Friday, 28 June 2013

On a crannog

As I approached Pitlochry, I saw a sign announcing "loch/lake" access. I then thought to myself, "I didn't know there was a loch in Pitloch...oh. Boy, do I feel silly."

In Pitlochry, I made phone contact with Tamsyn, the daughter of someone Mummy went skiing with in Norway. She lives in Perth, and been mooted as someone who would be willing to put me up for the night and indeed she was. We made arrangements for the next day.

I also phoned my cousin Donald D. in Edinburgh to see what progress had been in arranging to see him and his family especially his mother, Mary, whom I had not seen since 1996 despite two visits to Edinburgh. It was still a work in progress, so we left it at that.

The weather the next morning was mixed rain and cloud with a stiff wind out of the North West or so. In rain gear, I followed NCN route 7 to Kenmore along quiet if somewhat up-and-down roads against the wind. I made poor time and it was only afternoon that I reached the Scottish Crannog centre.

Crannogs were houses built on stilts in various lochs early in the first Millennium BC. The Crannog Centre had a reconstruction of a crannog to visit with an archaeologist tour guide whom I embarrassed a couple of times. The first time was after a general lecture on what was known about the crannogs and there inhabitants.There seemed to me a curious omission in the diet described by her, so I asked her if they ate fish or shellfish at all. Her answer wasn't very good in my opinion as it amounted to a vague "maybe". On shore, we were shown working examples of various tools thought to be used by these people including a trio of wood lathes. The first of these was a bow driven lathe which she described as inefficient and asked for volunteers to help power the thing. I volunteered along with another man. We pushed and pulled the bow back and forth with such vigor that it turned out that the design could be quite effective, though I did point out that it required a sturdy pair of men to make it work properly!

After lunch, I retraced my steps to Aberfeldy making much better time with the wind now at my back. After stopping at the distillery to buy a bottle of single malt as thank you present for Tamsyn, I took a busier but flatter road back to the the junction of NCN routes 7 and 77. Along the way I could see white water rafters on the River Tay. This reminded me of a case that Donald D.'s father had won on behalf of such people against owners of salmon fishing spots. (Donald later informed me that the case had been on the Spey not the Tay, but I suspect his victory had likely established precedent.

I rolled along through the afternoon, making decent but not terrific time. The NCN took me along the Tay into very manicured grounds beside the river. I felt ever so slightly nervous some ghillie would pop up and either escort roughly off the grounds or charge me £10 for the right to ride across the Duke of Dunrovin's estate. ;-)  It turned out to be the Dunkeld Hydro Hilton. (Dominique D. later told me that "Hydros" were temperance spa-type resorts.).

Shortly thereafter, the NCN took me in front of the Dunkeld railway station. As it was getting a shade late, the day was cold and I was tired I decided to investigate if there was a useful train anytime soon. As it turned out, there would be one in about twenty minutes, so I rang Tamsyn and gave her the train's ETA in Perth. She met me at the station which proved to be a bow-shot from her flat.

I think we got on quite well. After supper, she gave me a short tour of downtown Perth followed by a stop in a pub for a pint.

The next morning, I ran a couple of errands in Perth, including getting a ticket to Edinburgh before setting off to visit the Palace of Scone. In the process, I got lost in Scone. Once I found the Palace, I made a point of having a scone in its coffee shop. Doubtless, many others have done the same play on words.

The Palace of Scone is very much a stately home. Its video history makes a very definite point as to how a great many Scottish kings were crowned there.

It also makes a slightly petulant point that the Stone of Scone should not have been taken to Edinburgh Castle on its return from London to be displayed along with the Scottish Crown Jewels. It instead implies it should have come to the Palace of Scone. As a historian, I disagree as the coronations took place at the Abbey of Scone, which burned down in the 16th century. I need to check my facts but I believe the last coronation of a king there was that of Charles II and wasn't any entirely kosher affair as Cromwell and company were truly the people ruling Britain. The present building is more recent and no longer has the power it had having become a largely private building.

I got back to Perth much more efficiently and caught the train to Edinburgh, arriving mid-afternoon. The trip took me across the fabled Forth Rail Bridge, the painting of which was once synonymous for a Sisyphusian task.

I love Edinburgh. However, I suspect that there will be a day of reckoning for the city planners regarding Princes street as it is clogged with buses and will get worse once the tram system starts running. They have also made the sidewalks too wide. Consequently, I found making a North-South transit somewhat hair-raising. There is a 19th century railway tunnel between the New Town in the vicinity of Scotland Street that might be useful as an additional route for traffic.

I got to my guest house where I deposited much of my clobber before setting out on Edinburgh in search of a book or two before supper. I wasn't particularly successful.

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