This is our seventeenth trip to Scotland and the UK since 2000. We’ve also been to Ireland four times. The storm on Monday, May 23, was the wildest we’ve seen in our travels. Rains were heavy most of the day and it was quite breezy until mid-afternoon when, what one of the British papers called “the hurricane,” hit. The winds were up with gusts to 80 miles per hour. As we drove back from Aberfeldy at the edge of the Highlands we dodged flying branches, downed limbs, wheelie bins loosed by the winds rubbish being flung about. We arrived home (Merlindale B&B in Crieff) to discover a broken tree blocking our path to the back yard and power which flickered on and off.
Nationwide damage from the storm was extensive with bridges closed, trains shut down, roads blocked by downed trees, and two deaths caused by trees falling on occupied cars. In the north the winds along the coast reached more than 110 miles an hour. Compared to the devastations caused by one tornado in Joplin, MO, on the same day, the Scotland storm was a minor blow. Here, though, it was a truly epic spring storm, almost unheard of at this time of year. Locally for us the storm meant a couple of interesting travel days.
On Monday night power was intermittent (a series of trees up the road fell and brought down with them some power lines [photo]) at Merlindale B&B which made preparing dinner problematic. Since the lower part of the village still had power we all (the Cliffords, South African friend Jane, us, an English couple, and two Belgians we’d met the year before) chipped in for Chinese take away. Although we’d expect nothing less from John and Jacky, the other guests were quite surprised to be so taken-in by the family. John and Robin (the Englishman) went down to pick up the food and brought back a box filled with curries, chow miens, foo yungs, and battered and fried pineapple rings in syrup. With lights blinking and wine flowing we all enjoyed our indoor take away picnic and a couple of hours of craic after.
Tuesday we had no electricity when we got up, but it came on long enough to do a full cooked breakfast for the guests and the family before it finally went off completely. Anne and I headed toward Killin in the Highlands to check out storm damage and maybe get in a round of golf at the local course. The roads were mostly clear, but we could see uprooted trees, downed fences all along the route. Landscapers and tree surgeons were out in force and the sounds of the chain saws could be heard almost everywhere. In Killin the Falls of Dochart were running fuller than we’d ever seen them (see the next story) and the weather was distinctly fall-like with tempature under 40° F even though the gusts weren’t much above twenty. I took a photo of Anne on the main street of Killin in bright sun with snow capped peaks (about 3000 feet tall) in the background. A block further down the main street the hills were shrouded in swirling mists.
When we got home from our ventures we all walked up to look at the damage and repair efforts of the local power company. They were busy trying to cut away a series of trees which had fallen on a car before they could restring power lines. The promise was the house would get power restored that evening. With no power there was again no dinner in the B&B. Off we all went, minus the Belgians, to The Lounge, a new tapas restaurant in the heart of the village. Over some great small bites, a pool was started at a pound a person to pick the time power would be restored. Anne won £9 with an 11:30 p.m. guess--the latest of all of us (power eventually came on at 11:35--good guess, Anne). In the large scheme of things, the storm was small, but the stories we have about it will always be big, especially about the openness of our Scots B&B family.
Arbroath Golf Club: No Golf When We Had Golf Planned
An hour and three-quarter drive from Crieff got us to Arbroath Golf Club on Scotland’s east coast just north of Carnoustie. The course was busy as we sought out the pro to check on our booking. “We’re the Joneses and have an 11:00 tee time. It was arranged for us by Lindsay Ewart.” “I’m Lindsay, let me check.” He checked the computer bookings and hemmed a little, “We’ll fit you...it’s okay,” said Mr. Ewart. It was fairly obvious that he hadn’t made the booking for us from the email we sent to the club secretary. “We’ll take care of you, Mr. Jones, that will be £60 for the two of you.” I said, “I believe it should be complimentary. We’re writing about the course for our guide books. Here’s our email confirmation.” Mr. Ewart looked at the email exchanges and commented, “I do all the bookings here and I never intended that you would get the courtesy of the course. I don’t have the authority to do that.” With that we left.
It was obvious that our email to the secretary had been waylaid and the golf shop manager, who probably gets a cut on the booking fees, wasn’t about to give us golf and lose the fees. Arbroath GC is the first course in Scotland (out of 217 we’ve played) to not follow through on our request for courtesy of the course. From the biggest courses (St Andrews, Kingsbarns, Gleneagles, Royal Dornoch) to the smallest (Killin, St Fillans, Isle of Skye) all have given us complimentary golf--from the south (Powfoot, Southerness, Stanraer) to the far north (Ullapool, Wick, Durness, Nairn), all have honored their agreements to host us on their courses. Arbroath GC in Scotland joins one course in Wales and one course in Ireland as the unfriendliness courses out of more than 300 courses we’ve written about.
The day wasn’t a total loss--we drove back to our course at St Fillans and enjoyed a great 18 holes [photo].
Rivers in Spate
One more result of the storm was a change in the burns and rivers. As heavy rains filtered down from the heights the burns filled up dramatically. We’d seen this rapid rise Deeside earlier in the month, but for a photographer these results were spectacular. Buchanty Spout is a small falls or cascade on the River Almond near the two house hamlet of Buchanty. I’d photographed the falls several times before but the river was well up on Sunday, May 22, higher than I’d seen it before [photo 1]. When I returned on Monday after about two inches of rain over night I was quite surprised [photo 2]. A full river was now a raging torrent. I scrambled around carefully--a fall into the rapids would easily be fatale. I did stay away from the water’s edge, but I wasn’t agile enough to avoid slipping on the slimy moss-covered rocks. I save the camera from damage but not my leg. I continued taking pictures for a while and then limped sheepishly back to Anne waiting in the car. Were the images worth the bruises and scrapes? I’ll have to wait to see.
Through Sma’Glen I stopped to take pictures of a small burn which usually doesn’t have enough water for good snaps. This day it looked like a wee river.
The last stop on our river photo tour that day was at the Birks of Aberfeldy, made famous by a Robert Burns poem. When we’d visited on other trips the Moness Burn was a gently flowing stream. Now the river was full and the photos were definitely not of a peaceful forest stream. From the Birks we traveled home to Merlindale B&B in Crieff where I could nurse my scraped leg and clean my moss-stained pants.
The next day we made the drive past Lochearn up to Killin in the Highlands to view the Falls of Dochart on the river Dochart.
Usually a pleasant photogenic set of rapids, the falls made powerful images with the peaty brown water splashing and dashing among the rocks. All the rivers in spate were definitely worth the trouble and battering it took for us to visit.