Scotland: Day 1 - Christmas Morning
Awakening at the Craigatin House in Pitlochry each Spring has become my own personal version of Christmas morning. For five years counting now, I have woken up at the crack of dawn, crept down the creaky stairs, let myself out of the main building, and gone off on foot into town to enjoy the serenity of Scotland's most beautiful village. It's become such an important tradition for me that I was almost a bit teary-eyed this morning thinking about it, laying there awake underneath the covers in my darkened room, waiting for the first sign of light to sneak in from behind the curtains.
At around 4 AM the birds start chirping. It's not yet dawn, but they know the moon is setting and that the sun will soon sneak up from behind the Perthshire's majestic hills. I slowly rolled out of bed, made a few calls to the states, and placed an order with a vendor before putting my walking shoes on.
By about six it's almost completely light and you can walk safely through town. The mountain air is crisp and cool against your cheeks, the sound of birds is now a symphony of tweets, and there's not another person out and about but yourself. It's completely tranquil. Everything seems idyllic. Your heart begins to swell with happiness.
Just outside town, running almost parallel to the main street, is the River Tummel and the gigantic hydrodam that controls the flow down stream. Every year I take the same road underneath the railway, down the hillside, and towards the stairs leading to the main platform.
Each year I take the same photo from atop the giant barrier and look down into the trees. Each time I hope I can take a better picture than the year before; something that will finally capture the glory of that place at that early morning moment. Each year I fail.
Crossing the river via the dam, you eventually come to the Pitlochry Theater (Scotland's version of Ashland, Oregon) and pass the wonderful Port-Na-Craig restaurant, before coming to the pedestrian suspension bridge—the best vantage point for a look back at the dam.
Something about Pitlochry gets inside my soul and hits every nostalgic button in my brain. I have great memories of being with my grandparents at their cabin in the Pacific Northwest, putting leaves in the small mountain stream near the cottage, and doing my best to follow their progress as they made their way towards the nearby lake. There's something almost Twin Peaks-esque as well about the area, which of course tugs at my romantic heart strings. I love being here. I love being alone on the main path along the river outlet and looking at all the colors—the darkness of the water and the green hue of the foilage. If this doesn't put you in the mood to drink Scotch whisky, then you must be absolutely dead inside.
By the time I get back it's time to eat my traditional Scottish breakfast and drink my coffee in the main dining room. The birds are still chirping. The air is still crisp. But I'm changed. I'm ready to take on the world. I'm ready to go to Edradour, give my old friend Des a big hug, and do the barrel tasting of my life.