30.04.2013 - 30.04.2013 5 °C
My main goal today was not to find the sustenance that would assuage my particular current food cravings, although that was accomplished. It was not to go on a beautiful hike up into the Scottish hillside to see a view that spread out for miles before us, although we did just that. It was not to buy another country pin for our mascot, Mo, although we did find a Scottish emblem and pin it to his jacket. No, my main goal today was to find at least one specimen of that beautiful bovine breed known as Highland cattle. I was actually more greedy than that – I wanted to see a whole fold (which is the collective noun for Highland cattle, unlike their more traditional cousins, who group together in herds.) My kids and husband know I have a thing for cows; they’ll find me happily employed watching the neighbour’s cows out of our front window, they bought me a stuffed cow for Christmas once, they know I have a soft spot for spotted black-and-white things, and they use my university nickname of ‘Mu’ more than others do.
But before my quest began, we would need to get that bothersome chore of shopping out of the way. That done, we proceeded to the tourist office. There, we found a very friendly Scot who suggested the perfect walking route for the day. When he found out we were Canadians, another guide mentioned that he had visited Cape Breton a few years ago; he reminded us that the Canadian island was closer to Scotland than it was to our home town of Victoria. Canada’s size (and the cold) is often what is mentioned when we identify ourselves as Canucks.
The motto for the national park we find ourselves in this week is “Welcome to the Cairngorms National Park - Make it Yours!” Well, we didn’t need to be told twice. Since the day promised to be sunny despite the cool five degree temperature, we layered up, stuffed our sacks with lunch, and began to trek. The route lead us past a small lake through stands of thin, bare trees, and then took us a few hundred meters up the scrubby hillside. The real treat was the view from the top of the rock ridge, which allowed us to gaze on many kilometers of pastoral lands, forest and a backdrop of low, snow-covered mountains. The wind up there was brisk but we lunched at the top and braved another kilometer or two of ridge walking before heading down. We saw a few other hardy walkers, each red-cheeked and windblown but content, like us. Heading down, I now started to anticipate my much-longed-for encounter with the hairy, long horned bovine.
Knowing I have a penchant for this breed of cattle, Ben had asked the tourist centre staff where we might catch a view, as they seem quite a bit less common than they once were. He directed us to a certain locale on the map: “through this town, continue a few miles, turn left at the bridge, look to the right field and there should be a couple of bulls there.” Off we were. We followed the directions only to be disappointed. I started to get pouty and nagging, telling Ben he will have failed me (yet again) if he didn’t locate some cows fast. Not to be outdone, and likely not wanting to share his room with a petulant wife, he put his all into it ... and came up with a single sample, without any long horns. But still, it was a bovine, it was hairy and ginger-coloured, and it was adorable. He dropped me and Hannah off at the fence line and went to find a pullout for the car. The two of us braved the large trucks whipping by on the narrow road to get our fill of the animal, who seemed curious about us and the attention we gave it but not so much that it deigned to walk over to us. However, it was enough for me that I saw one and was able to achieve my primary goal of the day. (Thanks, Ben) If you want to learn 25 more things about these animals click here.
Funnily enough, we're having burgers tonight.