We are already early on the ferry from Dunkirk to Dover so that we can cross all England in one day. It will be a long day because we first have to travel to Dunkirk for over an hour, then 2 hours on the boat and then continue for 700 kilometers to Abington in Scotland where we have booked a hotel. We take some pictures on the boat and on the way we have 2 stops to drink coffee and refuel, but otherwise we do not get out of the car and only at the beginning of the evening in the hotel. A long drive but I like it better than the boat to for example Newcastle where you are locked up for almost a day, even if it is on a luxury boat.
We have not booked breakfast and eat our own sandwiches with some coffee in a coffee bar nearby. Then we quickly get on our way and Teije has already taken out his big map of Scotland. On this he marks all roads we have driven in Scotland and he looks for the still unknown roads. From here we immediately drive the first new roads to Douglas Water. But well, then there is such a closed bridge and what do you do? Very simple: with a big detour to both sides of the bridge and then just walk over it. So, another road that can also be marked off on the map!
Friday 12 May 2017, exploring new roads in Scotland
Tonight we are expected in Inverness at Beauly so we are slowly going north and soon see our first castle of this trip. Craignethan castle stands high above the Nethan river on a cliff with steep slopes and so easy to defend. That did not help, though, because 8 years after construction, the owner, Sir James Hamilton, is accused of high treason. He is executed and King James V takes his castle although it will be released to the family a few years later. It is one of the few castles in Scotland where we can not find a ghost story about. Especially the defenses of this castle seem to be impressive for the time in which it was built.
Slightly further along the Clyde river, we see two buildings that I like much more than the big castles. They are gatekeeper houses or gatelodges that usually stand at the entrance to an estate. In the past, the gatekeeper lived there, now they are empty or rented out. A long time ago at Arverikie Estate we stayed for a few days in such a mini castle, a special experience. I would like to have such a house, which is a lot more fun than such a big castle (think only of the cleaning of the place).
After this visit we drive another hour and then see a pyramidal monument of boulders with an inscribed stone, in the vicinity of Dunblane near Sheriffmuir. As is often the case in Scotland, it is a war memorial. On 13 November 1715 a battle took place here between Jacobites (mainly Highlanders) and the army of the house Hannover with mainly English soldiers. Jacobites wanted the Roman Catholic Stuarts back on the throne of Scotland while the house Hanover at that time had the power over Great Britain and Ireland. Now there are forests here, then it was probably a bare peat area, a moor. The pyramid is a memorial for the many members of the MacRae clan who fell in the battle against the Jacobites. The latter, however, won the battle against a much smaller army but then withdrew and forgot to take advantage of their victory and eventually the Jacobites were defeated that same year.
The whole of Scotland is full of castles or country houses that resemble one. For me, every building with a turret is a castle. Now the building on the left picture could also have been a former abbey or even a fortified farm. Unfortunately there is no sign saying what it is. Half an hour later we see in the distance another castle-like building that is being scaffolded. Unfortunately, the GPS function of the camera regularly fails and we have no idea where it is exactly, somewhere in Pertshire, the area around the city of Perth.
We still drive a lot of other unknown roads and at Birnam we go to our favorite stop on the way to Beauly, the Birnam Inn. Birnam and Dunkeld are 2 villages on the Tay River where a bridge was only built in 1809. Both towns are quite charming for a walk and we have this inn for years now as a permanent stopping place when we are going north, for a cup of coffee and sometimes a bowl of soup. We are going to sit outside but it is not as nice as yesterday, a thick sweater is really necessary.
From Birnam we drive a number of roads that we do not know yet and we encounter an imposing gate at the Clunie hydroelectric power station on the Tummel river. But why that massive gate is there, no idea. Slightly further along the river we see a hidden castle in the distance but we do not see any accessible roads that lead to it. There will be someone living there who likes to have his or her privacy. Well, I would be like that if I owned such a castle.Then it is time to take the A9 motorway to Inverness again, although it is largely a dual carriageway. We have to drive for 2 hours and then we arrive at Beauly where we are warmly welcomed by our Scottish friends Iain and Cathy, who live here, and our English friends Rachel and John whom we meet here often, usually we try to let our stay coincide.
Last September we saw each other for the last time and we sit together all night and chat. But we are tired after 2 long travel days and do not go to bed too late, we will be staying here for a while.