Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Scotland Painting Retreat Wrap-Up: Part 4

Did I mention haggis?  Or black pudding?  I was a little surprised at the prevalence of these two dishes, especially the haggis.  In my part of Canada, poutine (a type of gelatinous gravy served over fries) is more joked about than seen.  I thought it was the same with haggis.  But it's not.  Haggis is on most menus, and it was served daily for breakfast at the resort, along with black pudding.  Those of us who tried it said it's not bad.  I preferred the roasted tomatoes, scrambled eggs and link sausage.

Wade's Bridge

Chocolate Shop en-route!

St Ninian's Garden, Dunkeld

Friday came with more rain.  Still, we packed up our painting gear and ventured to two nearby villages, Aberfeldy and Dunkeld.   Aberfeldy offered us a stone bridge, Wade's Bridge, which was built in 1753 and crosses the River Tay.  Just as scenic at the Stirling Bridge, it is a good deal newer.  Nearby Dunkeld, our next stop, has a cathedral that was built partly in the 14th century.  Half of it is in ruins, but the other half is still used as a church.  It has a small museum, and there we saw the sarcophagus of the Wolf of Badenoch; I took a picture of the card displayed next to it which will tell you the story.  I was most impressed by the old, magnificent rhododendrons on the grounds.  This area is called Big Tree Country because of the old trees.  I missed it, but apparently there is a 250-year-old "parent larch" planted in 1738 and from which all other Scottish larches descend from.  (Across the River Tay from here is the famous Birnam Wood from Macbeth.)

Dunkeld Cathedral

The Wolf of Badenoch lies here

Rhododendrons at Dunkeld Cathedral

None of us painted because of the weather, so instead we enjoyed tea and later, lunch, in Aberfeldy. (Rumor has it that J.K. Rowling lives in this town.)  Saturday, on the other hand, was predicted to be superbly sunny.

As promised, Saturday dawned dry and sunny.  Malcolm had said that we would go to Glencoe, up in the western Highlands, on the best day.  It was a two-hour drive but with impressive mountain scenery.  A few, who felt they could get more painting done if they didn't travel, stayed behind at the resort to paint.  The rest of us merrily piled into the van and headed out.

The scenery got less treed and more mountainous as we headed north from Loch Earn.  We soon found ourselves at a ski resort, only it being summer, the lifts were filled with parawing pilots instead of skiers.  Looking higher up past the hilltops, some of which still showed a scrap of snow or two, I could see the sky was filled with a dozen parawings, riding the thermals like buzzards.

Heading to Glencoe
A little white cottage stood in front of a beautiful valley that stretched out treeless and grand below us.  Oohs and ahs prompted us all to set up in a line in front of the cottage to paint it.  Malcolm told us this was Black Rock Cottage, run by a women's hiking group.  It was conveniently located on the West Highland Trail, which ran past it for miles.  By lunchtime, the sun was actually getting hot and we were stripping off layers.

West Highland Trail

Trail of Painters

Black Rock Cottage 9x12 pastel by Michael Chesley Johnson

 After a quick meal at the ski lodge, we continued north on the road toward another white cottage.  It sat on the trail on the other side of a stream that was forded by narrow bridge.  I loved the shadows on the mountain behind the cottage and spent some time working out the sense of depth.

On the West Highland Path 9x12 pastel by Michael Chesley Johnson
Although we were only at an elevation of maybe 1200 feet, the scenery reminded very much of parts of the Rocky Mountains above treeline, where the glaciers have scooped out rounded valleys.  The only difference was that these mountains are covered with a coat of green rather than being bare rock.

Our trip to Glencoe was a perfect note on which to end the retreat.  We couldn't have asked for better weather and scenery.  The next morning, Sunday, the van arrived before breakfast to carry us to the Glasgow airport.  We'd had a wonderful week, taking the mist, mizzle and drizzle in stride.  Everyone went home with lots of photographs to supplement the paintings.  I expect some good work to come out of this retreat, once everyone has had a chance to ponder the lessons learned by painting in Scotland.

By the way, I stayed on a few days extra with Malcolm and Margaret to explore a bit more.  I'll write about my trip to the seaside villages of East Neuk in the next post.

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