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The Castles of Scotland: Part 3
The House of Bruar
In order to investigate Northern Scotland and the Castle hotels it had to offer, we returned to the A9 the next morning and headed North-West, stopping at Blair Castle, which looked quite regal with its splendid turrets and white walls contrasting with the verdant fields and forests that surrounded it. As we drove along the road, we saw a lot of people going into a large building, and decided to play "follow the leader," thinking they must know something we didn't. It was a good decision because we came upon what the canny Scots should classify as a national treasure -- the House of Bruar at Blair Atholl.
I ashamedly admit that I am the shopaholic in our family. But I had not for a moment planned to buy anything in Scotland because, to be frank, I thought there wasn't much to buy. The House of Bruar changed all that.
It's not an easy place to describe. Located in an away-from-it-all part of the road and custom-built to look like a 2-story country hotel or Scottish sporting lodge from the outside, the House of Bruar is, by itself, worth a trip to Scotland for the dedicated shopper. I normally don't rave on about any given store, but I've never seen anything to match this one!
Wherever we looked there were two common denominators. Everything was absolutely top-quality, and everything was of Scottish manufacture with just a couple of Irish items thrown in to stop it from looking too parochial.
The variety of the goods displayed here was staggering. The Cashmere Hall was stacked with some of the finest Scottish cashmere I've ever seen. And the prices were right! Knitwear by Johnston's of Elgin, superb jackets and tartan goods in every possible clan. There was a huge selection of books on Scotland and even tiny, kilt-clad meece (that's "mice" if you don't speak Scottish) were on sale, each with a label saying that this was not a toy but a collectible. I bought three.
Another section is the Garden Shop, not only selling local wildflowers, Scottish trees and shrubs, alpine heathers and herbs, but also traditional gift products, especially those associated with Beatrix Potter. The "Cloth Room" proudly displays some of the finest, softest woolen fabrics as well as all the traditional clan plaids. Hard as I looked, however, I could not find anything connected with the MacGlasers. I had to console myself with the thought that as my family came from Austria, they were probably pretty thin on the ground in Scotland.
There were ties in every authentic Scottish tartan, kilts of all descriptions, clan socks, those mysterious sporrans (I never did find out what they were for, or what was worn under the kilt!) and clan caps, complete with the appropriate feathers where applicable. There was a Scottish Lord, complete with a chestful of WWII campaign medals, being outfitted with full clan regalia, and he looked like one of those "Men of Distinction" adverts for premium-priced Scotch. He could not have been a better advertisement for the House of Bruar.
Talking of Scotch, this remarkable establishment also has, believe it or not, a food hall that sells only Scottish products. And what a range! Scottish smoked salmon, Scottish shortbreads (cookies to the uninitiated, Scottish jams, many of them sensibly laced with premium Scotch, Scottish honey, Scottish liqueurs and, best of all, premium-grade single malt Scotch whisky. Fortunately for me the distillery was having a tasting, with unlimited free samples. I immediately decided it was time for my wife to drive, and went back for seconds, and thirds, and fourths and fifffffffffffffffffthththththsssssss!
Partly to sober up, we enjoyed a traditional Scottish morning tea, Scottish scones with wonderful home-style jam and clotted cream (don't count the calories) at the friendly cafeteria-style cafe at the other end of the building. Just as well that this had brought me back to the real world, because when we came out I noticed a large enclosure containing some superb examples of Scottish deer. What magnificent beasts! With antlers almost as tall again as their bearers. I'm told they shed their antlers at regular intervals and grow new ones. Amazing if true.