As secluded as Glen Affric is, we had no problem finding our way there from Edinburgh. It took us two hours longer than we’d expected—on the dangerously curvy and narrow roads, we got stuck behind trucks, tractors, and cyclists pulling there babies in little carts—, but we made it all the way to the gate of Kerrow House without making a single unfortunate turn.
So we were a bit big for our britches when we set out for Grantown-on-Spey, the next stop on our tour of Scotland. It all looked so straightforward on the map: turn right at Loch Ness, take this motorway, turn right on that motorway, and so on. Although we were on major, wide roads almost the entire time, we couldn’t have made more wrong turns. Actually, I think we drove by our B&B a couple of times before we “found” it on the outskirts of Grantown-on-Spey.
Grantown-on-Spey is a conventional Scottish village with a row of shops, a meagre square and one acceptable restaurant. Suffice it to say, there ain’t much to do in the town, except drink cider and listen to the bagpipes. Just a dozen kilometres away is the larger, more congested Aviemore—don’t even think about venturing into the tiny Tesco parking lot on a busy day—where hikers and climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts start there trips to the Cairngorms National Park.
The Cairngorms are windy. And cold. And apparently a little crappy. Literally. You see, hikers often stay a few days in the mountains, using the mountains each day as a toilet. Well, the park rangers have had just about enough of that. Introducing the Cairngorm Poo Project. When I saw the sign, I just had to investigate.
As it turns out, hikers staying overnight in the mountains are provided with a little bucket and several biodegradable cornstarch bags, in which they secure their solid waste (yes, I’m searching for delicate phrasing) and tote it back down the mountain. At this point hikers deposit their handiwork into this nifty shaft.
When we came down from the chilly mountain (sadly without an offering for the poo project), we headed to the valley for a walk around the beautiful Loch Morlich. Who says the sun never shines in Scotland? At least for my father and me, the sun came out every day. The heather was in bloom . . .and the trees were smiling.
Next time, we’re off to Dublin.
I must be off,
Christopher Allen is the author of the flash fiction collection Other Household Toxins.