Americans in Scotland Part # 13. Apr 29, 2007 4:21:54 GMT
Post by mary ailean on Apr 29, 2007 4:21:54 GMT
Monday, July 3.
We left the Gate Lodge, after breakfast at 9:20, while there was still a heavy mist hanging over the trees. Loch Laggan looked very different than we'd seen it before, and it was just lovely. I've learned that it’s a 50/50 deal with misty pictures. Sometimes they are legendary, but one that I took that morning was just a white-out. I've seen professionals get some wonderful shots of Ardverikie with misty clouds around it. We passed Laggan Dam on our left, and I was surprised-I didn't know it existed.
( a professional photo of the dam)
I took a picture of the dam, and then fiddled through the rental car glove box. We'd picked up the Vauxhall Zafira at the Edinburgh Airport just a week before, and it already seemed like our own car.
I took out the goodbye gift that Karen (‘Scotlass’) had given to us in Edinburgh. She presented us with a music CD, along with two packets of Scottish Heather (now planted, Karen!). This was just the place to listen to the "Scottish Inspirational Collection" songs by Leigh Garden, since we'd soon travel to Ft. William, and the sorrowful song, 'Glencoe' is on the soundtrack. I can hear the words in my head now, "they came from Ft. William with murder in mind," (The Glen Coe Massacre). 'The Skye Boat Song' is on the disc, too, and it is a special favorite of mine (and yours, perhaps), along with 'Highland Cathedral' that can bring tears to the eyes. Bruce loves Leigh's voice, too, and we played the CD twice in a row.
Thanks for your discovery of this fine singer, and the gift Karen! Here is a picture of the CD and you can read the names of the songs as well.
The weatherman said that we'd have clear weather, and so for us it was
"Over the Sea to Skye".
I had given Bruce the list of the places that I'd like to see during the second week of the trip, he added them to his list, and planned six days that were interchangeable depending on the weather. We'd listen to the forecasts at night, and decide on one of the six day trips for the next morning's drive. I recommend this system because some things are just better to visit without rain. We had our Skye/Plockton Day, which would require the most driving, and then the Glenfinnan/Mallaig Day, and the Kingussie/Newtonmore/Laggan Day to go. We knew it would be about 130 miles to travel to Dunvegan Castle on Skye from the estate that Monday.
We stumbled onto something across the moorland near Spean Bridge that compelled us to stop for a look. The Commando Memorial is a huge bronze and granite statue-a tribute to the 1,706 Commandos who perished during the 1939-45 war. It had been restored in 1998 to its former glory when sculpted by Scott Sutherland. It is in a perfect place to be seen far and wide, and many pictures show Ben Nevis in the background.
There is a section, off to the side of the memorial, where families have placed pictures and parts of letters from their loved ones, under plastic, for preservation. One says, "To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die." These were arrayed in a semi-circle, and several people were pausing at each group of items.
The thick mist was still moving slowly along with us, as we turned northeast onto the A82 that winds along Loch Lochy. I noted several large boats in my tiny blue notebook, and also noted the beauty of the other village of Laggan along the loch past Kilfinnan. At Invergarry we made an abrupt turn, and Bruce did his occasional surprise shake-up. Everything in the car is thrown to the other side to keep me on my toes! Well, I exaggerate a little, but at this point I did check my thermal tea carafe to be sure it hadn't spilled! He is a very safe driver, and the shifting inside the car is a difference in breaking style when cornering! We stopped in Invergarry so that I could mail some postcards, and then got right back on the highway.
One can't keep track of the names of the lochs in the Highlands...truly they are one right after the other. Just as Loch Lochy ends you see Loch Oich beginning, and then around the bend is Loch Gary. ( below is a movie panorama of this loch: )
Loch Gary runs alongside the road making the view from the highway spectacular. Bruce remarked about our luck with the weather on this trip! The storm of the night before didn't count to him, I guess, since the forecast ahead was for nothing but clear skies! Anyway, it hadn't rain until we were done for the day, and who could complain about that.
At this point we were driving due west on our way to Plockton and Skye, and I was letting my mind wander. We were listening to the music, and looking out of the front window. All along the A87 we continued to travel beside the lovely, winding Loch Gary. Bruce thought the highway was good, and we were enjoying scenic discoveries around each bend in the road. We turned northeast again and came upon the end section of the next gorgeous loch, Loch Loyne. I love this vantage point because you see the shining water stretch out into the distance to its far end. The road goes through a deer forest-the Bunloinn Forest.
(What a beautiful area to visit in Scotland!)
We knew from the guidebook and map that we had one more long loch to see before Loch Duich and the Eilean Donan Castle of the Highlander movies fame. We'd first pass through the Five Sisters mountain area and come upon Glen Shiel. Right after the forest is the very beautiful Loch Cluanie, and on the far side is Cluanie Lodge. Another wooded area had a typically quaint Scottish name, Ceannacroc Forest!
I saw heather blooming all along on the hills and, as I was making note of that, we saw that traffic was at a standstill up ahead. I thought it was strange that so many people were out of their cars. After we were stalled for a while we stopped our car and got out, too.
Several things were remarkable to us. It was amazing how quickly news of a bad accident ahead was relayed back to all of us. We were told that police had confirmed that there was a fatal accident about 30 miles up the road. Another thing we noticed was how very good-natured everyone was about the delay. In the states a few people might have gotten out of their cars, but here every single person left their vehicles to visit with the others.
We talked with several people and, among other things, I remember asking one man how the Scottish pronounce the name of the Island of Eigg. He told me that it’s 'Egg'. All of us were shaken about the people up ahead in the accident and, of course, we discussed that. I wondered if they had been speeding, but I decided that I wouldn't seek out information about the crash in the papers.
It was odd to us that a beverage and snack wagon materialized so quickly on the wide shoulder of the road, and it did a booming business. After going forward a distance to converse with a police officer, Bruce came back to tell me that it might be several hours before they let us pass. He had asked if the turn-off to Plockton was before the accident, but was told that it was on the other side of the crash.
After a half hour we made a decision to go back through Spean Bridge to the Ft. William area, and to pick up our 'Glenfinnan/Mallaig' excursion. We decided to try for Skye another day. We still had Tuesday and Wednesday to travel. It was good that we didn't have to go all the way back. Yes, we'd lost some time, but we weren't complaining because the situation for those in the accident, and their families, was so tragic.
We went back a distance of some 40-50 miles retracing our earlier drive. We'd had to backtrack, but it couldn't have been in a lovelier spot. It was beautiful on the way to Glenfinnan on the A82 along Loch Lochy again. We then turned west near Ft. William and around by Loch Eil, and went over to the A830. We arrived at Glenfinnan with the sun shining beautifully. It was around 80 degrees at mid-afternoon, though it felt warmer, and we went inside of a snack shop for an iced drink. I had a diet Irn Bru (pronounced Iron Brew) and set the can up on a parking lot post to take a picture for the Americans who hadn't seen the national 'pop' drink of Scotland (you can order it in the U.S).
It was pretty exciting to arrive at the Glenfinnan Memorial. Nancy had shared some of their experience visiting the monument. I knew what to expect from seeing the entire of Loch Shiel, and the memorial, from the air on Monarch 1:7. Several of our Scottish picture books feature the grand destination spot, as well. Bruce commented that they must have really wanted the memorial to be a photo op for the show because it isn't actually on the way to London as it is shown to be. One can see that by running down the glen in the helicopter, and then turning east they added a lot of fine scenery.
Enjoy Kenny MacLeod’s photos:
There is no way to imagine the perfection of the memorial location at the far end of Loch Shiel. You have to see it. If you'll get out a map you'll see that the loch winds back away behind the stone column of the Bonnie prince, and the eye is carried out over the turquoise waters for miles. The vantage rivals Switzerland's lakes in grandeur at that point, and the view down Loch Shiel reminds me of pictures that I've seen of Norway's fiords. Before we walked out to the monument itself, we looked around in the immediate vicinity. I was frustrated because I knew that I would be unable to capture the entire vista from the low spot where we stood.
Just when I'd accepted that I wouldn't get a good picture I looked up and saw the high place behind the visitor's centre, and a few people climbing up a rocky path to it. We stopped on the way up to pet a Chihuahua, named Daisy, riding in her mistress’s arms. We mentioned our pug, Bernie, and how much we missed him. It was a hard climb over the oddly placed stone steps, but it was a fairly short walk up. It was about ¾ of a mile with views all the way. This was the picture spot. Even forgetting that the beautiful stone pillar marks the spot where Bonnie Prince Charles (possibly) raised the Jacobite standard, and rallied his clansmen for battle to claim the British throne, this view of Loch Shiel is an unforgettable jewel not to be missed.
( a nice poster of the loch )
Some 1,200 Highlanders greeted the Prince on August 19, 1745 when he set foot on the Scottish Mainland for the first time. He'd sailed up Loch Shiel on the French sailing boat, the Du Teillay. After his defeat at Culloden he returned to this place and left for France. A cairn now marks the spot.
( a few particulars about the 4th largest loch in Scotland)
Behind us was the Glenfinnan Viaduct, widely called the 'Harry Potter Bridge'. It was seen in the flying car sequence in 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets', and again in 'Prisoner of Azkaban' when the Hogwarts Express travels over it.
The viaduct carries the Ft. William to Mallaig railway across the Glenfinnan Valley. Built by Sir Robert McAlpine as the West Highland extension, the viaduct itself is 416 yards long. It is over 100 ft. high at the tallest point over the River Finnan Valley, and there are 21 arches. Made of concrete Glenfinnan Station is a little to the west of the viaduct.
Speaking of Harry Potter, the Quidditch match in 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’, like 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was filmed against the background of Glen Nevis. I know we have Harry Potter readers, and so I'll share another factoid that I've learned, since we arrived home, in case you haven't read it. In February of 2003 a spark from the train being filmed managed to set fire to almost 50 acres of heather moorland and trees near the viaduct.
An interesting filming segment was deleted from '...Chamber of Secrets'. You can read about this on line under 'Scotland, the movie'. ‘Harry Potter’ was sitting at the beautiful overlook at Loch Shiel in the deleted scene. The path we took next to the visitor's centre goes right up to the point where he was filmed. A still picture is shown on the above site.
The Jacobite Railway was written up in 'Scottish Life' Magazine last year, and since their photographers are some of the best in the country, the resultant 'spread' was one of the most beautiful I'd seen in the magazine. It is easy to see why the movie- makers would choose this bridge. It looks like a train track to fantasy-land. We sat on the top of the viewpoint for a while just looking in its direction. When we went back down we crossed the road to get up close to the Glenfinnan Monument.
The area can take a lot of tourists, but there were no more than 20 people at the Glenfinnan Monument that day. You have to pay an extra fee to climb to the top, and we decided not to do that. I like the look of the statue from the back side because of the way the artist has sculpted the plaide over the Prince's back.
THE DAY CONTINUES ON THE NEXT POST: