Perthshire (2005-04-20 - 6:23 p.m.)
I can now definitely tell you that "Kraft Cheesey Pasta" is not the same thing as Kraft Dinner. It will do in a pinch when you're starving and it's the middle of the night, but it's not remotely the same. Tastes a bit like really runny Cheez Whiz. I will definitely be bringing a lot of Kraft Dinner back across the border in June.
So I am now finished at the hotel. My stress levels have been dramatically reduced. I have this whole week off, as well, and have been devoting the time to getting a giant list of chores done - things that have been waiting for months for me to have time to get around to them. I'm also looking (half-heartedly) for a new flat... it's kind of nice being in the position of being able to be picky about location, rooms and price, but it means that it'll probably be ages before I find anything.
I got to go to Perthshire on Sunday! Bella's flatmate Fiona, also an Aussie, was taking Bella and Brad on a guided tour and I got the extra spot in the car. Fiona (or "Fee") has been here for ages and knows her way around pretty well. She hired a car and we all split the cost and went up North. It was the first time I'd properly been to the Highlands (besides the trip to Mull, and that was passing through on a train) and I was extremely impressed.
We started out in Pitlochry to see the salmon ladder there. It was pretty cool, except for the fact that it's not exactly salmon-spawning season - exactly 40 salmon have gone through the ladder so far this year! We stood and watched it for a while, and despite a spot of excitement when Brad saw something in the water it turned out to be a false alarm. (A leaf). (Would have thought this would be a hard mistake to make, as salmon aren't usually yellow!)
From there we moved on to Blair Atoll to see Blair Castle. This was absolutely amazing - a far cry from my castles so far, which have mostly been tumble-down and not particularly furnished. Blair Castle has 30 rooms absolutely packed with furniture - pretty much any kind of furniture you can imagine. Some rooms are set up as they would have been used, and some are just sort of a big jumble of stuff they had in an attic somewhere and thought the tourists might like to see. Tapestries, china, giant beds, tables, photographs, paintings... everything and anything. And loads of antlers, for some reason. (This almost seemed to be the primary decorating scheme). I even saw a portrait of Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, who my province (not to mention Lake Louise and the town of Caroline) is named after.
I highly, highly recommend Blair Castle. Unfortunately as a privately-owned castle (decendants of the Earl still live in some bits!) it's not free with my Historic Scotland membership, but it is well worth the entry price. According to the Lonely Planet's guide to Scotland, it is also the home of the world's last remaining private army. We saw no sign of this, although the decorating techniques were definitely big on weaponry as well as antlers! Lots of spiky things sticking out the walls.
As we were leaving, a piper started playing out in front of the castle. He was quite friendly and told us that there will be Highland Games taking place in Blair Atoll at the end of May, and that we should come back. We might do it! I would love to see some Highland Games before I go.
Then we went for a lovely drive along a loch, and we stopped for a chilly picnic lunch at Queen's View. It was indeed a lovely view, but we were pretty much the only ones braving the weather - we saw three tour busses stop, the people go up, take three pictures, shiver a lot and run back to the bus! The picnic was amazing. The inimitable Fee had brought along sandwiches with Parma ham and cheese, smoked salmon, fruit and tea- and coffee-making facilities! (She had a wee travel gas stove). Was just the thing for a windy Scottish day, let me tell you.
At this point we ended up taking a detour, because Kate (the other Aussie girl along for the ride) wanted to stop at an outdoor clothing sale she saw along the way. From there we headed to Edradour Distillery, which is Scotland's smallest. It was quite interesting to see this after having toured some of the huge Irish distilleries - for one thing Scotch is distilled fewer times, and for another this was a tiny operation. I had a dram of the Edradour whisky (one and a half, Bella couldn't finish hers) and quite liked it. It wasn't nearly as harsh as a lot of the Island malts I've tasted.
On the way back we ended up stopping to help a stranded motorist. We didn't have room for her in the car and there was no mobile signal where she was, so we drove down the road and called her husband from there. His comment was, "Oh, broken down again, is she? She's always doing that." Nice dour old Scottish guy!
The trip back to Edinburgh was a bit of a blur for me, as I was pretty tired from (accidentally) staying out all night the night before. I ended up spending most of it either half asleep in a blur of 80's rock or completely napping. Most of it was just motorway, though, so I didn't miss much.
Was so nice of the Aussies to take me along - I totally enjoyed the trip and Fee was a great tour guide. I hope I will be able to get my butt in gear and plan a few more road trips of that sort. Hiring a car is quite cheap (though I'm scared to drive on these roads) and there's so much of the country I haven't seen yet.
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