Our second day trip/tour with the fam (not including Nelli, who had already gone back to Nottingham) was called Highland Lochs, Glens and Whisky, but in the brochure that we spotted it in, it was also marketed as a trip to the Celtic Heartlands. The term sounded so intriguing to me that it ended up as the name of this post. To be honest, I have no idea why the area had been dubbed as such, but it was easy to imagine celtic folk of centuries past roaming the forests and lochs that we got to see. We were also told stories about fairies and their changeling babies while driving through misty, mountainous scenery, which got me in a magical mood, seeing fairies everywhere.
Our first stop was Dunkeld, where we saw the 700-year-old Dunkeld Cathedral, drank in the fresh air on the banks of River Tay, and walked around the village, which was the most charming part of the stop. (I also had the best scone ever at Palmerston’s café – it had blackcurrant in it and was served with homemade cherry and apple jam.)
From Dunkeld, we drove a short way to the Hermitage woodland, a National Trust for Scotland -preserved site, and home to some of Britain’s tallest Douglas fir trees (the seeds of which were brought all the way from Canada in the 1800s). The area is also known as Birnam Forest, and familiar to those who’ve read or seen Shakespeare’s Macbeth. We took a little forest walk in the woodlands, and admired the Black Linn falls from a little hut called Ossian’s Hall – a Georgian structure built in 1758 as a shrine for the mythical bard, Ossian.
Hopping on the stones on the river Braan’s banks, close to the falls, made me feel like Astrid Lindgren’s Ronja Ryövärintytär, or as she’s known in English, Ronia the Robber’s Daughter. Ronja was one of my favourite fictional characters as a kid, even though all the creatures found in Ronja’s woods frightened me a bit. At the Hermitage, I could just imagine the gnomes crawling up the stones and strong little Ronja adventuring away among the trees.
From the Hermitage, we drove to Pitlochry for lunch. I was too preoccupied by the thought of food to take any photos, and in any case, we didn’t get to see much more of the place than the high street, where all the restaurants were. If you’re ever near the town, though, the real impressive thing to see is Queen’s View, located a short drive from Pitlochry. We stopped there for a moment to take in the gorgeous views over Loch Tummel. The place is said to be named after Queen Victoria, who visited the place in 1866 and supposedly fell in love with the scenery, but it’s also been suggested that Queen’s View takes its name after Robert the Bruce’s wife, Queen Isabella.
Proof that there are no good hair days in Scotland
Our last stop was a tour of the Aberfeldy whisky distillery. I’m not really a whisky fan, but as with strong cheese, I can kind of appreciate the taste and understand why some people like it. We got a small taste of a 12-year-old Aberfeldy single malt whisky, which had some honey and spicey notes in it (or so I was told). I could definitely taste the difference between smokier whiskies and this one, though – it was a bit softer. To be honest, I did have to eat a banana afterwards to get the taste out of my mouth 😉
It was interesting to see the distilling process and all of the machines and barrels the whisky was made with. I had a hard time with the strong smell of yeast, though. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos in the distilling halls, but here are a couple of shots from the tasting bar and the other grounds!
A barrel from the year I was born, and a barrel of a 29-year-old whisky that my father got to taste
So, that’s it for my trip around the Celtic Heartlands, more commonly known as Perth and Kinross. If I have the chance, I still want to visit Perth itself, which is supposed to be a super cute town. It’s not too far away from Edinburgh, so perhaps I’ll just hop on a bus or a train and spend a day there some time!
I have lots of other adventures still to recount, but at the moment I’m in the middle of my final coursework. It’s hard to believe that in about three weeks, I’ll be done with my courses. After that, we have a two-week Easter break, and then a two-week exam period, but since I don’t have any exams (just coursework for me), I’ll be done whenever I finish my assignments. I still have a long way to go before I reach that moment, though!