Time Traveling in Scotland

by Keith Savage · 10 comments

The Newton Bridge in Sma' Glen, Central Scotland

We wended our way along a valley in the northeast corner of Scotland’s Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park. Gargantuan swooshes of earth reared to the sky, barren save for orderly patches of conifers and maybe a little snow melting fast in the warm sun. Here and there at the feet of these towering hills were simple white houses where smoke curled from chimneys. The narrow road mirrored the meandering course of the River Dochart, and every slow curve unveiled another vista of ancient character.

If I squinted or focused in a certain way, almost like falling asleep when I ignore certain sounds and fade out, I could mistake this section of central Scotland for a different age. This feeling of history just beneath the veneer of “now” is common to all of Scotland’s wild, rural areas. As we passed along Loch Tay I could almost see highlanders running over the hills all a-kilted. Is it just my imagination? Have I just watched Braveheart and Rob Roy too many times?

The answer is a quick “yes” to both of those questions, but that doesn’t invalidate the sensation. The fact is that much of Scotland has little visible modern infrastructure to dispel the ghosts of history.

The four days I’ve spent in Perthshire have solidified this region as one of my favorites in all of Scotland. The area is perfect for the outdoorsy traveler with loads of hills and forests to hike and lochs and rivers to fish. I took advantage of the stonking weather (as the Scots say) to tackle a few hikes, and I particularly liked the strenuous climb up Craigower Hill in Pitlochry. With more time I would have retraced my steps from previous trips to the Queen’s View and the Pass of Killiecrankie.

I managed to visit four distilleries in the area, including Deanston, today, which provided a top-notch, honest experience. More on this later, but if you happen to be going to Scotland and interested in whisky, give a visit to Deanston some thought. While I did a fair amount of hiking, I also did a lot of driving and this part of Scotland is a driver’s paradise. I hope I’ve established that driving is completely worth it, but in honor of full disclosure it’s not cheap. I filled the tank of our small Kia Cee’d three quarters of the way for £50. You do the math. Today’s drive proved the A827 from Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park toward Pitlochry to be in the upper echelon of beautiful Scottish drives.

Since I’m a large fantasy nerd, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit Doune Castle just next door to Deanston distillery. HBO’s Game of Thrones recently shot footage here for Winterfell Castle, and in my world that’s awesome. Tomorrow we head up to Speyside for the Spirit of Speyside festival. It’s going to be a very busy part of the trip with several whisky-soaked events each day, and I’m amped up to participate. I’m honored to have been invited to the opening awards dinner at Macallan distillery. Moderation not intoxication, that’s my mantra.

Time is traveling in a different way, too – like an hourglass. We just completed the first week of the trip and now only two weeks remain. More ghosts for the hills.

Jeremy BranhamNo Gravatar May 10, 2012 at 1:37 AM

I love this area of Scotland. For the last two years, I have immersed myself in Scottish culture and have learned so much about the people and the cultures. I am completely fascinated by this area and have fallen in love with Scotland. The Loch Lomond area is beautiful and I would love to explore this one day. My experiences here have changed how I’ve viewed Scotland forever. I’ve been able to bit of time traveling through Scotland myself – but the views aren’t quite as good as this.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar May 10, 2012 at 3:50 AM

I didn’t know you were such a Scotophile, Jeremy. But then, it is a magnificent place that infects most who come here with the desire to return.

Simon PNo Gravatar May 6, 2012 at 1:22 AM

Scotland has such a fascinating, bloody history, too. I took a day trip up to Loch Ness by coach and the whole time the tour guide was saying “If you look out on the left you’ll see the where [insert name here] massacre took place” and then, a minute later: “Now if you’ll look out on the right you’ll see where [insert name here] had his head chopped off…”

Keith SavageNo Gravatar May 6, 2012 at 3:59 AM

Ha! It’s true. Scotland has had periods of incredibly violent history. In some ways it’s sad to hear it turned into a tourist attraction, but I can’t deny how it interesting it is.

Georgina CurtisNo Gravatar May 5, 2012 at 5:24 AM

I’ve never been to Scotland before and never been an option because of the many famous vacation spots around the world. But then I see your photos and fell in love with it. It looks like a very pretty and solemn place to spend time with my whole family.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar May 7, 2012 at 4:45 AM

It makes a great vacation with the whole family. I speak from experience.

AndreaNo Gravatar May 3, 2012 at 10:00 PM

Gorgeous photos! If definitely looks like an awesome place 🙂

IdunNo Gravatar May 2, 2012 at 5:17 PM

What? Some of Winterfell Castle is filmed at Doune? That’s so cool! I only knew that it was used in Monty Python and the holy grail, which is mainly why I went there some months ago. Have you read the books for Game of Thrones (where the series is actually called “A song of Ice and Fire” by the way, and only the first book is actually called Game of Thrones) or do you just like the tv-series?

Keith SavageNo Gravatar May 2, 2012 at 5:22 PM

Tis true, what I say about Doune Castle. I’ve been reading A Song of Ice and Fire for more than 10 years now. Sadly, the TV series pales in comparison to the books, imho.

IdunNo Gravatar May 2, 2012 at 5:36 PM

Wow, that’s for a long time you’ve read them. I only discovered them when a Feast for Crows came out in 2005 or so. I completely agree on that, it really does pale in comparison, but then, tv-series/movies of books are generally not even half as good as the books, so I’ve stopped expecting them to be. Like this one is overly fixated on sex and violence (surprise, surprise), with Littlefinger’s whorehouses being used for all they are worth, or the made-up gay thing between Ser Loras and Renly. I mean, sure there might be some hints in the books that one or both might possibly be gay, but there’s definitely no scenes of them being intimate in the book. But I guess it would be less popular if it wasn’t that way, as many (or maybe most) people seems to be interested in sex, violence and drama.

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