Ye Banks and Braes(Holly Tomas;words by Robert Burns) - The Romance of the Braes of The Highlands,Scotland - 12th August 2016

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August 12th 2016
Published: August 18th 2016
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The day looks like it is going to be dry but it looks to be windy away from the where the chalet is located.

We had a lie in this morning and won’t be in too much of a hurry to get out and about as nothing in the Highlands seems to have any urgency about it so we shall simply join the flow.

The sun keeps appearing from time to time and the purple heather on the hills further up the valley show up more vividly than when the light on the hills is dull when the clouds roll over.

We are going to take on the easier trail this morning just up the road past the whiskey distillery and then we will see how we feel after lunch as to whether we take on another trail this afternoon.

We drove up the road to the trailhead past farms that look like they are struggling to stock enough animals to make any money off the land. It would appear that many of the hardy souls that live in the area are here mainly because they love the beauty and isolation of the Highlands rather than making their fortune from farming.

The workers at the distillery were on holiday so there wasn’t a lot going on as we inched past a large truck that had been at the distillery delivering something for the business to produce the end result of Chivas whiskey.

The trail we were taking on is known as the Scalan Heritage Trail with our first destination being the catholic seminary which was originally established in 1717.The seminary trained over 100 priests during times when the Catholic church almost had to go ‘underground’ to survive during those troubled times.

It is quite amazing to see how well maintained the building is with each room within the structure full of history which is recorded on the information sheets about what happened there over the years.The 'boys' room was where the young priests received their training was at one end of the building with a small chapel at the other.

The foundations of the very first structure built are still visible within the grounds. This was destroyed after the Battle of Culloden in 1746 and it was replaced by the larger structure still standing today.

For a period of time after the seminary was moved elsewhere the building was used as a farmhouse and there were some alterations to the interior but for most of the building what was visible was original.

The trail then took us up to the Clash of Scalan the site of a small village until the mid 20th century. Then as farming profitability became something to think about and there was little money in farming land that at times of the year had weather that was too harsh the people moved away and the stone cottages fell into ruins.’Clash’in Scotland is a narrow valley although here it is more where the hills on either side form a V and the River (rather a stream) Crombie tumbles down the middle through the peat turf.

It is interesting to stand and look at what had been a small group of houses and outbuildings and think that in such a short time they have all but gone through disuse.

We then crossed to the other side of the clash (hillside) and followed the ‘stone dyke’up the hill with a few more ruined stone buildings below us. We are learning lots about the different names for things in Scotland and discovered that a stone dyke is in fact a dry stone wall put together using stones found in the soil in the area and constructed together without any mortar to hold them together. Like the buildings that were now in ruins so had the stone dyke collapsed and in some cases toppled over as the stones were spread well out from their original position when the wall existed.

We had the option of climbing further up the hill to a summit known as Tom Trumper and although the trail was nothing like we had done in the Dolomites, the wind was a bit breezy and we would have been walking into it to reach the top.

We had a great view of the Braes of Glenlivet where we were standing and so that was as far as we decided to climb.

It was a magnificent vista with the rounded hills off in the distance with the purple heather in full bloom showing out as the sun came and went behind the clouds.

The trail now took us downhill and with the breeze at our backs we had to be careful not to pick up too much pace as it was a matter of avoiding sheep droppings and picking a way across the uneven ground.

The sheep were a ragged looking lot and it appeared that many of them had not been shorn in the spring or even early summer. Just what they were being farmed for was a bit unclear to us because if the farmer wasn’t going to sell their wool their meat wouldn’t have been worth anything either and probably tough as old boots given the ground they roamed over.

It was nearly 2pm when we got back to the chalet and we had lunch and we both felt a bit tired after what we realised had been a more strenuous hike than we imagined at the time. So it was time for a lie down and a read of the Kindle to recover and then head out a little later for either another short hike or a free tour around a distillery that was currently operating nearby.

However as usually happens we both ended up having a nap and the next thing we knew it was 4pm and too late for the distillery tour and we decided also too late for a hike.

We have been very much on the go since arriving in the UK at the end of July compared to most of the time in Europe earlier and we both thought that perhaps we should just enjoy some quiet time and rest and enjoy the views of the braes from the chalet.

Tomorrow we head south to Arncroach and another reunion with my cousin Carolyn who I have only met in person once before on the BBA V1.This is going to be a very special occasion with a Benvie Reunion also planned by Carolyn for Sunday.

PS:the Highlands of Scotland is truly a romantic place on this planet and to stand on the braes of Glenlivet makes you feel at one with your surroundings.So enjoy a beautiful rendition of Robert Burns poem put to music and sung with such feeling by Holly Tomas.On Youtube as usual.

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