Monday, 31 August 2015

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

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