A Scottish Odyssey – Part 3

After a couple of days back on the farm catching up, we headed back to Stonehaven to visit Dunnottar Castle. The weather was great when we left but had turned into mist and fog by the time we reached the castle just a few miles up the road, such is the nature of things up here. The bleak weather just added to the eerie atmosphere shrouding the dank old medieval ruins. Dunnottar is best known as the place where the Honours of Scotland (the Scottish crown jewels) were hidden from Oliver Cromwell’s invading army in the 17th century.

We were well into September now and the weather was starting to get colder and wetter so it was time for another jaunt into the Cairngorms. This time we would be going past Balmoral and on to Braemar to stay the night in a fancy wooden cabin that was big enough for six of us, and at £150 the price was right too. Unfortunately, the weather was not with us, and the journey up into the highlands was somewhat treacherous with driving rain and low visibility.

Braemar is a little like Ballater, a wee touristy town that ramblers and cyclists use as a base to explore the surrounding area. There would be none of that for us due to the rain so we explored the local pub instead. After hearing all of these horror stories about £7-8 pints in the UK, we were pleased to find that prices were around £4-5 on average still, even in touristy places. The evening would be spent at the barbeque at the cabin with some good music, good food, good people, and even better single malt. The drive back the next day took us through some spectacular landscapes, through Glenshee, and back out of the national park to Forfar before we headed north again back to base.

It was coming to the end of our Scottish Odyssey and one of my final jobs was to help collect and chop wood for the coming winter at the cottage. The outside fire is the main source of heat and with an abundance of wood from storm-felled trees, it was a bonus to have free fuel in a country that was suffering an energy price crisis.

I had bonded with Scotland much more than I expected and enjoyed staying there more than in England. The people are very friendly whereas they won’t even look at you in the south of England. The roads and traffic are not a problem, you can park where you like, the food is fantastic, and the scenery is superb. Many of these factors are due to a much lower population density (16% of what it is south of the border in England), which makes it a much nicer place to be based in the summer and autumn months where the wet seasons mean incessant rain in Thailand.

On a miserable Thursday (Sept. 8) we left our base in Scotland that I’d really become attached to and made the long drive back to Manchester as reports filtered through on the radio regarding the Queen’s health. That evening news broke that Queen Elizabeth II had died in Balmoral at the age of 96.