Happy birthday, ma'am

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April 21st 2016
Published: June 8th 2017
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Geo: 56.5851, -3.99899

I was awakened by the sounds of other hotel guests getting ready. I lay in bed with my eyes closed for a while and then realized that I'd been lying there for a long time. Why hadn't my alarm gone off? I finally opened my eyes to look at my clock: only 5:45. Sheesh! I fell back to sleep for another 35 minutes. Other than that, it's very quiet around here.

It was another glorious day, though definitely nippy. We walked for 15 minutes to the other side of the loch to the Scottish Crannog Center. We learned a bit about crannogs on the Ireland tour, but this was more in depth. This loch, Loch Tay, held up to 30 crannogs in the Iron Age (500 BC). The Scottish Crannog Center works under the auspices of the official body for underwater archeology. They discovered a very well-preserved sunken crannog about half a mile down the loch and they've recreated it at the Center.

A crannog is a large hut built on the water, and connected by a walkway that could be taken up for defensive purposes. The Iron Age people would clear trees from the land and then farm it. The trees would be used to build the crannog. It's circular with an inner and outer wall, as well as an outer walkway around the dwelling. The walls and roof were made of hazel withy, and the floor, made of logs, was covered in bracken and wool. Between the inner and outer walls, archeologists think, the people would put in more bracken, wool or other material to create insulation. Clearly, Iron Age people were no dummies.

The roof is conical but there's no chimney for the fire that was constantly lit inside the hut. The smoke would rise into the ceiling area and keep in warm, but would seep out through the hazel so that the crannog wouldn't get stuffy and smoky. Very sophisticated.

Our guide, Daniel, showed us how the people would have made holes in rocks, how an Iron Age lathe worked (two types: one with two uprights and one with only one upright; very modern), how to grind grain, and also how to make fire, which is not as easy as it looks in the movies. Daniel used a bow (like a bow-and-arrow bow) and a stick to create an ember, and then put the ember in a sort of dish with a bunch of flammable material and blew on it. Voila, fire! Amazing.

I learned a great word from Martin: lozzock. It means lazy. "Quit lozzocking about and get to work!"

We took our bus to the Hermitage, a very pleasant park with a narrow and impossibly picturesque river running through it. After a 15-minute walk into the wood, there is a three-pronged waterfall overlooked by a Victorian structure known as Ossian Hall. After the Highland clearances in the 1700s, it was determined that all Scots songs, literature, music, etc. were merely borrowed from the Irish. It was clear, therefore, that Scotland had no heritage of its own. In the 1800s, a student named James MacPherson — who had grown up with intelligent, cultured Highlanders — heard this theory and decided that Scotland must have its own heritage. He went back to the Highlands and searched high and low for evidence of ancestral Scotland. The Victorian era was a great time for reinventing or, indeed, inventing traditions and heritage. Such things were considered romantic. So James MacPherson, who only managed to find some scraps of poetry in his search, invented an ancient blind poet named Ossian. He used the lines he found and added poetry of his own to create great works by Ossian. Here, at last, was evidence of Scotland's character, heritage and tradition. Huzzah!

Scotland continued to invent itself; this included the clan tartans. The patterns weren't associated with any particular family until the Victorian era. In Wales, there was only female national dress. Lady Somethingwelsh decided that men should have a national consume too, so she created one and tried to get Lord Somethingwelsh to wear it. Nothing doing. Today, Wales still only has traditional dress for the females. Martin recommended a book called "The Invention of Tradition" to learn more about how recent a lot of olde worlde things really are.

We stopped in the tiny, one-street town of Dunkeld to see its ruined cathedral. The choir is still intact, but the rest of the church, though being restored, was made derelict during the Scottish Reformation. It sits on the banks of the River Tay and is postcard-pretty. The best part was the cathedral cat sunning itself on a bench outside. He was very amenable to ear scritches and a nice pet. He was sitting on someone's lap when we left. Life is probably pretty good for kitty.

I had lunch in town at Howie's Bistro with Ann and Karen. Half the group turned up there at various times. Ann ordered a bottle of Irn-Bru, Scotland's favorite drink; it even outsells Coke. I had a little taste: it's like effervescent bubble gum. Not at all what you expect because it's bright orange. I had a nice panini and then wandered up the street and bought some fingerless gloves at a shop that I would ordinarily describe as little, but I think it was the biggest store in town. The gloves have bows on them so they're not really "me," but as they were only £3, I didn't feel I could pass them up (they will definitely be useful on some of these cold mornings).

Our last visit of the day was in Crieff at The Famous Grouse Experience at Glenturret Distillery, Scotland's oldest whisky distillery. Our guide was Lindsay, a nice young man with a terribly posh voice. At Glenturret they make the single malt Glenturret whisky and the blended Famous Grouse whisky. (Glenturret is one of the whiskies in the Famous Grouse blend.) All the whiskies are still made by hand, and most of the machinery is Victorian. Famous Grouse is Prince Charles's favorite tipple, apparently.

The barley goes through quite a tortured process before finally becoming alcohol worth drinking. It's stored in oak barrels that previously held either American bourbon or Spanish sherry. The bourbon barrels cost around £50 apiece, but the sherry barrels cost more like £500 apiece because they are rarer (because sherry is no longer a popular drink).

From the 1960s to the 1980s, the distillery had a famous cat called Towzer. Towzer was, and still is, a world-record-holding mouser. They estimate that she caught three mice a day, so over the span of her lifetime she caught nearly 29,000 mice. Today, they have two new cats named Glen and Turret, but they pretty much just spend their time under the spirit tun sleeping because there is no longer a mouse problem. We saw either Glen or Turret wandering around later.

We tasted both Glenturret and Famous Grouse at the end of the tour. The Glenturret had a lot of vanilla in it, but I preferred the Grouse because it didn't taste as fiery.

Back to the hotel, where I did some laundry and texted with John for a bit. Found out that Prince died, which blew my mind. Dinner was tomato soup followed by something that was allegedly pasta but I'll be damned if it was, and a chocolate terrine with a flan-like texture for dessert. Yummy but filling.

Today is Queen Elizabeth's 90th birthday. We did nothing to mark the occasion.

Additional photos below
Photos: 14, Displayed: 14


21st April 2016

Another informative and entertaining entry from the pen, sort of, of T.M.MacDonald. Doesn't that have a nice literary ring? Like P.G. Wodehouse. James MacPherson's mistake was looking low in the highlands and neglecting the lowlands entirel
y. But I guess we benefit by his oversight by adding Ossian to our folklore.
21st April 2016

It's mini you!
21st April 2016

So beautiful.
22nd April 2016

Fun day it looks like.
22nd April 2016

that's some cat, Towzer. boy, he never went hungry. It all sounds like it's right out of a storybook--even the invented heritage! Hooray for your finger-less gloves--you could always remove the bows I suppose...
22nd April 2016

You don't get the camera outta my face, it's going to be 28,899 mice and 1 human!

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