Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Road to Strathgarry House

I've been watching a BBC Four series from a few years ago called The Transatlantic Sessions. It features Celtic and country musicians from the UK, Ireland and the US performing in an intimate setting with just the musicians, the BBC crew and the recording equipment. It features Aly Bain, a great Scottish fiddler, and Jerry Douglas, an American dobro player, along with other performers such as Phil Cunningham, Donal Lunny, Bruce Molsky, Julie Fowlis, Cara Dillon, Michael McGoldrick and more. It's wonderful stuff.

The show always opens with scenes of the surrounding area showing lakes, streams, rivers, bridges, etc. It's very scenice. I found out it was filmed at a place in Killiecrankie, Scotland. That's a little village north of Dunkeld, which is north of Perth, which in turn is north of Edinburgh. More specifically, it takes place at Strathgarry House.

I decided to track that down on Google and found some listings for "strathgarry house killiecrankie". One site had a Google Maps view, although I didn't look that up right away. Instead I decided to use Google Maps' Street View to take a little trip.

I started out in Perth, where I clicked on the little orange person and dragged it onto a road in town, then switched to Street View. I wasn't all that familiar with Street View, having used it only occasionally, so it was a while before I realized I could get a full-screen view. I have a large monitor - it's really a 32" flat screen TV - so the view is really nice.

It's a great way to travel to someplace I'll most likely never get to visit in person. The views are limited to what the Google car crew recorded on roads they covered, but they really covered quite a lot. It's not the quickest way to "drive." Killiecrankie is about 30 miles outside of Perth. By using the up arrow to advance the view, it took me about two hours to advance to the town. At that point I hadn't narrowed down the exact location, and since it was getting late last night when I did that part of the tour, I settled for getting to the town.

This morning I watched another episode of The Transatlantic Sessions and paid special attention to the intro, which I ran a few times before going on to the program. Then I did the Google search I mentioned earlier. I went to the point in Google Street View that's on a one-lane road that goes past Strathgarry House, then I "drove" back down the road and over the bridge into Killiecrankie where I recognized places I'd seen last night.

Much of the architecture in Perth and the countryside is distinctive, of course, but there were many modern places that looked not all that different from stuff you see here in the US. Even some of the companies are the same, or almost the same. TJ Maxx in the US is TK Maxx in the UK, but there's the familiar golden arches of McDonald's and I spotted a house for sale with a ReMax sign in front.

The countryside reminds me quite a bit of northern New England and upstate New York. The major road, the A9, is sometimes two lanes and sometimes a dual carriageway. I discovered part of the way through that I could switch the side of the road I was seeing. A lot of the way I was actually traveling backwards up the right side of the road because I'd figured the car only made one pass. When I found out I was wrong, I was not only switching sides of the road but also seasons. In one direction it was the middle of Summer, in another it was late Autumn with cloudier, occasionally rainy weather. After leaving the A9 to go through Killiecrankie, the season was Autumn.

A few days ago I'd taken a shorter trip from Kyle of Lochalsh across the Skye Bridge into Kyleakin. I think I'll be going back there to explore more of the Isle of Skye.

It's not perfect, of course. I don't get to visit museums, distilleries, B&Bs, etc. but I can at least view the countryside, stopping at any point to pan around in a circle. Also, I don't need a passport and I don't have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for the trip.

No comments: