"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.

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  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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    Closer than before
    +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/


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  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!