So was it to be a wasted trip? I’d promised Hannah and Grenson stunning scenery and breathtaking views, but hadn’t we already had all of that during our stay in the Lakes? Had my memories of the Highlands become over exaggerated in the intervening years since my last visit? Most importantly could we have just stayed in our little hut and done without this extra drive?
Luckily my anxiety evaporated as soon as we hit Loch Lomond (Is it pronounced ‘Lowmund’ or ‘Lumond’? I’ve no idea so I just flit between the two and hope that I’m right at least half the time). On the morning that we drove by it was shrouded in mist and emanating the mystical beauty that only a Loch can. Lakes are beautiful, of course, but only a Loch can truly give off that magical vibe that leads you to half expect a rowing boat to slowly drift from the gloom carrying a druid with a magic sword!
Afterwards we hit Glencoe and that was it, the deal was sealed. We were all head over heels in love with the Highlands. It truly is like no where else in Britain. ‘Stunning’ really is the only word for it.
Our accommodation was to be a Bothy (a little shed) on the banks of my favourite named Loch – Loch Lochy (I’m imagining it was a pretty uninspiring afternoon in the ‘Department for the Naming of Lochs’ that day).
When I had walked the Great Glen Way I must have walked right past it. I imagine that by then my tender feet were giving me hell and as a result I didn’t look up from the path as I trudged on by. If I had have I would have spotted the most amazing little abodes and probably would have been very disappointed with my choice of B & B. We were all very thankful this time around that we’d found this little beauty – our home for the next few days.
Walking was the name of the game during our visit. I was keen for Hannah and Grenson to experience a piece of ‘The Way’. I had loved my time walking it, there is nothing like the satisfaction of completing a walk that has ‘Glen’ and ‘Great’ in its title. It’s also incredibly satisfying to walk from one coast to the other. The Great Glen Way goes from Fort William in the west to Inverness in the east. Basically, anything above the Way is essentially an island. Thomas Telford cut it adrift by creating the Caledonian Canal that links together Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness, allowing boats to sail right through rather than go around the top. Unfortunately, by the time it had been finished, vessels had moved on from wooden sailing boats to steam powered iron hulled ships and were too big to use it. So it was all a bit of a waste of time really, but then, it was the Victorian age; they did extravagant constructions that were a waste of time like no one else did.
The section we decided to do consisted of a beautiful old railway track all along the southern shore of Loch Oich. This area is perfect for walking and cycling and the path is a particular highlight for those not looking for gruelling climbs. Having said that, it’s by no means easy. When we’d finished we calculated that we’d done approx 15 miles, which must make it Grenson’s longest ever walk. By the end of it he even seemed slightly tired! Luckily, along the way there are many bench sitting and view appreciating opportunities. If someone has been kind enough to place a bench then it is your duty to have a sit and a bit of a look.
After a well earned nights sleep we awoke with a plan to venture up to take a peak at Loch Ness. You simply can’t come here without a little bit of Nessie hunting. But be warned, it could easily become an obsession. At the far end of Loch Ness we passed the camp of Steve Feltham, a guy who gave up his life in Dorset 25 years ago to come and live in a van on the banks of the Loch, and dedicate his life to hunting the elusive beastie.
Now some of you may feel that is a little extreme, but I can think of far less pictureque places to live. You may also say Nessie hunting is no way to spend a lifetime, but I imagine he would say that sitting in traffic jams on the way to work everyday is an even worse way to spend your lifetime. Each to their own I suppose? Before I could start fantasising too much about this radical life path Hannah dragged me away. Apparently she’d spotted Nessie a couple of times already, unfortunately I always seemed to be looking the wrong way and by the time I looked it had disappeared. Clearly I wasn’t cut out for the hunting life.
We were about to make our own equally exceptional discovery anyway. Halfway along the southern shore of the Loch we stumbled across The Camerons Tea Room & Farm Shop – an absolute oasis of delights.
Forget Nessie. If you’re ever up in this region this place and their delicious teas and cakes are what you should be hunting out!
And why wouldn’t you be up in this region? Yes it’s a long drive. But it’s only really like driving to the South of France, except you don’t have a channel to cross and you don’t need a passport (or a doggy passport).
Seriously, if you live on this island and have never seen the Highlands then you need to sort yourself out. Put down that foreign travel magazine, the world will be there to explore later, first off take a second to appreciate the view from your doorstep.
The Man and the Dog.