As a "sequel" of sorts to my tour of the Outer Hebrides last year, I had a tour to another part of Scotland where I hadn't been previously. The last minute plan was a few days in the vicinity of Fort William
Day 1 - Buckie to Lochailort
Sunday 25th October
Left Buckie in the morning, destination Lochailort. Decided to take Google's route and headed towards Aviemore. Aberlour still has quite a wait to get through. Stopped at Aviemore for a tasty steak slice from the bakery.
After Aviemore, it's just a wee bit down the A9 then turning off at Kingussie. The road over to Fort William was pretty quiet. Couldn't quite make out Ben Nevis when I got there, it was clouded over. Stopped for a coffee and a wander down the high street.
I headed along the road toward Mallaig and flew past the monument and viaduct at Glenfinnan since it was still pretty horrid and overcast. The road was quite good though, lots of waterfalls around every bend. I arrived at the Lochailort Inn around five, and met my music chum off of the train. That's about all there is to Lochailort, a station and an Inn!
I found out that I'd be the only one staying at the place that evening, well it is October. Fortunately the expected session contingent turned up and they played some cracking tunes. The guys were a band called FRAS. I looked them up, so you can see for yourselves:
Day 2 - Single Track on Ardnamurchan
Monday 26th October
I woke in the morning to find some had turned up to make my breakfast. I chose Salmon and scrambled eggs, which was definitely the right choice.
Afterwards I decided to drive to Mallaig. It is the end of the road, and the rail, before the ferry to Skye.
This might be a nice place for a cycle some day. Cycle paths off the main road, and a nice coastal road too.
Next, I backtracked to the Inn, turning south into Moidart and Ardnamurchan. The road turns into single track here. I passed through Glenuig, famous for the three musical MacDonald brothers.
I went through Archacle, home of my aforementioned music chum, where the tearoom was shut, so a quick bite to eat from the shop instead. Continuing south, then west along Loch Sunart. This road leads to Kilchoan, where you can catch the ferry to Tobermory across the Sound of Mull.
Since I'd come this far, I might as well carry on to Arnamurchan point, the most westerly part of mainland Britain. Here there is a lighthouse and a wee tea room. I chose the most sickly sweet looking cake they had, and bought a ticket to go up the tower.
This is the first time I've been up a lighthouse, most aren't open to the public. From the top you can see all around. North to Mallaig, across the Isles of Muck, Eigg, and Rum with the Cullins of Skye in the background. To the south you can see Coll and Mull. The guide said you could even make out Barra on clear day, though not today. There were about 160 steps up to the light room. The lights appear to flash twice every 20 seconds. They can be seen up to 24 miles away at sea. They are hoping to replace the light next year LEDs, which are much more energy efficient and would allow them to be solar powered instead of requiring mains power.
Now the back of three, I had quite a long drive to get to my hotel for the night. Although only 40 miles to the Corran Ferry, the roads on Ardnamurchan are very windy single track with many blind corners. Even though I've driven single track before, particularly in the Hebrides, this was much harder probably due to the extensive greenery growing at either side of the road. The section from the point to Strontian is definitely the worst, and wasn't helped by the diminishing light, and my increasingly desperate need for a pee!
Fortunately past Strontian it is back to dual carriageway, or normal roads to the rest of us. The ferry runs every half hour, but there wasn't much to see while I waited at the terminal, since being the end of October it was dark by 5:30. The ferry was also pretty uninteresting, since it's barely a 5 minute crossing, and I couldn't even get out of my car.
My hotel was only another five minutes south around the corner. After a long hard drive, I just had some food at the hotel, Venison burger if you're interested, plus a couple of beers from a brewery in Kinlochleven, and retired to bed early.
Day 3 - A Spin on the Bike and a Drive to Oban
Tuesday 27th October
I woke to find my bedroom window looked right out to a small garden, Loch Linnhe, and some hills beyond. Breakfast consisted of yet more Salmon and eggs (I could get used to this!). The weather looked good, so I grabbed the bike out of the boot and headed towards Loch Leven. It looked a nice circular route on Google Maps.
This was quite a nice route. The road was good quality all the way around, the north side mostly at water level, and the south side elevated between Kinlochleven and Glencoe. It was pretty hard going on the way out due to strong winds, but fine on the way back.
In the afternoon I decided to take a drive south to Oban. My granny and her sister had been there earlier this year. One thing I noticed was the really nice cycle paths all the way from Ballachulish. I may have to return and cycle the route instead. There is also a neat single track bridge at Connel.
Oban itself was lovely, helped by the warm sunny weather, well warm for Scotland in October. I had a wander round the shops, found the ever important music shop, had some lunch, then found a place serving "Cappuccino Brownie Cheescake" which I scoffed while sitting by the sea in the sunshine.
While heading back to the hotel, I thought I'd get some photos of Castle Stalker in the sunset. Alas, it must be sheltered, but I carried on towards the ferry to Lismore hoping for a good sunset shot. It reminded me of a similar chase along single track roads when I was in the Hebrides. I got a couple of pictures, but clouds stopped me getting an ideal shot.
I went up the road to Fort William for tea, it's only a ten minute drive up the Loch. I had "Sole fillets with Gravadlax on herb mash, Asparagus and Hollandaise". Sounds fancy but was very yum. There was an American family at the next table. The father, a rather large chap, had taken a tumble on Ben Nevis earlier in the day and broken his ankle!
Day 4 - A Damp Day in Fort William
Wednesday 28th October
After yesterday's successful cycle, I decided I'd chance Glen Nevis, despite the forecast of heavy rain. It was still fine when I reached Fort William. The route itself is quite nice, passing round the foot of Ben Nevis, uphill slightly towards some waterfalls at Steill.
However. The rain started about 2/3rds of the way up. And it didn't let up.
However, I finished the climb, since I was already soaked. At the top I made a swift u-turn and headed back towards town. It was not fun changing to dry clothes in my small cramped car!
I also spotted the mountain rescue helicopter hovering over the mountain. I wonder if it was to rescue the guys who had to camp there overnight?
The rain didn't let off the rest of the day. I had a drive out to Spean Bridge to see the Commando Memorial, though the spectacular view of Ben Nevis was nowhere in sight.
Back in Fort William I had a wander around the Neptune's Staircase. This is a pretty cool staircase lock on the Caledonian Canal. No boats were passing through today, but I found it interesting that at the foot of the locks, the road and railways are both swing bridges too to allow boats through.
The remainder of the day was a bit of a wash due to the rain, so I had a coffee while writing my postcards, made use of the internet, then a cheap and cheerful bite to eat at the Weatherspoons in town. Finally, a couple more River Leven beers at the hotel while writing this here tale...
Day 5 - Homeward Bound
Thursday 29th October
My final day had another damp start, though the salmon and scrambled eggs was fine once again. I decided to head home via various other places I've never been before.
Leaving Onich I headed for Glencoe, and out over Rannoch Moor. There wasn't a lot to see as it was very foggy.
I carried on past Crianlarich, onto Killin and Loch Tay, then stopped for a nosy round Aberfeldy and Pitlochry at lunch time. The fog cleared around then so I enjoyed the spectacular views through Glenshee to Braemar, then a pleasant drive home along Deeside.