Kingussie – Pitlochry (river Tummel) – Birnam the loop way – Perth
23. July 1974 (Tuesday)
We plan to spend the next night on the river Tummel. We are picked up by an elderly English couple. They tell us about Lord Atholl, who is the only Lord who still has a private army of, I believe, 20 men. He is said to have driven a woman out of his county, who ran a prosperous hotel, using boycott in order to get also this source of income into his possession. He likely used threats and bribery as well, they said. Somehow the matter throws a strange light on this rich Lord.
The couple persuades us to come with them to Pitlochry, a few kilometers past our junction. Since we think we still have a lot of time, we eat with the two who are really nice and then visit Pitlochry. It’s a pretty little town. In a bookstore we meet the Belgian horde from Kingussie again.
We also see some college boys in kilts and realize that they don’t suit everyone. (The blond giant from Braemar last year, he looked good in a kilt. A picture of a man! 😉 )
Finally we hitchhike back to our intersection. The street that is destined for us doesn’t look very reassuring, so empty and poorly maintained. A VW bus full of children of different nationalities takes us to where the youth hostel had to be. But where is the sign? I go down to the Queen’s Hotel, a beautiful, well-preserved castle, to ask. [There isn’t any Queen’s Hotel anymore, and I cannot find the building in question.] I get inhibitions when I enter the elegant hall, which is thickly lined with wonderful carpeting. I feel like a real saddle tramp in my jeans and oil jacket. Basically I am, am I not? I learn that this castle was the youth hostel until the end of last year. (So one really should get a new youth hostel guide every year!) That is a hard blow for us, stranded on a lonely forest road. Above all, it is raining cats and dogs every ten minutes.
A woman comes out of a house like a saviour angel and walks towards her car. My best friend asks her if she could take us with her and explains the situation to her. Little angelically, she refuses harshly and wants to send us to Loch Rannoch (that is, further out of our way), but then lets herself be persuaded to invite us. My friend doesn’t give up because there is hardly any chance for us to get away from here, and we are accordingly desperate. In such situations, my friend often develops courage and willpower while I resign. I was reluctant to speak to the woman and in my mind I was already walking back down the road …
On the way we rave about the river Tummel and how wonderful it must be to have a house here. This way we make her noticeably friendlier.
And it’s not even a lie, because this is one of the most beautiful regions in Scotland from what we’ve seen so far. (It’s amazing how easy it is to win people over with flattery and compliments, however smart or cunning they are.) Finally, we come to the topic of Glaswegians, a fertile subject in Scotland. One should, however, sound out beforehand what the interlocutor thinks of them. But we tell her frankly that we don’t find them as bad as they are always portrayed to us. On the contrary, we felt very comfortable in Glasgow. Fortunately, we hit the bull’s eye! Our lady joins in enthusiastically and says repeatedly: „There is not a thing wrong with the Glaswegians!“ – We won her heart. Maybe she or someone she knows is from Glasgow.
Happy to be back in Pitlochry, we thank her profusely for her great willingness to help and reap a smile and a “You are welcome”. (Hypocritical old woman, I think, just as hypocritically.) Suddenly a totally drunk old woman stumbles past us and our lady comments with contempt: „What a disgrace!“ – My friend thinks it is typical for this woman to say something like that.
We try to hitchhike on to Birnam with the weather alternating between burning sun and heavy rain. Not even the impregnation of our backpacks can withstand the amount of water that falls on us. Finally, a work car picks us up with a few young guys, who would like to have us with them as far as Perth. But we decided to spend the night in Birnam (Macbeth !!!), where a ’simple’ youth hostel awaits us again. I think it’s one of the most primitive around.
A younger German couple arrives with two children. They want to spend the night in a different and more adventurous way. For these people, a youth hostel is obviously a giant step back to nature. They act like heroes at the front and as if a hostel was THE gag. I feel very annoyed and explain to them that they all have a job to do in the morning before leaving, as this is the way in hostels. (Knowing this, however, doesn’t stop them playing stupid the next morning and asking for their IDs without asking about their jobs. The Warden, not a jubilant guy anyway, gets even more grumpy. At that moment, I just hope that nobody notices what nationality we are.)
In the evening in Birnam we go to a small, cozy pub. There we meet a very nice couple from New Zealand. We tell them that we plan to raise sheep in New Zealand. They smile at that a little, but still give us their address and invite us to come over for half a year or more. But we should leave our kith and kin at home, please.
An old Scot tells us about his time as a soldier in the Rhineland, where he had a very nice girl. Most Scots we meet see Germany as a great nation, in contrast to Scotland, which makes me somewhat sad (that they disregard their own country), but they also warn us of possible hostility towards Germans. We did not encounter any anti German hostility on the whole trip. Only in the newspaper do I read of two cases in London where girls were killed on the subway and the railroad because of their German nationality. As I said, we did not experience any hostility.
July 24, 1974 (Wednesday)
The next hitchhiking stretch to Perth is very short. We have wonderful summer weather to take a look at the city.
For the next day we are planning a trip to neighbouring County Angus. A fish truck driver heading to Aberdeen picks us up. The driver tells us that he will come to the same place every morning at 10 a.m. in case we want to ride again with him at some point.
Angus is a rather agriculturally developed region, highly civilized, because there are fences everywhere. Here we cannot sit in the landscape where we want, like in Morar, but have to be content with the roadside. We drive back to Perth on a different road. Gypsies [traveling people is the correct term, although I never thought of the word gypsy as something degrading, I have always romanticized them, Sainte Marie de la mèr und so] live on the kerb in front of the city. If there weren’t people, one could think that it was a junkyard. It looks very poor. [In the meantime I have seen Travelers in various countries. Even in Romania it didn’t look that bad. They are best organized in France. There are special places with fountains for the Roma to spend the night along the country roads. They also seem to be more prosperous there. I hope that the conditions for the traveling people have improved in Scotland after 1974, just like they did in Glasgow. They actually did not look like Roma.]
Perthshire is also called Dewar’s County because of the many whiskey distilleries. My friend didn’t particularly like Perth. I on the other hand have a preference for this city without being able to say exactly why.
In the evening we do our pub studies again. The slightly finer one in the back of a hotel is boring. Nobody is talking to us. The ordinary Central Pub is more interesting. An elderly gentleman tells us endless stories about where he has already been, how many languages he speaks, etc. etc., and he puts on a connoisseur-of-all-things-face. [Haha, first we got too little talk, then we got too much.] When he is powdering his nose, three other, younger men come over and shield us off. They tell us that nobody speaks to this man anymore, so he approaches strangers who at least still listen to him. He’s actually a first rate irritator. While we are talking to the others, he tries to tap us on the shoulder from behind their backs to regain our attention.
One young man first tells me that his wife always wears jeans too, like us. Then he talks about a Danish girl, who spent a whole summer with him in his caravan: „That was a fine lass!“ (Oho, I think, these subtle allusions. I have the impression that in Great Britain they don’t take fidelity too seriously.)
(To be continued)
I found it, the „castle“ on Loch Tummel, couldn’t let it rest, on the Geograph page.