Journey to Scotland

Part VI: Highland Tour, Part One
Stirling, Pitlochry, Cairngorms, Avimore

a travelzine by Diann

(Copyright 1996. Please do not reprint without permission.)


Webpage highlights:
The First Day of the Highlands and& Islands Tour -

August 21st:

Monday morning I awoke via wakeup call, showered leisurely, and made my tea, eating the double dose of shortbread reserved in my hotel room. It made a delightful breakfast!!

I checked out of the Stakis City hotel (I recommend this place as a good hotel in Glasgow). And now, I was prepared to go on a tour. Keep in mind that I've never taken a tour at all anywhere before (other than simple day trips which last a matter of hours). This tour, the Highlands and Island of Skye tour, was to last three days. It was sponsored by the folks running the Science Fiction Convention, which meant that my fellow travellers were to be folks from the science fiction fandom community. (Which meant that there would be some common referent points in communication, an aspect to the good, especially when one is travelling alone.)

My baggage and I went laboriously down a block and across the street to the Hospitality Inn, where we met the tour coaches. (At this point, I was wanting a Terry Pratchett-style luggage with legs to be following me -- I'd bought two sweaters in Edinburgh, and they made my suitcase a bit lopperjawed, which meant that the wheels refused to track well on remotely uneven terrain.) Finding the other science fiction fen was easy enough, even without the scattered folk wearing T-shirts from some convention or another. I think we exude a certain undefinable air, plus there's something a bit more staid about the standard tourist. On average, of course.

I was dressed a bit too warmly in a long sleeved blouse, as the weather was still doing the unseasonably warm thing.

There were 3 coaches for our tour -- I was assigned coach C, with a creative spelling of my name: This may be based on the same principle whereby St. Fechin became St. Vigean.

There was enough room in this last coach for many of us to have our own double seats. This was good, as they'd taken their leg room lessons from British Airways.

This tour (The Highlands and Isle of Skye) was sponsored via the Intersection Science Fiction Convention, thus it was quite reasonable to find that all participants had come out of SF fandom.

We drove to Stirling Castle which is in reconstruction, since for a goodly period of recent history it had been used and modified as an English military barracks. They were trying to restore it as it had once been. The kitchens had been completed -- currently they have wax figures and wax foodstuffs in there, demonstrating how life was like in a medieval/Renaissance castle kitchen. I tried to find postcards detailing some of this, but they weren't available. It was a pretty good castle, even if a contingent of our party got lost from the rest for a bit. Some nice gargoyles I wouldn't mind displaying in my garden.

This castle is well worth the visit. And the town of Stirling was visible below, through the haze of the day's air. We didn't get to visit Stirling, although it certainly looked as though it might be a worthwhile stop.

Then on to Pitlochry, where we broke for lunch -- there were six of us who joined up at one table at MacDonalds: representing various points in America, Belgium, and Germany. I ate haggis and a small salad. It was not at all similar to the restaurant chain of somewhat similar name in this country. Fortunately.

Other than lunch, and a quick stroll to a nearby stream, we did not stay long in Pitlochry.

There was a tiny little girl bag piping for change on one street corner, dressed appropriately.

We drove on to the Eduardour Distillery -- had a dram and a tour. Allegedly the smallest distillery in Scotland, it was fairly simple. I'd seen a larger distillery years ago on a trip with my folks. On the way, the tour guides told us that the Scottish rain was well- needed to replenish the springs and streams which go into the whisky (sic) they make. (So far, the drought had continued during my stay, with the exception of that brief and probably local rain we had while I was in Arbroath). (And, yes, I may as well note here that trains DO serve hard alcohol at 8:30 in the morning -- see my bemusement in the Arbroath file.)

Took a fair number of photos on the road from Pitlochry to Aviemore. The countryside often had little in the ways of trees. Sheep farming is an important industry here, and in other areas of Scotland. We drove up into the mountains, and stopped in the Cairngorms at a ski lift area. Desolate country. (The cairngorm quartz comes from here, sort of a smokey-brown stone.) A little lower in elevation, they're trying to re-introduce the Caledonian pine, a twisty, tall and handsome kind of conifer whose upper limbs tend to an orangish coloration in the wood. A very impressive tree. (I want one.)

Aviemore is mostly a ski resort; during the summer it caters to tour groups such as ourselves.

We reached the Mercury Hotel in Aviemore -- coaches A and C stayed here. There was some room confusion, with two of us not sure where to go. Another woman volunteered some room space (thanks!!), but this was cleared up. I chatted with the aforementioned folks, and met Ben (French Canadian -- he almost got a new country between the time of the trip and the current transcription...), Hiroshi, a couple of folks named Bill, Peter, Jo, another Diane, etc. One woman was also from Connecticut, and I still keep meaning to contact her.

Bus C is all singles (including a few folks traveling without their spouses). Bus A is all married couples, traveling together. As Jo put it, this way we don't have to see the couples being lovey all the time. Actually, there was a better benefit, as watching lovey couples doesn't bother me -- it was that we all interacted better than a busful of self-contained couples might. (And it turns out we weren't all singles -- a honeymooning couple from Venezuela setting out for five weeks of vacation had the back seat of the bus.) Ours was an international trip -- although Americans were (over??)represented, there were folks from Britain, Canada, Belgium, Norway and Holland on our bus.

Dinner was paid for with the tour. We had a selection of about 5 entrees to choose from, from which I selected an appetizer and poached salmon. My table companions noted that poaching seems pretty common in the highlands, but poaching eggs as an alternative to getting a license seems a tad extreme. (Our sense of humor may take some getting used to...) At any rate, that salmon was fresh, delicate, and delicious.

That night (of the 21st), a few of us got together and filked a bit in the bar. (Filking is a particulary-SF fandom type of thing, where people sing songs relating to topics of interest to science fiction and fantasy fans. The word comes from a typo of the word "folk", and has stuck.)

It was hot sleeping that night -- they're not used to this heat wave in the highlands -- I had to lay the ample coverings for a frigid winter's stay down there on the floor. I'm sure the patrons of the ski slopes appreciate them in the winter. If one stays in Aviemore, I recommend the Mercury Hotel. (And the rooms are amazingly large.)

Diann's Scotland Page | London | Glasgow | Edinburgh | Ayr | Arbroath | Highlands-1 | Highlands-2 | Intersection | Cuisine

Last Updated: Friday, March 22, 1996