November 4th, 2005


- Proverb inscribed on the Canongate Wall in Edinburgh

Back from a week in Scotland.

On a Monday night we travelled up from London to Edinburgh on the Caledonia Sleeper train and headed off in a minibus towards Stirling on Tuesday morning. On the bus were 16 backpackers and one fanatically patriotic Scottish guide. I was the only Kiwi. There were nine Aussies, including V., two South Americans, and four girls from the United States. Before long we were all getting on very well indeed.

We took a bracing uphill walk to Abbey Craig in Stirling to admire the Wallace Monument while our guide regaled us with the stirring story of William Wallace. We stood where Wallace had stood and gazed down at the famous battlefield while learning how and why, on this occasion, his followers had been so successful against the heavily-armoured and mounted English.

After a stop at Callander it was on to Balquhidder to stand at the gravesite of the larger-than-life Rob MacGregor (Rob Roy) and learn about his tumultuous life. The gravestone tells us MacGregor died aged 70, but apparently he was around 63.

Lunch was at Killin. At Tyndrum we had a whip-round on the little bus and bought a bottle of Tamdhu single malt scotch. As we passed more-or-less officially into the Highlands, we stopped for some fresh air and to stretch our legs. The bottle was opened and started doing the rounds. V. had the honour of first swig. Once back on the bus the bottle continued to be passed around till the last drop was gone. Might seem a slightly sacrilegious way to drink a good whisky, but, despite the presence of a few philistines, it was enjoyed by all -- and that's what counts.

Now well into the Highlands, we went on a good long hike in the rain through the forest at Glencoe, up to Signal Rock to learn about the massacre of the MacDonalds. We stood on the rock where the fire was lit early in the morning as a signal for government troops to betray their hosts (so the story goes) and start slaughtering the MacDonald clan. It's also said, because of the complicity of the Campbell clan: "Never trust a Campbell."

In the evening we did our shopping for groceries at Fort William and had drinks and dinner at the backpackers hostel. We had a whole section of the hostel to ourselves, complete with kitchen, TV room, and dining room. I shared a dorm with nine women.

(More later...)