The Scottish Play and a Scottish Playwright 

3 Sep

We hadn’t expected our quiet three nights in Birnam-Dunkeld, Scotland, would turn into a literary experience, however it did. Must be something in the air.

Like salmon returning to their spawning ground Stuart wanted to revisit Perthshire, birth home county of paternal grandmother, the indomitable Effie Fenton. We also have fond memories of a family holiday with friends, Anne and Charles, staying on a farm property near Dunkeld, the boys fishing in lochs and cooking up big fish dinners. Reason enough to venture north from Edinburgh after catching the tail end of the Festival and equipping Stuart with new walking shoes. About time, he nearly came to grief descending Trolltunga with no tread.

A comfortable cottage with walks nearby was required and Elspeth’s holiday rental in Birnam was just the ticket. It’s a three-bedroom, two-bathroom cottage with a large rear garden. Ideal for a family, but also lovely for the two of us to spread out after weeks on the move in some cramped quarters. 

 Stuart literally smelling the roses in the cottage’s front garden.

The weather has been decidedly Scottish but we persisted with our planned walks and headed up 420 metre Birnam Hill on day one. 

    
Catharine, note the OS map waterproof bought in the assumption if we have it we won’t need it. Has worked thus far.

    
 At the King’s Seat summit a lovely view of distant windmills to the west.

 And to the east farmland. 

 Stuart pondering the state of his knees prior to the descent. New shoes do not new knees make sadly.

Do you recall the role Birnam Wood played in ‘Macbeth’? The three witches prophesy that ‘Macbeth shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him’. Macbeth arrogantly assumes he is untouchable, one of several misteps that undo him. A bloody marvellous play. 

The last great Birnam Wood oak tree from the time of Shakespeare is still standing by the River Tay (albeit with a few limbs propped up). I thought it could do with a hug. I am the insignificant beetle-like blip bottom right.

  
Trees feature greatly in this part of Perthshire, both sides of the Tay are, courtesy of the Duke of Atholl who undertook the plantings, blanketed by towering larch, sycamore, hemlock and oak trees. 

   
A second literary opportunity presented itself last night. We saw a production of the 2005 play ‘Pyrenees’, written by Scottish playwright David Greig, and performed by the Repertory Company of the Pitlochry Festival Theatre. I really want to say I liked it but I didn’t. It felt derivative and overwritten. The plot was ‘Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin’ (1975) meets ‘Overboard’ (1987) scripted as a four-hander set on a Pyrenean hotel terrace. The one sweet spot was the character of Pedro, the manic hotelier.

 

Can’t say I blame the old duck in the back row who fell asleep in the first act and started making loud moaning noises. The usher thought the woman was having a stroke but it turned out to be a bad dream. The actors carried on regardless.

 

Today we took a level, circular river walk via Dunkeld Cathedral and Spill The Beans cafe which would have to have the best selection of in-house baked cakes, scones and shortbread in this part of the world. Stuart pronounced his Victoria Sponge ‘as good as Mother’s’. 

 
Telford Bridge looking to the Atholl Arms, Dunkeld. 

    

It’s ok folks, the 27-year-old was seriously injured but survived. Walking in the dark on a clifftop he dropped his mobile and fell fifty feet into water trying to retrieve it. Almost Darwinian.
The Cross 
     

 Dunkeld Cathedral 
    
 Ceiling of bell tower 
   
Graffiti from the Battle Of Dunkeld, thought to be carved by a soldier while taking refuge in the cathedral. All but three houses in Dunkeld were burned during that Sunday bloodbath, many with families still inside.

Now the most tranquil of places.    
  

   
We picnicked watching fish leap in the spawning pools and on the return stopped in at the Beatrix Potter Garden in Birnam. Beatrix’s family holidayed nearby for many years, Peter Rabbit was the product of her summer holiday daydreams. The photos show a serious, dark-haired girl. Her decoded diaries reveal a wicked sense of humour, an eye for detail and a sense of wonderment about the natural world. 

    
   
Am I seeing things or is there a wee face on that pebble? 

 
  
It’s been a refreshing interlude. Tomorrow we’ll head back up to Pitlochry for a ‘whisky walk’, combining exercise with sampling a few drams of various distillaries’ product. Well, I will as Stuart is driving us back to Edinburgh for the weekend to stay with Jenny and Tristan once more before we say goodbye for who knows how long.

  
Next week we’re walking in The Dolomites with friends.  Until then, adieu!

  

(Stuart’s getting the hang of the selfie. This was attempt number five.)

4 Responses to “The Scottish Play and a Scottish Playwright ”

  1. Heather September 4, 2015 at 9:24 pm #

    Sweet memories of Perthshire which we frequently have visited being not far from Forfar (George’s brother’s place). Thank you. G&H

    • Sharon Tickle September 6, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

      Just about to post some more Perthshire snaps Heather. Have brought mementos back for you! Sxx

  2. Elspeth Baillie September 20, 2015 at 9:14 pm #

    Tried to leave this message before, don’t think it worked. Absolutely thrilled to see Viewpark on your “wordpress” Sharon, and delighted to see your other brilliant photos of the area. It’s a shame I didn’t know to recommend having a look at Dunkeld’s community garden of which we are very proud. http://www.dunkeldfield.co.uk/ The photos and information from your other trips are amazing. Have an absolutely fantastic time! Elspeth

    • Sharon Tickle September 22, 2015 at 4:56 pm #

      Hi Elspeth, I did give your first comment the tick of approval and replied so don’t know why you didn’t get it. Never mind, we know where to find you! I wished you the best for your ‘gap year’ when you are able to take the time away from your committments. Bye for now, Sharon

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