Going Dutch!

Those of you who will have read my previous posts, may recall the adventure Alan and I had up Ben Hope last year, particularly my arduous descent of the mountain in the company of Dutch tourists, Evelien and Rene.

The couple were touring the highlands of Scotland and, having prepared themselves with a few earlier walks, decided to tackle their first Munro (Scottish mountain over 3000ft).

We met them on the summit and as is the custom, exchanged congratulations and pleasantries with them and another small group of walkers before heading for the descent. Little did I know that at that point, a minor discomfort in one foot would become a major obstacle to my safe descent and the catalyst for a growing friendship and a whirlwind tour of Perthshire!

It was during this descent that the minor ache quickly became a gnawing agony that left me struggling down treacherous terrain on one leg and a pair of (borrowed) walking poles! The tourists and first-time Munroists were kind enough to accompany me down the hill and, to my great delight, award my misfortune with a good measure of fine Scotch once safely down!

Sadly, our new acquaintanceship was short lived, as Rene and Evelien had to dash off to their next residence, some miles away! But details were exchanged and promises made to keep in touch!

Over the following months, occasional contact was exchanged and invitations to return for a tour of central and eastern Scotland was extended both from Alan and myself. To our delight, in April we received (albeit short!) notice of our friends’ arrival in Scotland, and their intention to tour the Isle of Skye and more, over the following ten days! Fortunately, we had the time to spare, so made arrangements to meet in Perthshire.

Sadly, Alan and Jean had prior plans for that weekend so were unable to join us, however, I was fortunate at this time, to have female company open to a camping trip at Loch Tummel, so with Jackie and I organised sharpish, we set off for Tummel in glorious spring sunshine with intentions to arrange a rendezvous with our travelling pair up in Pitlochry.

With the camp set on the shore of the Loch, we headed into town for our evening meal before heading back, building a roaring fire and settling in with a good bottle of red… oh, and a bottle of Morgan’s spiced rum… oh, and a bottle of Scotch!!! The Loch was like glass as the sun dipped and we watched a pair of bats flit back and forth over the surface of the mill-pond-like water, mopping up any insects that lingered. It was a fine evening.

Next day we were up a little too late and a little too hungover but looking forward to our arranged meet, presumably for a meal, later that evening. Freshened up in the shower block at Tummel Bridge caravan park, we headed into Pitlochry for lunch and a wander round the shops before heading out of town for a tour of Killicrankie. in blazing hot sunshine.

We descended the path down to Soldier’s Leap, that famous spot where redcoat trooper Donald McBane jumped for his life over the Garry river during the battle of Killicrankie in 1690, and made our way along the river to the footbridge, before heading back along the road to the visitor centre for a much needed ice-cream!

We jumped back into the car and rooled back to Pitlochry wondering if our friends had arrived in town yet. . Imagine how surprised we were when, having speculated on just such an occurrence, we chanced upon Evelien and Rene leaving their car in the big tourist car park, just as we pulled in!

Happily reacquainted and having introduced the couple to my new partner, we joined forces for an assault on Edradour distillery! With blood-curling battle cries (maybe not) we charged the front gates and made for the shop, dirks at the ready and claymores in hand (ok, I’ve went too far now)!

We emerged heavily laden with bottles of the liquid gold that spouts from this place and made haste for the armoury (the bar actually, I’m at it again!) and took it upon ourselves to lighten the burden of the shelves that carried a bewildering array of Edradour flavours, escaping before the redcoats arrived (ok, that’s enough)!

On the way back down the hill we stopped off at one of Scotland’s best pubs… The Moulin Hotel, where we partook of some of there homebrewed ale before, by way of gracious thanks, pinched a few logs from their doorway to stoke our Loch-side fire… much to the delight and amusement of the onlookers!

Back into town, we took a walk over the dam and headed into the Port-na-Craig restaurant with appetites running wild and were glad to be served some better-than-average fare with an excellent bottle (or two) of red! However, Holland was shaken to it’s core when Rene, with wild abandon for all things Dutch, sneakily paid the bill! To cries of ‘sneaky bastard’ (Rene’s favourite Scottish insult), we fell out the door of the restaurant in good spirits!

With a (wobbly) stroll across the suspension footbridge, we headed up the hill full of fun and hilarity and fell into a bar for a few more sherbets before bidding all goodnight and stumbling back to our relative hidey-holes!

Next morning, Jackie and I struck camp there on Loch Tummel and refreshed once more, headed for town and another day of hilarity and frolics with our friends from Holland.

I’d promised my new friends I’d take them to one of my favourite spots among the landscapes of Perthshire… MacGregor’s Cave, so we planned the trip for that afternoon. However, plans were soon altered when we discovered (so much for me the tour-guide) that the Atholl Gathering and highland games were to take place that very day! So we bundled ourselves into Rene’s hired Laguna and dashed north for the games without a moment’s hesitation!

We arrived with the sun blazing on the open grounds of Blair Castle, the crowds small but steadily building. Walking among the stalls, the air was filled with the aroma of grilling beef and venison, mixed with the patriotic sound of the pibroch, as single pipers warmed up their performances for the individual competitions.

In the main arena, a score of kilted athletes gave a stirring display of their strongman prowess in such uniquely Scottish disciplines as caber-tossing, hammer throwing, shot putt and much more as the girls impressed on the dance stage the fine art and athleticism that is highland dancing. But the highlight of the day’s events had to be the grand entrance of the Atholl Highlanders, Europe’s last remaining private army. In full regalia, with bayoneted muskets and massed pipes and drums bringing a lump to the throat, they marched proudly into the arena before setting off a cannon in salute of their leader, the 11th Duke of Atholl.

We lingered just long enough to see we’d lost the raffle (for a large bottle of Scotch… what else?!), before setting off once more for Pitlochry and the trip west to MacGregor’s Cave. It was late afternoon and the light took on the familiar yellowish hue of a summer evening among the hills as we crested the viewpoint at the cave.

With my usual salesman-like spiel on the context of the cave in Scottish history, I gave my friends a tour of the structure, essentially a concealed and fortified bothy, cleverly built into the hillside. An impressive structure where the couthie highlanders could hide out in relative comfort while observing the movement of government troops on the opposite side of the glen and thus avoid capture or harassment.

A short time later we were back down the hill and loaded into the cars for the journey south through Aberfeldy and on to Dundee, and an hour later we mounted a highland charge at the Rama Thai restaurant in Dundee’s Dock Street! We emerged thoroughly satisfied after a different sneaky bastard (aka Jock) got the bill!

Before the daylight could fade, we made our way up Dundee’s most prominent landmark, The Law Hill, to watch the sun set over a city with probably the best natural setting in the world! Back in the cars, we headed north through the city, pulled into my driveway around 8pm and settled in for the evening with our freshly opened bottles of Edradour… bliss!

With Jackie back at work early that Monday morning, my guests and I were left to enjoy a long lie, but by 11am we were all showered and sitting at the kitchen table for a full Scottish breakfast, ably conjured up by yours truly and a fine start to what would be another fine and frolicsome sunny day in the Scottish hills!

With bellies satisfied once more, we set out up the A90 Aberdeen road and after 10 minutes took the turn into Forfar, where Alan awaited our timely arrival. With Alan on board we set out for that most familiar place to Dundee’s walking and climbing fraternities, Glen Clova. On the way we passed through Kirriemuir, birthplace of James Barrie, author and creator of Peter Pan.

We parked up at the Glen Clova Hotel after an entertaining, roller-coaster ride up the glen, Evelien’s breakfast protesting as we approached the hotel! Although it was a slightly fresher day, the sun was still high in a crystal clear blue sky (believe me, this IS Scotland!).

We set off up the path to Loch Brandy, a deep dark body of water nestled among cliffs some 500 or so feet above the hotel. Steep but well maintained, the path zig-zags it’s way directly up the side of the glen, levelling out as it approaches the Loch.

We set a steady pace up the Brandy path as our guests hadn’t had quite the chance they’d had last year to condition their legs for such a steep climb, however we all reached the loch in good form. As it turned out, the light breeze enjoyed in the foot of the glen proved to be something of a buffeting Sirocco at this altitude and the wind chill was having an effect, so our plans to scale further up the flanks to the plateau above were left unfulfilled. Something of a shame as it would have offered our guests a fine view of that great imposing massive, Lochnagar. Nevertheless, the short and invigorating walk certainly put colour in our cheeks enough to earn us the right to a beer back at the climber’s bar, so after a quick snack and a few photo shots, we about turned and made for a warmer and less lively altitude!

On the way down we met with 500 Sutherland highlanders and mounted on his fine steed Alan led a charge… er… sorry, I mean; we walked into the climber’s bar at the Clova hotel and ordered a round for the troops! Once our thirsts were suitably quenched, we rolled back out to the car for an easier, more leisurely drive back to Forfar and a meeting with Alan’s better half, Jean.

The plan was to take occupation of The Plough Inn, a mere 500 yards from Alan’s place, but as fortune would have it, meals were no longer being served on Mondays! Groan! So we set off once more into town to find another meal-providing pub, crashing into the Queen’s Hotel in time for yet another hearty meal (we ought to be the size of houses by now)! On this occasion, Rene was to reinforce his prowess at being a sneaky bastard, when he got yet another bill, oh well, we’re getting used to it… besides… no-one complained! All fed once more, We made our way back to Alan and Jean’s and ensured our guests were settled into their room.

At this point, Jock left his guests to the mercy of his friends’ hospitality, bade all a fond farewell and returned to everyday life cheered by the previous few days’ adventures. The following day, Alan and Jean were kind enough to give them a tour of Braemar, allowing them a spectacular view of Lochnagar from the north.

Looking back over our escapades, it was certainly a weekend to remember and although the relationship wasn’t to last between Jackie and I, I’d like to express my thanks for her contribution to my guests’ experiences.

Here’s tae us, wha’s like us!

Jock

Going Dutch!

barbreck

Dundee, United Kingdom

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Friends enjoying the best of Perthshire, Scotland

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fun scotland

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