Scotland Reminiscences

I have been reading “The Scottish Prisoner” by Diana Gabaldon. As is always the case when I read her books, I long to visit Scotland once again. I went back and reread my posts on our trip to Scotland. It felt as if I were there again. I wish I had written more immediately following our trip. One thing that I was reminded of what is the name of the fish and chips place we stopped at in Pitlochry. It was called “The Plaice to Be”. I thought that was just a funny little Scottish way of writing the word place. The other day I learn something. Place, spelled plaice, is a kind of white fish frequently eaten in the United Kingdom. So it was actually a wonderful little play on words, since that kind of fish is often used to make fish and chips. You learn something new every day.

I’m sitting in the parking lot of Home Depot. We are doing some lawn repairs, so I am here to pick up some more garden soil that we can plant some grass seed on. What started out as a gorgeous, sunny day, is turning quite cloudy and blustery. I am kind of actually hoping that it does rain. I don’t want to do yard work all day long. And the only way I’m going to get out of it, is if it does rain. So, off I go into Home Depot, to pick up the soil, and then back home to finish what we can before it rains. I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

By the way, wish me luck on this diet thing. I am still struggling. And to make matters worse, I found out that I gained another 3 pounds. Great! Trying to lose and I gain. Story of my life.

UK Trip – Day Two (continued)

Pitlochry is a great little town. It’s quite picturesque and was one of our favorite little towns in all of Scotland. We spent quite a bit of time in the visitor center there, partly looking for souvenirs, partly gathering information about the area. The woman who helped us was really wonderful. Her accent was great too! After buying some t-shirts for friends of ours that said “I have friends in Scotland”, a refrigerator magnet, and a great map of Scotland, loading up with every brochure imaginable about Scotland’s various regions, we trekked on down the main street of Pitlochry. There were dozens of great little shops, and I think we went into every one of them. We didn’t buy anything, just did a lot of looking. Around lunch time we noticed several people eating fish and chips from Styrofoam containers. It looked really good, so we asked one couple where they got it. There was a place on one of the side streets called “The Plaice to Be” (spelled just that way). We headed straight for it since we were starving. There was a line of about 10 people that wound out the door and in front of the take out place. Obviously, this WAS the “plaice” to be. We looked at the menu and decided to just go for the fish and chips, though there was pretty much anything you could want on the menu. They had steak pie, haggis, sausages, and some things I had no clue what they were. We saw the steak pies and they looked pretty tasty, but we were ready for some fish and chips – our first since our arrival in the UK. We were not disappointed. The piece of fish was huge! In the US, you usually get two or three small pieces of fish and a pile of chips (fries), so we were awed by the giant piece of haddock that we were given and the enormous of steak fries it was served with. Jonathan and I opted for the vinegar, of course, but Tom hates it, so he just had salt. This was strictly a take away place with no seating, so we walked down the street a bit and found a stone wall upon which we could place our take out boxes while we ate. We joined the others who were eating their fish and chips while standing on the sidewalk. One bite and we were hooked. The fish was hot, moist, and delicious! My only complaint was that, by the time we got to the fries, they were kind of soaked with grease from the fish, and I really couldn’t eat much more. Tom wanted to eat every dinner there for the rest of the stay. He really, really loved it. It was good, but I’d take it somewhere I could sit down to eat it, and separate it from the fries so they didn’t soak up all the grease. If you go to Pitlochry, give “The Plaice to Be” a try. It’s just east of the main street on the north end of town. Excellent food!

After we ate, we explored the town a bit more, taking in the scenery, the quaint stone houses, the beautiful gardens, the old churches. It was a really great day and we would love to go back and try out some of the pubs we passed. I highly recommend a visit to Pitlochry. I know we didn’t see half of what we could have had we spent more time there. Interestingly, I found out from my sister that she stayed at a B & B there when she visited about 8 years ago. I had no idea.

There are some great sights in Pitlochry, like the River Tummel, Loch Faskally, and the Edradour Distillery. I believe the Queen’s View at Loch Tummel is close by as well. We didn’t get to take in any of those sights – this time. We will next time. We did stop by Blair Atholl and Blair Castle, though after hours, so all we could see was the outside of the castle, the grounds, and the Hercules garden. I will post photos of it in the next few days. I have posted about 15 new photos from our trip to Stirling, which comes on Day Three, so checkout my photobucket.

UK Trip – Day Two, Part 1

The second day dawned wet and grey.  The plan was to go into Kenmore, the little town just half a mile from the resort, and just walk around a bit.  I made a hearty breakfast of eggs, toast, bacon, and orange juice.  Jonathan downed one of the mini boxes of cereal as well (growing kid and all).  We gathered up cameras and maps and headed off for our first day in Perthshire, Scotland.  I have to say this – Perthshire is perfectly situated for getting about in Scotland, especially where we were.  We were smack dab in the middle of the country, making everything around us pretty accessible within a couple hours drive.  I highly recommend to visitors to the country to find somewhere around Pitlochry to stay.  Now, on to our day.

Kenmore is a very small town.  It sports a hotel with a restaurant, a church, an antique shop, a few houses, a school, and that’s about it.  We walked down the path that led from the old Taymouth Castle gate toward the castle.  It started sprinkling lightly, but not enough to make us bring out the umbrellas.  The walk was beautiful and peaceful.  The path was lined will all sorts of trees we’d never seen before.  We’re from a land of lodgepole and Ponderosa pines, grand fir and cedars, aspens and birch, larch, maples, and cottonwoods.  I’d never seen a beech before.  I have no idea what some of the trees were.  All I know is, they were beautiful.  The yews really caught our attention.  We have small yew shrubs around that people plant in their yards, but I’ve never seen wild ones, and never any as large as the ones we saw.  I found myself marveling at the different flora as we walked along the path.  We finally realized the castle was a lot farther along than we’d thought, so we decided to turn back and drive to the other entrance so we could see the castle – our first.  The narrow roads were still a challenge, this being only our second time on them, but we drove slowly and had no mishaps.  When we finally arrived at the castle, we were disappointed to find it surrounded by a chain link fence and covered in large green tarps.  Apparently, it was closed while it was being remodeled into a 6 star hotel.  Previous visitors had commented on how beautiful it was inside, so it was disappointing to not be able to see it.  We decided to drive the few miles into Aberfeldy and explore there.

Aberfeldy is a really cute little town.  Oh, a warning to Americans.  We tend to call everything a town.  We’ll say things like “hey, I’m going into town tonight.  Do you want to come along?”  We might use that phrase whether we’re going into Portland from one of the suburbs, or whether we’re driving 45 miles from our cabin in the woods into the population 350 town closest to us, or just going from our subdivision into the part of town where the movie theaters are.  Well, in the UK, they make a distinction between a town, a village, and a city.  Once we said something like “how large a town is Birmingham?” and the person to whom we were speaking quickly said “it’s a city”.  Ah-ha… so…how big is a city versus a town?  I suspect Aberfeldy might actually just be a village, not quite meeting the qualifications for townhood.  Nevertheless, it is a great little village.  The first thing we noticed as we entered Aberfeldy was a road sign, their version of a caution sign, that read “Elderly People” with an icon of two people, slightly bent, with canes.  Okay….so we were to be on the lookout for random old folks crossing the streets?  Jonathan, naturally, insisted Tom and I stand under this sign as he took our picture.  You’ll see it on the photobucket site.  We saw several of these signs sprinkled throughout Scotland.  We realized they were positioned wherever there was a nursing home.  Interesting.  We saw other interesting signs.  One was a pretty typical pedestrian crossing sign – an adult and child and a crosswalk – but the school signs were interesting.  They showed kids running.  Oh, and emergency exit signs in restaurants and stores made me laugh.  You know how you’re always told never to run in an emergency, right?  Well their signs show a person fleeing and the word exit.  I guess in the UK you’re supposed to run as fast  as you can to get the hell out in case of emergency.

Aberfeldy has a cute little town center with a little roundabout in the middle of it.  There is a co-op grocery store there, some cute little shops, and a Bank of Scotland.  We went into the grocery store and bought some necessities – Coke, cookies (biscuits), potato chips (crisps), sausages for breakfast, and a few other things.  I honestly believe Coke has a monopoly in the UK.  You could find Pepsi, but it was really hard to find Diet Pepsi, and I never could find it cold.  But any flavor of Coke you wanted – lime, cherry, vanilla, you name it, it was there and cold.  Weird.

Down the street, we found the most delightful bakery.  You have to visit a bakery daily in Scotland.  They have the BEST stuff!  We went in just as it started raining a little, ready for something hot to drink and sweet to eat.  An older Scot gentleman and his buddy were ordering something he called “double D’s” “for the way they look” he told us.  Basically, they’re meringues and whipped cream, and yes, they do look like “double d’s”.  Jonathan ordered banoffee pie, I ordered scones and clotted cream.  Tom just had a latte.  We chatted a bit with the teenage girls working the counter, mostly so we could listen to them talk and find out a bit about life in Aberfeldy.  Our first Scottish meal out among the natives, so to speak, and it was delightful.  The older man and his buddy were really delightful, very friendly, and great to listen to.  We were loving it!

After our snack was consumed, we continued our walk along the main street of Aberfeldy, meandering into shops, buying some coffee since all we had at the room was instant, and marveling at some of the unique sculptures we found in one of the little gift shops.  But Aberfeldy is a village, and it didn’t take long to exhaust our shopping options.  On to Pitlochry…..

UK Trip – Arrival at the Resort

We finally arrived at our abode in Scotland, The Kenmore Club, in Kenmore, Perthshire, at about 4:00 pm. The trip from Edinburgh took just about 90 minutes. While Tom had become somewhat comfortable driving on the carriageway, the Scottish version of a highway, the road we had to turn onto from it, which would take us to our resort, was a different story. If we thought the lanes on the A9 were narrow – and they were, although there were often two lanes traveling in each direction and not just one – they were nothing compared to the A827. The A827 is a two lane road with no shoulder at all. In fact, not only is there no shoulder, where the shoulder should be, right along the fog line, there was usually a stone wall. We had the distinct impression that, in order to avoid having the side view mirror on the driver’s side ripped off by oncoming cars, we would have to drive so close to these fences that we’d surely scrape all the paint off the passenger side. The car seemed much too wide to traverse this road without some sort of collision with oncoming traffic, especially when the oncoming traffic was a truck (lorrie) or bus. And of course, the road was a winding, twisting road with sharp turns at very frequent intervals. Now and then we’d run into a sign that said “oncoming traffic in the middle of the road”. Uh, okay…and what were we supposed to do with that information? I pretty much sat in the passenger seat and used body English to keep the left side of the car from making contact with the stone walls, closing my eyes when oncoming traffic approached so I wouldn’t have to actually see us scrape the side view mirror off. I just waited for the sound of crunching metal and shattering plastic. Amazingly, it never came. With a sigh of relief, we arrived at the resort and I went to check in.

The staff was very friendly. They quickly gave us our key and parking pass and directed us to our cottage. The resort is made up of a group of white cottages with black wood trim, all arranged in a square around a beautifully landscaped courtyard. Each cottage is comprised of two units. Some units are two-bedroom, some are three-bedroom. We had a two-bedroom unit. The cottages are surrounded by a high stone wall, once part of the original castle’s wall. Two ancient stone gates guard the entrances. Each cottage is two stories with bedrooms and bathrooms on the main floor and the living room, dining room, kitchen and another bathroom on the second floor. As we entered our unit for the first time, we were very pleasantly surprised at how spacious and modern it was. From the outside, it looks to be quite old, but inside it is pretty new. Each bedroom had its own bathroom. The master bedroom had a large bathroom with a tub/shower combination. The other bedroom had a smaller bathroom with a stall shower. Upstairs was another full bathroom with a tub/shower combination as well. The kitchen was spacious and well-stocked with dishes, silverware, utensils, and pots and pans, as well as the “food packs” I had arranged to have delivered. These consisted of a loaf of bread, half a dozen eggs, a variety pack of cold cereals, orange juice, butter, milk, tea, orange marmalade, bottled water, and instant coffee. I had ordered two food packs, so we had plenty of food for breakfast for the week. We would have to remedy the coffee situation as soon as possible, though, and add some bacon or sausage to the list for a hearty breakfast. But first, we needed to sleep. We unpacked our toiletries, had some eggs and toast, then went to sleep. It started raining as we fell asleep.

Below is the view from our balcony at the Kenmore Club in Scotland. The water in the distance is Loch Tay. The old stone gate between the cottages is one of the original gates to the Taymouth Castle, upon whose grounds this resort is built. Behind us is Ben Lawers, one of the tallest mountains in Scotland. This was taken on a really beautiful, rare, sunny morning at about 6:00 a.m. I’ll post a larger version of this photo, as well as some more photos of the resort, on my photobucket site: http://s45.photobucket.com/albums/f58/ginaemory/Scotland%202006/