"When Piggies Fly" Part 2: "We'll be in Scotland afore ye!"

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Rhode trip, Jul 8, 2017.

  1. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    I don't usually dwell much on the bike, but this is an interesting essay on the TW200.

  2. Turkeycreek

    Turkeycreek Gringo Viejo

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    Good video. Maybe I should ride mine
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  3. Eastbay Dirtbag

    Eastbay Dirtbag one track mind

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    +1. Couldn't have said it better.
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  4. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    Monday, June 4th

    The Pines Guesthouse is in a Victorian mansion on the east end of Elgin, with a large walled garden. It was built by a 19th century lawyer who also owned a nursery specializing in exotic trees. A circular drive curved up to the front, and we'd parked just outside the door.

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    Towering over the yard was one of those exotic specimens, the Monkey Puzzle Tree. It's an evergreen, but it's not a pine. It's a native of Chile, where it's the national tree.
    It was introduced to Britain in the nineteenth century... just about the time the lawyer was building his home and planting his garden. If you look at the branches... they look like monkey tails.

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    It was a low-ceiling day... overcast but not raining. First we topped off the petrol... and then headed south out of Elgin. Past a sprawling farm on the edge of the countryside. Why is the bacon so good in Scotland? Because... from the looks of it... Scottish pigs are pampered. These pigs spend their lives in fields of tasty, scented blooms. No wallowing in mud for these fellows... they have cozy little pig huts to keep them warm and dry when the chilly winds blow.

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    Through the Muir of Miltonduff.

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    ...and the village of Dallas. The vintage Rover and sedan look right at home with the row houses.

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    South from Dallas... across the moor.

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    There's distilleries in all directions here.... could make for a tipsy tour. Over half of the world's single malt whiskey is distilled within 30 miles of Elgin... by over 50 distilleries!

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    A pheasant roadkill. These birds are very rare in New England... they are all over the place here. Originally from Asia, pheasants have been stocked as game birds ever since the Romans imported them. There's now a large feral population as well. Remember, hunting is big business here.

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    A bridge over the River Spey. We stopped and watched the fisherman for a few minutes. He's casting with a Spey Rod, the heavy, two-handed fly rod indigenous to Scotland. These fly rods are typically 12 to 15 feet long and used on large rivers, like the Spey, where salmon thrive.

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    Fishing is big here, as well. Well-heeled anglers from around the world come to cast these rivers. My guess is the river banks below have been cleared and trimmed back for the benefit of the fishermen, as well as the aesthetics.

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    Name that distillery. A line of stone warehouses presses up against the road. Notice the iron bars on the windows.

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    The clouds have settled in along the mountaintops as we cross the moor beyond Glen Livet.

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    The mountains start to crowd in closer.

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    … as we reach the edge of the Cairngorms National Park.

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    Cairngorms was only the second national park established in Scotland, in 2003. It's the largest national park in Britain.

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    Whiskey runs deep in the history of this area.

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    The old 'whiskey road'

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    You can't ride that road, though, so we continued on the paved A939 as it snaked through the hills.

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    Keeps climbing, towards Lecht Summit. This road is notorious for being the first in Scotland to be blocked by snow when winter arrives.

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    We reached a high vista on the Lecht Road... Corgarff Castle gleaming white in the distance.

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    First built in the sixteenth century by the Forbes family, the castle was assaulted in 1571 by their archenemy, Gordon of Auchindoun. Lady Forbes was awaiting her husbands return,
    when Gordon demanded she open the gates and not only offer shelter to his troops... he insisted she sleep with him as well. She refused, and he burned the castle, killing the Lady, her children, and the 26 retainers sheltering there. The incident is recounted in a traditional Scottish ballard, Edom O' Gordon:


    In the 1700's, Corgarff Castle was rebuilt as a military post to keep watch over the military road from Braemar to St George, and was in use into the middle of the nineteenth century. Which explains why it doesn't look like a castle, though it does have a stout surrounding wall. It also served as a distillery, and as lodging for estate workers, until it was passed into government trust in the 1960's.

    Just over the crest was a pull-out, and three metal sculptures along the ridgetop. They looked like standing stones from the road, but each was actually open on the view side. You can sit inside, and all of a sudden, you're isolated from the wind and the other sounds... all is silent for the quiet contemplation of the panorama below. Pretty cool!

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    The A939 is the second highest paved road in Scotland where it crosses the Lecht Summit. (a breath-taking 2,113ft) It was, as I recall, a pretty gradual ascent... no dramatic switchbacks or anything to make it seem particularly high.

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    Checking her mirror.... nope, not much traffic!

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    The Gairnshiel Bridge crosses the River Gairn, and that's the Garnshiel Lodge just beyond. Built about 1750 as part of the military road whose route we've been following, it's narrow with a steep hump in the middle. There's gouges in the pavement from trucks dragging. Hit it too hot and you'll be airborne...not a big concern on the TW200 :lol3

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    From Glen Gairn we rode up and over another ridge of mountains

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    and then down to the River Dee and route A93. This is the site of Balmoral Castle... one of the residences of the British Royal Family. It's quite a nice place....they tell me it looks like this:

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    ...but I wouldn't know. All we saw was a parking lot with some long lines waiting for the shuttle buses to take them onto the grounds. It is interesting, though. The estate was purchased in 1852 by Prince Albert, and to this day, it is owned personally by the Royal Family, not by the government of Great Britain. The estate is over 50,000 acres, and employs a staff of 50 full time workers, and over a hundred other employees on a seasonal basis. The gardens are open for public tours from April until late July, when the Queen makes her annual visit. We skipped the tour, and instead rode along the bank of the River Dee. Here's a back way into Balmoral...

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    But it was locked up tight to keep the riff-raff out. That means us.

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    Disappointed we didn't get an invite, we continued along the A93... this is still the route of the old military road... and just a short ways further came across Braemar Castle. This one looks pretty modern, if you ask me. Well-maintained. I figured that it was probably built by some Nouveaux Riche type who wanted to be able to say, "sure, me and the Queen, we're mates. I live right next door!"
    But no, the present Braemar Castle was built in 1628 on the site of a much older stronghold of the Earls of Mar. The Earldom of Mar is thought to be the oldest peerage in Britain, if not all of Europe. Domnall, an early Lord of Mar, was among those who died at the Battle of Clontarf in Ireland with Brian Boru in 1014.
    The castle is in a strategic spot along the military road, and saw a good deal of turmoil and changed hands several times during the Jacobite Uprising in the early 18th century. The Earl of Mar sided with the Jacobeans, and lost ownership of the castle to the Crown when they were put down. It was burned by John Farquharson during the Rising, and then purchased by him after the rebellion as the 9th Laird of Invercauld. The castle was rebuilt and then leased to the government for a garrison in 1750. In the 1830's, it was returned to the Farquharsons and renovated as a family home. It's still owned by Clan Farquharson today.

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    Next was the village of Braemar, at the foot of the Grampian Mountains. A scooter gang was terrifying the citizenry.

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    and...well,.... we had coffee and some kind of little snack in one of the restaurants there.

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    We left town the back way.... along the Clunie Water.

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    That's the main road... the A93.... over there on the other side of the river.

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    This road ends at Frasier's Bridge, and crosses over to join the A93.

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    This bridge was built in 1749.

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    We start climbing again, up Glen Clunie, towards Cairnwell Pass.

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    Clouds are closing in, amongst the higher peaks.

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    Almost to Cairnwell Pass. This is the highest public road in Scotland.

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    Until the late 1960s, this stretch of road was notoriously steep, with sharp switchbacks, so steep that buses would discharge their passengers to walk as the bus made its way up the steep final pitch. Locals still call it "The Devil's Elbow". These days, though, the pass is home to Britain's largest ski area, the Glenshee Ski Centre, with 21 lifts spread over 4 peaks and both sides of the road. No more switchbacks, and it's a gradual ascent.

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    almost to the top....

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    and here we are. This is the highest point on a public road in Scotland, and it also marks the boundary between Aberdeenshire and Perth & Kinross to the south.

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    Thick fog settled in on the south side of the pass.

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    The visibility was much worse than it looks in the photos, and I had us all lit up...rear flashing bike lights and front aux lights.... so we wouldn't get run over. There really wasn't much traffic though.

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    Turned off the A93, through the Forest of Alyth. The fog and mist stayed with us on the south side of the mountains.

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    Welcome to Angus. I was wondering why this shire doesn't have 'shire' in it's name like most of the others. It turns out, the 'shire' part comes from the word "sheriff", and was an early medieval system of organization... like counties, administered by appointed officials of the crown... the "Sheriff". The historic name of Angus was Forfarshire until a reorganization in 1928.

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    Close to the border of Angus is the town of Clackavoid, and we rode past an old tower house, Forter Castle.

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    "The historic Forter Castle was built by the Ogilvys of Airlie as a fortified house or ‘Fortalice’ in 1560, and the castle fell in 1640. When you visit you will see the full tale on the beautifully painted ceiling.
    The principal reason for construction was to fortify and protect the entrance to the Balloch pass to Glenshee and the important Moneca Pass to Braemar and the North. Robert and his daughter Katharine Pooley have lovingly and painstakingly restored the castle back to its former glory from 1988 to this present day: all 21st century creature comforts have been added whilst retaining complete authenticity with the castles original history."


    The castle is available for rent, starting at only £4,500 per week. If you'd like to spend a memorable holiday here from December 22 to January 5th it will only set you back £9,135 (that's $11,533 US dollars).
    Here's a link: https://fortercastle.com/video-introduction/

    That's a little too rich for our blood, so we had to keep moving. See that road to the left of the castle, above? We rode a little further along the valley, crossed over a bridge, and rode back along that road.

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    And then a little further on to the hamlet of 'Brewlands Bridge'. What is the difference between a hamlet and a village? Now I know... a hamlet doesn't have a church.
    But it does have a bridge. In fact, there are two that span the River Isla. We took the one less travelled.

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    ...and then we rode down the wide valley to the west of the River Isla.

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    The fog lifted just enough for a peek at Mile Hill, just west of Dykehead.

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    We're almost there, Mrs Trip!

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    We continued on past Loch Lintrathen, to its eastern side, called Bridgend of Lintrathen. We stayed at The Lodge at Lochside and then rode into the nearby village of Alyth for dinner at a pub. The Lodge was a great place, run by Gareth and his wife Anne, who lived in the San Francisco Bay area for a few years, before they came home to Scotland.
    http://www.lodgeatlochside.co.uk/


  5. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

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    Simply fantastic! :clap

    As an aside, I can't help but notice the utter absence of litter or graffiti in these towns. Amazingly spotless. Every street scene.
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  6. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    Thanks, RDA. You're right. Seems to me that people take a lot of pride in their towns and in their country.
  7. Saso

    Saso Happily sporting the DRD4 gene Supporter

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    What Red Dog said - simply fantastic! Lovin' following this trip of yours!
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  8. TheAdmiral

    TheAdmiral Long timer

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    Bootleggers, I love it!
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    Too old now but it's nice to dream that I could have lived in a castle.

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  9. liv2day

    liv2day Is Anyone Here a Marine Biologist! Supporter

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    Still have a few days to catch-up, but I had a good gut laugh whilst reading through this update and had to quote. That's perfect.

    I'm looking forward to reading through the next couple pages and living vicariously through your travels in Scotland. Spectacular photos and so incredible to be riding through so much history.

    Great job @Rhode trip :nod :nod
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  10. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    Thanks, Saso...its great to have you along!

    Ha, ha. I know that you've recently moved from Jackass Gulch up to Frosty Hollow... and a man's home is his castle! :hide

    Thanks, liv2day. I've been enjoying your excellent ride report on your recent Baja adventure... brings back fond memories!
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  11. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    Tuesday, June 5th

    And this is Gareth, owner of the Lodge at Lochside. The picture is all shaky because he's making me laugh. He's a funny guy.

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    ...meanwhile, Lynn is outside, pulling straps tight as she loads her bike. The Wee Bear Café has live music a couple days a week, and serves a mean breakfast to boot.

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    We really enjoyed our stay at the Lodge. We had a good sized room on the second floor behind one of the dormers...

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    ...with a view of the Loch across the road.

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    As we left, we followed the shore of the Loch of Lintrathen west, then on through rolling countryside.

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    A logging truck in the Forest of Alyth.

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    Wind Farm.

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    Up Strath Ardle...

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    … and over Tarnie Burn...

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    Old farm buildings... with thatch roofs.... and another Great War memorial.

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    "Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?"

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    The mountains draw closer and we get to the end of the valley. That's Ben Vrackie poking it's pointed summit above the intervening ridge.

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    And then into the town of Pitlochry.

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    Pitlochry is a Victorian town, and preserved stone buildings line the main street. It's famous as the 'Geographical Centre of Scotland' ...right in the middle...and they say that a map of Scotland will balance on the head of a pin, placed under the town of Pitlochry. I don't know about that, but it is a popular destination for hillwalkers and a central base for touring groups.

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    Pitlochry is built beside the River Tummel, and we followed along its banks, northwest out of town. The river system has been developed upstream for hydroelectricity. Clunie Memorial Arch guards the entrance to the power station at Loch Faskally. The unusual diameter of the arch is the same size as the tunnel that carries the water between the loch and the generators...

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    Past Faskally House, a grand forest lodge.

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    Saying Hi to a few locals.

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    We're riding along the south side of Loch Tummel, partway up the hillside, under a leafy canopy.

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    The loch is well known for its quiet beauty. The hilltop on the other side is known as "Queen's View"... a favorite vista of Queen Victoria's.

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    After Loch Tummel, we rode on westward, then south, following B846 from Foss

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    and over Keltney Burn.

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    We then turned more due west, past Tay Forest Park, to the village of Fortingall, at the eastern edge of Glen Lyon. From the website, Undiscovered Scotland: "Glen Lyon is little known, and less visited, and it is only when you seek it out on a map that you begin to realise just how significant a presence it is in the central highlands. The glen extends for some 25 miles from the pretty village of Fortingall in the east to the head of Loch Lyon in the west."
    The River Lyon runs up the glen, with a single road that follows its banks. Fortingall fronts along the road, with another lane that circles around behind. It was very quiet...no people about… and looks forgotten in time. (well, except for the rubbish bins, I guess)

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    I'd never heard of the village, but its a very interesting place.

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    The village is dominated by the Fortingall Hotel, an old inn that was rebuilt... along with most of the village, when the Glen Lyon estate was purchased in the 1880's by a wealthy shipping magnate. The hotel combines an early arts & crafts style with echoes of an old tower house.

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    And there's a tiny tea room tucked into the corner of the hotel. We parked out in front.

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    ...and took a quick walk around. Down the village street...

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    and into the old churchyard. This is where things grew more interesting.

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    Growing in the churchyard is an ancient yew tree... estimated at 5,000 years old, and just maybe... the oldest living thing on Earth. Whoa!

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    We wandered back to the tearoom... still digesting this information... You're blowing my mind!

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    A cute, red-haired girl was running the tearoom. "What's the story with the yew?" I asked her. "it's very old she said...the oldest tree there is." That's amazing, I replied. "Pontius Pilate was born under the yew" she said. "C'mon now... you're pulling my leg," I said, "sounds like a folk tale to me!" "I don't know..." she smiled and shook her head, "but there was a Roman camp here... so...." Wow! We drank our coffee and ate our little cakes at the Yew Tree Tea Room. Then we went back for another look.

    The churchyard, of course, has its WWI memorial...

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    And let's have another look at that yew. The old tree is surrounded by a stone wall and a wrought iron railing.

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    Two gnarled trunks rise from the buried roots... supported by stone columns to help bear their weight. Fresh green needles sprout on the branches of the ancient tree. This place was sacred long before the church was built... long before the Romans camped along the River Lyon. Back in the foggy recesses of time, Pictish holy men came to honor this tree. The yew has been venerated for its long life since men first roamed these glens. The yew tree will grow for 500 years... and then, when others die, it sprouts again. It is an ancient symbol across many cultures: a symbol of immortality. And this may be the oldest of them all....

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    The yew tree's fame spread. Travelers would come here from distant parts to see it. Its wood was cut for walking sticks. Young partiers set fire to it one night, burning some of the ancient stump. It must be protected! And so a wall was built.... in 1785.

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    I guess that wall is doing its job. The yew tree continues to sprout new growth as the years roll by...

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    Quietly tucked in the old churchyard...

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    We walked back to the hotel building, then turned and slowly rode through the village again. It's very small... maybe a dozen buildings?

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    But I wanted to peek inside that call box. As I suspected, it's still a working phone.... though probably not for long...

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    This is looking from the inner lane, out to where the main road passes in front of the hotel. On the other side, open fields stretch to the trees that line the river. Its very quiet.

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    There were a couple of large houses past the hotel on the main road. This one has a reed thatch roof.

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    shingles for the neighbor. ( and gingerbread beyond)

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    We followed Glen Lyon west, the hills on both sides moving closer.

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    The single track road hugged the hillside, just above the river.

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    And then the glen grew wide again, opening out as we rode further upstream...

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    Another roadside memorial... to the fallen boys of Glen Lyon.

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    When we reached the Bridge of Balgie, we crossed over the stream and started climbing up into the mountains.

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    The narrow road follows the Allt Bail A' Mhuilin to the high shoulder of Killin Pass. Allt is the Gaelic word for 'burn' meaning a river or a stream.

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    "Look up there... snow." There are still patches where winter was slow to leave.

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    At the pass is a trailhead to the summit of Ben Lawers, the highest peak in the southern highlands, and at just shy of 4,000 feet, it's the 10th highest mountain in Scotland.

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    Over the crest, Lochan na Lairge.

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    From the dam, the water flows through that pipe, all the way down to the generating plant at Finlarig.

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    We rode down through Morenish, Finlarig, and Killin….

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    and a long loop out to Auchlyne.

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    Over the Brig o' Turk...

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    ...and past Tigh Mor Trossachs, the grand stone hotel.

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    Over the ridge, through the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park.

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    And then into the town of Aberfoyle.

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    We made it in time to use the ATM in the grocery store, and then we ate in a chip shop right next to the Post Office.

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    We stayed in a large, generic 1970's style hotel a mile or two out of town.

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    Bus tour Mecca. Swarms came waddling in, dragging suitcases on wheels as the buses kept coming. Sticky carpets lined the dim hallways, grimey windows looking out to the crumbling parking lot. We tucked our bikes into a corner near the back stairs and retreated to our room. Didn't even take a photo.
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  12. Essbee

    Essbee Adventurer

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    Forgive me for repeating myself, but, WOW, one jigsaw puzzle perfect vista after another, plus more highly informative troubles taken on your part....I mean, that Yew....so so fascinating! Thanks again and again!! Best Celtic history lessons I've ever had.
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  13. TheAdmiral

    TheAdmiral Long timer

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    I tried to pick a favorite picture but couldn't because there are so many excellent candidates to choose from. Looks like you had great weather with the blue sky's and all.

    Nice cabin in the woods. We should all be so lucky eh?

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  14. liv2day

    liv2day Is Anyone Here a Marine Biologist! Supporter

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    Those are seriously cool @Rhode trip! I like the rock structures they have over there, it's fascinating to think about what people used those for - like the horseshoe shaped ring of stones later in this post.

    Still getting caught up, have thoroughly enjoyed reading all your commentary and looking at the images. Glad I still have a couple pages to go :nod :nod
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  15. liv2day

    liv2day Is Anyone Here a Marine Biologist! Supporter

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    Ok, the tractors were neat and the history surrounding Skelbo Castle is something else. But this - the Nigg Stone...that's truly amazing. It's hard to believe something carved in the 700s survived this long - and it's on display in a church in a small town on the way to catch a ferry. That's a bit of incredible history you stumbled upon @Rhode trip!

    Again, fantastic images and such a pleasure to read/browse. And I'm only up to June 2nd :lol3
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  16. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    Hey, thanks, Essbee.
    That was a really interesting day: I didn't know anything about the yew until we wandered over to the churchyard. Its pretty amazing that its just tucked into a churchyard in a quiet village in an off the beaten track mountain glen. (although... if you look at liv2day's post just above, about the Nigg Stone....its almost the same story... I guess that's Scotland for you.) Anyway, there's a bit of hyperbole there as well. Experts say the tree is more likely between 2,000 and 3,000 years old. The center of the tree has been lost... so you can't count rings. That's still old enough to make it the oldest tree in Britain. But there is a Norway Spruce in Sweden, "Old Tjikko" that's believed to be 9,560 years old! ( it is actually the root system that is that old.)
    It also appears the location was indeed visited by the Romans, and it had long been in use by that time. And while there is an inscribed stone that proves that Pontius Pilate was a real historical figure, there isn't much known of his origin. Its probable that his father was a legionary officer. But from what I read, there are at least 3 places that claim to be his birthplace: Germany, Spain, and here in Scotland. They all have about the same amount of evidence... not much... and it ends up being that one guess is as good as another.

    The whole Glen Lyon area was cool, though, and in retrospect I wish we knew to look around more. It's very sparsely populated today... but it has a lot of history. This link has other interesting info about Glen Lyon: https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/glenlyon/glenlyon/index.html
    Essbee likes this.
  17. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,835
    Location:
    Coventry, RI
    Thanks, Admiral! When we left Pitlochry, and just before we got to Clunie Gate, we had to get on the A9 motorway south to take the bridge over the River Tummel. I got off at the first exit and we turned north because I wanted to go along the south bank of the river. 100 yards or so and there was an open gate, large and fancy. We rode through. Immediately, 2 guys in a truck pulled up. This was a private estate. They were very friendly, but we sure weren't going that way. They explained to me we needed to get back on the highway, and take the next exit to the left to get where we wanted to go. Follow the road on the other side of the highway, and cross under the bridge along the bank of the river.
    I can find the estate on Google maps but I can't find the name of it... all very hush, hush. It was funny how fast they were on to us... groundskeepers, I guess... not just security guards.
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  18. Rhode trip

    Rhode trip guided by voices Supporter

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    Oddometer:
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    Thanks, liv2day. We were very lucky... not only with the weather, but with a lot of the places we ended up visiting! I'm glad you're enjoying the ride!
  19. liv2day

    liv2day Is Anyone Here a Marine Biologist! Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2016
    Oddometer:
    1,153
    Location:
    Sherwood, Oregon
    Having spent many hours on this forum reading various ride reports and enjoying nearly everything I've read, I have to tell you that I think you've nailed the best method for describing an adventure. The secret, in my humble opinion, is the fact that I simply cannot quote or reference all of the seriously kick-arse pictures, facts, stories that I'd like to.

    I mean, the story surrounding the Yew tree...that's literally amazing. And as you pointed out after @Essbee's post, this report is filled with bits and pieces just like that!

    I was supposed to visit Scotland for my 40th birthday, but those plans were put on hiatus as our oldest son would be making an appearance in the world. I don't know when we'll be able to get over, but we will. Doubt we'll be able to cover all the ground you and Mrs. Trip covered in our inaugural visit, but this report has given me a ton of ideas. Meaning we'll likely take several trips until we get to the point where working for the man isn't our daily grind any longer.

    Fantastic report, I look forward to enjoying June 6th and the rest of the days of your visit :nod :thumb
    dammitdave, Rhode trip and TheAdmiral like this.
  20. glenn2926

    glenn2926 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2011
    Oddometer:
    199
    Location:
    Yorkshire
    Keep it coming. We will be back up in Scotland in July, annual trip. It is a fantastic country and great place to ride. I am enjoying seeing it from the point of view of someone from another country.
    Rhode trip likes this.