It wasn’t terribly far, nor a bad bus ride over to Huntly. To my disappointment later I realized that Huntly wasn’t technically inside the Highland area at all, but rather about half way between the highlands and the coast… There was another place I was looking to go to -Tomintoul- that I know for SURE was in the Highlands, but it was only accessible by bus on Tuesdays and that would have meant about a week killing time in other areas nearby. Tomintoul sounded appealing simply because first it was in the Highlands and second it’s the highest point of the Highlands… Getting there is half the battle though!! In any event, Huntly was a simple quiet and quaint little place. When I arrived however the weather was not quite cooperating as it had been so far. It was wet and cold and simply dreary!! Very Scottish normal weather I’m sure, just not what I had been used to thus far.
When I arrived I was dropped in town center square. Since I of course didn’t have a planned place to stay for the night, I wandered toward the tourist information center in the square… It happened to be closed and looked as if it would only be open when whomever worked there decided to show (I love small towns!!). There was a little map in the window however that marked a few spots for B&Bs/hotels. I made a mental note of them and started heading in their direction.
Mind you, there was a hotel in the town square itself called Gordon Arms, but I figured being THAT close to the center square, it would probably be too expensive! So I wandered off down the road in the cold and the mist and found the first place of interest. No vacancy, but the nice woman did refer me to another potential place. So off I went back down the road, down the side street, straight on till morning, and found the next lovely place. No vacancy… Hmmm… I really didn’t take Huntly to be THAT popular a destination, especially since there was no one on the streets or no other signs of life really aside from the Hotel owners/workers and some shop employees along the way!
I asked once again about any other place potentially open, but sadly no. So I wandered back to the square and in the opposite direction from where I went before and found another place. No answer… At this point it looked like I could be running out of options… So I wandered into the Gordon Arms hotel holding my breath at the potentially huge sum of money I would have to pay for the night. The hotel clerk greeted me but asked me to hold for a minute. When he arrived ready to check me in, he asked “Are you staying at the hostel?”??
The HOSTEL???? You have a HOSTEL here??? Sure enough, just around the corner not a stone throw away was the Highlander Bunkhouse!!! A hostel for all the crazy cheap backpackers like myself:) Yay!!! Oh and best part too of the hostel, only a few steps from the pub! Double yay!!! So I paid for a night and settled in to my room. I was the only one in my room, which was great, so it was like having a private though there were several other people staying in the hostel. At this point I really wasn’t sure how long I would stay in Huntly. There was certainly much to do there- several castles to hike to, lots of whiskey distilleries to tour, etc, etc. But with the weather being as it was… Well, let’s just say that it just didn’t inspire much of any sort of effort on my part!! So if the next day had the same weather, then I would go. But if it cleared up or showed some promise of clearing up, then I would stay!
In any event, after settling in it just happened to be about beer o’clock… So I headed into the pub for a pint! Now, K and I have had a few chats before about how great pubs are just from the perspective of being able to meet locals fast and chat them up on things to do in their town! This pub was… well… a tiny bit different, but not at all in a bad way!! I wandered in and at the bar were 6 men. Literally as I walked in it was like the room silenced and all heads turned to see who was coming in… I wasn’t sure if that meant that the regulars were all already there so they simply weren’t expecting anyone else to come in, or if they were an unfriendly type, or what really…!!
I sheepishly walked over to the side of the bar (trying my very BEST to seem confident and not sheepish at all!!) sat down and asked the bar maid, who suddenly appeared from around the corner for a beer. And that was basically all it took! Within a few minutes it was like I was just part of the gang. They asked questions of me, I of them, and it we were all best of buds in no time! Everyone was buying everyone else drinks and the festivities just went on like this for hours! As the evening went on, more and more people came and went, which really gave me the distinct feeling that this pub was probably one of the only ones in town as well!! Funnily enough, the 6 original guys who were in the bar (and then another 3 that came in later) weren’t locals at all. They were simply contracted workers who were staying in Huntly to work on wind turbine projects near Huntly. So they weren’t able to give me much information about the area and what to do (nor could the barmaid as she had just recently moved there too) but after a few drinks, I lost interest in that kind of information anyway!
I will say that at least I did behave myself!! I cut myself off at a point, got some food and went to bed so I wouldn’t be hung over the next day! Generally, well, I do like to drink and have quite a hard time moderating myself… But I guess as I get older it gets a little easier as the impending thought of the hangover is enough to make me stop with the booze and start with water!!
I bid farewell and thanks to my fellow bar mates for the night and headed to my hostel. The next day unfortunately had the same dreary and cold weather as the day before. So true to my word I packed up and headed to Inverness.