The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Sunday, May 23, 2010

No Particular Destination

I just had the nicest day. My friend Kevin is a musician from Glasgow who comes up to play at different venues throughout the Highlands on a fairly regular basis. Whenever he's in Inverness, if he stays overnight rather than making the 3 hour drive back to Glasgow, he stays at our house. This weekend he had 2 gigs in Inverness, Friday night at the Glen and Saturday night at Dow's. He dropped his stuff at the house last night and stayed for a cup of tea before heading off to the Glen, then tiptoed back in after he was finished with the gig. I like to go hear Kevin play when he's in town but since I have final exams coming up on Tuesday and Wednesday I have not been out much lately. Today was a beautiful day and this afternoon Kevin suggested I take a break from studying and hop in the car for a wee roadtrip. I looked out the kitchen window at the puffy white clouds in the sky and the bright sunshine and, well, it didn't take much arm-twisting.

We weren't even really sure where we were headed when we left the house. We just knew it was a day to be outside. So we drove toward Loch Ness and stopped in Drumnadrochit (a small town on the banks of the loch) for ice cream at an outdoor cafe. As we left town we made a snap decision to turn left, then right and ended up on a single track road. Single track roads are very common in the Highlands. They are paved but really only wide enough for one car so there are lots of small widened areas to pull over and let oncoming cars get past. After a while neither one of us knew exactly where we were anymore. But that was OK. We were just enjoying the drive. When I saw a sign that said Corrimony Cairn I got excited and suggested we go see it. Corrimony Cairn is a Neolithic burial site that I've heard about and wanted to see for some time now. So we turned off to go find it. After we parked the car we had to walk down a lovely little country road for a bit where we couldn't resist stopping by the fence to try to coax the baby lambs over to us. They were so cute but, alas, totally uninterested. When we reached the cairn I gave Kevin a bit of a running lesson in archaeology. I had studied chambered burial cairns in one of my classes last semester, which is how I knew about this one. I even got to look like a real smartypants by explaining that this particular building technique was called corbelling. The cairn is round and each course of flat stones is positioned just a little closer inward than the last so that eventually they almost meet and the top can be covered with a 'capstone'. The entire thing is then covered with turf. Ancient burial sites dot the entire British Isles and there are undoubtedly many as yet undiscovered because they simply look like little hills. The capstone at Corrimony had been removed during the excavation and if you climbed the mound you could see down into the chamber. You can also get down on your hands and knees and crawl through the entrance chamber to the inside but neither one of us were too keen on emerging with muddy hands and knees! So we climbed around and studied cairn from the top looking down in and checked out the dozen or so standing stones that surrounded it. To think that something that people built  4 thousand years ago is still here for us to see and marvel at! Who were they and who was the woman whose remains were found inside when the site was excavated in the 1950's? We spent about half an hour there and then headed back to the car to see what else we could discover on our mini-roadtrip. 

We eventually ended up in Glen Affric. In Scotland a lake is a loch and a valley is a glen so Glen Affric is a very long very wide forested valley with a couple of lochs that happen to be connected at one very narrow point. As we were driving beside the first loch (we had no idea what the name was) we saw a sign that read 'Dogg Falls'. That looked interesting so we turned in and parked the car once more. It was kind of a little picnic area beside the water with trails and a bridge over the water to the other side. We climbed out onto some big rocks to sit beside the loch for a while and just bask in the sunshine. It was such a peaceful place and very pretty.

Our next stop was very similar to Dogg Falls but the sign read 'Loch Beinn a' Mheadhoin'. Well, at least now we knew the name of the loch, even if we couldn't pronounce it (it's obviously Gaelic so it would have been fruitless to even try!). We walked down one of the trails to the water's pebbly edge and contemplated how cold the water must be. That's when Kevin suggested I take off my shoes and socks, pull up my pantlegs and wade in so he could take a picture. Oh my god! I don't think I've ever been in water that f@*#king cold! I was laughing telling him to hurry up as he was deliberately futzing around with the camera just to make me stand in the water longer!

Our last stop was at Loch Affric. We decided to take a hike this time and wound our way along a trail down toward the loch and then back up and away from it. The ground was kind of boggy here and there and there was tons of thick heather which will be gorgeous when it blooms (in August, I think). We weren't in any hurry so we stopped to investigate a few of the little burrows that we saw along the trail and any interesting plants that caught our collective eye. We even checked out the deer poop and could see the deer tracks in the boggy ground! When we were up high we could see a ways up and down the glen and both wondered what the name of that peak was way off in the distance. We could have continued on further but we decided it was time to make our way back to Inverness if Kevin was going to have time for something to eat and a shower before work.

After we got home we walked over to the chip shop for a couple of orders of fish and chips which we brought back to the house and promptly devoured. The temperature was just starting to cool off a bit so we decided to catch the last of the day's warmth sitting in the back yard yakking for a bit before Kevin had to jump in the shower.

There have been so many nice days lately that I've had to shut my eyes to because I needed to finish a paper or work on a project or study for my upcoming final exams. It was such a nice break to just set it all aside and take off for the day with one of my favorite people. Kevin and I never run out of things to talk about and he's very easy to be around. He's intelligent, very well traveled and just a really nice guy. We all look forward to seeing him when he's in town and he knows he's always welcome to crash on our futon whenever he wants to. 


Shauna said...

That *does* sound like the nicest day. Hooray for spontaneous outings! Your certainly work hard enough. :)

Nikki said...

I also very much enjoyed this post. Explored the area right along with you guys. Thanks for sharing!!