Treasure Hunting in Scotland

If you enjoy the thrill of a treasure hunt and also love spending time in the great outdoors, then a break spent ‘geocaching’ in Scotland might just be the thing you need to harness your inner adventurer.

A term first coined in 2000, geocaching is an activity that now boasts millions of devotees all over the globe and is a fantastic, fun way to get people of all ages out and about and enjoying their surroundings.

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One of Many ‘Caches’ to Track Down

All over Scotland, and indeed the world, special boxes or ‘caches’ have been hidden, awaiting discovery. The only equipment you’ll need is a GPS enabled device. Simply log on to the official geocaching site (free) and pop your location into the search box. You’ll then see the coordinates of the ‘caches’ nearby and you can just pick one and off you go.

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Logging Your Visit

Once you find the cache, look inside and sign the log book. You may even find some trinkets to swap, or a stamp to mark your own personal log book before putting the box back for other geocachers to find. All that’s left to do is to log your experience on the geocaching site when you get back. There’s quite a community of geocachers out there, most of whom are keen to share their experiences with fellow treasure hunters and many will have left reviews of their searches for your chosen cache.

Geocaching is a great way to find out more about your own area, or a place you may be visiting. Take Melrose, for example, a beautiful town in the Scottish Borders. A quick look on the geocaching website reveals a host of beautiful walks, amazing scenery and fascinating facts ready to be discovered as you search out your treasure.

As you look for the Rhymers Bridge cache you can learn about the reputed prophet, Thomas the Rhymer and his fairy friends and see where JMW Turner painted a waterfall when visiting Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford in the early 19th century. You could even follow this up with a visit to Abbotsford itself, Sir Walter Scott’s wonderful ‘conundrum caste’ on the banks of the River Tweed on the outskirts of Melrose.

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Hollybank Barn

Wherever you decide to head to on your Scottish geocaching adventures, our cottages make the perfect base. If you do decide to geocache in the Scottish Borders, why not stay in Hollybank Barn in the charming village of Gattonside with its winding lanes and chain footbridge that links the village with the town of Melrose. With a 5 star rating from our guests, it has a chic modern style and sleeps four people. Prices start at £460 for a 7 night stay.

The Trimontium Stone Summerhouse cache is hidden at another fascinating Borders landmark that few people discover on their visit to the region. The Summerhouse is a fascinating little building built with stones taken from a nearby Roman Fort in 1908 and while that wouldn’t be approved of by our modern day preservation standards, it’s fascinating to see and may well whet your appetite for all things Roman and encourage you to find out more about the region’s history in Roman occupied Britain at Melrose’s Trimontium exhibition.

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Eildon Cottage

You could try one of our newest properties, Eildon Cottage in Melrose. This secluded cottage sleeps 4 people and up to 2 pets and is in easy walking distance of Melrose’s many shops, pubs and restaurants. It is ideal for exploring the region and has a lovely wood-burning stove to curl up in front of after your day’s exertions. Prices start at £345 for 7 nights.

Browse our range of cottages that are spread out across the whole of Scotland or call 01835 822277 and speak to our friendly booking team who will help you choose the perfect accommodation for you and your treasure hunting team.

Discover Scotland’s Rich History in 2017

Scotland has just been placed at an impressive number 2 on the Rough Guide’s list of Top Ten countries to visit in 2017. As far as we’re concerned, it’s right at the top of the list of must-see destinations at any time, but with 2017 being dubbed Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, there are even more reasons to visit.

This special year aims to shine a light on Scotland’s greatest assets and hidden gems with a range of exciting events and activities celebrating our traditional music, storytelling, world-renowned history collections and heritage.

With over 450 cottages across the length and breadth of Scotland, our guests are never far from a story about Scotland’s fascinating past.

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Skara Brae Neolithic Settlement

200 year old Brekkan Cottage is located 14 miles from Stromness on West Mainland Orkney and is close to the four amazing archaeological attractions that make up the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage sites. The most famous is probably Skara Brae, which was rediscovered following a storm in 1850 when wind and high winds stripped away the grass to reveal the outline of a number of stone buildings. Over the years, excavations and investigations have revealed a domestic settlement from the late Neolithic years (3200 to 2200 BC) with stone walls, passageways roofed with original stone slabs and stone furnishings including beds and dressers.

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The Ring of Brodgar

The Ring of Brodgar is a Neolithic stone circle surrounded by a rock cut ditch set in a spectacular natural amphitheatre of lochs and hills. Another of these Neolithic gems are the Standing Stones of Stenness – possibly the oldest henge monument in the whole of the British Isles. These four upright stones, each up to 6 metres tall, would have once been part of a stone circle on an ancient ceremonial site.

No less amazing is Orkney’s Maeshowe Chambered Cairn. Built around 5,000 years ago, it’s a work of Neolithic architectural genius with an entrance aligned with the setting of the midwinter sun so the light illuminates the tomb’s interior. There’s added interest in the form of some Norse graffiti left by crusaders who broke into Maeshowe in the mid 1100’s.

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Brekkan Cottage, Orkney

Brekkan Cottage sleeps 4 people and costs from £345 for 7 nights. If you’re lucky, you may even catch sight of the wonderful Northern Lights during your trip.

Scotland’s much more recent industrial heritage can be explored in a fabulously entertaining way at New Lanark in Lanarkshire. Founded in the 18th century, it tells the story of social pioneer Robert Owen and his cotton mill village. Mill owner Owen provided decent homes, fair wages, free healthcare, a new education system for villagers, as well as the first workplace nursery school in the world.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, New Lanark has been beautifully restored as a living community that welcomes visitors from all over the world. The Visitor Centre includes the Annie Mcleod Experience where you can travel back in time to learn about the life and times of a mill girl in 1820s New Lanark. Other highlights include Robert Owen’s School for children, 1820s and 1930s mill worker homes, Robert Owen’s house, the village store and some working textile machinery. You can even indulge in a spot of shopping in The Mill Shop, enjoy a walk in the surrounding woodlands and see the spectacular Falls of Clyde nearby.

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Cosy Medwyn Cottage

Medwyn Cottage is an ideal location for visiting New Lanark. Sleeping 4 people with a stylish interior and wood-burning stove to curl up in front of, it costs from just £395 for 7 nights with discounts available for couples.

Many of our properties have their own special history. Heatherlea Cottage near Dalwhinnie in Invernesshire stands alone on the hillside where Bonnie Prince Charlie encamped his army after raising his standard at Glenfinnan. He may even have rested in the old crofters cottage that forms the basis of this modernised, cosy property. It is pet friendly and sleeps up to 7 people, making the ideal holiday location for lovers of the countryside, walkers, climbers, mountain bikers and also, with a location less than an hour from the Cairngorm and Nevis ski areas, winter sports fans. Prices start at £365 for 7 nights.

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Blackcraig Bridgehouse

One of our most unusual properties is Blackcraig Bridgehouse near Bridge of Cally in Perthshire. This castle-like bridge dates from the 1800s and straddles the River Ardle, just 7 miles from Blairgowrie. It has characterful notched battlements, a winding stone spiral staircase and turret, plus much of the original flooring and wood paneling.

This fantastic property even contains a sauna that has wonderful river views. Blackcraig Bridgehouse sleeps 2 people and prices start at £365 for a 7 night stay.

Browse our website at www.unique-cottages.co.uk or call 01835 822277 for friendly advice and recommendations from a member of the Unique Cottages team who can help find you the perfect accommodation for you to enjoy discovering more about Scotland’s rich history and heritage in this special year.

Scotland – A Winter Wonderland for Sporting Adventures

Over 1,000 sled dogs and 250 mushers (dog sled drivers) are set to descend on Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands on 28 and 29 January 2017 for the 34th Siberian Husky Club Sled Dog Rally.

It really is an amazing spectacle with teams of between two and eight dogs pulling their musher on a sled around a trail of between four and seven miles. If there’s no snow, the mushers use a three-wheeled rig to complete the course. The dogs involved have all been bred for hard work and freezing temperatures and include Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, Samoyeds, Greenland Dogs and Canadian Eskimo Dogs.

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Aviemore Dog Sled Rally

Sled dog racing is just one of the many winter sports on offer in Scotland. Skiing has been popular here for decades, with Cairngorm near Aviemore being the most popular of the winter resorts, with a reputation as one of the UK’s most beautiful places to enjoy the sport. The mountain is home to the UK’s highest funicular railway and there’s a ski and snowboard school for beginners or anyone wanting to brush up their skills. Non-skiers can ride the train to Ptarmigan Top Station, have a bite to eat in Scotland’s highest restaurant and enjoy the spectacular scenery from the viewing platform.

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Taking to the Slopes

Skiing has also been enjoyed at Glenshee, since the 1930s when the uplift service used to be provided by a couple of tractors. Things are much more professional now, with 21 lifts and tows across four mountains and three valleys that provide fantastic skiing and boarding opportunities.

Glencoe is another firm winter favourite and has become especially popular with daredevil snowboarders and skiers who love the exhilarating, vertical descent of The Fly Paper, the steepest and most thrilling black-graded run in Britain. Further east, The Lecht Centre is perfect for skiers and snowboarders of all levels, but is particularly good for beginners or intermediate levels, while the Nevis Range Mountain Resort near Fort William combines the stunning backdrop of Ben Nevis with the highest skiing and boarding available in Scotland.

The Nevis range also offers some great Mountain Biking routes, or you can head south and experience the thrills of the Red Bull Run in Innerleithen, and Glentress Forest that is one of the UK’s best mountain biking centres and is part of the 7Stanes group of trails that can be found across the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.

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Feshie’s Sitting Room

Wherever you decide to take your Scottish winter break, at Unique Cottages we have some fabulous accommodation options. Feshie is a luxurious new addition to our portfolio set right in Aviemore with stylish décor throughout, three double bedrooms and a cosy wood-burning stove that is perfect to sit and toast yourself by after a day out on the slopes.

Another good option for a winter break is Hawthorn House in Tomintoul – a beautifully presented, pet friendly home that sleeps up to eight people with plenty of space to spread out into and easy access to the Lecht ski resort, just 6 miles away.

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Cosy Hawthorn House

The most recent guest feedback the house received describes it perfectly: ‘Excellent cottage. Spacious. Comfortable. Everything you need. Lovely village with amenities. Would return to this house.’

Have a look at the skiing section of our website or call us on 01835 822277 and let our team help find you your perfect winter break.

Celebrate The Festive Season in Style in Scotland

Christmas in Scotland these days is a fabulous affair, with fantastic food, wonderful entertainment, Christmas markets, great shopping opportunities and a very warm welcome.

As recently as 1958 Christmas was still a working day for ordinary Scots. In 1640, an act of the Scottish Parliament abolished the ‘Yule vacation’ and it wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that Christmas Day became a public holiday, with Boxing Day following in 1974.

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Relaxing by the Fire (festive socks optional)

The New Year festivities at Hogmanay were traditionally far larger in Scotland and the time when presents were exchanged and while Christmas is now the main time for festive gift giving, many older Scots will remember receiving their childhood presents on 31 December.

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A Wee Dram

A big part of Scotland’s New Year celebrations is the tradition of ‘first-footing’ – a custom said to bring good luck for the year ahead. To ensure good fortune, the first person across the threshold of your home after ‘the bells’ chime midnight should be tall, dark and handsome. He should also bring with him a piece of coal to ensure your hearth is warm, some food (often shortbread) so you won’t go hungry, and a wee dram of whisky to promote good cheer for the coming year.

Many towns also have their own unique customs and there are lots of firework displays and parties held across the country. It is a wonderful celebration to be part of and a great time to come to Scotland. Apart from Edinburgh’s amazing Hogmanay street party, concert and fireworks, Scotland’s festivities include the family-friendly Red Hot Highland Fling in Inverness and the unique Stonehaven fireballs parade. This awesome spectacle involves a ritual where participants swing balls of fire around their heads to burn off any bad spirits left behind from the old year.

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Edinburgh at Christmas

Being such a popular festive destination, holiday properties in Scotland are often booked up weeks, months or even a year in advance, but at Unique Cottages we still have some fantastic properties available. These include a cosy rural retreat for couples, some perfect countryside properties for families and an Edinburgh city apartment that’s ideal for enjoying the bustling Christmas markets, fairground rides and the lively atmosphere of Scotland’s capital city.

Many of our properties welcome pets, so there’s no need to leave your four legged family members behind and lots of our cottages feature open fires or wood-burning stoves to cosy up in front of during your festive break.

Browse our festive offers online or call us on 01835 822277 for friendly advice and recommendations from our team.

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Holiday Gift Vouchers

If you are looking for Christmas gift ideas, why not treat your partner, friend or someone in your family to a relaxing break in one of our cottages? Our holiday gift vouchers are available for any value over £25 and, as they are valid for up to 18 months, they really are the gift that keeps on giving.

They come in an attractive gift card that can be personalised with your own message. Just give us a call to get yours ordered in time for Christmas delivery.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Hogmanay!

New Staycation Destinations

Tourism boards across the UK are reporting record numbers of enquiries and bookings in 2016 as British holidaymakers opt for even more staycations, rediscovering the beautiful scenery and culture of our own country.

One of the most famous destinations for anyone choosing to holiday in Scotland is Loch Ness – the fabulously beautiful home of the country’s most elusive tourist attraction, the Loch Ness Monster. It is a gorgeous part of the world which also features the iconic Urquhart Castle, stunningly beautiful by day or when it is floodlit at night, and the perfect backdrop for a staycation selfie.

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Strone House on the Banks of Loch Ness

A boat trip on the Loch will allow closer inspection of the Castle, as well as a spot of Nessie-hunting, but if there’s no sign (she’s notoriously shy), you can always find out more about her at one of the area’s two ‘monster’ museums – the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition and Nessieland.

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Strone House Sitting Room

There’s wildlife galore at Loch Ness and a huge variety of birdlife including black grouse, osprey and whooper swans that are all common sights at the nearby Corrimony RSPB reserve. The bustling city of Inverness, with its shops, bars and great restaurants, is also just a few miles away.

A great accommodation option in the area is Strone House near Drumnadrochit. Set right on the banks of Loch Ness, it sleeps eight in sleek, contemporary style, with amazing views (that can particularly be admired from the master bedroom balcony) and a multi-fuel stove that keeps it cosy. Prices start at £895 for seven nights – that’s just under £112 each for a whole week for a group of eight people.

Further south is the attractive village of Tarbert on the Kintyre peninsula. Shops, pubs, hotels and houses sit snugly round Tarbert’s lovely harbour. There is plenty to do including the option of catching a ferry to Portavadie on the Cowal Peninsula, with its great outdoor heated infinity pool overlooking Loch Fyne. The Isle of Arran is just a 30 minute ferry trip away and is a mecca for lovers of beautiful sandy beaches and water sports, or you can raise a toast to your staycation in the Kilberry Inn’s “Wee Bar”. Situated around 13 miles outside Tarbert, it is said to be the smallest bar in Scotland and is located in a converted red phonebox.

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Loch Head Cottage

One of Unique Cottages’ newest properties near Tarbert is Loch Head Cottage. It sleeps four people plus two pets and its location, backing onto the first hole of Tarbert golf course, is ideal for anyone who loves the game or simply wants to use this beautiful cottage as a base for exploring the area. The cottage costs from just £375 for seven nights.

In his World Tour of Scotland, Billy Connolly described the Scottish Borders as ‘looking more Scottish in appearance and atmosphere – it is what people think the Highlands look and feel like.’ The region is an idea staycation destination with its breathtaking landscapes, grand aristocratic mansions, rich literary and cultural heritage and a host of outdoor leisure activities.

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Cosy Pyatshaw Burn Cottage

Active types can enjoy the world-class mountain biking facilities of Glentress and Innerleithen, fish for salmon on the River Tweed, go horse riding, climb the three famous Eildon hills or swing through the trees at the Borders’ Go Ape attraction. More leisurely Borders pursuits include the chance to explore pretty towns and villages such as Peebles, Kelso and Melrose or to step back in time at Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford home, at the magnificent Floors Castle in Kelso, or the stunning Thirlestane Castle in Lauder. Situated just 30 miles from Edinburgh, the town is close to another new property Pyatshaw Burn Cottage. This cosy cottage is nestled among the trees overlooking a pretty burn and is the perfect romantic retreat for two. Prices start from £325 for seven nights.

These are just a few suggestions for Scottish staycations, to explore more for yourself browse our website or call our Booking Team on 01835 822 277.

Scotland’s First Snorkel Trail

Scotland is famous as a location for a wide range of active holidays, from golf and fishing to skiing, mountain biking, canoeing, and many more.

Now, thanks to the Scottish Wildlife Trust, it also boasts its first ever snorkel trail – a set of nine, self-led trails in the waters off the North West Highlands that allow both beginners and advanced snorkelers to dive down and see the impressive variety of Scotland’s marine life.

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Exploring the Waters

Many people might think it is too cold to snorkel in Scotland, but the British Sub Aqua Club disagrees, saying that the colours and life under the surface in places like the north west coast are up there with the coral reefs you can find abroad.

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Sunstar Starfish

So while you won’t be able to ‘Find Dory’, the Pacific Regal Blue Tang of the recent animated blockbuster, in Scottish waters you are likely to see lobsters and various species of crab as well as a surprising variety of starfish including common starfish, sunstars and brittlestars. Scotland’s living seas are also home to extensive beds of Maerl (an unusual red coralline algae) and colourful sea urchins that cling to rocks around the coast and harbours. Keep your eyes peeled too for sea squirts, sponges and anemones, as well as cuttlefish, dead man’s fingers, dogfish, butterfish, jellyfish and periwinkle. If you are lucky you might even manage to see dolphins or the impressive, but harmless, basking sharks.

The North West Highlands Snorkel Trail comprises of sites at beaches and bays along the coast near Gairloch, Ullapool and Lochinver. It is a stunning part of the world with truly majestic scenery and that, in addition to its rich marine life, is famous for other wildlife including ptarmigan, golden eagles and deer.

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Pebble Coast

We have several beautiful self catering properties in the area that would make a perfect base for exploring both on land and at sea. The Old Schoolhouse at Achiltibuie, north west of Ullapool is set just 200 yards from the sea with beautiful views across to the Dundonnell Mountains. The nearby Kirkaig Falls and Suilven Mountain are well worth visiting, as is the ruined and rumoured to be haunted Ardvreck Castle.

Other accommodation options in the area include the gorgeous Pebble Coast that is set in an amazing clifftop location near Gairloch with magnificent views out across The Minch to the Isle of Skye and the Outer Hebrides and direct access down to a lovely pebble beach.

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The First Officer’s Quarters

Also near Gairloch are The First Officer’s Quarters in the spectacular setting of Rua Reidh lighthouse, which comes complete with a private wildlife hide for the use of guests. It is known as a great spot for witnessing the beautiful natural light show of the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights.

If you do decide to go snorkeling, please read the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Snorkel Safety information on their website before you go. It contains lots of vital information to keep you safe and help you make the most of your watery adventure.

To discover more about our properties in the North West Highlands, click here or call us on 01835 822 277.

Holidays on the Right Track

It is almost a year now since the Waverley Railway Line from Edinburgh to Tweedbank near Melrose in the Scottish Borders was re-opened by Her Majesty the Queen on 6 September 2015.

The new line was great news for the region, particularly after 46 years of it not being in use. The transport link has made access to this beautiful part of Scotland so much easier for both visitors and locals alike.

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The Loading Bay and Garden Where the Train Tracks Once Ran

The line, which was originally completed in 1849, travelled all the way across the country to Carlisle, passing through Hassendean Station around 5 miles from Hawick. Some of the attractive buildings at this rural train stop have now been converted into self-catering accommodation by their architectural designer/owner and have just joined our portfolio.

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Railway Memorabilia

Hassendean Station didn’t serve a large community, but relied on both passenger and goods traffic from rural farms and houses. Goods were dealt with at The Loading Bay, which has now been converted into a wonderful holiday cottage that sleeps 4 people. The main living area at ‘Platform Level’ is light and bright with windows showcasing breathtaking views across the countryside. The two bedrooms are downstairs at ‘Goods Yard Level’ and throughout the house the antiques, railway artefacts and memorabilia are sure to fascinate and delight.

Outside, you can enjoy the daytime vistas or star-filled night skies from decking that overlooks a lovely lawned area that sits right where the trains once ran. The UK’s only surviving Victorian timber footbridge which once stretched over the lines still stands by the cottage to this day.

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Signalman’s Cottage

The other cottage on the site is Signalman’s Cottage that dates from 1850 and, as the name suggests, was once home to the station’s signalman. Having been lovingly restored, it sleeps 3 and is full of character, with features including reclaimed pine beams that came from the Titanic dry dock. The cottage has an enclosed garden that is great for pets and looks out over towards Rubers Law, a local hill that is popular with walkers.

Visitors can explore the nearby villages of Minto and Denholm, discover the history and heritage of the pretty Border towns of Hawick, Jedburgh, Kelso and Melrose and wander around their many shops, galleries, pubs and cafés.

The Borders has lots of great golf courses and other activities on offer include fishing, clay pigeon shooting, walking, horse riding and mountain biking.

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Take a Steam Train Trip

If you’ve been inspired by the history of the Waverley Line, the station at Tweedbank is just 13.5 miles away and provides a hassle-free way to enjoy a day trip to Scotland’s capital city Edinburgh whilst taking in the wonderful scenery along this historic route. There is even the opportunity during August and September to take a steam train ride on the line, with gourmet dining and various excursions to try along the way.

A seven night stay starts at £365 for The Loading Bay and £345 for Signalman’s Cottage and they even have access to a little beach hut at Coldingham Bay. We have many more wonderful properties in the Scottish Borders – browse through them on our website or give us a call on 01835 822277.

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