Easter Weekend

I spent Easter weekend in Pitlochry, a small town in central Scotland that has been a popular holiday destination since Victorian times. The reason I was there was as part of the invasion force that is my family, gathered for my eldest sister’s wedding. The reason I say ‘invasion force’ is that we’re Catholic on our dad’s side. He had six siblings (one passed away a year or so ago) and they have all had their own children. And some of those children have had children. There are 22 first generation cousins and another 8 second cousins. And 17 out of 30 turned up along with 2 husbands, an assortment of 9 aunts and uncles, our mother’s side of the family, and the bride and groom’s friends and my brother-in-law’s (rather smaller) family. The wedding took place in the Atholl Palace hotel, where most of the guests stayed (but I would highly recommend the B&B in which I stayed), and the result was like an alien landing. The huge groups we gathered in in the bar and lounge meant that we had to move things round a bit, so you could tell where we’d been by furniture circles, similar to crop circles out in wheat fields.

I travelled up with my other sister, starting at Derby and overnighting at Catterick. We hit Pitlochry on Thursday evening. I spent Friday in bed, recovering from a hectic week, while the members of the wedding party that had already arrived did some outward bound activities at a local park. My parents and my kid brother arrived on Friday night barely in time for the evening’s drinks.

Saturday was a spare day for everyone to have a wander round. My parents went to
Perth and a group of others went to the local distillery. I decided to have a wander round Pitlochry itself. I’d seen a lot of signs for the (allegedly) famous ‘Salmon Ladder’, so I thought I’d follow them and see for myself what it was. The route took me through a residential back-crack and evetually led me past a small stream, where I stopped for a few minutes to watch the water flow by and then past a café with a fast service snack bar attached to the side. So I bought ice-cream. It was mint choc-chip. And the woman at the counter offered me lime sauce. In retrospect, the two didn’t work so well together but at least I can say I’ve had lime sauce on my ice-cream…

My wanderings then took me to the river.

The big rock on the right is where the ferry used to be launched from. The ferry was first set up by the local monks in the 12th Century and eventually became a commercial venture after the monks departed. Pitlochry was a popular holiday destination during the Victorian era, and the ferry across the river was a popular diversion. The ferry is no more because, in 1911, the Port na Craig suspension bridge was opened (located just off the left of the photo).

The path by the river eventually led me to the hydroelectric power station. And part of that station is the Samon Ladder. The idea is that the salmon can continue to swim up the river without suffering any harm from the workings of the power station and this is achieved by a series of artificial tunnels and pools which the salmon use as a route around the station to the artificial loch behind the dam.

(A view of the river from the top of the power station)

I had a nose in the visitor centre for a while before walking over the dam (no, I didn’t have to climb any fences, there was a public footway) and following the footpath back to Pitlochry. The route took me past two very interesting places (well, they were to me). The first was the train station.

Pretty, isn’t it?

The second was an amusement park with a buger bar on the side. It was quite an old place, as evidenced by the two plastic models as adverts for the fast food. One was a hotdog putting sauce on himself with a look of enthusiastic concentration. The second was a cone of chips.

My mum tells me they were intended to be cute back in the 50s, when these things were fashionable; I think this one just looks macarbre… Anyway, I bought a burger here and trundled my merry way back to the town where I proceeded to stuff myself with more ice-cream (rum raisin this time) and then had tea and a scone in a tearoom attached to a B&B (whose name evades me at the moment, which is a pity as I’d love to recommend the makers of the best scone I ever had…).

Most of the extended family arrived over the course of Saturday, where we gathered in the bar at the Atholl Palace around tea-time and caught up with each other (many of us not having seen each other either since a major birthday party last year or since another wedding two years ago). Everyone had their own plans for eating, with various people having booked meals at different times at the hotel itself. I decided to take the opportunity to sample the local Chinese take-away, and a coincidence of timing meant that some people were having their evening meals at the right time for me to be able to have my Chinese as the first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast. Score! I’d resigned myself to having to miss it…

The wedding itself went brilliantly, and the party afterwards was DJ-ed by the ever-perfect Charlemagne. The McDermotts are a very social family, and there was almost always one of us on the dance floor, often five, and sometimes more than ten… When ‘We Are Family’ came on, we ended up dragging as many people as possible up. In fact, that dragging became literal at one point as three of us carried a protesting cousin by the shoulders and ankles onto the dance floor.

The end of Charlemagne’s set was where he played the heavy rock for the small collection of metal-heads in the party and, if all goes well, I should be the proud owner of a photo of my three siblings having a stomp to the first track.

I went back to Cambridge with my parents and brother on Easter Monday via the Caithness Glass Centre and a Scottish pub for lunch. I wish I could remember the name of the place, ‘cos they do damn good scampi…

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~ by Scary Rob on 6 April, 2005.

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