You might have guessed from all the autumnal colours, but I actually visited Blair Atholl back in October. I’ve been so busy writing about California that all the other small trips I’ve taken have been neglected on the blog! Blair Atholl is a castle in Scotland close to Pitlochry, with a huge estate. I stayed in a large house close to the castle with a bunch of my Edinburgh friends. The turning leaves, kirkyard (graveyard) in our back garden and the smoke drifting out of cottage chimneys made for a very atmospheric backdrop to our Halloween weekend. It was lovely being able to walk straight of our house and be in this majestic countryside, without needing a car to get around. The castle was a two minute stroll from our house and hosted a piping and fiddling championships whilst we were there – which turned out to be less exciting than it sounds.
Pitlochry is surprisingly less than a couple of hours drive from Edinburgh. I had ambitious plans to take weekend breaks in the Scottish countryside every month or so this year, given how accessible it is, but my bank balance hasn’t stretched that far. Having friends in Edinburgh with cars makes it much easier to get out of the city on a regular basis – even just for a Sunday afternoon walk. I talk about this all the time, but it makes such a difference to my state of mind to be routinely outside and among nature! The beauty of the countryside often makes me feel emotional, especially at such affective times of year like autumn, when the colours of the landscape provoke images of traditional romantic paintings. Having grown up close to the countryside, I think it has a particularly nostalgic quality for me. The countryside has always been where I feel most free and most safe; as a teenager it was a place of escape. With no adults or authority present, nature felt so full of possibility and, of course, it was where I would go with my friends when we were up to no good.
Some of our time at Blair Atholl was spent on countryside walks and drinking afternoon tea, but just as much was dedicated to preparing Halloween costumes, drinking copious amounts of alcohol and painfully cleaning up the house the next morning whilst our hangovers complained. I am an annoying person to know at Halloween. I convinced my friends that a house party wasn’t enough, we had to go on a trip for Halloween, and I implement a strict “no costume, no entry” rule. I think everyone’s costumes were exceptional this year. I am looking particularly creepy as Edward Scissor hands (on the right) even if I do say so myself. I also made James’ Autumn Forest Demon costume (on the left.) Points for you if you can see all the Stranger Things costume references!
My genius friend Izzy bakes the best cakes and she made this amazing vegan graveyard cake for our Halloween desert. We had pasta “brains” served in pumpkin heads and guacamole served from “vomiting” pumpkins. We played party games and truth and dare and explored the graveyard at midnight. On Sunday, a group of us decided to make the most of being outside of Edinburgh and spent the afternoon walking around Pitlochry, admiring the reservoir and the fish ladder and the beautiful old Scottish houses. I was so taken with the place, I can’t wait to return for Halloween again next year!