Pitlochry to Crieff....Sea Monsters, Spirits and Statues.
The ferry from Stornoway had us arriving at Ullapool at 6:30 pm, but our hotel that night was in Pitlochry, almost a four hour drive.
Not a lot of time for site seeing, but the geography really changed from the islands to the mainland. The steeper mountains, trees, green grass, cows and sheep were postcard Scotland.
At the half way point of our drive was Inverness just north of Loch Ness. Loch Ness was only about 15 minutes off the route and was not on the itinerary but Robyn and I discussed it and realizing that the question we would get asked most often would be " Did you see the Loch Ness Monster? " we decided even though it was getting late to take the detour and go see Nessy.
Loch Ness was almost ocean like, dark gray water stretching off into the horizon. We pulled into the first viewing area we could find to take a few pictures. We didn't have much time, so it was very convenient that Nessy surfaced right away when we got there.
Not sure what all the fuss was about, like all the Scottish people we interacted with, she was very friendly and accomodating and even posed with Robyn for a picture.
Pitlochry is a beautiful town with a great shopping district. We arrived late so everything was closing, but the hotel was gorgeous and a short walk from the town center.
The next morning after breakfast Robyn got her first real shopping day of the trip. For reasons unexplainable we also got a parade of tractors through town as well.
It was on Robyn's bucket list to have a formal tea in Scotland so when we saw a handsome tea shop we made a reservation for 2:30 in the afternoon. Tea time in Scotland is serious business, not a foofy things for the ladies to go do. The place was every bit as loud and as busy as the pubs late at night. I am not a veteran of high tea so I was not prepared for the quantity of food and dessert involved ( emphasis on dessert). It took two boxes to take home what we couldn't finish.
Included their version of gender inclusive restroom signage....clearly it is all about the tea!
We did fit in a little bit of site seeing. The Hermitage is a nature walk with a lookout over some waterfalls. An easy flat walk, lots of kids in strollers. The grounds were a Duke's folly at some point and he planted some of the tree seedlings from the Pacific Northwest so it felt a little like home to us. If you look close you can see Robyn on the balcony.
One of the future Knights of the Roundtable jumped into the frame right when I shot this.
Next up was Crieff....a short run down the road to our next hotel ( Do I sound a little road weary here?....probably am. Two night stays are more relaxing. When you stay one night, feels like you barely get the suitcases out of the car before it is time to go).
We visited the Drummond Castle to view their formal gardens. This is an occupied castle so only the garden is open to view. In rather hushed tones the staff person said " The castle is home to Baroness Willoughby but she is in England right now". Lots of real estate for one person (10,000 acres).
The gardens were impressive in scale but very strange to experience. It is a very unnatural natural place with plants used as a decoration to make a pattern. As I wandered down hedge rows I felt like I was in a Stanley Kubrick film. Found myself looking over my shoulder for Jack Nicholas.
Lots of flowers constrained behind hedge rows in neat lines, but the focal points are the sculptures with lots of creepy white faces keeping an eye on you wherever you go.
I probably sound a little jaded regarding the formal garden. When we got to the greenhouse and kitchen garden it really started to make me angry. Rows and rows of produce, grape vines, peach trees. For who exactly? Maybe to feed the staff of gardners required to keep this place up?
Next to the potting shed was a 2' x 2' cart. It had a dozen plants on it and a plate of grapes. There were signs at the fruit trees that said any excess fruit produced was available for sale at the potting shed. For sale? Really? There was a large indian family having a picnic on the grass. The grandma was a sweet thing and was wheelchair bound. She had grapes in her lap.....sure hope those were paid for!
Enough ranting.....onto something more enjoyable.....the Glenturret distillery.
This is the oldest distillery in Scotland. Glenturret is a single malt whisky you will never find in the states, but it is used as part of the blend to make the Famous Grouse that you can find here.
The tour was fascinating. No cameras or cell phones considering the octane of alcohol involved. Too complicated to explain, but here is a diagram.
The product is taxed by the government, the testing "safe" is under lock and key and the padlocks have seals on them. They have to record every time they open the safe and keep records. The tour ended with some careful warnings about drinking and driving, a chance to pose with the largest bottle of whisky in the world and some tasting.
For cat lovers, the cats play an important role here, keeping mice out of the warehouse. They had a statue for the original cat who lived over twenty years and was in the guiness book of records for catching over 28,000 mice. A pretty fine cat door too.
Next stop Inverary and the Highland Games!