On And On To Strathdon - Part 1: Up In The Clouds
A highlight in June 2012 for 'My Lady' and myself at Dove Cottage, was our trip to Strathdon in Aberdeenshire for our friend Peter's wedding. Peter, who lives in Slockavullin only a mile or so from our door was marrying Sylvia at her Inverernan home, near to Billy Connolly's Candacraig House.
Our journey from Kilmartin to the Allargue House Hotel where we were staying was a four hour marathon normally, but extended as a result of a nasty road accident at Grandtully, as well as numerous roadworks and diversions.
The hotel is at the Cockbridge end of the notorious Cockbridge to Tomintoul road. 'Notorious' because it is regularly closed due to appalling weather. It also sweeps up and plunges down without the comforting benefit of doing so gradually in a civilised fashion.
After a grand meal at the hotel and a night's sleep, it had been determined that we should 'climb The Lecht' in the morning, before readying for the wedding.
Those of you who know Peter will readily recognise his inspiration behind this adventurous idea. In the event however, a more modest ambition was realised - to climb the low hill behind Corgarff Castle (Carn Leac Saighdeir?), which was just across the glen from the hotel.
So up into the cloud we went - setting off at a good pace and with much enthusiasm. Even when we were enveloped in the chill and could see only a few feet before us, spirits remained high. 'My Lady' and Ann decided that the climb was more than their genteel natures could endure and returned to the hotel to await the return of the party in more civilised style.
At the summit - near the obligatory cairn [only dimly seen through the cloud] - Peter decided to call his intended to assure her that all was well. I overheard him mention with no trace of irony whatsoever, that we had decided against 'The Lecht' climb, as we would have seen little or nothing because of the mist.
Slowly - and much too slowly for my liking - we descended below the cloud layer having walked in a long, lazy loop to return to the rear of Corgarff Castle. By this time I had strained my weak ankle and could not keep up the pace set by my fellows. A brief stop to study and photograph a rare flower pointed out to us by Simon (who works for the Forestry Commission) left me further behind and despite my best efforts, the 'Magnificent Seven' - for we were eight in number at this point - pressed on.
Please do not misunderstand; I was not perturbed by being abandoned to my fate. Not in the slightest. I did muse light-heartedly that here we were, a band of Christian brothers, bound together in Christ. One sheep goes astray, as it were, and the rest of the flock go marching on to glory with nary a backward glance.
It was ever thus.
I should mention that Ken, the only minister of the Kirk in our midst, had in fact realised my absence and like 'The Good Shepherd' of scripture had driven back along the road to "seeketh that which is gone astray".
However, what caused me a ripple of concern was that once I returned to the hotel, I discovered that most were blissfully unaware of my non-presence. In fact, our groom, Peter was convinced that he had spoken to me in the hotel car park, when I was in fact struggling to leap across a burn in spate, fearful that I should either damage my ankle further or drop my camera into the raging torrent. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to stick to my shore, vault a fence or two and calmly stroll across a modest wooden bridge helpfully placed by the farmer.
But as I say, I was not perturbed by any of this. Really, I wasn't.
Watch out for Part 2 of our Strathdon adventure in my next blog, 'The Inverernan Wedding', coming soon...