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The Castles of Scotland
As our well-laden Hertz rental car pointed its radiator towards Hadrian's Wall, the amazing demarcation line that Emperor Hadrian built right across the North of England to protect Roman Britain from the wild Scots, we expected to see everyone in kilts, standing around and puffing into bagpipes. It didn't happen!
Instead, the gentle Lakes country continued, eventually becoming a little more hilly and rugged. Heather and those wonderful big thistles (wonderful to look at, but disastrous if you should accidentally sit on them) supplemented the brightly yellow broom, and the natives, though disappointingly in normal clothes rather than tartans, became just that wee bit harder to understand. Luckily, Scottish friends in Australia had tuned our ears to that delightful, lilting brogue, and taught us that in Scotland a "moose" was not an animal with big horns but a little gray rodent with a long tail that you hope doesn't live in your hoose -- oops! -- house, and if it does, it becomes a pest.
We had researched our proposed trip very thoroughly and decided to stick with members of two top-notch accommodation groups -- the Scottish members of the famous French-based "Relais & Chateaux" group and "Small Luxury Hotels," an up-and-coming association of similarly world-class establishments. We couldn't have made better choices.
As we drove deeper into Scotland, the scenery became grander and even more impressive. Roads were excellent, well sign-posted and, compared to those in England, refreshingly uncrowded. Following the A9 through Bannockburn and Perth we arrived at "Kinnaird" near Dunkeld. Our first stopover turned out to be a superb family mansion built in l770 and located on a 9,000-acre estate near the River Tay.