Monday, 31 August 2015

Day13 - Balmaha, Loch Lomond to Glasgow

Date: Thursday 27th August 2015
Route: Balmaha, Loch Lomond to Glasgow (via Rest and Be Thankful, Luss and Dumbartonshire)
Our Listening Pleasure:  Various - we had the player on random
Miles today: 115
Total Mileage: 1,816

Chucking out time at The Oak Tree Inn was 10am, and we were up and had our breakfast in good time. Breakfast had a bit of humour when an English family set the toaster alight!
Dan's Cottage
Loch Lomond, view from our cottage

Today started off OK but it was not long before it turned a bit cloudy and damp, and the cloud was lingering very low as we drove a few miles to a well-known beauty spot, Rest And Be Thankful. 
Low clouds again

This is a spot that is dear to our hearts as one of our very first photos taken together was here………

View from Rest and Be Thankful
We actually drove past this beauty spot as it is now a bit of a construction site and there are no road signs for it!!! We drove a little bit up the mountain side and got a great view of the valley below.


The road here was part of a series of military roads constructed in the 18th Century by soldiers.  Rest and Be Thankful were the words inscribed on a stone by the soldiers in the 1740’s. The original stone got ruined and a replacement was put in, but the inscription now is very faint.

The stone

 We got another photo taken in the same spot as we did 10 years ago!
Before - 10 years ago

Today - we didn't get the chance to cuddle in
before the guy took the pic!

As we drove past, Luss lured us in. The rain had started again, but we put the waterproof jackets on and went for a wander around this quaint town. At the beach, there were canoes and ducks.

.....and ducks
We went to Dear Auld Glasgow Toon via Dumbartonshire and across the Erskine Bridge. Driving through Alexandria in Dumbartonshire, we saw signs for factory outlets and the shopping bug got into Minty, so we stopped off. What a disappointment. There were only about 5 shops, with nothing of interest. However, the location was something else. It is in an old car factory for Argyll Motors and was a lovely building. 

Minty at the top of the
Central Staircase
The central staircase and the view from it was fantastic. Each side, they had vintage cars, one side had a Scamp, the other a Hillman Imp.
View from the top of the staircase

The Imp

Crossing the Erskine Bridge


We arrived in Glasgow and got checked into our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express in Theatreland (!). The Beeb went off to surprise his grandson by meeting him from the school bus.

Later on, we went to The Poetry Club to see Linden. This is a band headed by Joe McAlinden, with The Wellgreen as part of the band. The gig was a sell out and it was not surprising. Linden are fantastic. The harmonies are brilliant, but then you would not expect anything less when Stu Kidd and Marco Rea are involved. The audience loved the whole show. We loved this gig. All the more so because it was an album launch gig. And the name of the album?....Rest And Be Thankful :-) Looking forward to listening to this on the way home.

Another bonus was the chance to spend a bit of quality time with Marco for a change. Great to be able to have a chat for quite a while.

Day12 - Fort William to Balmaha, Loch Lomond

Date: Wednesday 26th August 2015
Route: Fort William to Balmaha, Loch Lomond (via Glencoe, Callander and Stirling)
Our Listening Pleasure:  Psych
Miles today: 126
Total Mileage: 1,701

Today was very dreicht (that’s Scottish for wet and miserable if you didn’t know!)

Boat on the Loch, and low cloud
Heading out of Fort William, a layer of cloud was very low and hung across the middle of the mountain scenery like a sash belt. We had wanted to go to the Ben Nevis visitor centre before we left Fort William but with the cloud so low, we knew our view of The Ben would be spoiled. Another time hopefully.
Low Cloud hung like a waist sash

First on our list of places to see today was Glencoe, an area of immense beauty. It was pouring with rain when we got there and  the clouds still hung low. 
The Beeb in the rain at Glencoe

At the visitors’ centre we went to the viewing point and horror of horrors there was a ghastly huge picture frame mounted. Just to give you a perspective, the picture below was taken from the furthest spot possible in the viewing area
Spoiled View

We are not sure of the exact purpose of this frame. We thought it was a bit of a gimmick, so people could stand in front and take selfies with the frame in the background (sort of creating their own picture postcard) or giving you a “frame” for your landscape snapshots. However  it’s about 20ft high and no-one, unless they were about 10 feet tall, would have a hope in hell in getting a photo of the mountains beyond in the frame. We tried and just could not do it. The purpose may be just to highlight the natural beauty of these places and is an advert to push to conserve them, otherwise all we would have is a photo in a frame?
By moving right to the front of the viewing area, we could by-pass the "frame" and get some shots of the cloud covered mountains
Glencoe shrouded with low cloud
Glencoe in cloud
The lady in the gift shop was equally appalled. 

Poster for the Art exhibition

We fortuitously timed the visit with an exhibition of paintings by a wonderful Scottish painter, Hamish MacDonald. 

The exhibition was run by his daughter who was on hand to answer any questions, and we had a lovely chat with her. His artwork good and there were many prints of his paintings from places we had already visited, so we just had to purchase some of the prints on cards.

The Brook at An Torr

With the rain still coming down, we drove through Glencoe, stopping off for a wander around An Torr (part of Glencoe). With a little brook with white rapids and lovely dense forest it was a nice wander.
An Torr area of Glencoe covered in cloud

Back on the road and the mountains turned to hills and then turned to fairly flat landscape and the rain started to ease off. 
Back on the road
Before long we arrived in a small town, Callander, the location for the filming of Dr Findlay’s casebook in the 1960’s. By this time the weather had improved dramatically and the sun was out. 
The Beeb in the sun at Callander

With it being a Wednesday afternoon, some of the local shops were shut (disappointed we didn’t manage to see inside what looked like an interesting second hand bookshop). 

Just beside the shop was a canoe with a scarecrow in it! Stranger things have happened we suppose!

Scarecrow in a canoe

We had lunch here, in the cafĂ© with the best name in the high street “Taste of The Trossachs” before heading out towards Callander Mill where Hamish, the famous Heilan’ Coo grazes.
Lunchtime in Callander

The sign about Hamish -
 no mention he's deed!
The field where the coos graze has two, yes TWO perimeter fences. The story is that despite repeated warnings to the public not to get too close as the coo’s horns are sharp, some American did get too close and when Hamish turned his head, one of the horns stuck the bloke! There was nothing malicious about it, Hamish did not “attack” but the guy complained and as a result of health and safety getting involved, the coos had to have a double fence (boo).

We were a bit confused as we could not match either of the coos in the field to the picture of Hamish that was on the information board. We found out later that poor Hamish died last year. The black cow that is there now, with Honey has very, very long horns.

The Black Coo with huge horns


Next stop was Stirling and we saw a dual carriageway for the first time in ages!!!! This old city is quite hilly, and the castle at the top of it looks quite splendid. 

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle
Robert The Bruce

Why are castles always built on hills? asks Minty……. We didn’t go into the castle itself but had a wander around the immediate area where the statue of Robert the Bruce guards the entrance to the castle! 

Alongside is a neatly laid out cemetery
The Cemetery

Some of the streets are cobbled and this city is obviously steeped in history. The pub/hotel just at the bottom of the castle grounds was the old grammar school (for “better off boys”) built in 1787 and further down the hill, a coffee house was once the residence of Mary Queen of Scots’ husband.
The Old Grammar School, now a hotel/pub

William Wallace Monument

Across the valley, and visible from the castle, is the William Wallace Monument. 

You could be forgiven in thinking this structure is hundreds of years old and dates back to the times of Braveheart himself with the style of building and the look of the stones, but it is only 140 years old!

The Beeb at the top of the hill at Stirling Castle
and Wallace Monument in the distance

The Oak Tree Inn
Time was getting on and we headed out to Loch Lomond and our hotel for the night, The Oak Tree Inn in Balmaha. Just in front of this Inn is a 500 year old oak tree. Today it had a large pink ribbon tied around it.

We have stayed here before, and it was a bit of an anniversary visit for us. Last time the booking got mixed up and we were put in the Bunk Room with four bunk beds to choose from!!! 
The Bunk House we stayed in last time!!!

This time we got a free upgrade to a cottage room in Dan’s Cottage, with a view and a patio area. It was quite plush and spacious, with a stone decorated fireplace. There are actually 5 (self-contained) rooms in the cottage, and were a bit unfortunate to have a couple of wildebeasts in the room upstairs who were awake at 6am!

Our Patio

Although the sun came out to play for a short time, the rain returned before long so we never got the opportunity to enjoy the patio to its full extent, but we have to admit the view across Loch Lomond was gorgeous. 

View across the Loch

Another view across the Loch

Light was fading so we didn't get the opportunity to explore this side of the Loch, so it was just a leisurely dinner in the Inn's restaurant and then an early night.

The Beeb dressed for dinner
Inside our room, a lovely fireplace

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Day11 - Boat of Garten to Fort William

 Date: Tuesday 25th August 2015
Route: Boat of Garten to Fort William (via Aviemore, Loch Laggan and Glenfinnan)
Our Listening Pleasure:  
Miles today: 101
Total Mileage: 1,575

Today we were driving mostly through forest!!

Aviemore Station
Flowerbox at Aviemore Station
 Heading off after a hearty breakfast at The Boat, we stopped in nearby Aviemore and strolled along the main street. 

Most of the shops are mountaineering and skiing related and you can just imagine how pretty this town is when the snowfall arrives. 

The railway station is another one which is maintained with a 1950’s look.
Aviemore Station

Loch Laggan
As we headed across towards Fort William, we passed a lovely looking beach area and pulled over to take a closer look. We were at Loch Laggan. 

The climb down was very steep and getting back up could only be done on hands and feet! Very sophisticated for Minty!

 The Loch area itself looked so tranquil, with a large beached area (we think it is a private estate) to our left and cobbles/stoned beach where we had entered. 

The Beeb on the shores of Loch Laggan

Minty figures out how to get back up!!!

Ah, that's how!!!
Further up was a dam which looked quite impressive.

The Dam at Loch Laggan

As we drove around the forest lined roads, we saw our first sight of snow! There is was, at the top of the mountain range in the distance.

We drove through the shadow of Ben Nevis as we motored along the border of Fort William, heading for the Harry Potter film location of Glenfinnan. In fact, wherever you go in this area, you are in the shadow of The Ben!

Ben Nevis, shrouded in cloud

Ben Nevis

Arriving at Glenfinnan we found out that health and safety prevented anyone from going up to the top of the Glenfinnan monument (there was no guide there today), but we could walk around. 

This is the location where Bonnie Prince Charlie landed when he came to Scotland to drive up the Jacobite rebellion, and the monument is a tribute to him. His statue is prominent at the top. The bay is pretty striking…… the water was really clear and still.

Where Bonnie Prince Charlie landed
Minty with Bonnie Prince Charlie's monument in the background

Turning around, the first thing you see in the distance is the Glenfinnan Viaduct, a landmark that will be instantly recognizable to any Harry Potter enthusiasts……this is the viaduct that the Hogwarts Express choo choo’s over in the Harry Potter films, and just beyond, the Quidditch scenes were filmed. 

Glenfinnan Viaduct
The Jacobite Express steam trains go over this viaduct twice a day, and the next one was due in about an hour, so we climbed up to the viewing point, found a good spot and waited!

View from the Hogwarts Express viewing point

The Beeb settled in - waiting for the Hogwarts Express

The Hogwarts Express
We heard the whistle and then saw the plume of white smoke being propelled from the top of the engine as the express train came across the viaduct, into view. 

Even without this being the Hogwarts Express, it is quite exciting to see this old train powering across the viaduct. 
The Hogwarts Express
Many of the viewers started to make their way down from the viewing point but we stayed around and our patience was rewarded with a second train, steaming across in the other direction about five minutes later. 

The second train

The driver of this train was milking it all, and he slowed right down to a crawl and peeped his whistle a few times as he crossed the viaduct.

The second train
Minty with the Viaduct in the background

The Beeb with The Glenfinnan Monument in the background

Bonnie Prince Charlie and the shimmering bay

Fort William is built in the shadow of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK,  known as The Ben to the locals. You know which one of the many mountains is The Ben – it is like the Big Daddy Bear towering over everything!

Tonight we stayed at Hotel Cruachan in Fort William. It is an old hotel, with rabbit warren corridors and wi-fi that can be connected to only in the area immediately in front of reception!!! But it was a bed for the night.
Our Hotel for the night - Cruachan Hotel

Fort William Main Street
We wandered into the main shopping area of Fort William and found a pub, The Volunteer Arms that was showing the Celtic Vs Malmo European match and we spent the rest of the evening in there enjoying a few San Miguel’s, but not enjoying the result of the football!

Clan Chief monument in Fort William

The pub where we watched the football