Friday, 13 May 2011

It's Also The Only Town I Know Still Has A Wimpy Burger Restaurant

Dingwall. Famous for Ross County, rubber bumpers and, apparently, an amazing curry house (although I forget which one).

We paid the former Ross and Cromarty capital a visit recently and were amazed how well the High Street is doing considering there is a Goliath-sized Tesco within spitting distance. (Excellent baby changing facilities, to give them their dues. Free nappies in fact!)

The train ride out was wonderful, along the shore of the Beauly Firth. And our first port of call? The secondhand bookshop. As a treat for Wife-features’ birthday I gave her three whole pounds and told her she could pick any ten she wanted. Huh?

You see, the shop has an extensive ‘whodunnit’ section, including a couple of shelves stuffed with Agatha Christie paperbacks, priced 30p each. Needless to say the missus was in her element. So there you have it men: all the ladies need is a few quid and a bit of retail therapy and you’re in the good books for another year.

The shop had a comfy sofa so while WF selected her haul TWMBO and I read some stories. Next stop: The Greenhouse.

This lovely old shop has been converted in a community-run secondhand emporium. Amazing retro clothes, fifteen thousand varieties of buttons, old LPs and knick-knacks. TWMBO was in her element, running up and down the length of what is a very lengthy shop.

The bacon rolls from the bakers were smashing and the High Street still has a greengrocer. And of course most of the High Street is pedestrianised, so you can linger and not be too worried if your little person goes runabout. I wonder how Nairnites would react to a suggestion to pedestrianise part of their High Street? I suspect many would regard it as worse than the extra traffic lights on the A96, which by all accounts are the end of civilisation as we know it. The fact that it will enable people to cross a trunk road splitting their community in two without playing ‘chicken’ and taking their life in their hands seems to have been overlooked. I can’t wait to use the new crossings and walk really slowly across, smiling at the motorist waiting at the red light, his or her forehead veins almost certainly throbbing with madness.

Not only is it amazing Dingwall’s coped (relatively) with the infectious spread of the Tesco virus but in general it’s a wonder it’s survived since the Kessock and Cromarty Firth bridges were opened almost 30 years ago. Previously Inverness was probably viewed as just another town, maybe slightly larger, and a bit of a trek to get to. With the bridge you can drive there in, what, 20 minutes?

Bypassing the town so widely by taking the A9 to Tore and Culbokie then landing at Evanton was obviously a massive boon to freight and other road users trying to get to Wick in less than half a day! But I do wonder what sort of compensation the then government and councils considered for Dingwall. Probably none at all.

Maybe the old Highland Region could have relocated a few jobs out of Inverness, similar to what happened after the Scottish Parliament was set up - SNH moved out of Edinburgh to Craig Dunain.

Dingwall will always hold a special place in my heart. I was once called as a witness in a court case there. But that’s another story…

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