Great Scot

Interesting things we saw on our Scotland trip. The massed cumulus clouds outside our plane window as we flew over the Nullarbor were the most breathtaking I have ever witnessed. They were miles high, yet somehow the lens does not do them justice.

Just outside Edinburgh: hey have many beautiful weeds on the field verges in Scotland (if the innumerable deer have not chewed them all down!)

Many delightful burns. This one was in the lovely little town of Aberfeldy – I would go back there.

The (back) roads are exceedingly narrow. This one was nearby the Fortingall Standing Stones and Yew tree. They are single lane, then there is a stone wall. Believe it or not between the road and this wall there is a 3′ deep drain only about 1′ wide. You have to be paying very careful attention to your driving particularly if folks behind you are wanting to push you to go faster (all too common) – which is a pity as you miss some pretty scenery which there is almost nowhere to pull over to admire. Private property gateways mostly. An ever-present grouse in the field beyond the wall.

This is the ancient yew tree reputed to be the ‘oldest tree in Europe’ – thousands of years anyway. It used to be much larger (a largish church sheltered under it). The circumference of the trunk is marked by a circle of round pegs. 6-8 metres diameter anyway. You can see a couple of them in the photo. Unfortunately it was hollow and some idiot burned it down. Astonishingly it came back to life and has since seeded! So seedlings exist.

These crows were at Kenmore at the Eastern end of Loch Tay

As was this charming cemetery – almost worth being dead.

Somewhere along Loch Tay there was this wonderful shop selling a bewildering variety of home-made horn and antler ornaments where we maxed out our credit cards with souvenir gifts for the kids, sock knives, fancy spoons  and such.

These amazing slugs were ubiquitous. This one was up one of those small white roads which I highly recommend at Loch Bad a’ Bhathaich above Alness. It was thriving on a large dog dropping left behind perhaps by one of the Baskerville hounds – at least the dog had killed and eaten a red deer. We have slugs with similar habits here in Gippsland. Ours are tiger striped and 4″ long.

This was the Glen Orchy valley above Dalmally, one of the prettiest spots we saw.

Canoeing at Glencoe. I often do this sort of thing! There is an ‘entertaining’ three metre drop just like this on the Thomson (Gippsland) above the Walhalla Road bridge. The weird thing about these guys is that was all they were doing (and in very cold water), no beautiful river trip downstream. No cold beers or glasses of wine on sunny banks below…

A delightful stone bridge on a quiet back road near Plodda Falls above Drumnadrochit via Loch Ness. ‘Drum’ as they call it has perhaps the worst fish and chips shop in the whole world! Naturally that was where we ‘chose’ to introduce ourselves to that supposedly wonderful British staple for tea. Never again! Fortunately we had the makings of sandwiches in the cooler bag in our hire car!

Around Camster I was impressed by this roof

And the amazing brocks

And some of the ubiquitous red deer.

A jackdaw amid the interesting C19th industrial ruins at Castletown – some good campsites here. No-one in Scotland could name this bird for me – a ‘crow’ was their best guess. I thought it was called a ‘jackdaw’ but they could not confirm this. Thanks internet. So many folks everywhere are city people, aren’t they?

Cliffs at Dunnet Head aswarm with sea birds, mainly kittiwakes (seagulls to us!).

There are lots of campsites which are easy to miss. This tiny national Trust park and walk called Heathsfield at Dunnet Head is a case in point, as is the delightful Brough Bay opposite.

It was a gift from a deceased couple who had made it their life’s work to restore bothies (huts) for hill walkers. You have to do something with your life I suppose.

Brough Bay – two splendid campsites here.

A astonishing stone dog house at Mary Anne’s Cottage, Dunnet.

Where the rhubarb grows amazingly well!

The Red Priest’s Stone on the Strathnaver Trail (near Tongue) has links to St Columba. Only the  sheep are interested in this bit of ‘holy’ reliquary now – as a scratching post for their behinds. May all such nonsense pass away just so. In times past folks were killed on account of this stone. Weird stuff!

One of the crofts which was ‘cleared’; on the Strathnaver trail at Grumbeg. Its only use now is as a rubbish tip. There was an interesting old motor car decaying into the pasture behind it too. Adjacent was the ruin of a brock 6,000 years old. Such a desolate and depressing place where 300 people had lived on 50 acres (for endless centuries) only to be evicted by their ‘laird’ c1820 (for sheep – which are still there). No doubt they lamented for a time – until they saw how much better NZ, Oz and Canada were than this awful place they had been condemned to for centuries! The laird can’t be bothered spraying out the rushes and other weedy rubbish which would allow him to run more sheep than evicting the people did! At least double the number I would guess.

A very strange old car – a ‘Centaur’ perhaps. Someone will know.

Harvesting peat just out of Durness amid an absolutely awful desolation. God what a depressing place! Near there an old woman drowned harvesting peat in just such a gully (the compulsory informational sign opined). I imagined she drowned herself. I would.

As was the entire West Coast. Godawful scenery. What a splendidly slimy loch.

There were places there you could see the ruins of one wee keep through the ruins of yet another. Mad kilted savages murdered each other for centuries over this dismal scenery. How awful.

The River Spean made one piece of pleasant relief as we fled South towards Della’s dad’s hometown of Hawick on the borders.

But the Cairngorms were simply appalling.

Here is my wee Scottish lassie enjoying a glass of wine in the Bourtree Hotel Hawick. Great food and very cheap!

A cheerful robin greeted us in the gardens there.

And this delight.

And they certainly were lovely gardens (along the Teviot river). This was her dad’s back yard where he must have played as a boy.

He used to work in the woollen mills there (before the War). Most of those are long ago closed, their businesses moved to China, as this factory ‘entrance’ indicates.

‘Life will find a way’ – on a Hawick chimney.

The Wellogate cemetery where Della’s ancestors remain in hiding despite two days spent searching for them!

These dandelions were at the front gate of Della’s dad’s old house (near the Motte) in Hawick. They were utterly huge, perhaps 2″ across. He loved dandelions – I can understand why now!

 PS: It is very easy to find suitable car camping spots in Scotland. This is a good thing as accommodation is mostly pre-booked and booked out in all the warmer weather (which is why everyone is hurrying on the terribly narrow roads). I do hate (mass) tourism actually. I would agree to go nowhere except my own ‘back yard’ if everyone else would agree!

There is no need to pay for accommodation, though you may need to pay for washing – yourself or your clothes. A Sea to Suummit camp shower can take care of the former, and a simple canoe drum the latter. You could also consider this interesting hiking washbag, the Scrubba. 

Mostly you can camp alone (particularly on the back roads) but Scotland (like everywhere else) suffers from that peculiar ‘disease’ where as soon as you pull over (even to ‘go’ behind a tree – well, there are not as many trees as I would like actually), some idiot pulls over right behind you ‘thinking’ perhaps there is something interesting to photograph! Perhaps there is! The ‘B’ and most minor white 2WD roads are most worth exploring even though they will almost all be dead ends leading to hunting/fishing lodges perhaps or just forestry blocks. The forestry blocks merited much greater exploration instead of the touristy things. Another time perhaps.

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