It is somehow hard to believe that a month we had been anticipating for the last few months has come and gone so quickly. Nearly the entire month of August has brought German friends and family - some we haven't seen in over two years-
I have become so accustomed to the solitary and quiet life of a freelance writer, I was not able to keep up my normal routine that I have cemented in place the last quarter year. There was always something going on, somewhere to go, something to pick up at the store, something to cook and someone I felt I needed to entertain.
Erik and Matthias at Loch Long: This is the view we had from our tent.
I am an entertainer. I am houseproud. I love serving my guests and attending to their every whim and fancy. I put so much of myself into it, that, frankly, I am worn out. I missed my routine. I missed channeling everything that I am into creating writing that helps and inspires people. On Monday, all that returned.
Four Days in Scotland
Since I am living abroad and establishing myself as a freelance writer, I use every opportunity I can get my dirty little hands on as inspiration for articles I can sell. Currently, I am writing for Venere.com's travel blog. So, naturally, when I found out that we had a three-day weekend coming up during one friend's stay, I convinced both them to go up to Scotland for some Highland Games and some crazy camping adventures. And adventures we had.
The first of our many adventures was blowing two tires (here spelled tyres, fyi) a couple miles from our first campsite. We set out bright and early with Matthias' work car packed to the gills with camping gear and food. Around 5pm we found ourselves on a narrow one-and-a-half-lane road somewhere outside Kirkmicheal, Perthshire, Scotland. Of course the locals barrel down these country roads and the tourists stay as far left as possible - exactly what we did when two tractors pulling hay shot passed us doing 70mph. And then we heard the front tire burst. Matthias had inadvertently blown the tire by driving over a deep pothole which, as we later discovered, had a very sharp rock hidden inside it. So we pulled into a driveway, unloaded all our gear and quickly changed the tire (since the house owner was expecting guests and we had to clear her driveway).
We made it to our campsite and pitched both our tents in the pouring rain. But that is Scotland for you. And luckily, Matthias has a G3 card allowing him to go online anywhere, so we looked for the closed Mercedes dealer to take the car to. The next morning, our plans for the Strathardle Highland Gathering had to be put on hold as we drove to Perth to get the car taken care of. After all, we still had three days of touring and wee roads ahead of us in Scotland. Three hours later we had two new tires and a patched one. And interestingly enough, we had seen at least 10 drivers changing tires on the drive up from Manchester.
Around 12:30, we had made it down to the Highland Gathering and I was mesmerized. It was a highland games as you might imagine it, complete with dancers, cabre tossing and men in kilts. But it was so much more - imagine crossing all that with a county fair. Everyone was tailgating. Most of the following pictures are what we saw from where we were sitting:
The Shot Put
The Pipe Band
The Rope for the Tug-O-War
Yes, they are deep-fried hotdogs.
It was apparently the Scots who invented the deep-fried Mars bar.
The Pillow Fight (to the right behind the dancers)
The Contestants aka Dudes in Kilts
The Highland Dancers plus Piper
The Clydesdale with a Braided Butt
The breed originated from Scotland.
The Antique Vehicle Show
(Complete with retro tractor tank)
The Strathardle Highland Gathering Flag
heralding the 127th year of the gathering.
The Veggie Contest
Best Three Honey Pots
Hay Bale Rolling
The Cabre Toss
Didn't catch the name of this event
(perhaps the wheelbarrow pole vault), but...
This is what happens if you don't get the pole through
the hole without tipping the plank.
And finally, the dog race. Here they are getting reved up.
The next day, we drove to our next campsite, set up camp and went for a 2-hour hike in the rain. On our way, we drove pass Loch Lomond, one of the biggest lochs in Scotland, and some beautiful waterfalls.
Clan McNab Burial Ground
The Mill Above the Falls
Then the weather got worse and there was a 24-hour long torrential downpour. Here is our campsite and a few shots from the trail.
It was wet and really put a damper on the next 24 hours. It was so stormy and blustery that night, we thought our bug tent would be swept away by the wind into the loch. The Highlands on the backdrop of this weather were unfortunately not as impressive as they would have been otherwise, but nonetheless much more impressive than Rob Roy or Braveheart make them out to be:
But then we got closer to the west coast where, suddenly, the sun came out, we saw a castle and some gorgeous coastline and life was much more enjoyable:
We ended are day in the harbour city of Oban. Oban is the departure point for most western Scotish Isles and a haven for fisherman and tourists alike. We had a nice seafood lunch at a restaurant with a Michelin star. The seafood chowder was incredible. We wandered up and down the streets looking at all the people looking as if they had never seen the giant, yellow orb in the sky. It seems that bank holidays in Scotland are not taken as seriously as in England. The children don't get the day off and for most shops, it is business as usual.
We stopped into the Oban Distillery, along with every other tourist in Oban that day, so all the tours were already booked. As a consolation prize, we bought a mini bottle of Oban Single Malt which we sampled that night at our loch-side camping spot.
We hike up to the hill behind the city to check out the colessium-looking structure. Turns out it was intended to be a family memorial by its benefactor. This man had wanted to fill it with sculpture and art by Scottish craftspeople, but ran out of money. Here are a few more shots of what it looked like up there, plus so random hydraengaes from a gorgeous garden we passed on our way up there:
We finished our day with a stop at a fish smokery (to Matthias' delight) and bought a few samples. It was truly some of the most amazing smoked salmon I had ever tasted.
The next day, we packed up and drove one hour back to Glasgow where Matthias' dropped Erik and me off at the train station. We went back to Manchester and Matthias headed back up north to Inverness for several days of meetings at one of his project's sites.
Erik left the next day and an hour after dropping him off at the airport, I picked up our mutual friend Marc who stayed until last Sunday.
90 Days of Waiting
Three months ago, I sent in my very first article 'baby' - something which was a great labour of love and took quite a bit of courage on my part. And lo and behold, I found out last week it will be appearing in one of my favourite online knitting magazines this month. That is a huge encouragement. Now I know that I can get published and paid a decent wage for what I do. As soon as I have the link, I will post it for you to read.
I hope this finds you well and until next time I wish you love, peace and joy.