I had a “deep thought” today as my dad and I drove out of Edradour distillery on our way to the 1,200-year old Pictish Aberlemno Stone in Angus. You see, I’ve been digging at my obsession with Scotland and trying to understand the basis of its origin. I was a psychology major after all. But why no love for the good old USA? Surely the States’ natural beauty measures up to Scotland. Home sweet home has plenty of attractions like the Kentucky Bourbon Trail…um, Wall Drug, and…the Corn Palace? I kid, but seriously, what’s the deal?
Enter the “deep thought.” America is like blended whisky and Scotland is like single malt whisky. That could be the Edradour talking but stick with me. America is a great blend of cultures – it’s a beautiful thing – but finding a rich vein of a particular culture can be difficult. Or when you do find it the experience is slightly removed and dulled. Traveling in Scotland is a such a pure immersion into a constellation of cultural elements that I love. It’s not just the scenery. It’s not just the whisky. It’s not just the history. It’s how all of these things intersect to create something greater and rare.
Now that I’ve conveyed my somewhat opaque “deep thought,” look at this tree eating a fence! Bad fence!
I promised slice-of-life posts while I traveled, remember? Edinburgh was just as engrossing as ever, though it felt very familiar. Perhaps I came back too soon? Nevertheless I had the chance to reconnect with friends I made last year, like Jools of Trains on the Brain and Fred from Edinburgh’s Campaign for Real Ale branch, and see some new places under the auspices of Traveling Savage. I trekked down to Rosslyn Chapel and managed to get some photos and explored more of Edinburgh’s seaside locale, Leith. Then there was the Caledonian Brewery and its delicious pints.
The first day with a rental car is always a little exciting here in Scotland, and I had a few wrong exits on roundabouts much to my dad’s cardiovascular dismay. After an hour driving north of Edinburgh to Perthshire, I remembered one fundamental law for visitors to Scotland: you must rent a car. The trains in Scotland are convenient and afford gorgeous views, but a car gives you serendipity, and that is priceless. I never would have found Elcho Castle without one, and that’s just a minor example. Prior to reaching Pitlochry yesterday, we stopped off at Moncrieffe Hill, the site of ancient Pictish fort. The fort is gone but the 360° views from the hilltop were in full effect.
Scotland’s central belt is home to several distilleries I’ve missed on my journeys. I’m rectifying that now. I scheduled a lot of appointments prior to the trip. There are plenty of things I’d like to do in the area and too little time. This is what makes travel interesting and addicting. We always want to see that last sight, do that last thing, visit that last place. So I have to choose. And I’m thinking, even if I choose unwisely, it’s still a distillery visit.
I’ve spent the night working in the beautiful common room at Torrdarach House in Pitlochry. My dad is witnessing the life of Traveling Savage first hand. It’s not all glamor – today we did laundry – and drinking fine drams. Well actually, there’s a lot of drinking fine drams. But it’s medicine for the melancholy soul because sometimes – just sometimes – you really miss the way things are back home. Your significant other, your pets, your routines.
That moment is the best part about travel.