St Andrews and Blair Atholl Castle

We had an early departure from Edinburgh this morning, heading north on our way to the Highlands. We crossed the new bridge over the Firth of Forth, with the famous old steel bridge, an engineering marvel of the late Industrial Revolution, to the right of our bus.

Our first stop was at the Old Course at St Andrews Links, the Home of Golf. A club trophy competition was underway and we were lucky enough to watch the final pair tee off and play out the first hole. The guy wearing grey was 17 under, and his playing partner was 11 under when they began the round. There were no trees, and I can imagine how at times the wind must sweep in from the sea and provide all sorts of challenges for the players. We were fortunate today to have blues skies and a gentle breeze.

The beach that runs alongside the course has had its own moment of history when it was used to film the famous scene from Chariots of Fire where the athletes run along the beach in slow motion while the movie’s theme music from Vangelis is playing.

We continued on via Dundee, crossing the Tay with a view to our left of the famous old Tay Bridge. It was another Victorian era engineering marvel, until the day in 1879 when its centre section collapsed under the weight of a steam locomotive, taking all aboard to a watery grave.

The bus was climbing steadily now. Narrow streams carrying water down from the hills ran alongside the road. Sheep and cattle grazed on lush green pastures. Occasionally, to the delight of everyone on board, we would pass a field of highland cattle.

We took a lunch stop at Pitlochry, followed by a visit to Blair Atholl Castle. It has a long history which is well documented as you move through the castle. It is more of a stately home, now a museum, than what you might imagine a castle to be, and its rooms are filled with fine furniture and its walls draped with portraits, weapons and deer antlers. The surrounding gardens are beautiful with large rhododendrons providing a touch of colour to contrast with the green of the lawns. Beyond the gardens lay Diana’s Grove, where we were able to walk in the shade of giant trees, including some of the largest in all of Scotland.

The bus continued to steadily climb as we entered the Highlands. The hills around us were now covered with heather, and devoid of trees. We passed a few small lakes, and a narrow stream ran parallel to the road. More sheep and cattle were grazing here. Not far past Dalwhinnie Distillery, the road brought us into a wide green valley and we entered Laggan, where we will stay the next two nights. It is a stunning view from our hotel room window. I know we are going to enjoy our stay in the Highlands.

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