Chateau in the Wilds of Alyth, Perthshire 2005
This years "foreign trip" was to a picturesque and green land where the native population almost spoke English. Our guides were Bruce and Alice Miller who many of you will have met at Stoneleigh over the last few years, They always said it was a long journey and the Scots don't exaggerate.
Anita and I left Suffolk in the hottest day of the year so far an Friday 27th May heading north east from Ipswich intending to break the journey at Keswick. We did, eventually, reach our friends house In Keswick about 11 pm in torrential rain having hit at least a dozen sets of roadworks on the way.
Next day the roadworks had all moved north overnight and caught us again (how did they know our itinery?) as we want up through Glasgow (Celtic were playing Rangers() heading for Edinburgh. A sign said there was at least an hours delay queuing far the bridge owing to, YES! roadworks so we found an alternative route into Perthshire. Meantime the other Merlins had mat up in Penrith overnight and were somewhere on route to the town of Alyth, our destination In beautiful Perthshire, We had started off with the hood dawn but it didn't last long. We were surprised at haw quickly the weather changed but we shouldn't have been. Scotland Isn't lush and green for nothing. It was still raining as we entered the town of Perth Itself but we know we only had about 20 miles to go. As we idled up to a set of traffic lights in the town I pulled alongside 3 other Merlins. None of them noticed my Marlin. Andy Bell was asleep driving his car as normal so he had an excuse, So I let Andy go first then nipped in before the next Merlin. Then they noticed (apart from Andy)! We were all delighted to finally arrive (aver 650 miles for me, France is much closer!) Here's a brief diary of the week's activities:
Sat. 28th May - Settled into the one-time Old Folks Home called Airlie Mount in Alyth. (Henceforth known as the Camp!). This proved to be very roomy and comfortable and a good base for some tours, The big sitting roam had a huge fireplace, ideal for the logs provided, which was tended most carefully every evening by John and Barry.
Sun. 29th May - Started the day with a mammoth fry-up courtesy of David. Everybody needed it after the long haul from the South. This was the day for the Highland Games at Blair Castle (by special request of David), We drove through Blairgowrie and Strathardle to join the main A9 at Pitlochry and headed north to Blair Atholl. Got the tickets then saw some of the Atholl Highlanders, the only remaining private army in the UK, before having lunch. Watched the Games in the afternoon -- Caber Tossing, Highland Dancing, Shot Putting, Discus and so on (see programme), Sunshine and a couple of wee showers. Back to Camp via Dunkeld.
Mon. 30th May - Through Blairgowrie to Meikleour with its huge Beech Hedge and via Stanley to Pitcairrigreen, a tidy little village where the cars were much admired, except by one of our Perthshire Witches who complained bitterly about one of our members going behind a large tree, the curse is probably still with him!! We headed through Methven into Glen Almond, past the famous School of that name, and up through the Sma' Glen to Amulree. We took the single track, high road through Glen Quaich, as we thought we had a good chance of seeing Red Deer and maybe eagles, but the few deer were a long way away. The road took us down a few hairpins to Kenmore where we had an excellent lunch, overlooking the Tay, and the cars were much admired once again. Bruce led us along the road on the south side of Loch Tay, which had not been resurfaced since 50 years ago, when he was last on it!! Got to Killin, had a look, but rather wet, so headed through Glen Ogle and Lochearnhead, hoping to got coffee at the Crieff Visitor Centre, but they saw us coming and put the lights out not surprising being 5pm. We went down to Auchterarder and had a coffee before heading back to Camp via Perth.
Tues. 31st May - Went to Pitlochry, had a most interesting visit to Edradour Distillery, the smallest in Scotland, before heading for the fish ladder at Faskally Dori - some of us saw the splash on the Surface, but John had a good view of a salmon in the counting chamber. Lunch and then off to House of Bruar just north of Blair Atholl. Our Highland Shopping Mall!! In the evening we had a Whisky Nosing Quiz, won, not by one of the fellas, but by LINDA!!! (Shades of an intemperate youth, perhaps)
Wed. 1st June - John & Margaret went to Aberdeenshire to meet relatives, the rest of us headed for Dundee in two groups, David & Linda with Barry & Anita, and Andy & Helen with Bruce & Alice, The latter four paid a visit to RSS Discovery, the wooden three master, built in Dundee, that Scott sailed to Antarctica, It did have a 450 HP steam engine, which would have been about enough to power a Porsche 911! Very interesting ship and well displayed. We four had lunch there then headed to St Andrews for a walk around then back to the Camp in time to prepare for the evenings festivities, The Angus Hotel in Blairgowrie was having a ceilidh! All for £5 per heat It was good turn with singing, dancing (including us guests) and lots of Scottish music.
Thur, 2nd June - Everyone enjoyed our morning visit to Glamis Castle, birth place and home of the late Queen Mother - a very 'homely' kind of Castle with walls about 8ft thick, Lunched at the Red House, Coupar Angus in the big conservatory from which we could keep an eye on the Merlins. The Bells and Millers went into Perth for some food shopping - Andy was desperate for a half cow for the Barbie that night! Had a Sweetie quiz in the evening - winner was surprisingly LINDA! (and Andy)
Frid. 3rd June - Lovely day, sunny and bright, Drove to Scone Palace, where the chap on the gate suggested that we park on the Coach park as the ground in the usual car park was still rather soggy. Next thing he came to tell us that the Curator wanted us to park at the front of the Palace - Bruce said "Your must be kidding, pull the other one!” - but he took the chain off and lifted the barrier and we met the Curator at the front door. We think she really wanted to impress Lord Elgin, who was coming that afternoon to discuss arrangements for the 700 year anniversary of Bruce's Coronation, in 2006, for hundreds of years Scone was the place where the Scottish Kings were crowned. The line up of Merlins impressed all the visitors from many countries, and as there was a Falconry display in the afternoon, we had to have the Falconer with a little feathered Merlin on his arm photographed with each of the cars.
We lunched there and watched the birds of prey in the afternoon before driving off to see the 'pretty little village of Kinrossie'- supposed to be all thatched cottages, villa pump and Smiddy, but that must have been 50 years ago, the pump was still there - in the middle of a collection of small, tiled houses. Went onto Meigle to see the small museum full of carved stones from the Pictish era.
Sat 4th June - Tidied up took a few last photos, made our farewells and the Scots hosts headed for home. The English headed for one last visit, The Falkirk Wheel. This is a quite amazing piece of engineering which transfers a section of canal + barges + water through a semi-circular rotation rather than use traditional locks.
From there the return journey was a simple reversal, finally arriving back in Suffolk to glorious sunshine, Thanks go to Bruce Alice for their organization and remaining cheerful in spite of the whinging English complaining incessantly about the rain.