This July, I took a trip long overdue. Although I had been to London many times, I never took the opportunity to venture out beyond the realm of the city. This time was to be different, however, as my traveling partner and I choose to take in two four-day jaunts to Scotland and Wales before and after the Wembley Page & Plant shows, respectively.
Our basic itinerary provided us with a master plan to take in the major areas while covering the greater part of the country. Only after the initial plan was formed did we realize that several 'historical' sites (in Zep terms) lay right in our path. We knew then that there was a higher purpose and a great adventure lay ahead. . .
Still tired, we got a late start the next day for our tour around Loch Ness. Our directions were quite accurate from Danny Coyle, who had been there before us. As we ventured from the main highway to a small, one-lane dirt road, it was time to employ the duties of the car's audio system. The thirty-three minute Earl's Court soundboard version of "Dazed and Confused" was the appropriate backdrop for this episode.
After about an hour's ride, we arrived at the spot, just during the middle of the bow solo. Yes, house on the left. . . graveyard on the right. This must be it. We found a spot to place the car, and as soon as we opened the doors, a very strange occurrance began. Completely out of nowhere, we were swarmed by gnats and mosquitoes. I said, "got a bad feeling about this," but it was going to take more than that to stop us. We continued on, swatting and slapping the whole time.
First, there was the graveyard, the Boleskine Burial Ground. We entered the gates and here was a quaint but somewhat well-maintained graveyard with some very old markers. The oldest stone we found was dated in the early 1700's. Many of the names on the stones were the same, and two families seemed most prominent.
The legend from the early 1800's of the church on the grounds, which burned down with its attendees still inside, came to mind.
Now it was time to cross the road and check out the famed house on the hill. Small gatehouse, no signs, but nevertheless we knew this was it. Boleskine House, which had been owned by James Patrick Page for almost two decades and many years before him, by Frater Perdur-abo, AKA: Aleister Crowley.
We opened the gate and proceeded up the path, all the while the gnats and mosquitoes harassing us. Here we found a fairly large house set at the bottom of the hillside, with a brook running across the grounds providing a gentle serenade.
Questioning our own sanity, we knocked on the front door and rang the bell. No answer. We could see inside, and it appeared to be a very elegantly appointed estate. I took some photos and after a tour of the grounds we returned to our vehicle. The rest of the day we finished circling Loch Ness. No monster sightings that day.
Once again, armed with accurate directions from seasoned traveler Danny Coyle, we began our search for the hallowed cottage, Bron-yr-Aur. Again, the chosen soundtrack for this moment was from Earl's Court - the acoustic set . "That's The Way," "Bron-y-Aur Stomp". . .
Up the side of the mountain on a dirt road, through several sets of gates, we soon ran out of road. We got out and looked down the hill, and there it was, nestled into a little valley of its own within the mountain. We didn't know it at the time, but we had missed the turnoff for the entry path to the cottage.
It was a long way down the steep hill, which was a virtual mine field of sheep droppings. Nevertheless, we climbed down, getting a lot of strange looks from the sheep along the way. This was sheer dedication!
It seemed unreal that we had actually found this obscure cottage, tucked away in 'the middle of nowhere.' But here we were, at the very spot where Jimmy, Robert, and a small entourage spent the better part of May 1970 writing songs by the soft glow of a fire. As we know, some magical music came from those moments.
Its influence reaches into the present, as a dedication to the Cottage and its inspiration was included on the sleeve of the "No Quarter" album.
Again, we knocked on the door and found no one there, but the tranquillity of the location is truly awe-inspiring. Upon finding the arched entry road, we retrieved the car and brought it down the hill.
It was upon coming across the sign reading "BRON-YR-AUR" that we made an amazing discovery. Right next to the sign was a large tree with a hollowed-out trunk. Inside the trunk lay two small pieces of slate with small strange markings on them. These appeared to be Celtic runes. We took them out, photographed them, and placed them back. With the assistance of a number of 'scholars' who've volunteered their efforts, I hope to have some further information on these runes quite soon.
After a nite in Welshpool, we headed back south past Monmouth to Raglan. Here lies a national treasure of Wales, the ruins of Raglan Castle, the site for Robert's 'rescue' scene from "The Song Remains the Same," complete with moat. I must say that Peter Clifton, director of the movie, did a remarkable job in giving the appearance of the castle being intact.
We found the spiral staircase and the small courtyard where the slow-motion sword fight took place. We didn't find any damsels in distress, though.
As I said, a trip long overdue. Eleven days of prime weather, castles, warm hospitality, and lovely countryfolk certainly enhanced this soujourn of intrigue. And of course, catching a couple of shows had to be the highlight of those memorable days.
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