Into the Highlands

The bus was almost empty. Sue sat in front, and I sat behind. I was promptly joined by an Edinburgh woman who was definitely on for a chat, more of a monologue really. In the twenty-minute ride to the airport I heard her entire life story and that of her sister’s, whom she was off to meet in London. I was flustered. I wasn’t expecting company. I dropped my handbag, fumbled with my scarf, and was generally discombobulated. I went to pick up the car. There was a queue. I thought I was organised when I realised my licence was in my big bag. Carol called me forward and was on about paying extra for a bigger, better car, after all, we were early. I was sucked in. I did have some composure and negotiated some sort of deal. Still, I was not happy. But things did look up after that. Sue resumed the role of navigator, and we were on our way- first stop the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel.

Our destination was Fort William. Sue had managed to get a waterfront location in the largest town in the Highlands and the self-appointed Outdoor Capital of the UK. It was a four-hour drive without stops. We were in for a big day.A coffee and a wander around the two attractions at Falkirk and we headed to Loch Lomond. It was so beautiful it took our breath away. We ventured through the Trussocks- stunning!

It was still light when we arrived at Waterfront Lodge. It was a self-service entry and card system. It was not quite what we expected. Fort William was more of a backwater than we had imagined and although our digs were located on the edge of town adjacent to a university campus (of one small building) it felt more like an industrial site. But one thing was reassuring- the Fire Brigade was just across the road and Morrisons was around the corner.

Glencoe is located on the banks of Loch Leven and in a valley surrounded by a host of Munros. Mountains in Scotland whose peaks are 3000 feet or over are collectively named Munros. It is quite a unique location and we had to explore. The Visitors’ Centre had the obligatory café and souvenir shop but also a wonderful recreation of a seventeen-century turf hut and a video explaining its construction. We decided to do a forest walk and we came across the site of the Massacre of Glencoe, (February 13, 1692), in Scottish history, the treacherous slaughter of members of the MacDonald clan who refused to pledge allegiance to William of Orange. History is lying around everywhere in Scotland like bits of bark in a forest.

It was time to fill the car. We decided that seeing there was a plethora of petrol stations and in Ireland we almost ran on empty to the return point, we would keep the tank topped up. The problem was – how to open the cap cover. We searched high and low around the dash, under the seat- pushed all buttons. So- the last resort -ask someone. Sue sashayed over to a hulk of a man, obviously a Viking descendant, and informed him of our dilemma. He disembarked from his car, came around to the cap and pushed it. 

‘Ahh!’ exclaimed Sue feigning nonchalance. ‘I didn’t push it hard enough.’ 

‘Did’n’nay’, he smirked, and slid back into his monster truck. 

Initially it wasn’t our intention to circumnavigate Loch Leven but once we realised we had obviously passed the Folk Museum and were half way to Kinlochleven we decided it was inevitable. We had a bite to eat at the little pub, the Tailrace Inn, and a walk along the River Leven and discovered that what we thought was a waterfall was actually an outlet for water diverted from a disused aluminium smelter – sort of takes a bit of the romance away from the scene!  Still, it was very beautiful. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s