A Highlands Excursion

Contrary to any impression my recent (and horribly infrequent!) posts may give, my life here is not really just a series of fantastic trips to photo-worthy places. In reality, it involves a lot more time spent learning to document sources according to the Chicago Manual of Style and scrubbing seagull droppings off of the handlebars of my bicycle so I can ride to the grocery store. Nevertheless, now that I have found a minute to write, I might as well indulge in a bit of escapism and share some photos of my recent trip to the Highlands!

Over ‘Independent Learning Week’ (an inverse-euphemism for fall break meant to encourage studying), my friend Brooke and I took the train north from St Andrews to the small but touristy town of Aviemore in the Cairngorms National Park. We thought that the train ride itself was worth the trip!

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Entering the city of Dundee.

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I think America is suffering from a severe lack of aesthetically pleasing old train stations, like this one in Perth.

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Passing through the charming burgh of Pitlochry.

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Train-window photography can result in accidental shutterbug selfies.

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As the hills rose outside the train window and it became significantly more misty, we knew we were entering the highlands…

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Maybe the Highlands are overly-romanticized at times, or so I have thought. However, each moment the train took us by another stunning view, speckled with sheep (countless, free and happy sheep) or perhaps even graced with a rainbow. When God made the Highlands, He was determined not to disappoint.

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After a three hours of train travel, we arrived in Aviemore, and, after a bit of confusion, found our hostel. We decided to save our hiking in the park for the next day because we only had a few more hours of daylight, so we wandered around the peculiar tourist oasis of Aviemore.

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Is there a bicycle in that tree? Yes. Why? I haven’t a clue.

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Brooke and I were happy to find this fine feline.

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The front of one bed and breakfast was artfully littered with cauldrons and cast-iron antiques. Is there a kookier way to decorate your garden?

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This basket could make my grocery shopping so much easier.

In the evening, we heard that there would be traditional Scottish folk music at a pub in town. However, the performance wouldn’t start for a few hours, so we went to a coffee shop to read our Renaissance poetry, like good English students. While we were there, we were a bit surprised to hear the Temptations’ “My Girl” played at least twice within an hour in a mix of other Motown songs, but we certainly wouldn’t complain of it. To kill more time, we followed signs for a cinema thinking that we could even see a movie before going to the pub. We ended up lost, wandering in circles in the resort complex where the cinema was (but like everything else in the town, it had closed unusually early). Eventually, we made our way to the pub and settled in a tartan spangled corner. The singer strummed his guitar and did a sound check, then immediately burst into “My Girl”. Apparently the folk group couldn’t make it after all. Oh well, it was a memorable evening, and “My Girl” isn’t a bad song, anyway.

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Our second day in Aviemore, we rode the spectacular Strathsprey steam train to the nearby town of Boat of Garten. We could have taken the train on to Broomhill, but the clerk at our hostel recommended getting off at Boat of Garten because there was’ more to see there than at Broomhill’. After seeing Boat of Garten, we wanted to know how there could be less to see at Broomhill! Highland towns can be very, very small. Boat of Garten had a general store, the old railway station, two cafes, an art gallery (which was closed), and a couple of streets of houses. Walking down the main street, we enjoyed the view of the surrounding mountains, and then sat down for tea and cake at one of the cafes.

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img_1817When we returned to Aviemore, we were ready to embark on the true mission of our trip: a hike. 
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Independent Learning Week happened to coincide with the peak of Scotland’s autumn folliage, which made for a glorious hike and lovely photos!
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After about an hour, we made it to the cairns at the top. Cairn is a Gaelic word for a man-made pile of stones which may function as a landmark in modern times, but in ancient times many of the cairns were burial monuments.

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In the evening, we took the train back to St Andrews to enjoy a few more days off before lectures recommenced. It may have been a short trip, but it was truly an adventure!

 

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