Monday, 13 October 2008 I do in fact backtrack to
Dundrennan Abbey [Undiscovered Scotland] this morning. Mary Queen of Scots spent a night here, her last on Scottish soil.
Have a nice chat with the fellow in the booth. This time of year, staff are either dying to talk to someone--anyone--or are happy
to be left alone. This fellow is one of the former, as was Sweetheart lady. The sky is mostly cloudy, but there are enough sunny bursts
to get a few good photos. After tromping all over the grounds, I drive up the road behind, and get a good shot from above. Have to wait
a bit for a hole in the clouds. I've figured out that clouds coming over the hills tend to break up over the valley, and reform over the
next hill. Thus there is often blue sky directly overhead, but the sun, low in the southern sky, is obscured by one bank of cloud
or the other. It's utterly maddening to watch a gap in the cloud moving in the direction you want, but never arriving where you need it,
and I've suffered through this phenomenon many times in Scotland. Nevertheless, one good big break finally arrives. It's the last sun I
see all day.
Looking for something worthwhile to do in the area, I drive to Gatehouse of Fleet, hoping to get a good shot of the restored mill there. By that time, though, the sky is solid overcast, and a steady drizzle is falling. I browse the used bookstore in the mill. I've seen some disarray in used bookstores before, but this one wins the prize. It's almost impossible to move about the various nooks and crannies of the shop, for all the stacks of unfiled books. Some shops are a fire hazard. This one's an avalanche hazard, as well.
Buy a copy of The Scotsman at the local Spar. The weather forecast for today says rainy in the morning, clearing in the afternoon--exactly the opposite of what's happening. I try so hard to get people to stop being so mindlessly cynical about weather forecasts. Pointless in this part of the world.
Drive back to the Machars, and stop in at the Bladnoch distillery. A sign in the shop reads "No tours today". Perusing the bottles, I'm a little disappointed with the selection available. As I'm weighing the merits of a fifteen-year-old and an eighteen-year-old , a group of about ten persons enter the shop in the company of a staff person, looking for all the world as if they've just finished a tour. I'm invited to join them for a tasting, and so feel disinclined to ask questions. We're given a choice of samples--one each, same as last time I toured Bladnoch--and I opt for a skimpy dram of the 18. (Loosen up a little, Raymond.) It's enough to sell me a bottle, anyway.
Back at the Steampacket, I open my new purchase and have a healthy dram, followed by a two-hour nap. I've been really tired in the afternoon, moreso than at the start of my trip. Lingering effects of the cold that's been dogging me, maybe. It isn't that I haven't slept well--I hadn't been, up until yesterday. Night sweats, turning every fifteen minutes. But the bed at the Steampacket is the best I've had so far, and the worst of the cold seems to be past. Slept well last night, and do so again for the two hours this afternoon.
Dinner this evening is a smoked salmon starter and a braised lamb shank. As I eat, I think that it's a shame to spend two nights here and not see much of anything in the Machars, the consequence of my backtrack to Dundrennan. But I've been enjoying the good bed and the good food; I don't always get both. Or either.