Day Seven (Carlisle to the Scottish Highlands)


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Published: January 25th 2007
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Our introduction to ScotlandOur introduction to ScotlandOur introduction to Scotland

As soon as we crossed the border into Scotland we headed toward Gretna Green. This is the elopement capital of the UK. For the right price anybody can get married here.
A nice hot shower before bed helped me cool off a bit so I slept well through the night. We enjoyed a rather sumptuous buffet breakfast at the hotel. We had scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, broiled tomatos, cereals, oatmeal, orange and tomato juices and the ever-popular baked beans. In Italy and France I found most of the breakfasts pretty lacking while I've never gone wrong in Germany and Austria. It seems that in the UK it's hit or miss. One morning you'll have a huge buffet and the next you might get a stale roll and some Cheerios. But for the most part on this trip we got pretty decent breakfasts.

Once again James was very willing to offer Gail a myriad of possible diversions from our appointed tour route. I swear if we did all the things he suggested we might we would never have made it to our reserved hotels. On our way to the Scottish Highlands James did convince us to detour off the highway to see Gretna Green. For the life of me I didn't fathom the interest people had in this place. It's sort of like Las Vegas for the Brits only without gambling, nice
Don't blink or you'll miss GlasgowDon't blink or you'll miss GlasgowDon't blink or you'll miss Glasgow

Apparently there isn't much for tourists to see in Glasgow. At least it wasn't on our itinerary nor did James deem it worth a visit. There was no arguing the fact that today was probably one of the prettiest days this normally dismal, dreary town had seen in quite awhile.
restaurants, hot showgirls, gorgeous hotels, neon lights, or any action whatsoever. Gretna Green is just over the border in Scotland and because of some lapse in Scottish marital laws many Englishfolk sneak over into Scotland to get married thus avoiding England's more restrictive laws. It's like the days when people in Pennsylvania and New Jersey would elope to Maryland where no blood test or waiting period for a marriage license was necessary. It seems in Scotland all you need is to swear your fidelity in front of witnesses and anyone over age sixteen can then make the mistake of a lifetime. England actually requires you to think about what a stupid move you're considering before letting you do it.

Our hotel for the night would be in the Northern Scottish Highlands at the Highlander in Newtonmore.


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Firth of ClydeFirth of Clyde
Firth of Clyde

We also didn't have time to take in an extended view of the famous Firth of Clyde but just passing over it demonstarted how this waterway leads from the Irish Sea into the dockyards of Glasgow. "Firth" is the Scottish equivalent of "fjord".
Lovin' LussLovin' Luss
Lovin' Luss

We continued Northward along Lake Lomond. About halfway along the shoreline we stopped at the touristy town of Luss. "Touristy" means Gail and I loved it. The car/bus park featured nice clean bathrooms and a souvenir shop with plenty of tacky junk. We perused the souvenirs without buying anything (yet) then headed up this enticing little street to the Loch.
Ben LomondBen Lomond
Ben Lomond

We made it up to the stunning sunny shores of Lake Lomond where another busload or two of tourists were also enjoying the scenery. Across the lake is the mountain, Ben Lomond.
So invitingSo inviting
So inviting

It was another stinker of a hot day and the calm waters of the Loch looked quite enticing. A group of high school age lads were diving from the pier into the water. When I saw them shivering after coming out of the water I wasn't sure that was the better option. Standing on the pier above the cold waters actually acted like natural air-conditioning. I could have waited her all day.
Escaping the heat by the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch LomondEscaping the heat by the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond
Escaping the heat by the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond

A rather nice looking hotel resort stood nearby. We spent a few minutes watching the pale, pale white Scots and Brits trying to enjoy the frigid waters or tan themselves along the beach. Not exactly the snappiest of beachwear on display here.
Yippee! Another tourist trapYippee! Another tourist trap
Yippee! Another tourist trap

When it came time for us to leave Loch Lomond, Gail and I sprinted for the souvenir shop where we picked up a couple essentials like Bounty candy bars, soda and a red-haired wig with a tam-o-shanter attached. We drove ever Northward from there until we reached our lunch stop in Tyndrum. Out in the middle of God's Country stood this restaurant/souvenir shop/bakery/gas station/rest stop/liquor store called the "Green Welly Stop". I ordered my 4th or 5th Shepherd's Pie of the trip along with a beer. Once I gulped that down I went over to the Scotch Shop where free samples of your choice were being given out. I tasted a couple of very smooth Scotchs which convinced me to buy the local hootch that the kilt-clad proprietor suggested. Then I sampled a chocolate and scotch liquor called "Heather Mist". Since I had already spent almost $30 on my fifth of Scotch I decided I might grab a cheaper bottle of Heather Mist elsewhere on the trip. I never learn. I spent the next week looking for the stuff and never being able to get hold of any. When you see something you want, buy it when you can because you might never get the chance again.
An undiscovered gemAn undiscovered gem
An undiscovered gem

You find the greatest things off the beaten track. Just before we headed back on to the bus I decided to take a potty break at the Green Welly. Lo and behold, I stumbled into "The Loo of the Year"! What are the odds of that happening?
And this is why they call them "The Highlands"And this is why they call them "The Highlands"
And this is why they call them "The Highlands"

Shortly after leaving Tyndrum the scene outside our bus windows shifted from brownish-green grass pasturelands to lush green fields spotted with groves of trees nestled beneath towering mountains. Not Alp-like mountains but imposing large chunks of rock that appeared as if some giant dropped them into these gently rolling hills.
Wait, there's moor...Wait, there's moor...
Wait, there's moor...

We were passing through the Rannoch Moor as we crossed Bridge of Orchy then skirted by Loch Tulla. As the road climbed higher above this lake Mark pulled the bus into a layby. From here we got this pretty view of the Loch. Sure enough, in that same tiny parking area we found a mobile souvenir stand selling more junk we didn't need but which we bought anyway.
Good lochGood loch
Good loch

A little further up the road we passed the other side of the tiny loch.
View from the busView from the bus
View from the bus

Soon after passing Loch Tulla we started driving through some serious highland territory. The grass seemed to grow greener and the mountains became more imposing. This looked like the backdrop of a scene from "Braveheart" or "The Highlander".
Lonely farmhouseLonely farmhouse
Lonely farmhouse

We drove through miles and miles of this lush, beautiful country and rarely saw any signs of human habitation. No houses, few cars, no fence and to their credit, no roadside garbage. This homestead looked particularly lonely out in the wilderness. Judging by the erosion around that stream I wonder how often the inhabitants of that farmhouse get flooded-out.
Through the Pass of GlencoeThrough the Pass of Glencoe
Through the Pass of Glencoe

Soon we arrived at one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. I'm not even sure of the name but in looking through the internet and at my maps I believe it was The Three Sisters and Ossian's Cave. It was a parking lot along the A82 route where a crowd of cars had parked and where we saw lots of people hiking into the far distant mountains.
Scottish heatherScottish heather
Scottish heather

You can't go to Scotland without seeing or buying the heather. I wasn't about to risk getting stopped going through customs with a handful of weeds so we took a picture instead.
Highland waterfallsHighland waterfalls
Highland waterfalls

Every direction I turned at this rest stop afforded me beautiful views of the Scottish mountains. This series of waterfalls looked like a great hike on another trip. Each direction looked as though it were worth exploring, but since we had only a 15 minute stop the only thing we could do was look.
Who says the dour Scots have no sense of humor?Who says the dour Scots have no sense of humor?
Who says the dour Scots have no sense of humor?

After leaving the Three Sisters we drove a short distance to the Glencoe Visitor Center. The heat was pretty intense and the Visitor Center offered a snack bar with cold drinks as well as a souvenir shop. The gift shop primarily carried hiking and nature books along with some of the least tacky souvenirs we were to see in Scotland. I was tempted by a few of the Scottish military history books but decided to wait until we reached Edinburgh where I assumed we might find a discount book store. After we finally packed-up and left the Visitor Center we drove a few more miles to the Ballachulish area where Mark had to refill the bus's gas tank. This is where I saw this silly sign and where I got a great deal on a hiking stick with built in flashlight, compass and bottle opener. A definite "must-have" item.
Ben NevisBen Nevis
Ben Nevis

Another half hour drive from the gas station brought us into the shadow of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK. At 4400 feet it towers above the surrounding area of Fort William. Mark and James decided to make another stop here. At this point the temperatures were in the 90's and even the bus a/c wasn't keeping up. When I saw a fast-running stream alongside the parking lot I didn't waste anytime heading that way.
Cooling off in the Water NevisCooling off in the Water Nevis
Cooling off in the Water Nevis

The Water Nevis is the name of the stream and it was every bit as cool (frigid) as I anticipated. I slipped off my socks and sneakers and waded in. What I didn't count on was how rocky the bottom was. I could barely stand up in the raging torrent because of the slippery and oddly shaped rocks in the creekbed. I kept hopping from foot to foot and teetering on the verge of falling down. I wasn't about to deliberately immerse myself like some of these Eastern Europeans.


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