Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Wednesday 7th September

Yesterdays Blog is dated Wednesday 7th, due to the previous B&B not having Wi-Fi connection. Sorry for any confusion.

After a good breakfast I left Lancaster around 9.0am and prepared for the five hour drive to Fort William. The weather was bright and the traffic brisk. As I said yesterday, I had not planned to stop of anywhere particular, but I did want to see what Gretna Green was all about. Well, its about tourism, in a big way. Coach loads of Danish, German and new rich Chinese flock there, not just for the history, but for the huge gift shop selling everything that is Scottish. I did however want to collect some information on the history of the place, and how it is used today. The guy on the desk was James, a fountain of knowledge of all things Greta Green - he has even written a book on its history, and insisted on showing me some of it on his computer. We talked for sometime until a group of Danish tourist arrived for a ’mock’ wedding ceremony. Apparently these are popular with the Danes for some reason (see today’s photos).
Eventually tearing myself away from the gift shop I continued northwards. A couple of hours later I was on the Glasgow ring road, and the rain found me again. I don’t want to keep going on about the weather, as I am sure you realise by now it has not been too good, so I wont mention it again unless relevant.
When I finally crossed the Erskine Bridge and turned left onto the A82, I then knew I was in the Scotland I had come to see.
This road follows the west bank of Loch Lomond, and I was taken-a-back with the sheer size of it. Its over 24 miles long, and half a mile wide. Needless to say it was a very scenic route, although much of it is through forest until you get to Crainfarich, the start of the Highlands proper. Here the scenery changes dramatically. Immense green lush Munros, fast flowing rivers, waterfalls, lochs and, yes rain. The Scottish tourist board have thoughtfully laid out many stopping-off points along the way, but today clouds and rain hampered any chance of capturing their magnificence on camera.

I arrived at my B&B just outside Fort William (apparently 15 minute walk into town - I will let you know). It has a commanding position over Loch Linnhe, and on a CLEAR day will be a picture postcard view from my bedroom window.
After a shower and Siesta, I elected to take the fifteen minute walk into central Fort William. It has a pleasant cobbled pedestrian high street, with the usual souvenir shops, pubs and restaurants.
On my way in I asked a couple of lads, I took to be local, for their recommendation for a good pub. They suggested one or two and finally settled the Scots Grill. I thought it an unusual name for a pub and walked the length and breath of the high street looking for it.
It finally dawned on me they meant the Grog and Gruel. . . .

I planned to sip a pint or two and sit quietly in a corner reading my new book. The pub was small and packed, with a good mixture of tourist and locals. They had over eight different real ales, all new to me, and over 100 malt whiskies
Having brought a pint I sat opposite a couple, about my age and assumed they were locals. Now my wife will tell you it is usually the ladies who strike up a conversation with a complete stranger - usually in the supermarket checkout queue - but being in such close proximity in a pub it is hard not to ask ‘and where are you from?’
Well, Jam (Yam) and Vinnie were from Eindhoven, Holland, and were touring Scotland and England. They spoke reasonably good English so the conversation was OK. Jam liked his beer and whiskies, and was not shy in buying several rounds of different Malts he insisted I tried. I did manage to buy one round but he won hands down. Unfortunately one his favourite malts smelt tasted like Iodine, and I hope I never come across it again. Needless to say, after four hours we knew everything about each other - Carol you would have been proud of me. We parted the best of friends, never to meet again.

I called the Ranger earlier in the day to check the organised walk around Loch Morar was still on for tomorrow. Just as well I called. Angus, the Ranger, told me it had been cancelled, not because of the weather, but for personal reasons. He did however offer to meet me in the morning and give me a detailed map of a suitable walkable route near and around the Loch. What soldier. I will not let him down, and I will certainly report back on my day walking the Highlands.

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