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The Castles of Scotland: Part 5
Loch Torridon Hotel, which is not in Torridon village, is the only hotel on the A896, so you won't have any trouble finding it. Set amidst 58 acres of parkland at the foot of a mountain with a name like a shock-absorber -- Ben Damph -- Loch Torridon, with its turrets and towers, was once the grand shooting lodge of the first Earl of Lovelace (no relation to Linda). This fairytale Scottish hideaway offers cordon bleu cuisine and luxury accommodation at a surprisingly reasonable cost and offers wonderful opportunities for walking, stalking, fishing or just relaxing.
Returning to the A9, we reached Kinnaird at sunset, ravenously hungry after such a long drive, and did our gourmet dinner justice. Then early to bed. It had been a long day.
The next morning we rose bushy-tailed and bright-eyed (as the rabbits say in Scotland), enjoyed our wonderful breakfast and said good-bye to Kinnaird. Onward ever onward.
We continued down the A924 over the Grampian Mountains. There we saw heather, sheep, lambs, the almost blindingly yellow broom and those magnificent, shaggily long-haired cattle that look like a cross between a bison and what one imagines a hairy Yeti to look like.
We investigated Craigie Castle, driving down a long, "living tunnel" of magnificent trees and over a stone-covered bridge that looked as if it had been there forever -- and probably has. Being a private castle we could not go inside but proceeded to Scone Castle and Boot Hill. As we drove further into the country we saw what appeared to be another huge castle on the other side of the river. I'm never at rest until I've investigated things like that and there was no castle on our map, so I crossed the river at the first available bridge and searched for it on the other side, perhaps I'd found an undiscovered treasure!
You can imagine my disappointment when the "treasure" turned out to be the Atholl Palace, a fake-castle-shaped hotel, recently-built and only 3-star, but in authentic outline that fooled dummies like me who saw it from the other side of the river. Ah well, when you hit the road you win some and you lose some!
Passing some of Scotland's most famous golf courses we came to Auchterarder House, understatingly called a "special place" in the brochure of this stunning property. Staying here once again gives you a real feeling of being a house guest of the aristocracy. Golf courses abound. It's near the Gleneagles Golf course, and if you have a helicopter there's a reserved spot on the ground to land it. It's a very classic British aristo's home turned into a hotel. While we were there, BMW, who now own British Rover, were having a marketing meeting. Need I say more? Then it was back to the highway to head for our final stop -- Balbirnie House.