08 August 2010

Blair Atholl

Entrance to Blair Castle, Blair Atholl
The week after I traveled to Linlithgow, I suffered a painful running injury that sidelined me for two weeks and causing immense emotional distress. For me, running is a form of personal therapy. It is an entirely selfish activity that helps me and benefits only me. It helps me deal with the stresses and anxieties of everyday life. Not being able to run meant that I did not have an outlet for these stresses and, as a result, my nerves were on edge for the entire two weeks. Not fun.

On July 24, I traveled to Blair Atholl to represent the Consulate at the Blair Atholl International Scouting Jamboree. According to my boyfriend, scouting jamborees are events where large numbers of Scouts gather together to talk, share experiences, cook things, trade things, and set things on fire. This was a very accurate description of what I experienced at Blair Atholl. The Jamboree was held from July 19 - 30 on the grounds of Blair Castle, ancestral seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl. Over 1000 Scouts (both girls and boys) from 10 countries participated in the event. Scottish Scouts camped in a field beyond the limits of the main Jamboree site while the international Scouts were arranged in six large sub-camps. Each international Scout troop was partnered with a Scottish troop. There were at least six troops from the US (including one from Maryland), but there were possibly more and I just didn't see them.

Main Tent at the Blair Atholl International Scouting Jamboree
July 24 was the International Faire part of the Jamboree, where the Scouts' family members were invited to come see what their children had been up to. Each troop developed a stall showcasing their country. Most of these stalls involved food of some sort, which could be purchased with 'atholls' (found in the program or purchased on the grounds of the event). Having eaten on the two hour train ride to Blair Atholl, I ended up giving away most of my atholls to some of the smaller Scouts running about. That said, I did try some apple Danish from a stand from Denmark and smores from the New York troop. Unfortunately,I now have the largest craving for smores ever. :(

Scouts from North Carolina peddling grits. Not a popular item.
Other stalls included steer roping (Texas), grits (North Carolina), sushi (Japan), haggis (Scotland), scones (England), bavarian creme (Germany), haggis bashing (Scotland), plus many more! During this, individual troops would gather on a stage to showcase their talents. I witnessed a Scottish troop playing the bagpipes, some North Carolinan troop leaders doing some sort of line dance, and a French group beat boxing. After an hour of this, I ventured to the subcamps to see if I could locate someone from the Maryland troop -- mainly to find out which part of Maryland they were from. Despite my creepy lingerings outside of their living quarters, I did not run into anyone from the troop and so left with my questions unanswered.

Blair Castle
The Faire continued on for the better part of the afternoon, but since I had already exhausted everything to do there (and since I was alone), I continued up the drive to Blair Castle. Built in the 15th century, it is still the ancestral seat of the earls of Atholl and is used as a residence. It is a magnificent estate and contains many interesting artifacts collected by the family over the centuries. It also contains a museum about the foundation of the Atholl Highlanders -- the only remaining private militia in Europe.

The Estate also boasts spectacular gardens. The Diana Garden is essentially controlled wilderness and contains some of the tallest redwoods and oaks in the UK. The Hercules Garden is a 18th century walled garden of 11 acres. It has a Chinese bridge, duck houses, and a curling house. It was absolutely beautiful, which, coming from someone who does not like gardens, is saying something.

Hercules Garden, Blair Castle

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