Sunday, August 02, 2015

Sixteen Days in the UK - Part 3

Part 3 - Eastern Scotland 

On Monday, we were at the point where we HAD to do laundry. We looked online and found a place in Lochee, near Dundee -- an hour away. We found the place, and the ladies were happy to help us with soap and change for the machines. It was a small town, and the Scottish accents were so thick we could hardly understand sometimes, but we got the job done. 

We left the laundromat and headed for our next castle, Dunnottar. This was the one day that we had "real" Scottish weather - chilly, drizzly, and grey. But we were also out on the east coast, looking out over the North Sea. To get to the castle, you walk down almost 200 steps, almost to sea level, and then you walk across a bridge and back up almost as many to get to the gates of the castle. It was exhausting!  The site has been inhabited since the Picts, so that's thousands of years. There's a space in the hillside where it's reported that the Earl Marischal kept a pet lion in the 14th Century. Some of the buildings are falling down, others were built later so they're still standing. Each of the castle ruins that we visited had at least one room that had been recreated in period style. At Dunnottar, it was a sitting room, with a beautiful fireplace. 

After we recovered from hiking back down and back up all those stairs to the car, we set off for the hotel. We had decided earlier not to have dinner at Kinloch, so we headed into the town of Blairgowrie. Driving around was a little bit eerie - everything was closed! Yet another place where the sidewalks roll up at 5pm. We ended up eating in the restaurant at the Royal Hotel Blairgowrie... we were the only ones in the place. They were having a special, "pint and a pie for £10" so we took them up on it. By the time we left the restaurant, there were people on the streets again. 

I will say that all that fresh air and hiking made for a good night's sleep. We had a lovely breakfast at the hotel on Tuesday, and then we were off driving west. We did want to take the scenic route, but the mapping software accidentally put us on a smaller, narrower road than we intended. [Scotland has M roads (big highways), A roads (2 lane wide roads) and B roads (1 1/2 lane narrow roads).] John had a heck of a time with the twists and turns and oncoming trucks! Eek! We rerouted ourselves to an A road as soon as possible. 

As we went past Loch Tay, we took a wrong turn (another B road), but this time it was a
good thing - we ended up at the Scottish Crannog Centre. We were just in time to catch the guided tour of the Crannog and try out the ancient tools. A crannog, we found out, is a dwelling that was built as far back as 2500 years ago, on wooden pilings out over the water of the Scottish Lochs. The crannogs were large enough to hold up to 20 people, and their animals! (Must have smelled great...) The Scottish Trust for Underwater Archaeology has studied the remnants of a few of the hundreds of crannogs that may have existed, and rebuilt this one in the style of the originals. We also tried out the primitive lathes, rock drilling and knitting tools, and took a turn through the museum. What an incredible accidental "find!" 

Then we were back on our way to Oban, which was still about 2 hours away. We drove through some lovely countryside -- the sun started to come out as we made our way west -- and stopped to take pictures at least once. We also apparently drove through a rut that would cause a problem later... but we didn't know it at the time. 

We found the lovely seaside town of Oban, checked into our hotel (dragging our luggage through a half-dozen fire doors and up two flights of stairs), and went for a walk. It was high season for tourists in Oban - there are boat trips to see otters, seals, and lots of nearby islands, advertised everywhere. After dinner, we wandered back through town and stopped at the War and Peace Museum. The museum started with a display for the 50th anniversary of WWII back in 1995, and grew from there. John spent a lot of time talking to some of the veterans who staff the museum. 
The sun didn't go down until almost 10pm, and we were in bed with our eye-shades on soon thereafter!  We didn't know it yet, but Wednesday would be the most sedentary day of the trip... and not just because we were exhausted. 

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