Thursday, November 15, 2007

6 days holiday in Glencoe

Sue Hamilton and her family pals from Melbourne are wonderful - so enthusiastic about everything they do. They planned this trip months in advance, leaving hsbands and families behind. They determined to enjoy every second, every day. And, apart from the awful food on a Calmac ferry, what's new about the dreadful Calmac? - they did just that.

What a true delight to have them at the cottage.

The weather was pretty good as we drove from Glasgow airport and the sun was filtering down through the overhanging branches along the road beside the beautiful Loch Lomond but by the time we reached Glen Coe the rain was pouring down (yes, horizontally) and we lasted all of 3 minutes out of the car trying to admire the view.

No sleep since leaving Melbourne
Despite having had virtually no sleep since Melbourne (about 35 foggy hours ago) and feeling decidedly under par, we opted to call in at the Glencoe Crafts & Things on the way to Bayview Cottage for the recommended coffee and cake. Well worth the effort and time - cosy and welcoming (even though we dripped water all over their floor). The “Scottage” as we affectionately call it, was exactly how I imagined from the photos on the web and we settled in like magic.
We decided to potter around locally the next day, Sunday, and drove to Cuil Bay to watch the clouds skittering across the grand panorama to the south - the weather alternating sunny and cloudy.
On down to admire the historic and violent, it seems Castle Stalker and the good view from inside the pretty café while sampling their yummy soup and coffee and cakes.
First, Lismore island
We dragged ourselves away from the food to catch the little Port Appin ferry across to the island of Lismore but we were early and were forced to wait at the Pierhouse and to look at the expansive view and to sip single malt whiskey until the ferry was ready to go. I have always wanted to try Laphroaig since reading that it was Rebus’ tipple - I am an Ian Rankin fan - but finding it a little too robust for my taste, I found I had to sample other brands in the days to come until I found one more to my liking. Oh dear.
We discovered an amazing thing on Lismore - it is warm and sunny there while elsewhere it is blowing a gale. Walking down to catch the ferry suitably attired in our raincoats we were almost blown off the quay but as soon as we stepped on to the island, the sun came out and we had to strip down to short sleeves during our walk. It was a beautiful sunny walk and we had the distinct feeling that the island was enchanted (or maybe it was the whisky). Which-ever, the weather definitely changed for the worse immediately we left Lismore. Truly!

The Jacobite train from Fort William
Monday - and the Jacobite train trip from Fort William. Another glorious day with amazing scenery all the way to Mallaig and back. We loved going over the viaduct at Glenfinnan (in 2000, driving through there, we had been lucky enough to photograph the viaduct with the steam train chuffing over) and we enjoyed seeing the Harry Potter bits along the way eg the loch with the tiny tree islands dotted over it (Loch Eil?) and Loch Shiel of course.

I should mention that in an attempt to photograph the train curving romantically into the tunnels, I had to hang out of a window several times. When I returned to our carriage, Leigh my niece, and Diane, my sister took one look at me and burst into hoots of laughter. It seems my face was somewhat blackened from the soot! Very hard stuff to get off, I tells ya. I will never live it down.
We discussed the fact that junior HP fans may be a little disappointed with only those few things to relate to - considering the hype. Also we were sad to read that the red HP train was vandalised. Such acts are always hard to understand - perhaps the perpetrators should read more.
We had lunch outside in the sun at a café in Mallaig and got sunburned. We have told that story since all over the world - sunburnt in Scotland! While we were eating, we were entertained by a young fiddler who was busking across the street from us and after lunch we gave her some money and thanked her for the fine music.
On Tuesday we drove to Mull via the Corran and Lochaline ferries we love ferries. Loch Sunart was still and the surface was like a mirror reflecting everything above it. Have you seen it like this on your many drives? Absolutely beautiful!

Calamity. We lost all our 800 photographs of Scotland
It is about here in our travels that I have to admit something really, really devastating. We lost all of our photos of Scotland! Around 800 of them, times two! And I won’t tell you how very good a lot of them were or what great shots we took of the cottage and little bay area because you would be as upset as we were/are. My camera was not much more than a week old and I was mimicking Leigh’s actions as she tried to discover how much memory was left in her son’s camera. She avoided “cancel” and pressed “delete” instead and I followed like a sheep. We had previously discovered that we were taking almost identical shots so would have been fine if both of us had not pressed that button. So you see we will have to come back to take them all again - not that we need an excuse. By the way, the mirrored loch shots were outstanding. Leigh was more upset over losing her black face shots.

Trip to Iona, eerie and interesting
Anyway we drove down to Iona and had time to thoroughly explore the Abbey and its antiquities. Leigh loved it. As we were leaving, a sea fog drifted in making the scenery really eerie and interesting. By the way, I asked and was told that Fionnphort is pronounced ‘fin-ny-firt’. Just so you know…in case somebody else asks…and they might. As we neared home, around Onich we realised that we were just in time to witness a fantastic sunset over Loch Linnhe and Kingairloch. Can you wonder why I thought I had high blood pressure!

The dinner trip to Tiree
Wednesday and the day of our afternoon/evening dinner cruise to Tiree.
We arrived in Oban for lunch and sat in the sun on the edge of the quay with our legs dangling over the water and ate fresh oysters bought from a little place on the wharf. And such oysters! They were wonderful, possibly the best I have ever tasted and keep in mind that that is said by somebody who has eaten oysters off the rocks on the south-east coast of Australia. We went back for more and waxed lyrical to the lovely young lady serving. She was so chuffed, she gave us some delicious home-smoked fish to try. I would have loved to have taken it all home with us but alas the cruise returned much too late.
The cruise itself was wonderful and it was really interesting to see Tiree and Coll, albeit from the ferry. The islands seemed so remote and isolated – it was as if they belonged to another world. As we stood on deck and watched the cars and trucks and lorries of all sizes file off and on, it seemed as if the islanders’ entire existence was being loaded off and on to the ferry. The ferry service is obviously an important life-line to the islands. It is hard to believe what it would be like there in the winter. And these islands are just the INNER Hebrides! The sky was clear but it was cold enough for us to wear our coats outside yet a young teenage girl was standing on the quay wearing only shorts and a singlet top and no shoes. She was smiling and looking excited as if eagerly waiting to greet her family or friends. She looked lovely. Time to leave and on the trip back we sat and gazed and gazed at an amazing, almost never-ending sunset. A great cruise but the food was not so great. If we did it again, we would take our own dinner, perhaps bread and some local cheese and a salad or some of that yummy seafood.

The Glencoe Safari trip
Day 6 – Thursday - and after writing a few million postcards we headed off to the Glencoe Visitors Centre for our Land Rover Safari. Scott was our man and besides being pretty cute, he knew lots about the history, geology and the flora and fauna of that breathtaking National Park. How awe-inspiring it is to just stand in that beautiful glen surrounded by those incredible mountains?

We were watching a lone stag apparently unusual in itself, sitting on the ground some distance away when something frightened it and it came running straight towards us. We all held our breath as it came closer and it must have been only 10 metres away before it realized we were there and went bounding off in another direction. How lucky are we? Later on, we were watching and listening to a pair of buzzards flying high above the northern ridge when a thunderous noise frightened the life out of us. It was a jet plane flying incredibly low through the glen. It was amazing to see but it was also goodbye to the buzzards. All in all it was a great tour with a great guide and gob-smacking scenery. See I am running out of adjectives!

The Kylerhea turntable ferry to Skye
Last day (sadly) and we headed for the Isle of Skye. We were almost there when, on a whim, we decided to turn off at Shiel Bridge and take the alternative road to Skye via the Kylerhea ferry. Well, that was an interesting experience - lovely scenery at the very top of the Sound of Sleat but the queerest little ferry that only took two vehicles at a time. The cars had to balance each other on a sort of turn-table on the ferry. It was the weirdest feeling sitting in the car and rotating around while moving across the water. The road on Skye from the ferry was one-lane, narrow and very precipitous. It was a bit scary because of a sudden heavy mist but at least the low cloud prevented us seeing just how steep the sheer drop was on the off-side! Skye was spectacular but regrettably we didn’t have time to see a great deal of it.

So you see, we packed a fair amount of things into one week – and I haven’t even mentioned our walks around the other side of the bay etc - but we loved every minute. Mrs Traynor was very helpful and we admired her beautiful roses (and envied her living in such a beautiful spot all the time). Michelle was lovely and went out of her way to help us out when needed. And thank you for being so very nice - I will let you know when we are coming next and hope it will not be too far down the track. … Sue

Thanks Sue, for the lovely story. You've left some good friends in Scotland.

We have some breaks available for the winter from January to March. April is booked though.

Winter self catering breaks January February March in Glencoe

Also, although we are booked for both Christmas and the New Year, we have some very good friends with very good properties who still have vacanices you could try them at this site.

Still available for Xmas and the New Year, self catering in Scotland

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