Saturday, July 13, 2019

From Perth to Ullapool Via Grantown-on-Spey.

Pitlochry
(Screen capture from YouTube Video by SeeScotland)

Tvillage of Ullapool, located along the coast of the northwest highlands is where we need to be to catch the ferry to the Outer Hebrides.  It's about a four hour drive to go to Ullapool from Glasgow, via Inverness, but we're going to be taking a two day journey starting in the city of Perth.   Our drive pretty much takes us along a section of the A9 roadway until we reach Inverness and there we head west on the A835 to Ullapool.  There are not a lot of main roadways in the relatively small country of Scotland!

I wanted to do this longer route so we could venture into Cairngorms National Park and enjoy a nice drive through more Scottish countryside.  We will visit a few of the small towns that are situated near the River Spey, which runs through the region, including Grantown-on-Spey where we will spend the night in a B&B.

Straight from Perth we head to Pitlochry, which looks like the quintessential Scottish town, nestled in the highlands just on the southern edge of Cairngorms National Park. I have to admit, I picked it just it looks so quaint!  I'm a sucker for places that look like this.  Could be a complete disappointment for all I know but it's situated on the A9 so if we don't like, we just continue on our merry drive, heading west.  Then it's to a place called Blair Atholl which truly could be a sleeper of a town if any of the images I found on Google are representative of the place.  Only thing that seemed to come up was a hotel.  I think this would be our drive by town!

From here, our drive turns north and officially enters the park.

Glenfiddich Distillery
(Photo by Colin Smith.  Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)





This region of the Scottish Highlands is known as Speyside as the River Spey runs through it.  It is one of the five whiskey producing regions in Scotland.  There are 50 distilleries in Speyside!  The region offers what is called the Malt Whiskey Trail which covers 9 distilleries including Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, and Strathisla which is the region's oldest distillery, founded in 1786.  Strathisla is now owned by Chivas Regal.

Though neither Pat nor I are whiskey drinkers, I don't mind doing a tour just to learn something about the distillation process.  If we're up for it, we can do a distillery tour or two.  I have Cardhu, Macallan and Dalwhinnie as possibilities.  Dalwhinnie is actually on our way from Perth to Grantown-on-Spey so we could make a pitstop for an hour long tour.










Strathspey Railway Locomotive
(Photo by Pjt56.  Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)
There's also the Strathspey Railway is a 10 mile long restored section of the original Highland Railway Line.  The Strathspey Railway is a steam railway that was lovingly restored by train enthusiasts back in the mid to late 1970's.  The 10 mile track runs  rom the village of Aviemore heading north to the village of Boat of Garten and continuing north to its final stop at Broomhill.  The train then loops back to Aviemore.

I would love to go for a ride on the train.  It's about a 1.5 hour long round trip so not a long ride but I would still love to do it.  The only problem might be that it does conflict with tour times for Dalwhinnie.  If for whatever reason, we can't do the ride, then I would at least to arrive at the Boat of Garten station, which is supposed to be the "prettiest" of the three stations to watch the train pull in and out.  The more I think about it, the more I think I'm going to twist Pat's arm into skipping Dalwhinnie and riding the train with me.  Maybe we can even spring for the tea time service though after our High Tea and the Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow, this might be a bit of a let down.  Fingers crossed I will get to here the "choo choo" of the train!

Depending on how we feel, we might spend time in Aviemore.  Otherwise, it's straight on to Grantown-on-Spey where we can relax the rest of the day away.  I don't mind doing that at all. You do need to take it easy every now and again, otherwise, you'll burn out on traveling and that's not a good thing!  Also, since I'm doing all the driving on this trip, I really need to pace myself so I don't wear out.

Reindeer in the Cairngrom Mountains.  Photo from http://www.cairngormreindeer.co.uk

Believe it or not, Cairngorm Mountains, which are located within the boundaries of Cairngorms National Park is also home to the only herd of free ranging reindeer in the UK.  The Cairngorm Reindeer Herd is about 150 reindeer strong; the majority of which reside in the mountain area with about 30 living on the Glenlivet Estate.

I was surprised to learn that there are reindeer here. I always thought these animals were native to regions much further north but apparently, the species is native to the UK and although the last record of wild British reindeer is from around 800 years ago and there has been much climate change since this, the unique sub-arctic qualities of the Cairngorms provide a perfect home for reindeer.

The reindeer were reintroduced to Scotland by Mikel Utsi, a Swede, and his wife Dr. Ethel Lindgren in 1952. It is the descendants of that herd that roam the mountainsides today.

You can actually visit the herd so I've planned for Pat and I to do exactly that the morning we leave Grantown-on-Spey to make our way to Ullapool.   There are daily guided walks up the mountainside to see the reindeer which are apparently very tame.  I presume by now they are very accustomed to humans being around them and wanting to touch them.  There are also paddock areas where you can see the reindeer without having to do the short hike up the hill.

Ullapool.  Photo from https://www.ullapool.com/
After visiting the herd, we can make our way towards Inverness, with stop at another whiskey distillery on the way.   We've not yet decided whether or not we will actually spend any time in Inverness. For now, I do have plans for a nice lunch in a traditional Scottish family owned pub and restaurant that is situated on the shore of Loch Ness.  I have no desire to see the Loch itself - view from a restaurant while munching on lunch will be good enough for me to check Loch Ness off the bucket list....which it was truly never really on to begin with.

Our final destination of the day is Ullapool, a small village with fewer than 2,000 residents.  Ullapool is only about 72 kilometers (45 miles) west of the city of Inverness so it's a very short drive. The small village lies on the shores of Loch Broom and the Ullappol River runs through it.  I don't think there's much of anything to do in Ullapool except to rest and relax, maybe check out a few arts and crafts places, which might just be what's needed to refresh us.   Our time in the Outer Hebrides will begin the next day and I want to up fully ready to take it all in!

Here's the map and itinerary of our two day road trip from Perth to Ullapool.