Monday, August 20, 2007

The hills are alive...

I can't help thinking that I didn't explain my situation to Visit Scotland very clearly. They have booked me in at a place four miles out of Dalwhinnie that can only be reached by car. I don't have a car.

Dalwhinnie is a Scottish Congupna, except with a railway station and pretty scenery. There are also kind, kind, kind people. The hosts at the B&B where I will be staying drive in to collect me. The B&B is the most adorable little cottage in the mountains that you could imagine. The hostess asks me if I want dinner. I say yes and order haggis, then panic thinking of all the things that could go wrong with a dish which is basically cooked offal.

Nope, my instincts were good. The hostess can cook like a charm and I am served the most massive plate of haggis, tatties and veg you could imagine. It's delicious, I eat the lot and order dessert. Kanga the cat comes in and investigates. It is just like home - a little furry head appears beside me, eyeing off my grub. I push the cat away - five minutes later, back she comes. We keep this up until a stressed-out Italian couple arrive and check in. Ms Italia is a cat lover. This transcend all language barriers - for some other things, such as the mysteries of the hot water service, I offer some (minimal) assistance. It also causes some awkwardness when Ms Italia asks when Kanga is due to have her kittens. Kanga the cat is not pregnant, merely very overweight. Something to do with never going outside, which is a mercy for the local wildlife at least.

I sleep like a log - not a Rotarian for miles around. The bed is so comfy, it seems a shame not to share it with someone - maybe I should leave the door open for Kanga, but I suspect we wouldn't both fit.

The next day, I go hiking up in the hills behind the B&B. This is actually not a real bright idea, as it is cold and foggy. I stick to the trail and when I run out of trail, I stop and come back. It beats the hell out of being lost. I have some wonderful atmospheric photos of misty hills covered in heather, trickling brooks and the like. I didn't manage to get a shot of the four massive birds of prey that sailed past as I trudged up the hill, slogging through mud half an inch deep, or of the view from the hilltop as there wasn't one. Paranoid sheep watch me pass, no doubt expecting me to leap up the hillside and snatch the heather from their wee jaws. The sheep around here are skinny, agile things that look a lot like woolly goats.

I have a coat, a jumper, a long sleeved top and a rain poncho on when I leave. When I get to the top, most of it is tied around my waist. As soon as I stop, the wind blows up and I have to put it all back on again. The trip down is about half an hour shorter than the trip up, but no less lovely.

The kind hosts drive me back to the railway station for the next leg of my trip - Thurso and the Orkneys!!

Insight into Scotland 4
The UK really does have wilderness. The wilderness includes all the bits that I'm currently touring and the wilderness is not overly blessed with public transport. I remind myself, if I ever come back - sod the environment, I will hire a car.

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