrigued? So is my new heroine Ishabel Stuart who finds herself attracted to him but can’t quite bring herself to trust him.  Honestly, the hoops we make our poor characters jump through!

scottish button hole

So, keep an eye out for the new title in 2015 and find out what Brodie is up to!

For now, have a great summer holiday and thank you for all your support, emails and continued interest in what I’m up to. And – if you do go to the beach, take one of my novels with you on a kindle or as a paperback and don’t spill the suntan lotion all over it. And, if you haven’t got a holiday planned, download one of my novels and travel to the highlands of Scotland or the Norfolk marshes with my characters. As for myself, I’m off to spend two weeks in splendid isolation on the Isle of Wight in order to get the first draft of  #3 finished. See you in September. 

poster as a jpeg

 

 

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