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Callanish via Perthshire with special surprise stones – Part 1

A journey beginsSo where’re the stones Moth?
I’ve decided to break the account of my trip into instalments to make it more ‘readable’. And I’ve felt the need to include this first part to try to reflect the importance of the trip to me, and the circumstances at the time that made it all the more special.

If you’re not interested in that sort of stuff, wait for Part 2 which will include plenty of real stones! For anyone else, I hope it adds to the atmosphere of my account!

Hoots mon, weers me heed?
Bonkers. I must be absolutely bloody bonkers. If there’s one place in the world I have ever really wanted to go, it’s Callanish.

So when, after about 7 years of deliberation and ‘waiting for the right moment’, do I decide to go? At the time that my life has been plunged into probably the most turmoil it’s ever been in of course – about 3 weeks after my long-term partner and mother of our son Callan (named after the stones) have decided to split up.

Crazy, crazy man.

I was already convinced that the split was the right decision, but I was still hurting pretty badly and was very ‘down’.

The idea of a trip to Callanish was suggested by my good friend (‘Ginger’) John. (Wonder where that nickname comes from…?) Given how I was feeling and how special the thought of visiting Callanish had become to me, the idea seemed like madness.

But it very quickly started to feel completely right. Now, I’m not generally a particularly ‘spiritual’ person, more your ‘bloke from down the pub who happens to think that big rocks* look dead ace’. Yet the idea of a special trip to mark the end of one chapter in my life and the start of a new one was beginning to appeal.

* ‘Artistic’ licence. For me, they don’t have to be big to look ‘dead ace’.

The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me that circumstances were conspiring to make it happen.
(‘Ginger’) John step-by-step – a user’s guide
1. I’ve known John for about 15 years.
2. John has (surprise, surprise) long ginger hair.
3. John is pretty knowledgeable about stones.
4. John likes beer.
5. John likes Islay whisky.
6. John likes bourbon.
7. John hates bullshit and pretence other than when talking bollocks in the pub.
8. When he’s had a few, John’ll say black is white if he thinks it’ll be fun, and there is no ‘grey’ in John’s world even when sober.
9. John is a lovely bloke.
10. John and I have been threatening to ‘do a stones trip’ for a few years, but ‘something’ always ‘comes up’.
John had recently been made redundant and fancied a trip paid for out of his redundancy money. After nearly a year of dispute with my employer’s personnel department, I had been given a lump sum to compensate me for not being paid the amount I was promised when I took the job. Money sorted.

I’d just had the car serviced and although it’s not old or decrepit, this seemed like a good omen. Small problem with the handbrake fixed for £100. Transport sorted.

Domestic commitments
Andrea (Callan’s mum) and Callan were offered a lift to go and stay with Andrea’s parents back home in Montrose. Commitments sorted.

The only concern that remained was Callan’s health. While quite happy in himself, a recurring ear infection had re-erupted. This was necessitating frequent hospital appointments and application of eardrops. Luckily his appointments were far enough apart that we could place the trip between them. Andrea positively encouraged me to go, as she would have the help and support of his grandparents while I was away. EVERYTHING sorted!

So what’s the plan Juan?
When John and I first seriously discussed the trip, we thought that mid May would be the best time for both of us. This gave us about a month to get things together.

But then various things happened to affect the timing – not least hospital appointments over Callan’s lugs. All of a sudden we were going Wednesday to Tuesday over ‘Mayday’ (hah!) bank holiday weekend, with less than a week to go!

John and I held an urgent council of war over some nice Shiraz. He had got ferry timetables and I’d checked out the prices on he web. I’d also checked out this site and other megarak sites (can’t remember which ones) and was all fired up for one of those island-hopping tickets so that we could ‘do’ the Uists too.

We discussed this idea for a while, but as John had been to Lewis a few times (he used to have a friend in Stornoway) I bowed to his assertion that we could be trying to take on too much. The last thing I wanted was to have to rush any of the trip. John proved to be a wise man.

It also means we can have a separate trip to the Uists…. Maybe next year.

So we reached a happy agreement that we’d break the journey by spending a night or 2 ‘somewhere around Loch Tay, ideally, Killin’. This way we could trade knowledge, as I’d previously visited quite a few sites in that area, whereas John had prior knowledge of the main sites on Lewis.

As money wasn’t a problem we decided to push the boat out and B&B it. John was charged with the task of finding and booking these, as he wasn’t working while I had work (and caring for Callan) to contend with!

So the itinerary we decided on was:
Wednesday – early start, travelling to Loch Tay
Wednesday night – Loch Tay (probably Killin)
Thursday – stones!
Thursday night – as Wednesday or somewhere further north
Friday – travel to Ullapool, possibly seeing some stones (!) on the way
Friday Night – Ullapool
Saturday – ferry to Stornoway arriving early afternoon and THE stones!!!!
Saturday night – Stornoway
Sunday – STONES!
Sunday night – Stornoway
Monday – stones (?) and ferry to Ullapool early afternoon
Monday night – Ullapool
Tuesday – travel to Leeds.

So the next morning, John went off with a promise that he’d find us B&Bs even if it killed him. (Not least because he’d rather die than share a tent with me I think. Sensible man.)

As the (few) days passed, I fought the (constant) urge to ring or email John saying ‘Have you got us anywhere to sleep yet you big daft bugger?’ as best I could.

And sure enough, 2 days (6 emails and 5 phone calls to nag him) later, it was confirmed that we had accommodation booked for all nights except ‘Flexible Fursday’ – which was a provisional booking for a 2nd night in Killin. I put the tent in the boot, just to be on the safe side….

Beware of the Trossachs ('Cos I'm Sure They’re Gonna Get You Yeh!)
With apologies to any Scottish Megaraks viewing.
John came over the on Tuesday evening before departure to give us an early enough start to drop Callan and Andrea a Bradford Royal Infirmary for a 9am appointment for his ears.

Unavoidably of course his presence resulted in a fairly late night (I rarely hit the sack before about 2am anyway). And even more unavoidably, a few more celebratory drams than was strictly sensible.

So it was a slightly ‘tired and emotional’ (borderline hung-over in my case) Moth and John who headed north from Bradford the next day. Not long after, I became grateful for Callan’s 9am appointment when John revealed that he usually sets off at 3 or 4am when driving to Lewis. Mad git. There’s no such time in THIS Moth’s day, especially considering the time I can finally sleep!

As we travelled along the A65 towards the M6 and the far north, I couldn’t resist my habitual scanning of the fields and hillsides for anything vaguely ‘prehistoric’ looking.

Don’t know why I do it. I know there’s nothing there or someone cleverer and more observant than me would have spotted it long since. But I guess that given the relative obscurity of most Yorkshire sites, I can live in hope!

On the M6 I invited John to play the now traditional ‘Mayburgh Game’. I’m afraid it isn’t a patch on the ‘Silbury Game’ though, and simply involves trying to spot Mayburgh Henge from a car doing 95… I mean 70 miles an hour. Better than singing ‘The Wheels on the bus’ or playing ‘I bleeding spy’ though.

Despite cheating (I’ve been to the henge and John hasn’t) I still didn’t spot the bugger. Again. (Still, it’s probably a good thing as I’m always driving – suggests I might even be watching the road occasionally.)

John also PATHETICALLY tried to counter the brilliance of my game by reckoning one of the circles near Shap (that HE’s been to and I haven’t) should be visible from the M6. Probably Gunnerkeld, which is one that I think I HAVE spotted a couple of times but is on the bit where the 2 carriageways split and you’d only be able to see it travelling south…. Or I could be wrong.

The rest of the journey as far as Stirling was, as usual, a bit of a blur. It’s the same route as I’ve taken so many times on the way to Montrose to visit Andrea’s parents. It was only at Stirling that I came off autopilot to look for the turn off in the direction of Crianlarrich and our destination, Killin.

It was also around Stirling that we started to see the ‘Trossachs’ signs. As car-fatigue had started to set in, we were becoming a bit travel-weary and giddy. Fits of giggling then ensued when John asked ‘Are Trossachs those furry beasties they use to make sporrans?’ This of course resulted in many more (probably very unoriginal) ‘Trossachs as creatures’ gags, and more giggling.

I’ve named this section in honour of our Sassenach gibbering. It was a bonding moment (when we realised we both had really bad senses of humour). I blame the drugs. Lack of.

This was the final leg of the first part of our odyssey and it wasn’t long until we arrived tired, but full of enthusiasm, at Killin.

Part 2 ‘The blokes from the pub poke about in and around Killin’ will actually involve seeing some stones, and will follow as soon as possible, depending on other commitments. (And unless I receive an attaché case or brown paper bag containing a large sum of money in unmarked notes!)


Moth Posted by Moth
25th June 2003ce
Edited 17th July 2003ce

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