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Highland Hideout 1 – Road Trip, St Andrews and Stirling

Saturday 22nd October

The first day of our week-long endeavour as a nine-man-gang comprising of three separate families. We began our road trip from London to Pitlochry, close to Perth, in the Scottish highlands at 6:30 in the morning in our large rented Mercedes 9-seater.

 

There wasn’t much to do in a cramped car, so I listened to my 600-song playlist (now well into the 1000’s,) on Spotify whilst watching the mist rise in the dark countryside. We stopped for a quick snack at a Welcome Break and I ate a chocolatey mallow top covered in millions and millions from Starbucks (not very filling though, since most of it was air).

 

At lunch we stopped at Gretna Green, an apparent hotspot for many whimsical young couples wishing to elope from the mid-1700s and get married here. Throughout the town words and pictures embezzled that one word with lovehearts and roses, highlighting its rich and authentic history. There was a food hall, once the Blacksmiths’, with a small shopping hub and a large self-serve canteen where I had gammon and pineapple for lunch, along with a rather sticky cheesecake. Then it was back on the road again, and with a bit of luck and little to no traffic, we arrived at Pitlochry by 6:30, with a brief detour to the nearest supermarket, which was 30 miles away on the outskirts of Perth.

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Our cottage-or rather a small mansion-is only accessible through a narrow, winding path in the middle of nowhere, on a slight incline. The only signs of nearby civilisation are the stone walls and the occasional caravan park. The Easter Dunfallandy house is quite the treat however, with lavish fireplaces, room for twelve people quite comfortably, spacious kitchen and a backyard of free woodland, meadows and fields for miles around. I’m sure it’ll be quite the sight in the morning.

 

Sunday 23rd October

Well, it certainly was fantastic. It’s really green all the way round. Heard a group of sparrows singing outside our window when we woke up at 7:30, and there were a couple of grouse roaming the front yard too. A thick mist covered most of the upper hinterland however, so still couldn’t get the clearest view of our surroundings, but it’s still so lovely.

 

We passed through a small village next to the River Tay, taking the A923 which winds alongside it after going off the A9. It being only nine o’clock on a chilly, slightly rainy Sunday, no one was about. Unsurprisingly.

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The river is fast flowing, meandering violently at its edges. In the distance, we could see the beautiful fog spread across the covered mountains. As we flew past the forest, we could see a few deer grazing on the ferns, if only for a second. It’s not quite the same as going to Richmond Park, is it?

 

After many more winding avenues similar to this one, we reached St Andrews, where we visited the ruined church and chapel. Someone had decided leaving the bare coffins of past eons open for the grime, water and any stray person to fall into was a really good idea. We also went to the actually quite nice beach, if only the wind wasn’t so strong and the air feel like ice. The golf course next to the sea is well known, but the rain beat us to it and we had to resort to hiding out in a golf shop.

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Still not quite understanding the geography of Scotland (funny that, although I am currently doing GCSE Geography, I still haven’t the foggiest clue where most countries are in the world. Bodes well) we crossed the river and after another hour or two reached Stirling, where we ate at Jimmy Chung’s Chinese Buffet (and their rather gruff response.) . I’ve really given up hope on trying to amend my parents’ frankly annoying habit of always finding a Chinese place to go to, even though they constantly criticise my love of Italian cuisine. It happened in Barcelona, last Christmas-there were some lovely restaurants, of every stripe and colour, with a beautiful view facing the palace by the fountain on the rooftop of a shopping centre, yet we had to settle for the dingy, questionably sanitary Chinese buffet downstairs.

 

It wasn’t too bad, I guess-but the pizza place on the other side of the road looked pretty good too. We parked at Rainbow Slides car park, by the way, just next to the river, and the train station. Then, with an incredibly sharp turn up a worryingly steep, narrow road which might be fine in our normal car but not in our nine-seater, up to Stirling Castle.

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We arrived pretty late in the afternoon, so we had to view the grounds in a pretty rushed manner, but I can assure you that you should go. They’ve been working on renovating the tapestries, as well as the wooden façades on the ceiling, displaying everything from past monarchs to Roman legends. It also hosts some pretty expansive views, to say the least. Overall, a pretty great day.

~MW

News:

Back from China! And sooooooooo far behind XD Ah well, if Sophia posts one day maybe I can post more than once a month, but with next year looking quite busy with GCSE’s and such…we’ll just have to see! Thank you to all those who have been reading-and nearly at 4000 views too! Will this post push it over? Who knows O_o

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