The castle trail with a difference

Simon and Nev are two Scottish guys.

Simon lives in Inverness, one of Scotland's top spots for travellers and backpackers.

Nev lives in Aberdeen. No travellers ever go there.

Their mission is to persuade travellers in Inverness to go and experience Aberdeen - with one surefire way to tempt them.

Free accommodation with Nev. In a castle.

This is their story...

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Friday, July 25, 2003
Greetings again from sunny and tourist-ridden Inverness.

Before I continue with the update, yes I know what you're all wanting to say. I can hear your questions ringing in my ears already.
1. where the heck have you guys been for the last month? This is no way to maintain a gripping and quirky blog!!
2. why has Niall not actually written anything on here for what seems like decades? Has he been run over by a bus or kidnapped by ETA?
3. would you recommend circus clowning as a viable career move?

Well, on the third one, I can only suggest talking to your local careers information office. And if you can't juggle or look stupid, then perhaps stick to insurance.

As for the first two, well (this may sound like a weak cop out) blame Niall.

My comrade-in-blogging has been a little bit lazy lately, to say the least. He would maintain he's just been too busy but he's not been too busy to get wasted virtually every evening, and there has been enough happening both with the trail and more generally in the castle for him to make an update. Perhaps if I slag the git off sufficiently he will be shamed into writing something. Although that said he has probably given up reading this too.

Which is a shame, really, because after an admittedly quiet period, this week past has been one of the most dramatic and exciting in our madcap adventure. The headlines are that CT2 has hit the town, and also someone has actually completed the trail!!! Yeee-haaah!! Our first trailers!!

I'd better start at the beginning. Which was, like so many of our encounters, the consequence of my Canadian friend Scott and I hitting the town. This was on Saturday night past. Things started off well in a couple of really nice bars, but we ended up going to an utterly atrocious bar which is everything I hate about going out. I think you can already imagine the place - crowded, deafening and totally cheesy tacky dance music playing so loud you can't hear what people are saying even when they shout right down your ear, poor range of drinks, awful decor, and the usual eclectic bunch of Invernesian nightouters - everything from the 16 year olds to the 60 year olds, and all too few in between.

We did, however, get talking - or more accurately shouting and lip-reading - with three girls from Denmark. Two of them were actually Belgian and were living in Denmark. Mind you, if I was unlucky enough to be Belgian I would call myself Danish. Especially if I spoke Danish as well as they did. Very nice all three of them were too - lively, cheerful, a little bit crazy, and with a disturbingly accurate knowledge of dance music lyrics. The three were camping their way round Scotland and were in Inverness, leaving the next day for a trip up round the north highlands, followed by a visit to - of all places - Aberdeen.

I think you can imagine what I asked next.

After a trip outside to phone Niall and introduce one of the trio, Eva, to him, it was all arranged. To cut a long story short, the night then descended into chaos, and the five of us ended up crashing at my flat before they departed for their journey north.

That Monday night I had to phone Niall, to invite myself to a party at the castle I had heard rumour of (oh yes, and that one back in June was mental. Absolutely great fun. But maybe - just maybe - Niall will tell you more about it). The Danes were there, and so I spoke to Eva on the phone too.

"It's um... not quite what we expected," she said, somewhat hesitantly and nervously. I admit it is not technically a castle, more a house built on the site of one and completely gutted by the lifestyles of Niall and four students, but how can such a building miles from anywhere, with two private beaches and a 270 degree sea view, plus all the wild birds to make any ornithologist's eyes pop out, not exceed your expecations? I think Niall was scaring her. Can't blame her really.

But anyway, I was just happy to speak to her again, because it was proof that we had succeeded - with three new people, CTs 8, 9 and 10. After weeks and months of trying, we had finally directed tourists from Inverness to the castle.

I'm ignoring the minor detail that they were going to Aberdeen anyway.

Next, on Wednesday, CT2 turned up - Sarah from Toronto in Canada. After her initial approach through that website I was telling you about (see earlier post) we had been in touch by email loads while she planned her trip round Scotland and Ireland. She arrived in Inverness, and it was great to meet her at long last, but the whole visit was completely ruined. She had already visited the castle.

This was bad news, and really brought me down after the Danish success. Knowing fine well that our challenge was struggling, Sarah most unhelpfully organised her holiday so that she went to Aberdeen to the castle first, and then to Inverness. What sort of way is that to go from Inverness to Aberdeen? Honestly, you just can't depend on some people. What a complete failure.

Never mind, she had a fun time seeing Inverness, and then we went out at night to see the sights of Inverness's nightlife, calling out Scott, who was delighted to find someone to talk to about ice hockey after months of being among ignorant Brits whose idea of hockey involves grass. She arrived in somewhat of a state of shock after her visit to the castle. She'd completely loved it, but Niall was... well, just being Niall.

So that is all my news. One reverse trail, and three completely successful trailers!! The task has been done. Now we just have to see if there are any more. The clock is ticking, because Niall and his housemates are all moving out of the castle in September. Just as the tourist season ends.

Well, while we wait in vain for Niall to perhaps get his arse in gear and write something about his perspective on the last week, I am going enjoy one last day at work before heading to Aberdeen tonight for another fun weekend at the castle.