Yes, and so another November rolls around yet again - it must assuredly be time for the annual Moulin Puddingfest, having signally failed to achieve a decent meeting all year. Cunning plans are carefully laid, promises made to attend by all and sundry, and the by now wholly traditional rally-point decided on. Could this be the (legendary) best-attended Scottish meet ever? Well..... no, actually... So nothing new there then.
It was a very cold, dreich morning as Andy and I trundled along towards Pitlochry, avoiding a couple of smashes on the A9 where the inexperienced had failed to cope with the increasingly wintry conditions. We decided to stand outside the car in Pitlochry car park, the better to enjoy the effects of the sleet whilst we waited. And waited. And waited. Having already spoken to ScottY, we knew he wouldn't make it. Action Man turned up. We waited some more, then phoned Martin. Martin, it would appear, was in Lancashire. A small problem with the GPS again, we mused... George turned up. No sign of Pebbles. We phoned Irene, to be told to give her a ring when we were on our way to the Moulin for puddings. Sigh. OK, 4 of us then, into the Big Red Beast (tm) and off towards Na Carraigean (Na Clachan Aoraidh).
The original intention was to park at the foot of the hill and walk in, a bleak prospect on what was a very chilly day. But when we got there, some careless forestry person had left the main gate unlocked. Perfect! What could be better than a little 4-wheel drive fun on icy logging tracks, and in we piled. Eventually reaching the nearest point the BRB would reach without problems, we dismounted and tramped off over the misty hillside towards the stones. Heading straight into horizontal sleet 1300 feet up a wintry hill isn't everyone's idea of fun but it was certainly bracing... The site itself had suffered a little, evidence of a fire having been built in the central dimple (evidence of an old dig in Victorian times) but the stones themselves seemed undamaged. This seemed the perfect time for George to perform the now de rigeur Chocolate Teapot celebratory dance round the stones...
It was cold. It was very cold. It was bloody freezing! The camera started to play up whilst I was trying to photograph the interesting effect icing was having on the stones of the four-poster. Action Man sat for a short while and nearly lost the seat of his pants. Sod this, back to the car for a cup of hot tea and defrost a bit. Andy mentioned a ring fort half way down the hill, so poring over the map, we retraced some of our tracks (quite visible in the snow) and navigated toward it.
The ring fort is actually quite spectacular, situated in a superb location overlooking Loch Tummell. Even on a dreich day like this the view was pretty good. This is a biggie, and worth a good roam around. There is an information board on site, though it can't quite make up its mind what to call this. We settled for ring fort, as it's far too defensive to be domestic. Nice place for a visit on a sunny day too. We were getting cold and damp again, so a quick discussion settled on one more site then puddings. Clach na h' Iobairt was the lucky winner out of the hat, as none of us had seen it - hidden away near the Glen Tilt Caravan Park as far as we could tell from the map. Heater turned up full, we headed off again.
This sad little stone in fact resides all of two feet from a caravan, in the middle of a caravan park. Having said that, it's unlikely to get knocked over and may be safer than in the middle of a field, but it has to be said that the site lacks a little atmosphere. Slightly improved by a small dog walking past as we took our photographs, but not a spaniel in sight... It hadn't got any warmer, the camera was playing up in the cold again, and our stomachs were rumbling. We phoned Irene to let her know it was fast approaching pudding time, and headed for the Moulin..
Irene's car came trundling into the Moulin car park a few seconds after we had pulled in. There's nothing like the smell of heather honey sponge to drag that woman all the way to Pitlochry, despite her obvious reluctance to come walkabout in the snow! We compared notes and fought over the last Scotsman's Bonnet (a food thing, not a Jimmy Wig thing) and tried to stop Action Man drinking all the Guinness. Then it was down to serious busines.
And there was sponge. Lots of it, dripping with honey and slathered with custard. Andy had his usual while the rest of us kept out of the way of flying elbows. We've spared you the photographic evidence this year, to spare the sensitive. Four waitresses finally managed to clear the table, six chairs and a fair amount of surrounding floor, and we settled down for a quiet pint, a blether, and a serious exchange of what passes for archaeological gossip. George fitted in well here, and proved to have an ear for the minutiae of stone rumours. A pleasant hour or two passed as we basked in the heat from the roaring fire.
All too soon darkness had closed in and it was time for the off. Not one of the more ridiculous days out we have endured, despite the weather, but enjoyable none the less.
Here's to next year at the Moulin!