This morning we woke up at our perfectly delightful bed and breakfast in Crieff called Comelybank Guesthouse. The proprietor, Mrs. Marion Lewis, and her husband prepared all the guests a full Scottish breakfast of eggs, sausage, bacon, tomatoes, beans, mushrooms, toast, and tea or coffee. They even had a vegetarian option for me.
At the suggestion of Mrs. Lewis’s husband, we headed to the Famous Grouse Experience at the Glenturret Distillery. As you drive into the parking lot, er, car park, you’re greeted by a giant sculpture of a grouse. We didn’t do the tour of the distillery (lots of driving ahead of us today, you see), but we did visit the shop where I bought a special souvenir: a personalized bottle of their Famous Grouse Whiskey (not for me, for someone else).
We then made our way towards the Croft Moraig Stone Circle via an out-of-the-way-but-well-worth-it scenic route. From the distillery, we headed west on the A85. This allowed is to enjoy stunning views of Loch Earn, which is located on the eastern edge of Loch Lomand and the Trossachs National Park. The A85 then took us to the A827, which took us out of the national park and along the northern side of Loch Tay for some more stunning views of an impossibly gorgeous lake.
We eventually made it to our next destination, the Croft Moraig Stone Circle. I happened to have pre-loaded my Google map to show us where exactly it was, and I’m glad I did, because I’m not sure we would’ve found it otherwise. This stone circle is located right by a farm. The farm is clearly marked from the road, but the stone circle isn’t.
I’ve been to two other stone circles, Stonehenge and the Hurlers (in Cornwall). Croft Moraig is a very small, intimate circle, compared to the other two, but I’m still glad we came. This one dates to 5000 years ago, the first part a construction of 14 timber posts arranged in a horseshoe of 8 by 7 meters. These posts were eventually replaced some 4000 years ago with 8 standing stones, which were surrounded by a stone bank 17 meters in diameter. The third phase of construction involved adding 12 more standing stones around the horseshoe making the whole site 12 meters in diameter. None of the standing stones are taller than 2 meters.
I just love stone circles, because I love the pagan, Druidic nature of them. I hope to see all of Britain’s stone circles some day, and I’m glad to have added Croft Moraig to the list.
Following this small excursion, we started to make our way to Aberdeen via another scenic route. A straight line between two points might be most efficient, but it is by no means most interesting. The A827 took us to the A826 which took us to the A9 and then the A93. It was a three hour journey, but it was well worth it! The A93 is actually the Snow Roads Scenic Route that takes travelers through the southeastern quadrant of Cairngorms National Park, and it happens to be the highest public road in Britain.
And my goodness! What a fucking gorgeous drive! (Pardon me.) But seriously! Yes! So, so beautiful! Unlike anything I have ever seen!
Well, all right. Some parts reminded me of Minnesota’s North Shore and other parts Washington State’s Cascades, but other parts really were unlike anything I had ever seen. Tall, tall peaks (five of the six tallest mountains are in the Cairngorms with the tallest being Ben Macdhui at 1309 meters), sheer drops, jutting granite, and patchwork patterns of heather that added a unique character to the steep, steep summits. This drive through the Cairngorms was really very, very special. I just can’t stop thinking about it. It was a real, real special pleasure getting to know the Cairngorms, and I doubt I have enough superlatives to describe what such a gorgeous landscape this is!
And the sheep! The sheep added such an adorable character to these mountains. It really was quite incredible. Sometimes they would just be grazing right up to the edge of this windy, windy road that turned left and right and up and down as if we were on a roller coaster. Really and truly… this drive was something else!
We eventually arrived in Aberdeen and so far it has been underwhelming. Aberdeen seems to be a very grey, grim city of concrete and shades of East Berlin. We came here out of necessity since Inverness didn’t have accommodations. There are still some cool things in the area we want to see (Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, the North Sea, Provost Skene’s House), but Aberdeen certainly isn’t as magical as Crieff or Edinburgh. Maybe our adventure tomorrow will change my mind, but we shall see…
1. As you drive through the Cairngorms, you’ll come across a number of castles as well as Bal Moral. We didn’t stop at any today because we put in probably about six hours of driving, which is quite a lot considering we went through part of the windy, windy roads in the Scottish Highlands. Plus, it was kinda nice to take a break from looking at old castles and cathedrals (as exciting as that is!) in exchange for driving through such a gorgeous part of this incredible country.
2. If you do find yourself in Crieff, do see if you can stay at Mrs. Marion Lewis’s Comelybank Guest House. She and her husband are lovely, the rooms are decorated with her own needlework, and the breakfast was divinely delicious!
3. Today I saw a house that had a flagpole flying a Scottish flag. It was the first house I saw since we’ve arrived that had owners who flew their nation’s flag. It’s really refreshing how understated the Scots’ patriotism is. I wish certain Americans would take a page out of their book.