Hong Kong V Scotland

Carbisdale Castle

I had planned to update this blog with stories from Hong Kong, but it is proving difficult because life back home has been as hectic and exciting as the holiday. However I still have to report all my Firsts, so I will start with another Hong Kong First and slot in some of the Scottish ones.

Fifty First Timer No.15
Eat Shark’s Fin Soup

I know some of you will be throwing up your hands in horror or even just throwing up at the thought of this, but when my principles started to niggle, I remembered the words of my Muslim friend when I once offered her Stornoway black pudding (made from pigs blood) for breakfast and she replied ‘Lovely, I never let religion get between me and my stomach’.

I now apologise and promise never to do it again.

I have tasted Shark’s Fin soup before but it was made from synthetic shark fin. The soup I ordered in Hong Kong was the real thing. The venue was the American Restaurant in Wanchai. The restaurant has been around for xx years. When Hong Kong was a popular R&R destination for the US troops during the Vietnam War the restaurant’s owners, hoping to attract the GIs, renamed their restaurant thinking it would sound welcoming. The name and the restaurant proved popular, so when the war ended they retained the same.

The waiter helped us to decide on the size of portions we needed and advised me that the soup was expensive, was I sure I still wanted it. ‘Yes sir’, falling into an American twang. Like most Chinese meals the food came at different times, what we would consider the second course was delivered first followed by the soup. Sharks fin soup is thick and gluttonous with fibrous strands of fin laced through. The taste is light and eggy which I found delicious, almost like eating noodles in potato soup. The meal was washed down with Tsing Tsao beers and buckets of green tea. Despite his advice, we ordered too much food which gave the waiter a good laugh at our expense.

Weekend wedding and more Firsts

Fifty First Timer No.16
Stay in a haunted castle

The weekend saw a few Firsts, most I will do again because it was such fun.

We attended a wedding party at Carbisdale Castle. The castle is perched on a hill just outside Bonar Bridge in Sutherland and is the Scottish Youth Hostel Association’s flag ship. I have passed it many times on the road to the far north and looked longingly at its towering ramparts and cosy welcoming lights twinkling through the trees, but this is my first stay there.

The castle was built in 1917 by the widow of the Duke of Sutherland. It was gifted to the Youth Hostel Association in 1945. The castle is reputed to be haunted but there was no evidence of ghosts this weekend, they were probably all quivering in a corner to avoid the noise of the ceilidh band, disco, general revelry and my musical abominations.

John and Kate, the happy couple, wanted a party and they certainly bagged their wish. The hostel can sleep over 180 visitors and we almost filled the whole place from Friday night through to a bleary eyed Sunday lunchtime.

Colin and I were attending the evening part of the wedding so we were lucky to spend Saturday in the surrounding area. We went for a wander round Dornoch, had scrummy home made Cornish pasties at the Dornoch Patisserie then walked along the four mile pristine beach to Embo trying to spot minkie whale in the Dornoch Firth. A pass remarkable supper was picked at in a pub before we tarted ourselves up for the party.

The ceilidh band played their ‘Gay Gordon’s’ ‘Dashing White Sergeants’ and ‘Strip the Willow’ for the group, the majority of who were hill walkers who skirled and whirled until the buffet was served. We then switch to the gyrating disco beats of the ‘70s and ‘80s.

When the official music stopped the party moved to one of the many lounges and this is where my other Firsts came in.

Fifty First Timer No.17
Learn to play a bodhrán

Fergus, one of the two Best Men is married to an Irish lady and came to the wedding complete with bodhrán, a traditional Irish instrument, under his arm. I begged for a lesson which he was quite happy to provide, he explained how to hold the single drumming stick and demonstrated the beat then said ‘right practice, I’ll be back in five minutes.’ Being a tenacious learner I did what I was told, but the others in the company moaned in horror, ‘you’re not really going to do that for five minute?’

The stick was as slippery as noodles in chopsticks, and kept falling from my hand. When Fergus came back he told me to relax and steer through the wrist. I did for a little while until my hand grew tired then I handed the bodhrán back to its rightful owner. I think I will add a bodhrán to my birthday list.

Fifty First Timer No.18
Play an electric guitar

Ranald, the other best man, took his electric guitar and amplifier to the wedding. I couldn’t resist a go. I strummed some chords and tried to pick out a couple of tunes, but the combination of previously drunk glasses of wine and the fact the shiny red and white guitar continued to slide over my chiffon dress and off my lap, did not make for a pleasant experience for the other hard core party goers, in the end I reluctantly handed the guitar back and looked out at the dawning day. It was time for bed.

I now apologise but can’t promise never to do it again

Blonde Bird on a Bike

Someone who did not partake of too much wedding wine and was probably getting out of bed when dawn was breaking was Lucy. Lucy attended the wedding but rose early to arrive on time for her nine o’clock, Sunday morning start of her John o’Groats to Lands End Bike ride. You can follow her progress on her blog


I have also added Lucy’s Blog to my top favourite blogs.

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