The Highlands here we come

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September 24th 2013
Published: October 1st 2013
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With a fair mileage to cover we didn’t want to be too late on the road this morning to get underway to the Highlands of Scotland and in particular, Onich, a small settlement on the shores of Loch Linnhe.

Inspecting the overhead sky as dawn broke gave us the feeling that the drive at least for the early part would be in misty or foggy conditions.

The ring road around the greater part of Edinburgh makes it easy to get from one side to another although today we only needed to use it to get us heading west on the M9 towards Stirling. From what we remembered from our last visit here there wasn’t a lot to see on the way to Stirling and anyway this morning the fog blanketed out everything down to 100 metres or so. We did hope that this fog was not going to last as the Highlands that lay ahead would provide some great scenery, as long as we could see it!

Taking the A811 we continued past Stirling with the idea of driving a scenic road through an area known as ‘The Trossachs’ an area of wooded glens,quiet braes and lochs to the east of Ben Lomond.The area was made famous for Sir Walter Scott's poem 'The Lady of the Lake' and his later historical novel 'Rob Roy'.The real Rob Roy was Raibert Ruadh and he was buried in the area.

Turning north on to the A821 the road passed through small villages and through around lakes, one of which we took a stop at to take in the view now that the fog had been left behind.

We could only describe the scene as pure serenity with the lake surface like a mirror and, geese on the wing in the distance honking to each other. It was only when we heard the light splash of an oar on water that we realised that we weren’t the only humans in the vicinity as a small boat with two men who were fly fishing came into view from behind a tall stand of reeds.

Had we not had more places to see we could have stopped longer and just enjoyed the calmness.

We had lunch at Aberfoyle, the largest town in the Trossachs, and for the first time we were able to have it sitting in the boot of the car even though the temperature was struggling at about 14C.However without any trace of wind the cool temperature was actually quite bearable.

We just missed a demonstration by a local musterer to a busload of tourists of rounding up sheep using sheep dogs. Not that we had never seen this sort of thing before or appreciated just how versatile farm dogs are.

The deciduous trees were now starting to change colour and the liquid ambers were the most vivid with all the colours of autumn appearing. While it is always lovely to see spring appear in new growth on trees it is also wonderful to see the autumn colours appear. And more so when we know we won’t be enduring the long cold days of winter ahead in the Northern Hemisphere that will eventually follow.

Leaving the A821 behind we joined the A84 that would take us through what we felt last time was the most picturesque mountain country in Scotland.

Up here there are few inhabitants and is much like the Desert Road back home with tussock covering the land but without the very high mountains as the backdrop. The mountains, as they call them here although they are not much more than a high hill at home, initially have a rounded shape to them but as you reach the highest point in the road there are some spectacular rocky cliff faces which appear even more dramatic as the road travels very close to them in a narrow valley that widens as it descends down to Glencoe and Loch Leven and offshoot of Loch Linnhe.All the while the dark, brooding, overcast sky adds even more drama to the scene before us. And again we have been fortunate that there has been no rain today other than the light mist of this morning.

With few roads other than the main highway finding our accommodation was easy and we unpacked and then headed out, before the dusk arrived, to Ballachulish to search the cemetery for the graves of Gretchen’s great,great,great grandparents, the McColls.We had a rough idea of the period that they died in and we had assumed that because we had seen records of births and marriages in the area and also knew that some of the family emigrated to NZ from here that those that didn’t emigrate or had died earlier would have been buried in the church yard.

Being late in the day there was no one at the church where she thought their graves might be so we got busy taking a row each and walking slowly along inspecting the names and dates where they could be read. There were a good number of McColls but not the ones we were looking for.

We would take a look at a couple of other church grave yards when we return from Mull as time for today was running out.

Back at the lodge we were getting ready to make dinner for ourselves when a guy who had been driving a minivan with tourists arrived for the night. He had dropped the Chinese tourists off at more palatial accommodation at Fort William about 10km away and his company had booked him into the lodge.

Gretchen took pity on him and all his grumbles and made him a cup of coffee while we bled his heart out about his experiences driving demanding Chinese tourists around Scotland over recent months. Not that we understood half of what he said in his broad accent!

He finally left to sort out his own dinner in the adjacent pub while we made good use of the self catering kitchen and cooked ourselves a good feed.

As we finished two young women came in to check out what was available in the kitchen and we struck up a conversation. One was Latvian who was studying French at Aberdeen University and in her fourth year while the other was a German also studying French but at Munich University. They explained they had met during an exchange on Reunion Island and had become friends and were taking the trip around Scotland before their academic year started.

It was a most interesting conversation and an hour quickly passed as we covered all sorts of topics that came up as we talked about our travels through Europe.

With another fairly long day in prospect tomorrow we were ready for bed when the conversation started to wane.

Additional photos below
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6th October 2013

Shepherd and his sheep
Two years ago we watched while the shepherd used his dog to round up geese at Aberfoyle. Either the geese were Christmas dinner guests or the shepherd has progressed to using sheep.
6th October 2013

Definitely sheep now

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