In September I took a little trip to the highlands of Scotland. Having never travelled so far north west before this was something excitingly new for me. Making a round journey of approximately 950 miles over four days was a busy scenic filled time. It is surprising how much you can pack into a few well chosen days with good planning and an excellent driver. Leaving Lincolnshire in the very early hours of the morning was obligatory to cover a large part of the miles before the roads became busy and the world awakens, strange for me at a time when I am usually just falling asleep but exciting just the same.
A little stop on the way for some walking and climbing at Thirlmere in the Lake District broke the journey well and then onwards towards Scotland by passing Carlisle and with a little diversion to Gretna Green for a visit to the Famous Old Blacksmiths Shop, the very place of high emotion’s felt by the countless thousands who have rushed to Gretna Green, some as young as twelve for girls and fourteen for boys starting as early as the 17th Century. Young lovers dashing in the dead of night with frenzied horsemen in hot pursuit passed my mind. This place of all those romantic novels, all those stories of ‘love’ in haste, rushing to be joined together in matrimony. Gretna Green has changed now of course with up-market places to stay, restaurants, shops and even a maze! Taking away in my opinion the romantic feel that had so drawn folk to this place for all those many years. Still as I stood there, it was good to try to recall how many had travelled to be married in this unique place. And I was glad to have seen it.
Onwards on this marvellous journey passing the town of Lockerbie and quietly remembering the tragedy and devastation that was the Pan Am Flight 103 of 21st December 1988 but let’s not talk of that now. So on to Beattock Nr the Town of Moffett for the first over-night stop, a super country house so perfectly set amongst tall trees at the end of a very long single-track drive, high above Beattock. Just the perfect place to unwind for a short time. The lovely home of Sally and her sweet Collie dog Meg who welcomed us like old friends. The tall high ceilinged rooms with spacious bedrooms and bathrooms made this quite the perfect house and the huge wonderful Scottish breakfast in the lovely sun-lit drawing room the next morning completed the start of this good trip.
Destination today was Fort William in the Western Highlands. Fort William is the largest town in the Highlands and situated at the southern end of the Great Glen. It lies in the shadow of Ben Nevis. Fort William is a fine location to use as a base to discover the Western Highlands. The scenic Edinburgh route was chosen, so up to Stirling, onwards via Loch Lomond, passing outstanding views along the way, through Lochearnhead, Crianlarich and across the Bridge of Orchy and on to Glencoe. Glencoe is probably Scotland’s most famous and most scenic Glen and rightly so. The sheer scale and grandeur of the surrounding mountains is totally awe inspiring and Glencoe being Scotland’s oldest Ski Centre has a great reputation as a venue for the more experienced skier, it was established in 1956.
Thoughts came to mind of Glencoe’s turbulent past. As early in the morning of the 13 February 1692 in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution and the Jacobite uprising of 1689, a massacre took place in Glencoe. You can imagine it all as you raise your eyes to the crags and epic mountains surrounding this special place. Visitors from all over the world flock here to appreciate this majestic place.
I spent the whole time while travelling gazing in awe at the mountains on either side of me and at the changing scenery and the shadows, casting light and darkness at every bend in the road. Having never travelled to the Highlands before this was a totally new experience for me and it filled my heart with its power and darkly rich colours, as my eyes drunk-in amazing scenes before me.
And so it was. as stopping for the second night at a super guest house facing the spectacular blue views of Loch Linnhe on the outskirts of Fort William, I stood and breathed in the sharp crisp air of the Western Highlands. Then time for stretching legs, a good shower then off to look for something nice for supper. For tomorrow was to be a most exciting day with the long awaited 84 mile journey on the stupendous magical steam train “The Jacobite” (Hogworts of the Harry Potter Fame)
Described as one of the great railway journeys of the world The Jacobite Steam train takes you past a list of very impressive extremes. It starts with much excitement as passengers take their seats after admiring the black steely beast.
Starting near the highest mountain in Britain Ben Nevis, which stands hugely proud against a bold backdrop, excitement mounts as the train builds steam and soon you are passing the most westerly mainland railway station, Arisaig; then to pass close- by to the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, Loch Morar and then on to the shortest river River Morar, finally arriving alongside the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis. The train stops on route at the village of Glenfinnan before passing over the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct – now is the time for the best photo you can muster as the train almost turns on itself above this marvellous feat of engineering!
Beyond Glenfinnan are the so very beautiful villages of Lochailort, Morar and then the small quaint fishing village and final stop the village of Mallaig. From hear on a clear crystal day you can see the “Small Isles” of Rum, Eigg, Muck, Canna and the southern tip of Skye. The train passes Mora and the silvery beaches used in the films “Highlander” and “Local Hero”.
The sun shone all the way, the scenery was as beautiful as I have ever seen in all of my life and my heart soared at the delight of it all. The fishing village and small port of Mallaig was so picture perfect, the small houses resting gently on the side of the hills perched above the quay, the colours of the small boats and the huge fat well fed seagulls with their cries of anguish content completed the scene. Time for a warming coffee before the return journey, a stroll and for picture taking, no rush; for I believe no one rushes here. I visited St Patrick’s RC Church for Fishermen just at the base of the village which was open and unafraid of crime, something most unusual these days. It was peaceful, it was pretty there at Mallaig.
An exciting journey back with bustle and happy folk capturing their last photos of this special trip, drinking-in the last of the spectacular views and soon we arrived at Fort William, my head and heart filled with visions of this enchanting part of our lovely Island. This was a special trip of light and love, how lucky I am…