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Published: March 24th 2008
It started with a four day window of opportunity to get out & do something wild, away to remote locations in breathtaking scenery. Escapism. The local weather forecast was not looking good so we broadened our meteorological horizons to find the right spot. Scotland was deemed to be the target this time.
I called the Scottish Tourist Board. Good Morning, Scottish Tourist Board, Jenny speaking, how can I help? Hi Jenny, Mister Munkey here. I realise Easter can be a bit of a busy time for you but my gang are interested in visiting & wondered if we could book Scotland exclusively for Saturday & Sunday? Oh! - Hi there Mister M., that is a bit of a tall order indeed but if I could just put you on hold for a wee while, I'll see what we can do.
(Sounds of bagpipes & fiddles for a couple of minutes) Hello there, we've had a chat amongst ourselves & feel the best we can offer at such short notice would be Argyll & Bute Saturday morning and the stretch west of Fort William Sunday morning. The rest you'll have to share I'm afraid. Sir
If only I was 6 feet taller!
These evil birds are not to be trusted. They are owned by the Queen & trained to kill.
Paul Mcartney called 15 minutes ago & well, he needs a fair bit of space at the moment as you can imagine what with that nasty divorce from that one legged woman this week . . .
Impressed by the efforts of the STB, we had a plan. Loaded up Bongo 1st thing Friday. Mum, Dad, the small human (who has a very long name I can't pronounce - I'll call her Bob) & Bobs mate Dan. Dan's a chimpanzee with extraordinary long arms & legs who enjoys dangling from things. He's a bit on the quiet side but when he does talk, people listen. We followed the big blue road on the map, getting to Glasgow late morning where we paused to give Bongo a drink. He drinks diesel. Horrid!
Lunchtime snacks for the rest of us were had at Loch Lomond, my first taste of proper Scotland. Parked up at Luss & had a wander. A very pretty little village on the west side of the Loch, stuck in a timewarp. Very 1950's. T'was a bit on the windy side by the waters edge but the sunshine & mountain landscape compensated the
Away from it all, by a Loch in some woods. Awe-some.
chill. Slightly perturbed when Bob offered me to a pair of swans in what could only have been an attempt at some kind of sacrificial offering. They went bonkers for a bit of Munkey meat! Dad saved me from a somewhat untimely end.
I sulked for a while.
Once I'd calmed down a little, Bongo took us through some magnificent scenery to Loch Awe where we found a spot in some woods by the water to park up for the night. Dad lit a bonfire while Mum cooked up some nosh in Bongos well appointed kitchen. Unfortunately, the wind was still whipping up, it rained, the fire went out & Mums cooking made Bob sick. We all slept downstairs in Bongo. Bit of a bummer night, waking up at 7 with stiff necks & cold feet.
The views we were treated to in the morning made up for all that though. The silverbirch woods where we had stayed were clinging to the side of a hill, a stream running down to a small beach by the Loch. Amongst the trees was a small pond surrounded by daffodils containing a football size dollop of
Scotland to New York. . On a Bike????
I thought these Bongonaughts were barmy but ths takes the biscuit!!
frog spawn. The sun breaking through the clouds bathing the forest on the other side of the water in a warm glow. Snow capped mountains in the distance standing proud. Springlike. Beautiful.
We made an early start as the STB had booked us in for the morning. Setting off at half 7 making a scenic trip to Oban for breakfast & supplies. Stopping every now & then to check out view points & take it all in. Meandering through gorgeous glens & lovely lochs, every turn, hill or drop bringing a gasp. & true to Jenny's word, we drove for three hours before seeing another moving vehicle. Scotland was all ours!!
Scotland is BIG. Not just geographically but there's a sense of Grandness all around. The sky, the contours of the land, the colours, the peace & tranquillity in the out of the way places . . . . It's all a very humbling experience.
Next port of call was the surprisingly busy town of Oban. The plan from here originally had been to catch a ferry to Mull & visit Tobermory, home to the semi-fictional BBC town of Balamory. The
boat captain obviously was either a Health & Safety Officer or not a Scot or & had decided that because it was a bit windy, the boat was going nowhere today.
So, plan B. Scoffed some oysters that, no more than 15 minutes before had been happily doing whatever oysters do in the sea, chuckled as we watched a seagull snatch a smoked salmon sandwich from the hands of a hungry looking man, checked the map & set the satnav for a twisty trip up to Fort William, a couple of hours north. Stopped off at Glencoe for refreshments all round (including more drink for Bongo) & managed to find a correct size gas bottle for the kitchen from a campsite pointed out to us from the ever helpful Tourist Info Office dude. Toodled up to Ft William, still impressed by the magnificence of it all. Mile after mile of drop dead grandiosity.
From there we took the road out towards Loch Shiel, following the tracks of the West Highland Line, notably famous for its starring roles in the Harry Potter films. Getting nearer to the sea here, the weather started getting rather moody. Took shelter
Pretty Impressive Stuff
at the Glenuig Inn, occupied by a couple of locals who had obviously been at the sauce all day & were speaking in such a strange tongue that even an Aberdonian would have had the greatest difficulty understanding them. Dad said the beer was, once again disappointing. It seems the Scots drink Scotch. Apart from those from Largs, I guess the lager is okay there but, on the whole they don't seem to care too much for "proper beer". We were accosted on our exit by a lady who declared us to be either archaeologists or grave diggers. Dad asked if we had a choice as neither aptly applied. It seems she was a bit of a Hetty Wainthropp & had surmised our occupation from Bongos DIG number plate. We then found a friendly one, Heather, who asked to have a look at Bongos insides. She's after buying one herself. Clever girl!
The sleet turned to snow, time to make tracks to our night camp. There was a spot on the map that looked pretty remote, atop a mountain overlooking Polloch & Loch Doilet. Heather said it would be pretty much impossible to get up there as
Getting a little wintery
In England, 2 inches of snow shuts the country down for days. People Panic Buy tins of Spam.
Up here, life goes on regardless.
the road was blocked but we gave it a go anyway. Although it took about an hour to travel 12 miles, Bongos' trusty 4 Wheel Drive thingy sure-footedly got us up there, passing a couple of lesser equipped campers that had failed to make headway against the severe conditions. By the time it was dark we found ourselves well above the snowline in what felt like a Norwegian Forest. Better organised this time having scored some logs & kindling on the way, we set up camp & played in the snow until bedtime.
In the morning, Mum was up first. She was away a few minutes before returning in what seemed initially to be a state of distress. She beckoned us out to see what she had seen. 1st showing us some footprints in the snow that looked like some kind of very large cat/small tiger. We're thinking Bobcat or similar but need to look into that. Then up a path 20 feet or so to the View Point. Bugger Me!! Gobsmacked. We really were on top of a mountain. Surrounded by similar snow covered peaks, the pastel early morning light oozing across the Loch some 1800
This Is What It's All About!
Waking up to this has to be seen to be believed.
Takes the breath away.
feet below us. Mist rising, gently enveloping the lush swathes of pine as far as the eye could see. I looked at Dan. He had a tear in one eye & his bottom lip started to tremble. He said it was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen.
This is what this Bongo lark is all about. Impromptu jaunts to some of the most inspiring places in our part of the world. Life's just too short to not do this!
Back on the road again by 7am. Passing once again the stranded other vans, giving them a friendly (if not smug) "Parp Parp" on the way past. :-) Jenny, once again had come up trumps. Not another car/van/tractor spotted until we made it back to Fort William around 10 o'clock. Breakfast break this morning was at Neptunes Staircase. A flight of 8 locks on the Caledonian Canal which, apart from leisure craft, carries Glaswegian trawlers out to sea. We were in luck as two were making their way down as we arrived. Looking a little on the rusty side, these craft work 365 days a year (in fact 366
Early Morning Cuppa
No - Not PG Tips either.
We prefer a rich Columbian coffee with our views.
some years!) to bring fresh langoustine to the tables of posh Scottish restaurants.
Mid-morning. Time to think about the 6 hour drive home. Dad made it stretch a bit of course by taking in a bit of the Cairngorms, a twist through the Trossacks National Park & a stop at Killin, a pretty, old fashioned village with big wide waterfalls, before hitting the motorway south.
A sign we read on the way out read Haste Ye Back
Rest assured. We shall.
My little hands are getting weary now. Must get a smaller keyboard.
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