Jane Anderson: Now’s the time to get out and enjoy the smells, sights and skills of rural Scotland

Summer activities can include sheepdog trials and local shows
Summer activities can include sheepdog trials and local shows
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With holidays at their height, tourist sites compete to draw visitors with their “interactive” attractions. All too often this is interacting with a screen which dictates the questions that can be answered.

Historic buildings have handsets directing visitors from one pre-decided significant point to another, or earphones which prevent absorbing the natural sounds of the area. It seems “interactive” means removing any human interaction and any scope for random discovery.

Summer activities in rural Scotland often include the local show, sometimes a highland games, sometimes a produce display, sometimes an agricultural show – often a combination of all three. Here is a chance to get away from screen time that dominates so much of the rest of the year. Yes, it may mean getting damp or positively soaked but that’s interaction with Scotland’s weather.

In the lines of vintage machinery youngsters have the chance to chat with enthusiasts who have spent hours restoring pieces that they remember their parents using for real and whose description of what life was like using these machines is so vivid it will remain in the mind for months if not years to come.

The smell and maybe even feel of grease is something that cannot be conveyed on an interactive display screen, nor can the effort required to start a machine and the level of discomfort in using one. Displays of giant leeks and turnips, colourful flowers and tasty produce may inspire the bakers and gardeners of future years.

Some of the skills required to survive and prosper in former years are still used today and are on display this summer. The Scottish National Sheep Dog Trials are being held at Tulliemet near Ballinluig, Perthshire between 16-19 August.

Despite modern mechanisation it would be impossible on the open, often unfenced, ground of Scotland’s mountains to efficiently manage thousands of sheep without well-trained dogs. These skills will be on show as 150 of Scotland’s best dogs and handlers compete to gather, drive, pen and shed, necessary moves in real work, with a commentary to explain what is happening and how the dog’s actions match (or not!) the ideal score.

This learning and appreciation of a rural lifestyle, now out with the experience of many, is a two-way process and can only happen with the active support and engagement of organisers. Those participating in these events must realise that here is an ideal opportunity, not just to meet and chat with their mates but to engage with the visitors who have been interested enough to attend.

A commentary of the actual differences between endless classes of seemingly similar sheep can be much appreciated. An explanation of the reason for a judge’s decision is enlightening – if only to explain why no-one apart from that judge would have even considered that winner.

So now is the time to get out and about, take the wellies and waterproofs, and absorb the smells, sights and skills of rural Scotland, you never know – the sun may shine.

Jane Anderson lives in Strathbraan, Perthshire. She is former archivist to Atholl Estates