Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Walk along Loch Linnhe, on a dry road without traffic. Or cycle if you prefer.

The old Ballachulish Quarries. Some of us can remember when they were being worked. Now the blue slate is rare, and very expensive.

If I want to tell someone local where our cottage is, I'll say, "Do you know Jessie?" They always do. We tell them our cottage is more or less next door. She is famous in the area, a wonderful lady and Gillian and I are privileged to have her as a friend.

In the old days, before 1955, a famous railway line ran past the back of her garden, and ours. It ran from the Ballachulish Quarries to Oban. It carried slate to the markets in the South, plus a few passengers. It was renowned as one of the most beautiful railway lines in the world - the equal of the Jacobite train to-day which runs from Fort William to Mallaig and is packed with tourists. After the slate quarries closed, the railway closed.

You'll not believe this, but I promise it is true. With one of Jessie's lads on board after school, the train driver would slow down as it passed her house, the lad would throw off his satchel, and jump down. Can you imagine that happening to-day? Health and Safety would die of shock. Good.

You can see this line again to-day, you can walk along it and cycle along it because the track has been hard laid between Glencoe and Kentallen Bay.

On the way, you'll be beside the most beautiful sea-loch, watch the cormorants on the rock, pass beneath the infamous spot where Campbell of Glen Lyon was shot, the incident on which Robert Louis Stevenson based his famous book Kidnapped. You'll pass by the rock on which the alleged killer was wrongfully hanged and his skeleton left as a warning to the Stewarts. You'll see the herons by Ballachullish hotel and in Kentallen Bay, go past five ancient piers which were in use 100 years ago, and have coffee by the water in the Holly Tree hotel. Bliss.

One day, in the distant future, they will have this cycle and walking track stretching from John O' Groats to Campbelltown at the foot of the country. Bits of it in our area have been done already between us and Oban.

There are a few holds up before completion down to Oban. These are mostly around the old railway stations which have been sold for houses a long time ago. The Holly Tree Hotel has converted the old Kentallen station and was built right over the top of it. Despite pleas from tourists, few of the owners are keen to have cyclists charging through through their living rooms. Honestly, what has happened to the spirit of Highland hospitality? I mean if you can board and lodge a couple of hundred soldiers in your village crofts who have come to massacre you in Glen Coe then surely a few cyclists would not matter? Perhaps we are not in 1692 any longer.

They'll have to by pass these houses, giving a few up and down moments for cyclists. But it will be wonderful when it is completed.

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