On the 10th of June, we left The Drover’s Inn after another yummy and sustaining breakfast and proceeded to spend the day slowly working our way eastward once again visiting a number of interesting sights en route. Although we could have just driven straight through to Aberdeen in a couple of hours, we were having so much fun we decided to add another day to our adventure. Our route for the day was only about 60 miles long and it was a good thing we didn’t have to travel very far because it was once again filled with many wonderful experiences and sights.
Our first stop was just two miles up the A82 highway – The Falls of Falloch.
The River Falloch passes through Glen Falloch as it makes its way south towards Loch Lomond. The falls are 30 feet high and it is a truly enchanting site set in a very peaceful glen.
It is very accessible as well. At the side of the road is a car park and then a very level and wide pathway that follows the road in amongst the trees and leads straight to the falls. At the end of the trail is a sturdy, strong, steel pier-like structure you can stand safely upon where you are positioned out over the edges of rock that surround the falls and over the pools below. It affords the perfect view of the falls.
The river meanders along down the glen and there are many delightful paths to follow tracing the water’s edge while enjoying the gurgling water as it makes its way to Loch Lomond.
After that delightful first stop, we climbed back in the car and turned east on A85, enjoying the views of River Dochart flowing through the glen along the way. When we arrived at the junction of A85 and A827, we turned left onto A827 still following the river which was headed to Killin and Loch Tay.
It’s a lovely drive and about 2 miles up that road are the beautiful Falls of Dochart and a handy-dandy coffee shop right beside the bridge no less!
Further up the road, we came to a lovely little village called Fortingall which I had visited last year with my friend Karen. It holds some very interesting specimens of architecture.
According to Wikipedia: “The attractive village of Fortingall, with its large hotel adjoining the churchyard, was built 1890-91 by a shipowner and Unionist MP, Sir Donald Currie (1825–1909), who bought the Glenlyon Estate, including the village, in 1885. It was designed by the architect James M MacLaren (1853–90) and built by John McNaughton.
The thatched cottages are notable examples of a planned village built in vernacular style (here combining both Lowland Scottish and English influences, notably from Devon) and are increasingly appreciated as one of the most important examples of ‘arts and crafts‘ vernacular style in Scotland.
The Fortingall Hotel, recently restored to its original appearance, is an important example of Scottish vernacular revival. Based on the tower-houses and burgh architecture of the 16th and 17th centuries, but in a modern idiom which anticipates the buildings of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, whose work MacLaren influenced.”
Near the end of the village is the church which I really wanted to share with Lindsay, particularly because of the ancient yew tree in its yard.
It just amazes me how old this tree is!
“The Fortingall Yew is an ancient tree in its own walled enclosure within the village churchyard. Its age is estimated to be between 3000 and 9000 years, and it may be the oldest living tree – perhaps even the oldest living thing – in Europe. Place-name and archaeological evidence hint at an Iron Age cult center at Fortingall, which may have had this tree as its focus. The site was Christianised during the Dark Ages, perhaps because it was already a sacred place.”
“The area immediately surrounding Fortingall has one of the richest concentrations of prehistoric archaeological sites in Scotland, including Càrn nam Marbh, Gaelic ‘Cairn of the Dead’, a re-used bronze Age tumulus that is said to have been used as a burial ground for plague victims in the 14th century, and a focus for the village’s Samhain festival.”
About 5 miles further we arrived in the village of Kenmore at the end of Loch Tay. We strolled around the grounds of the Kenmore Church of Scotland but didn’t go inside as services were being held.
Then we drove around the other side of the loch and admired the interesting architecture from days past at the Scottish Crannog Center.
The Scottish Crannog Centre is an award-winning and interactive center which shows what Iron Age life was like with a reconstructed prehistoric loch-dwelling. It was built as an archaeological experiment based on underwater discoveries. The thatched roundhouse is a living museum on the water. It overlooks the remains of 4 of the 18 ancient crannog settlements preserved in the loch, with the picturesque village of Kenmore to the east. They conduct interactive tours, but we didn’t take the tour as it would have taken too long.
Instead, we drove 26 miles further east and a little north to our next stop ~ Blair Castle ~ where we did take a tour!
It’s a wonderful castle to tour and is packed with all kinds of neat stuff to look at. This castle was used in one of the episodes of PBS’s dramatic productions, “Victoria,” and they had costumes and paraphernalia that the actors wore on display in the rooms where they shot the scenes. It was really cool. I loved that series and especially enjoyed seeing the costumes on display. Like most privately owned castles, they did not allow photography inside except for the grand ballroom at the end of the tour. I found a couple of pictures online of the inside though so you can get a glimpse.
One of the things that particularly interested me in the grand ballroom at the end of the tour was a display about Niel Gow who was the most famous Scottish fiddler of the eighteenth century. He attracted the attention of the Duke of Atholl, who became Niel’s patron and ensured Niel’s employment for balls and dance parties for local nobility. Many of Niel Gow’s compositions are still played today at ceilidhs and country dances.
On the stage in the massive ballroom of the castle, there is the Raeburn painting of him, his famous fiddle and the chair he sat upon to entertain the parties. I could almost hear his music playing within the walls.
After touring the castle, we walked up to the gardens to enjoy its wonders. There was a lovely rectangular pond the entire length of the garden complete with baby ducks.
We saw a picture of the pond frozen over in winter with people curling on the surface. Up by the castle’s front door, there were also granite curling stones on display that they had used to play the game years ago.
We walked the entire perimeter of the walled garden enjoying the various flowers and whimsical statues…
After that wonderful stroll through the garden, we decided to go see something else. We still had a bit of sunlight left in this long summer’s day so we drove down to the village of Dunkeld a few miles down the road. There was one more item I particularly wanted to share with Lindsay while we were in the area.
The cathedral itself is something to behold; half-ruinous – half still used as a church. Just behind the alter however was something particularly of interest to me that I was sure Lindsay would enjoy seeing – the stone carved likeness of a Knight, but not just any Knight, this one is one of my 18th great grandfathers, Alexander Stewart, the notorious Wolf of Badenoch, who burned down Elgin and Forres when he didn’t get his way many centuries ago. Earlier on this trip, we had visited Elgin Cathedral and Spynie Palace where people were dressed in period clothing and telling the story of Alexander and his escapades. It seemed only appropriate to show him where Alexander is buried.
There were many other displays with interesting artifacts at the cathedral too…
…including the original headstone of that famous fiddler we saw at Blair Castle, Niel Gow.
They also had several interpretive signboards that provided some interesting facts and information about the church and its expansive history. It’s quite the place!
At the gates of the cathedral, the oldest buildings of the town line the street back to the village’s center. Each house is marked with a blue round sign denoting its significance.
After a full and satisfying day of exploring all of these wonderful sights, we gladly checked into our room at the Atholl Arms Hotel across the street from Blair castle.
After getting our bags up to the room, we headed back downstairs to the Bothy Bar, ordered ourselves some libations and a hearty meal; Chicken Fajitas sizzling on a cast iron griddle for me and a lovely Beef Curry and Rice for Lindsay!
The following morning after a good night’s rest and a delicious breakfast of Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon & Eggs Benedict…
…we set off for home on the back roads through the Cairngorms National Park.
First stop was really close by, “Queen’s View” overlooking Loch Tummel! What a great way to start the day!
We worked our way toward the Spittal of Glenshee to begin our climb up the mountains toward Braemar.
The path we followed is shown on the map below. Starting at the lower left at Spittal of Glenshee, we drove up the glen to Glenshee, the high pass in the mountains with a ski resort at its peak!
Now down the other side to Braemar…
From Braemar, we headed toward Balmoral & Crathie (the Queen Elizabeth’s summer residence) and the town of Ballater.
In Ballater, we stopped for a bit of lunch and to check on the progress of the restoration of the Royal Train Station. It burnt down a couple of years ago and they’ve been spending a lot of time and effort to rebuild and restore it. Looks like great progress is being made!
At Ballater, we turned right and drove up the glen to the isolated Loch Muick. It’s a picturesque glen and not very many people drive up this way (unless you happen to be an avid walker or outdoorsmen) because it dead ends at the Loch. The mountains to the north are part of Balmoral Estate and therefore off limits because of its royal status.
The road didn’t go all the way to the Loch, unfortunately. The last mile or so had to be hiked. With the infestation of a million midges, we decided we wouldn’t venture to the Loch’s edge, after all, but it was definitely a beautiful drive through the glen. After that, it was just a nice leisurely drive along the Deeside Road back to Lindsay’s house and it had been another wonderful and exciting day to finish our adventures with. I hated to see it come to an end; it had been so much fun! Hope you’ve enjoyed it as well!
Attitude of Gratitude ~ I feel extremely grateful to have had one last adventure with my best bud, Lindsay. We try to fill each day since we only have a relatively short time together and I am so grateful for every moment with him exploring the Scottish countryside and its many wonders!