Thursday, December 31, 2015 Road Junkies 0 Comments

, Chapter 25:  

Day 31:  Stirling to Dundee
Though we've oft been told that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, that was not the case today.  When we left Stirling in rain just after 9 a.m., we drove to the Wallace Monument, a 200-ft tower atop a hill overlooking the city, only to find it wasn't opening until 10:00.  Rather than waiting almost an hour, we decided to move on toward Perth on our way to Dundee, our intended destination for the day.

Following the M-9 north out of Stirling, we picked up the A-9 northeast near Dunblane.  When we noticed snow on the radar near Loch Earn to the west, we decided to detour and check it out.  We set off on B827, a minor road through the Perthshire hills that looked like a short cut to Loch Earn.  Less than ten minutes in, we saw a FLOOD sign just past the village of Braco.  

The highway looked passable, so we pressed on. Soon after, traffic disappeared, and the road narrowed to a single pitted lane through the wide open spaces of the southern Scottish Highlands.  The roadside was covered in lumpy grasses of amber, rust and green.  Only wire fencing kept flocks of sheep off the road.  Light rain was falling and the only other creatures we saw besides the sheep were a few sturdy farm horses.
The going was slow and by the time we reached St. Fillans and turned west toward Loch Earn, the snow we were chasing had long passed through.  On a positive note, the sky actually was clearing, so we road along A-85 skirting the north shore of Loch Earn to Lochearnhead, a village at the western end of the lake.  
Loch Earn
This cozy village of 250 plays host in summer to a flood of tourists who come to the area for hiking, fishing, boating and other outdoor activities.  Not only were the seasonal businesses locked up tight, even the public toilets were closed on this New Year's Eve.  So we reversed course and drove the A-85 forty miles to Perth.
No Scone for us today
Though we were eager to visit the spectacular Scone Palace, the crowning place of Scottish kings, it was also closed for winter.  We checked out the surging River Tay barely held back with flood walls and left town on the A-90 toward Dundee.
River Tay clearly wants to escape its confines.
By 2:15, heavy gray clouds were hanging low and headlights were essential.  Dusk was approaching when we arrived at the Doubletree Hotel outside Dundee.  Upon checkin, we were asked if we were attending the masquerade ball for Hogmanay (Scottish New Year's Eve).  Though we weren't, we saw many other guests arriving laden with formal attire who obviously were.

We were fortunate to secure a room at this busy hotel, not so lucky with dinner at the restaurant, which was fully booked for a special four-course Hogmanay meal.  The nearby Bridge View restaurant served up an excellent, if less pretentious, meal.  After a delicious herb polenta with roasted shallots and spinach, we popped into the local Tesco to stock up on food as we expect restaurants to be closed tomorrow for New Year's Day.  With no refrigeration in the room and a cold night expected, we stored our haul in the car.

The hotel staff were kind enough to assign us a room on the far end away from the party location.  Even though the hotel was fully booked, things were wonderfully quiet until the requisite midnight fireworks.