By Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Thanks to some logistical changes at Stirling, our spring mid-semester break is now two weeks long. While I will definitely be setting to work on these two essays (I promise), I couldn't say no to an invitation to explore Scotland! 

Our very first stop on this two day extravaganza was the Ardoch Roman Fort near Braco. It's a common misconception that the Romans never made it to Scotland (they made it as far as Aberdeen!) and in a field just outside of Braco are the remnants of an ancient fort. Trespassing laws have loopholes in Scotland so we were able to walk into the field and stomp around on the earth.

To the untrained eye (i.e. me) this was just a hill with loads of ditches and, well, technically that's what it is. The ditches were dug in to allow the people defending the fort more time to attack, as the opposition had to go up and down over and over again to get to the fort. The fort had a watchtower and several camps when it was in its prime so it was easy to see anyone coming. It's apparently one of the most complete Roman camps in Britain, and is one of the best-preserved series of Roman military earthworks in the whole Empire.

Leaving Braco, we began to drive north into the wilds of Scotland.

Even if I had expected to see an archaeologically significant Roman fort on this trip, I certainly didn't expect to see albino wallabies just a few moments later!

These little guys were hanging out on the edge of the Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre. Their bright coats made them hard to miss as we were driving down a winding country road. We just had to pull over for some photos.

Continuing on, we arrived at Comrie and I was in for my third surprise. Comrie has a WWII Prisoner of War camp.

Cultybraggan Camp held some of the most fanatical Nazi POWs, built to house up to 4,000 category A prisoners. After the war, the camp was used by the army as a training camp and then later during the cold war, a bunker was installed for communication purposes. The Scottish Secretary of State and an assortment of organisations like the BBC and BT would operate from the bunker in the event of war.

The camp has since been taken back by the locals and some of the Nissen huts have been converted as a part of the town's sustainable development project. The bunker is now used as computer server storage. It's still extremely eerie to walk around though.

We saw on a map that there was a waterfall near Comrie and decided to go looking for it in the Laggan woods.

The two waterfalls(!) were called Wee Caldron and Deil's Caldron (as in devil) and it was quite a hike to get to them.

We stopped off at the restaurant The Deil's Cauldron to catch our breath and rehydrate and then it was back in the car, heading towards Loch Earn.

...Except we pulled over to wander on to a golf course to grab some pictures of this hill, which was once the site of a Pictish fort!

Loch Earn was windy and cold but it didn't stop us from feeding the ducks.

From Loch Earn, we travelled through Glen Ogle and past the second most famous viaduct in Scotland (the most famous being the Glenfinnan, thanks to Harry Potter). 

Past the glen, we reached Killin and the Falls of Dochart. 

The Falls are fed by Loch Tay, which we drove up to get to the village of Kenmore. 

Stopping for pictures along the way, of course. We happened upon a capercaillie conservation area, although we only found statues of the birds, not the real things.

We did, however, find a reconstructed crannog, an ancient kind of house that were built out on to lochs. While this one was constructed for the Scottish Crannog Centre, you can usually find the remnants of the settlements in most lochs around Scotland.

From Kenmore and Loch Tay, we drove to Dunkeld, home to the most incredible sausage rolls in the British Isles (not hyperbole, please visit the butchers there and you will understand).

We took a walk around the cathedral grounds. While partly in ruins now, Dunkeld's cathedral dates all the way back to 1260. It was only when we had been there a while that we noticed the distinct lack of graves. The priest informed us that there was a bad flood one year (as the river is just off to the left in this photo) so the graves of the rich were moved and the graves of the poor were... effectively washed away after being used as 'natural' sand bags. Charming.

The grounds were later beautified for Queen Victoria but it was still a little disconcerting to be in an empty graveyard.

After admiring Dunkeld's fountain in the square and accidentally exploring an estate... we finally headed in the direction of Stirling to get some well-earned rest before tackling the Trossachs the next day.

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