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Saturday, 2 June 2012

The 2012 Challenge, Day 8: Down Glen Errochty (9)

The road from Bruar to Blair Atholl is long and straight, and the first time I drove it (in April 1986) it was still called the A9. It gives lovely views of Blair Castle, home of the Duke of Atholl, who is head of the Murray clan. He maintains Europe's only remaining private army - the Atholl Highlanders; and their military tattoo was due to be held the following weekend, as I subsequently learned. He also hosts the Blair International Horse Trials, one of the major events in the European eventing calendar.

The road also runs within sight of the railway line for most of the way into Blair; and as I approached Blair I heard a steam engine whistle away ahead of me. Wondering what was approaching, I quickly found myself a good lineside vantage point and pre-focussed the camera. Soon enough, a steam engine in full cry came roaring towards me, and I took a photograph of it. Or rather, I tried to take a photograph of it. My camera, however, had other ideas. It decided it wanted to re-focus itself before taking the picture; and by the time it actually deigned to record what it could see, the locomotive had passed and all I got in my picture was the tender and the leading carriage. Oh B***ER!

(The missing letters, in case you were wondering, are O, T and H)

Well, that's a shame ... but you can't have everything. It looked to me as though it may have been a Standard Pacific; and if it was then I imagine it was probably 70013 Oliver Cromwell, which has recently returned to steam after a thorough overhaul and is presumably in demand for main line rail tours ... as well as needing to do as many such jobs as it can to pay its way. The tender was in late British Railways livery, which would certainly fit with it being the old regicide. (I was at the Great Central Railway a couple of years ago, during the overhaul, and saw 70013's cab sitting all by itself, with no locomotive attached. What you might call King Charles's revenge ...)

Walking on, I arrived at Blair Castle Camp site just after 5.30. I booked my pitch, bought a few things in the shop, set up my tent, then had a shave and cleaned my teeth (two luxuries I could not have enjoyed at Struan!) It was a fine evening and I could easily have made my own supper on the camp site; but of course the temptation of the Bothy Bar at the Atholl Arms hotel proved just too great!

Now, I was both impressed an unimpressed with the Atholl Arms. They have a completely separate gluten-free menu, and it has plenty of choices on it. However, many of them are just the same as the main menu choices but with, say, a gluten-free bread roll accompanying the mussels (which I had as a starter) instead of a piece of garlic bread. Well, nothing wrong with that ... EXCEPT their communication system is insufficiently sophisticated to enable the kitchen to be TOLD that the order was made from the gluten-free menu. So my mussels duly came with a piece of garlic bread, and I had to send them back ... only for the same mussels to reappear, a little later and quite a bit colder, with the gluten-free roll. And of course my main course (a rather nice wild game curry) which had been sent out at the same time as my starter had been getting cold at the same time as well. So, 8 out of 10 for effort, but only 3 out of 10 for execution!

After dinner and a nice pint of cider, I returned to the camp site and slept VERY well indeed!

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