A nifty bit of serendipity revealed itself on our first full day in Scotland. One of the people we were traveling with had a clear idea of their Scottish ancestry since their mom was only a generation or three removed from immigration to the US. In fact, he knew from a previous trip, decades back, that we were in the approximate region to which his ancestral clan can be traced. What he did not know, what nobody knew, until we were reading about our digs in their welcoming literature, is that the hotel we were staying in was literally ground zero for the start of his ancestors’ line. Before it was a hotel (by a couple of centuries, sure) the site was Dùn Alastair (meaning “Fort of Alastair”) in reference to Alastair Robertson, Chieftain of Clan Donnachaidh. Robertson led the clan to infamy during the Jacobite Uprising, but they survived and, eventually, thrived. We knew none of this when we booked the place, and it was quite a treat to discover.
And that’s just how the day began.
We kicked off the day’s excursion by heading to the House of Bruar. When our friend visited some 20+ years ago, it was a quaint little building that housed the Clan Donnachaidh Centre; what fun! Well. In those decades since, commerce has reared its head and now Bruar is a shmancy outlet mall. I suspect the clan is getting a good deal, because they now have a lovely little museum … attached to a high-end whisky emporium. It was small but had a cache of authentic clan artifacts going back a couple hundred years. Check it.
Our main attraction for the day was Blair Castle. This turned out to be another minor miscalculation similar to Cairnpapple Hill the day before, where we (or at least I) had it on a list of “castles” and picked it for geographical location. It was neat, but it was extensively refurbished many times over the years. So while I thought we were going to this:
Instead we went to this:
Let me not disparage Blair Castle. It was a really great way to spend a day, with the history of the property preserved in fantastic detail. Armaments, heirlooms, visits from Emperors… so much history was on display that it was fun and easy to get lost in a walk through the years.
Dinner was at a dart-throw of a joint in Bridge of Tilt, which had all of us thinking “well this ought to be interesting.” Despite it’s name, The Loft, seeming to be a euphemism for “the attic”, it turned out to be a hell of a good meal. Whatever the reason, this little restaurant that services what seem to be weekending cottages on a modest lake is really knocking it out of the park both in the menu, the presentation, and pure danged yumminess. Why they favor flamenco music and bullfighting posters is beyond me; the menu didn’t seem to have any particular Spanish influence. Maybe a formative school trip? Whatever the case, it was good enough we had to talk ourselves out of warping our itinerary to make another dinner there possible.
A museum, shopping, a castle, and some good eats. That’s a good vacation day in anybody’s book, and we settled back into our digs to rest up for the next day out.