Sue: Last Day
One last kick at the can today before we head back. The trials are winding down here as the shepherds have to gather the hill and the Nationals are coming up. If I stayed a little longer I could stay forever as I’d have no job to return to. Hmmmm.
Seems a shame to leave just as the light bulb is flickering but we’re headed home.
Today a flat green field along the river Don in Banchory on Aberdeenshire. We drove through the Cairncorns from Aviemore, where we stayed in a smart motel. So smart our dumb selves had to go ask how to turn the lights on in the room.
The drive was spectacular. Through forested slopes and larch lined winding roads. Rivers cut through the valleys. The spey esk and don. The trial kind of like 80 acres. Flat, about 350 yards. A chute and split four. Mules. Wow. Light, hard to steer, unwilling to turn the post or even consider the chute in the a.m. Weather was fine, though rain threatened.
I ran Flo first. Outrun ok, stopping, pretty good fetch. But the turn!!! Took most of my time and we only got to the first drive gate. Peat fared better in the afternoon. Actually saw my score: 75. Sheep had left before he got there. My timing was not perfect and no fetch gates. Turn drive good. Got the chute with a lot of work. A horned ewe was just not interested and she passed her bad attitude to the others. Peat was a good dog. No grip. The split came quickly It was a good run to end the trip on.
So now we’re in Edinburgh at the airport. I’m tired, all my clothes are dirty. I’m out of coffee and toothpaste. Time to go home and regroup. This was a trip of my dreams and I’ll come again.
Sue: Day 10
Whew. Woke up on Uig where we stayed at the Uig hotel. A ferry terminal town. Move ’em in move ’em out. Note to self: Avoid these kind of places. Not much in the way of charm. Though really it was fine and had a good view. We have just been spoiled.
Up and off to Dunveagan where we actually had no idea where we were going. We drove around expecting signs. Were about to sit at the crossroads and wait for the parade of handlers to appear, but I got anxious and decided to ask at the hotel. The innkeeper had no idea but suggested we could flag down the post van which would be by at eight or could wait for the chap with dogs to come by with his key.
Jim Weir appeared around and gave very sparse but accurate directions. We would never have found it. It was four miles out of town and on the back side of a loch down a small track. The field ran across a football field and we only saw it once we had driven past the loch. Two guys standing in a field and a sheep trailer. That’s it.
The sheep were the same crazy Cheviots from Waternish. They were set behind a line of tall grass actually in a second field. The outrun was only about 150 yards but for Flo running to a second field to sheep she did not see was not happening without the redirect which we gave almost perfected. But it caused excitement and it did not take much to send the sheep flying towards the loch. I really did not want to swim for them so we quit. Six sheep drowned one year. So I considered my action wise.
I did not see Peat’s sheep because they’d not been set. Good gather regardless of an off line pick up but the sheep bolted at the turn and he went behind the cars to get them. Again they headed for the beach. I decided I’d had enough fun.
Actually hard to keep your mind on one trial with the next one waiting.
Bev had a good go with Joe and we hit the road. Hugs and goodbyes to Brenda, Sally, Gerda, Daniel, Enid and Jeff Moore and Claire Neale who were all heading home. Emails were shared, invitations extended both ways and we were off. What a great group we had met. I was very sad to say goodbye to our new friends. Hope to see them all again.
The drive to Gairloch was spectacular as promised. I had driven the route 20 years ago with Gene and we had climbed a few of the rocky hills we drove past. Dramatic land forms and weather. Some single track roads and two lane highways.
Yummy chicken korma for lunch at place I’d been long ago when it was just a climbers lodge in the Cuillens with sheep packed along the lee side to get out if a gale.
Gairloch!!!! Pay your entry. Get handed a bottle of whiskey and go to the post. A cross between Loon Mountain and the Big One.
I ran Peat as Flo had no clue and was not looking up. Steep 400 yards with a 100 yard wall of bracken into which three paths had veen carved. Left right and fetch. The bottom the fetch was flat for drive pen and shed. Wiley bouncy dicey cheviots which were breaking in three directions at the top for the current handler was my first impression.
Bev went with Joe. Good outrun after a short time in the bracken good lift stops on the fetch and at the bottom they dove into the bracken in three places before they crashed the fate and headed out of the field. Game over. Not much Bev could have done.
Yikes. Our turn. Peat saw them. And after a slight look at the set out lifted and had good fetch, turn, and drive.
At the pen they dodged and split and jumped rope.
Finally a grip after turning them back about a million times. His abilities have increased tremendously but here’s a weak spot that recurs. Sigh. It was going really well.
Flo needed a lot of redirects but got there. Judge called us off to save the sheep for the next run. I wasbummed as I wanted her to lift them after all her effort,but Flo’s personal growth was not on his mind. It was 5:30 with lots more to go. Fair enough. Flo gave it her all. I have to hope it was a good experience over all.
Two hours drive through Inverness down the A9 and we are at the high rane motelin aviemore poised for the last trial (sob) at Aboyne in Aberdeenshire.
I am down to my last bit of coffee and my last pair of clean socks so I guess we have to go home.
But it seems like there could always be one more great trial just down the road.
Sue: Day Nine
Up at 4:30 with sunrise because I have finally shifted time zones and it is so gorgeous in Loch Erisort that I want to enjoy it. We loaded up and headed to Tarbert for the ferry to Uig on Skye. From there a death defying drive down a single track road with switchbacks to Staffin on the western coast of Skye.
What location is most beautiful. No idea. But the ferry ride on calm seas with deepening blue sky and dark waters was a charming trip.
Staffin is a flat field, about 450 yards, that opens onto a vast peat bog. As always, a lefthand drive and most people sent right as it was a shorter trip to the sheep. Left and a dog would cast out onto the bog and run into rough terrain and ditches. But it was a hard long dog leg to the right and the sheep pulled heavily to the left over a hill to where they were exhausted and had pastured over night
The post had an off-pressure turn fairly close to the rope marking the bottom of the field and the spectators. As they rounded the turn for the first drive gate they broke up the hill and were happy to plow over the dogs.
This as you might have guessed got worse over the day in the heat and as the sheep were rerun. They were not easy to shed as they broke past the handler. In the morning they were fun to work. I completed a run with Flo which was yet another sign of our progress. She handled the sheep well, a bit gleefully at times. Listening all around a bit slow to come around for the dog leg but all gates made. Nice tight turn, good handle on the sheep to the first drive gate. Good drive and pen and her insistance that closet was better on the shed. We did shed but raggedly. I was pleased.
Peat had a nice gather. Sent left. Just because it looked cool. Big outrun. Pretty decent fetch–got the line and the dog leg We got a pretty good turn but the sheep bolted along the rope to break up the hill. Peat was not able or willing to cover them so close to the rope and hill; he dove in amongst them and tumbled. Appeared to me he tried to tackle one. No grip but off all the same. Not sure what else i could have done. But the gather was cool, just came to naught.
Most of us dropped like flies at the turn. We bonded over it. Bev Gerda Brenda sally. We cheered for anyone who could get the drive gate. It got hot. The Scots and Brits exposed their beautiful fair skin and soaked up the sun like lizards.
Chicken curry for lunch. Murdo Murray won followed by Ian Macdonald who organized the trial. Carol had a nice run with a lovely dog named mirk. We liked Kenny Braemer who ran a clever prick eared bitch who reminded us of Joni’s dog Sage. Kenny’s handling made us sit up and take notice.
It was a long, hot day. The scenery was magnificent. A very tough trial as the sheep tried to bully the dogs at the turn. Tomorrow we hit two trials. Dunvegan and gairloch on the mainland.
The journey home begins tomorrow.
We are familiar with the routine now. A lot of banter and camaraderie has developed amongst the handlers. I know my dogs have improved and watching these handlers run has been unbelievable.
Sue: Day Eight
Well. I hardly know where to start.
Ok. How about with me.
Peat was second. I will never have such a cool run again. And even if i do. I don’t care.
Long complicated outrun uphill 500-60 yards over broken terrain bogs ditches. Dogs were not making the outruns. A dog sent left jumped the fence crossed the road and gathered the sheep in the guys front paddock. Amazing stuff.
My dogs did a nice job. Flo got out to the sheep with a redirect and was bringing them down the complicated steep slope when I blew the wrong whistle. Lost them in a gully she came out with three. The other ran back up to the set out. My mistake. But she knew where the sheep were. Had a plan to get them and accepted my help and commands very far from home.
Very cool for Flo. Too bad I’m such a dope.
Peat was great. Nailed the outrun, listened on the fetch, did the drive pen and shed ably. It was a run that flowed. Second to last in sunshine. What a cool moment.
I have fought with Peat on many occasions. I hope this lasts. Relaxing and trusting each other feels so much better.
Nice day all around. The course was as fantastic to watch as to run on. The dogs all tried their best and ably to work on the difficult terrain. The blackies (mostly) Had to be coaxed down the hill and through the fetch gates. Some groups split and there were masterful jobs fixing splits, getting dogs to the sheep throughout the day.
The sun shone most of the day and it brought everyone out of their cars and on onto chairs set up in front of the usual line of cars.
Today we knew most of the handlers and their dogs and could study the running order (took a pic with my Iphone to be able to consult it throughout the day) to identify anyone who we were unsure of.
Again each trial is welcoming and special. A food concession was run by the locals and a raffle was offered with prizes awarded at the end of the day.
We took a trip into Stornoway to visit the vet for our fit-to-fly certificates to go home Monday. Dr Hector Lowe saw us and thoroughly examined the dogs. He got on the floor with them. And they mobbed him. What a charming delightful guy. It was fun to visit his office. He gave me a tour and we compared notes a bit. He has lurchers and hunts rabbits with the lurchers and … ferrets!!!! How cool is that? What a great guy.
We also spent a little tourist money downtown. First chance to shop the entire trip. We spent a long time in the Harris Tweed shop. I bought a warm sweater to ensure sunshine the rest of our trip. I will break it out for the fall trials in october.
We returned to our hotel for dinner and joined Carol Mellin from the Pennines and her friend Colin. She runs 1000 sheep on the moors and has been running dogs for about 20 years. She was in the prizes as was Bev with nan so we were a happy group. The restaurant adjoins the pub and the innkeeper was there tonight. The waitresses seem like old friends since we’ve been there three nights. Everyone knew about the trial.
I will never forget this day.
All’s well at home. Nice to touch base with everyone by text every night. Allows me a rare opportunity to relax and enjoy myself away from home.
Tomorrow we are off to a trial at Staffin on Isle of Skye. We catch a ferry at 7:15. Our last ferry ride.
We will meet up with the trialing crew on the boat tomorrow morning. It is promised to be a spectacular large hill course organized by a very dedicated local community.
Not one of these trials has been any kind of let down no matter how my dogs have run nor despite the weather.
Today was spectacular but I am eager for what tomorrow has in store.
Sue: Day Seven
This is the lunar landscape that Jim Cropper describes. He says he expects to see dinosaurs coming over the hill. Way north on the west coast of Lewis. We wound our way out of our inn on Loch Erisort where we are staying for three days.
And let me tell you what I like about the inn.
Guiness on tap. Delicious scallops with salad(!). We passed on dessert. Good wifi. Clean sparse rooms with the longest tubs you’ve ever seen. Heated towel racks (I love those). Hot pot for coffee in the room and switches on all the outlets. My grandmother would approve. She used to plug in the clock to get the time.
The food has been pretty good everywhere.
Potato and leek and lentil soup with fabulous baking and great tea at all the concessions run by local ladies. I am very fond of tea cake now and had an interesting sandwich today- Cheese and pickle.
We did actually see a stone circle. How they got there who made them why…. No one knows. I did not feel the energy of the spheres concentrate in my body. So i took a couple of quick pics and ran back to the car (you guessed it–raining).
On to Shawbost. Where the rocky field looked a bit treacherous. Rock littered peat bog with holes dips and initially invisible drive gates. The hill gently slopes up to the set out (280 yards).
Somethings fishy here we decided. What’s the trick here? Just then about 80 blackface dashed across the top of the field with a large horned Black Hebridean in the lead.
Ah, it’s the sheep today!! Dashing fighting turning splitting facing the dogs. Two flocks. Blue marks and blue and red marks. One flock pastures on the field to the left. One on the field to the right. Choose your side if you can they run both ways and back and forthat the top.
Sheep are set here by men. With maybe one dog not unusual to see two or three guys.
They try to just push them out and let them settle. Today a lot of great work by the shepherds dog. Wide fast smooth there at the right point to settle the scattering groups. We ate lunch with the shepherd I thanked him for his sheepand yhe work. Especially his dog. Ah, he laughed, you’re the only one who’ll thank me today!
Anyway. A fun day. Raining off snd on. We sit in the car a lot.
By now we recognize handler which is a lot more rewarding than the first day when anonymous rains suit clad figures crashed and burned in the rain at Waternish.
The dog work and handling is often impressive but the sheep have proved a challenge and many groups have come to grief.
Want to hear about me?
Thought you’d never ask.
The stone circle did not help Flo. She did a very nice outrun with no help from me but sheep bolted to the left and I can only hope she did not see them on the steep hill. redirect and she got them but they were from the field on the right and they charged the fence line. Flo could not/would not go between them and the fence. I stopped her they eased off the fence slightly and she started them towards me. One turned on her her from atop a hummuck and the exhaust dog was sent. On the plus side–good spotting outrun and listening. Just not able to cope with the breaking bad sheep.
Peat on the otherwise felt the power of the stone circle. Nice gather from left hand outrun. A little pushy on fetch but straight and he was stopping listening and flanking.
No one spun on him and we had an one big bellied high headed ewe.
Good drive but circled the pen. High Nose did not want in and we were both surprised by the sheep. All the time we spent at the pen allowed us to learn to work them and Peat relaxed laid down in the right places and covered without overflanking. Not a brilliant shed but the terrain madevit awkward to call your dog in. We finished ahead of the 27 point standard.
I csme off to applause. Bev had collected some American tourists from Florida. Glad to oblige but it was a little embarrassing. A great run for me and Peat but not really good enough here.
And I have two thank you’s. Donald Macritchie from Ness.
Booked us into these trials and answered a lot of questions. Very nice guy. A retired school teacher who runs the circuit.
And Michael Gallagher put this idea in my head last June and called Donald for me.
I am very grateful to both of them.
Sue: Day Six
Today we caught the ferry from Berneray at 7:15 to Leverbourough on South Harris. The ride was about an hour. The last 30 minutes the ferry threaded its way through shoals, ledges, and small islands via a well-marked narrow channel. Betty Levin bareboated these islands in the sixties with a crew of her family. What an undertaking that would have been; the waters look like they could be treacherous.
On to Scarista on the west coast of Harris. Steep rocky green hillsides line the coast road ending in broad flat shallow bays and gorgeous sandy beaches rivaling those in central California but with no development. To my mind as gorgeous as a seacoast could be. The water was about as cold as on the coast of Maine. Maybe a swim if the sun comes out and stays out.
And it was a lovely day. The field is flat, five hundred yards and full of buttercups. About 150 blakface ewes were driven up the field at the trial start.
To the right of the field are dunes and a cut through onto one of the most beautiful sand beaches you could imagine, with turquoise waves rolling in along the sand.
Happily Flo enthusiastically spotted her sheep and with minimal assistance completed her outrun. A definitive lift and good start to her fetch, but her enthusiasm continued in a manner objectionable to the sheep. In her defense Flo was in good company in having sheep spilt and escape on the fetch.
The running was dicey. Many sheep split, dove for the set out, or balked at coming down the field. Some dodged in amongst the cars at the turn. If you made the turn the rest of the run was not as difficult as the fetch. I was pleased with Flo’s initiative on the outrun.
Peat ran later. Great outrun in his normal style. He came across the water today. Fetch was not perfection and we missed fetch gates, but he was listening, stopping, and flanking. I’ll take credit for the missed fetch. We also missed the second drive gate. Penned and were called to a 21 pt standard. But Peat ran well for me. Was flexible responsive and relaxed.
We stayed for prizes and drove north to Loch Erisort where we stay for three nights.
The drive is fantastic. Hilly rocky barren hills and windy roads. Jim Cropper says it’s like the surface of the moon. Never been there but I know what he means.
This dog trialing is hard work. We have six more trials to go. Fantastic. And the next at Shawbost is another different venue. Different sheep.
Meeting people every day who are kind, helpful, funny, and welcoming
Did not object to Bev driving today. The windy roads make her feel like James Bond and I get to gape at the scenery.
Such team work.
Sue: Day Five
Well. Our room at Lochmoddy Hotel was right over the pub. The sun never set last night as far as i can tell. I slept so little that I actually slept in until the alarm at 6:30.
Proper Scottish breakfast minus the black pudding and off to Berneray. On the way we saw yesterday’s mud flats at Orasaigh at the high tide–a different seascape altogether.
Berneray is a small island connected to north Uistby, a causeway.
In the 1850s the highland clearances took place. The island was cleared of the resident crofters by the estate farm. The lands and stock were seized. Many emigrated to Australia; some stayed and ate limpets and mussels collected at low tide. In the 1900s, a few families were granted crofts allotments. The crofters faces and names are posted in the community hall where lunch is served for the trial, and we have access to the loo. There are basketball hoops on either end of the hall. The names are Macloed Mackillop Murdo Peterson, among others
You can see what bonded history these islanders have. The clearances, the harsh climate, the war. Other photos show 35 schoolchildren in an open cat boat on their way to a picnic in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation and other photos of islanders working together plowing and unloading sheep off a landing craft. What an outsider I felt looking at the photos. What a special place this is.
Today there were signs to the trial and yet again we arrived before anyone else. We weren’t going to be tapped first by signing up early, so we drove off to walk dogs and allow Joe to roll in something disgusting (Flo had her opportunity yesterday. I threw her into a loch three times to encourage her increasing trust in me).
We drove back to the trial and showed up after many others, but still I had the honor of running second. Actually first as the first runner walked off after her dog went wide and behind the set out.
So lets talk about me.
I was in the loo when they announced pen and split but all at once i was up with Flo. The course is flat, about 400 yards. To the left is rough ground that dips out of sight. To the right is rough ground with a fence and sheep grazing on a rocky hillside croft beyond.
Flo chose left after looking and sniffing the air for the hillside flock. She went out wide and fast, needed a whistle to continue, then crossed in front but lifted ok, if not a wee bit hard. I was able to stop her with a shout or two and though wide at the fetch gate they were at my feet and she was listening and settled.
Much better than Waternish. I had a run going. Doesn’t sound like much, but even with the cross Flo went out with purpose. Her approach to her outrun has been a concern. Before I left she was not spotting her sheep nor having any creative thoughts about going out for them. With Bev’s breakdown of cost per outrun, i was a bit anxious
We had a wide off-pressure turn. They were a newly shorn foursome of spritely aged ewes without a strong commitment to each other. Flo’s treatment of them on the fetch did not soothe them, but we treated them tenderly on the drive and coaxed them thru both drive gates. It was a good drive and Flo responded nicely to steer them well through the gates.
The pen was a long way from the post. We had a time penning them. Hasty dog flighty sheep. It was a rush. It was a long rope on that pen and the door swung lightly on its hinges.
The split was not too hard and I thought we made a god job of it.
Wow. Even with a cross. A completed run on fantastically fresh sheep. Flo had as much fun as I did and though a bit over eager was willing, free, and responsive. Can’t wait for the next go with her.
So I think i had the only run before the rain began. (Ah, you should have been here last year. Not a drop of rain …)
Bev had a wild running packet with Nan. Got around but they never slowed down. She’ll tell you more later.
What i have learned here, among other things. Don’t dock tails anymore. If lambs are not in a dirty yard. I don’t see the point. Don’t post breakdowns or even scores. Everyone just runs and a winner is announced at some point in the circuit. I like that. And Shirley Cropper said the sheep would be from different crofts. No kidding!!! After eight runs, the cheviots were replaced by four mules, then a few packets of orange marked cheviots. Seems like a few flocks used consecutively but not mixed. What an interesting way of having enough sheep.
The penning is the thing here. We went to get soup and buy raffle tickets at the community center, and very few pens.
Jim and Shirley had good goes. No split for Jim but both had nice clean pens Shirley just got her split as the rain pours down.
We are holed up in the car. No handlers tent, so this is not as sociable as our trials back home. Our fly fishmen dropped by. We did not tipple, I’m sorry to say. Now we wait in the car for our second go.
Too bad about this weather, but the trialing is fine regardless.
Well, it’s still raining after lunch. Had my nap and was called to run Peat
He wanted the exhaust sheep but took a redirect and headed out for sheep he had never seen. Good boy really.
Much better than Waternish but four racing blackies that had left the set out before he got there.
We never got hold of them until the pen. I thought we had it after a lot of work easing them towards the mouth. Me giving way creeping. All the wonderful tips from my friend Amanda. Bev approved of my technique but alas one full figured ewe – a total malcontent- broke over peat. (Who has been a really good guy). What’s a guy to do.
Bev’s up soon with Joe. Weather’s breaking a little. Actually this might be full on beach weather.
We now understand mist vs rain (blows sideways).
I have never had so much fun in my life.
Sue: Hebrides, Day Four
Where are we now?
Up early to take hedgehog pictures (they snuffle when you point a flash in their face to get cute photos, which I cant seem to upload,
And tuck in a heap so even peat loses interest).
Hedgehogs can move!!! We encountered the one from the garden 200 yards down the hill and by the time I’d closed the garden gate she/he was under our car.
Protected they are. So don’t harass a hedgehog, you paparazzi!!
We has a lovely drive to Uist where the ferry left at 9:40 for Lochmoddy on North Uist
We tried to book an evening passage, as no shopping on sundays on Uist. Blue law kind of place, but no luck. Waiting in line we met another cute trio of guys off for a fishing tippling jaunt on North Uist
We played the six degrees of separation game and one guy knew Andrew Carnegie.
They were a hoot. Their windshield wipers broke in a downpour and they were able to rig the wipers with fishing line. One guy on each side of the car pulling in sync with the other. I loved them. Also when they found out I would tipple we were immediately offered homemade sloe gin from a handy little flask. These scots are so resourceful.
We toured North Uist today. Walked on a huge mud flat, saw the signs for standing stones and stone circles and walked through a peat bog. This is a sparse rugged island dotted with tiny lochs and peat bogs. A few thousand foot peaks and some high rocky pasture land on the northwest coast. A fine sunny day to sightsee and make the dogs happy on many walks.
9:30 at night still plenty light out.
This the view from my seat outside the lochmoddy hotel.
And tomorrow to Berneray to our second trial of the circuit
Btw. I did most of the driving today. Bev seemed to volunteer to sit in the passenger seat. Once again i did awesome. Driving on the left is not rocket science. You just have to get the timing if single track roads passing places and on coming cars. No doubt Bev let me drive to enjoy my failings. Anything i can do to make her happy. She is a lot of fun to travel with. Witty observant knowledgable about the history of UK/American relations.
It was also a lot of fun to watch her handle the tricky course and sheep yesterday. Nan crossed and Joe did not shed first off but her skill was evident throughout her runs.
Weather may turn wet tomorrow. But we’ll hope for the best.
Sue: Hebrides, Day Three
I love this already. Good long sleep, brought my own coffee, another trip to the loch to try out the cute little camera that Amanda lent me.
Sheep everywhere. Scotties with lambs and what seem to be North Country Texel crosses.
After a delicious vegetarian breakfast at our b and b we headed for Waternish and the trial. Not knowing either time or exact location did not matter. We kept driving till we found it, and after awhile people showed up and the trial started.
We knew Arthur Mawhinney and Jim and Shirley Cropper.
The field was gorgeous. Right on the loch. Weather cool and overcast with rain to come in the pm.
We cowered in the car long enough to avoid running first but drew up 6 & 7 with Joe and Flo (our choice of first dogs).
A lot of dogs did not find their sheep, Flo included. Her outrun was not what i might have hoped for and though she took all my stops and redirects it was not a success.
Sigh. Should i have brought Rue? Too late.
Bev however had a good go with joe and her ears perked up at the thought of her score
The sheep are feisty little Cheviots. Not lambs but they have an inclination to drop about every fifth or sixth run.
An education it has been.
Today both dogs crashed. Peat said I want right. And i overrode him. He uncharacteristically tried to cross–did not, but had a heavy lift and shall we say a strong fetch. Tight turn round the post, lovely straight soft driveaway and looking like a very neat turn onto the crossdrive. Sheep split, stalled, faced him and he gripped off.
Bummer. Especially when Bev has tallied how much each run costs if you add up the cost if the trip and divided it by the number of runs.
Now that is no fun. At least not today. But I really learned a lot today.
Also ended the day with a Guinesss on draft and a lobster dinner at a pub with Jim and Shirley cropper and some friends of theirs from England and Scotland, Rhubarb crumble and custard to boot.
And i saw two hedgehogs tonight. Another reason to live here. I love hedgehogs.
Sue: Hebrides, Day Two
Ah. Where did day 1 become day 2?
When Peat began barking below my feet in the hold, i knew our flight was at an end. We extracted ourselves from tortured sleeping positions and deplaned. We had to make our way to the car rental and the dog shipper who would clear dogs through customs and hand them over. Thank God Peat barked on the trip as I only spotted three crates on the tarmac on our way to customs.
For me the first stop was Costa for a mocha latte (very acceptable) and then I caught up to Bev on the ten-minute walk to the car rental.
Everyone we met was so friendly. No one was in any kind of hurry. We chatted at customs, we chatted at the car rental, we chatted at the dog broker with the agents and a cute guy just back from Afghanistan with his bomb-sniffing border collie. Emily and Andrew the extraordinaire dog agents could not have been nicer. They even cleaned a peed-in crate.
Peat and Flo were deliriously happy to see me. Did not even have to show ID to claim them
At that moment our trip became fun. Safe dogs, all officialdom and paperwork completed. Most of the big money already spent. Of course, the fun really began when we began to navigate away from the airport. Driving on the left, we threaded our way through roundabouts in and out of a housing development We were sternly warned about traffic through Perth because of the music festival. Ha. We scoffed. We had travelled across the George Washington Bridge in mid afternoon to Neward yesterday. We had flown across the Atlantic in a plane with a bum engine. Perth did not scare us.
Bev drove ably through Perth to Pitlochry as I gawked at the view. Lush fields, steep hills, forest. Gorgeous well-fed cattle and sheep and horses dotting the countryside.
I had been longing to return to this country for 20 years and it was as I remembered. Charming magnificent. In full growing season.
And we had brought dogs!!
I began to plot my move to Scotland.
Lunch in Pitlochry with our dogs tied to our table outside. The waitress brought the dogs water. I heard American accents everywhere. People loved our dogs and were supportive of our journey to run in the Hebridean trials.
I did not feel tired
The trip to Skye, however, became a feat of endurance after poor sleep and the time change. The grandeur of the Highlands was a constant encouragement, but it was a long trip.
Bev was a happier driver than passenger, so I was only able to wrest the wheel from her once we had reached the bridge to Skye at Kyle of Lochalsh. I had my shot at left-hand driving on the last hour of windy single-track roads with sheep everywhere and passing places for oncoming cars. Despite Bev’s occasional complaints, I did awesome. I had to remind her that I too had had some hair-raising moments as a passenger. Occasionally sucking it up is a good thing.
Our B&B. was a little bit out of the way but charming. Sheep everywhere. Fabulous vegetation and gardens by the sea. It seems a fairly temperate climate, kind of like home on Cape Cod but grand, stunning and sparsely settled
I found the landscape much like the west and very soothing to the eye and mind.
An early night will set us up for tomorrow.