The Itinerary

The Itinerary

Thursday, May 21, 2015

May 18, Ft. William to Inveraray

Monday, May 18, Day 104 - Ft. William to Inveraray

If it is Scotland, it must be raining; but not heavily today. The mountains around the town are covered in mist and cloud and we do get a glimpse of Ben Nevis with a new, heavy dusting of snow from the last few days of weather.

After breakfast at 9AM we load the car and make it all of 200 yards before our first stop to watch the operation of Neptune’s Staircase, a set of eight locks here on the Caladonian Canal. This ladder raises the boats 70 feet above sea level in a space of 500 yards. The canal was started in 1803 and opened in 1822, then improved in 1844-7, providing a long hoped for route from western to eastern Scotland. It is 60 miles long with 38 miles along the lochs and the remaining 22 miles consisting of the canal proper with 29 locks to raise and lower the boats. Besides these 8 locks the rest of the locks are located at Fort Augustus and west of Inverness.

This morning the locks are busy with several, large fishing boats well up the staircase and the second lock holding a very nice, large (60 feet or so in length) pleasure craft with its home port in Kirkwall, Orkneys. Behind it is a relatively small sail boat with an older couple competently handling its lines. That is in contrast to the older woman (wife of the owner?) handling the bow line on the large, private boat. As the lock begins to fill, she is not paying attention and the massive current thrusts the bow of the boat across the lock for an almost certain collision with the lock wall. She does not have the line secured and it is burning her hands as it tears around the cleat. The situation is saved by the lock-master, who had probably seen it all before, when he closes the valves filling the lock and the current subsides. The woman and a deck hand get the boat tied off in its proper position and the valves are reopened. No harm no foul but the owner of the boat was royally pissed at the woman and the deck hand who, probably, should have been attending the bow line himself.

Carolyn is further up the locks watching the two fishing boats while Dick is watching this little drama and she happens to see the steam powered train that runs from Ft. William out to Malliag and back crossing the bridge over the canal. This is the train used in the "Harry Potter" movies. Dick was oblivious to the train passing as he was watching the slow motion wreck in the lock.
Back in the car we make a further stop for fuel and then head for Glencoe, site of the 1692 Glencoe Massacre (38 MacDonalds who lived in the Glen were killed by government troops lead by a Campbell) and the head of the beautiful glen by the same name. The rain and cloud have lifted and we see some really beautiful scenes as we drive along Loch Linnhe, over the bridge, and turn up an arm of the Loch toward Glencoe. The little, pleasure boat harbor at Glencoe offers some very nice pictures and we are among a number of cars that stop to take pictures and enjoy the beauty of the scene.

The Glencoe visitor center is focused on the nature of the area, its geology and outdoor activities, with nothing on the 1692 event or the history leading up to it. There is not much to see and we pass on spending the money to look at the exhibit in the center. Back in the car, we head East and then South through Glen Coe, one of Scotland’s most impressive glens, climbing nearly a 1000 feet and enjoying its majesty while stopping several times for pictures. The weather is really changeable and cold and we move from sun to rain and back again regularly. Traffic is heavy, as this is a main truck route, but we do not have any real delays other than two people on bicycles riding side by side and blocking up traffic. They are going up hill and so it is virtually impossible for the big truck right behind them to pass.

Finally around them and over the summit, we head through the Rannoch Moor. They say it can be magnificent and beautiful or simply desolate and dismal depending on your mood and the weather. Well it is very desolate looking with the sky heavy with the coming rain and it is cold!

Once through the Moor and the Bridge of Orchy, we head into Tyndrum looking for some lunch where we, along with a lot of other people, stop at the "Green Welly." We both have soup and a roll which seems to be a standard offering here in Scotland.  That may be because it warms you all the way to your toes and we needed that today! Dick looks around in the "Green Welly" shop and may have found the answer to cold feet when hunting; insulated, neoprene Green Wellys by Sneed, designed for hunting and farming. They sell them on-line and ship world wide. He will look into this when he gets home.

Warmed up and refreshed we head to Inveraray. But first we make a detour to Lochawe to see St Conan’s Kirk and Kilchurn Castle. Walter Campbell built St Conan’s Kirk in 1881-6 for his mother and sister so they would not have to travel all the way to Dalmally to attend church. He added to it in the early 1900's, combining the best bits from various church styles and the result is somewhat bizarre, very fascinating and quite beautiful all at the same time. We have it all to ourselves and really enjoy exploring the church. It is like a mini-medieval cathedral with some beautiful details especially on the inside.

Then we find the "unofficial" parking area at the head of Loch Awe, park, follow the path under a railroad bridge and out into a field to get a good view of the ruins of  Kilchurn Castle, built in 1450 by Sir Collin Campbell. It is on an island at the head of the Loch. We though we might be able to wade the shallow rock filled crossing and actually explore the castle, but we soon realize that it is farther than it looks, so we settle for some close up pictures and a visit with a man who checks on all the castles in this area as he is walking back to his car after a check of Kilchurm. He tells us this is one of a series of Galley Castles in the area and he thinks it is one of the most interesting.

We arrive at Newton Hall in Inveraray about 4PM and unload for our one night stay in our ground floor room....Thank Heavens!!! We are both tired, cold and worse for wear from all the stair steps in the hotel in Ft. William. The damp and cold is playing Old Billy with our knees. We are not amused with this getting old and then having our noses rubbed in it to boot with painful knees.

So, tonight calls for an early dinner and early to bed. Our host recommends the George Hotel down the road in town and we check it out but opt for the Cottage Restaurant across the street after comparing menus. This little place is in an old building that is partially under ground and you go down stairs from the street into its tiny serving area. We are greeted and seated and we order focacia bread with herbed olive oil and cheese for a starter and then lamb stew for Dick and chicken stroganoff for Carolyn along with a bottle of red wine and apple pie a la mode for dessert. The food is quite good, easily one of the best meals we have had recently, and reasonably priced (for Scotland); about $50US.

 Back to the hotel where the room has finally warmed up some and bed calls early as usual.

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