Friday, 18 September 09: At last we are off to Doune in Knoydart! It has been about 15 months since we were there last – such a long time! We’ll have been getting withdrawal symptoms if we’d had to wait much longer for the lace-making week to come around As far as I know, there will be the usual group, Joan from Cawdor, Sheila from Inverness, Margaret and Marge from Winchester, Janet from Skye, Norma from Roslin, and me! Looking forward to seeing everyone again, and the Dounies too. They are the three families who live at Doune and run the Guest lodges and dining room plus boats . We’ve all had so many visits over the years that we feel part of the set up now!! It all started because Liz, one of the Dounies, is herself a lacemaker, and it seemed like a nice idea to add to the special interest weeks they ran, and have a lacemaking week. I think I have been going the longest, with Joan next, and Norma third perhaps. There have been other folk who came and went, some returning for a few visits, but we are the stalwarts now!
Anyway, Norma and I set off from Roslin this afternoon to drive to Ballachulish, for an overnight stop. It’s not that we couldn’t get to Knoydart in one day. It’s perfectly possible to do so, but we like to take an extra day and do a bit of meandering, staying overnight somewhere we can have a bit of an explore, and then head for Mallaig leisurely, to arrive in plenty of time around 3.00p.m. to meet the Doune boat, Gripper II, and be ferried across Loch Nevis to the Last Wilderness – Knoydart – where there is only one road , seven miles long from Inverie to Airor. You can’t get there by road though. The only options are by boat or on foot. On foot is a two day walk from the nearest road (without having to catch a boat). We have walked a part of the route from Inverie, but it was only an expedition on a beautiful day, and we were returning to Inverie, pronounced Inver-eeee, (inver is from the Gaelic meaning a mouth of a river. Usually the river name follows, as in Inverness, or Inverclyde, but not in this case!!!!)
However, back to our journey. We drove by Stirling (bypassing the city) to Callander, and Kilmahog where we stopped for some lunch and some shopping at the woollen mill shop! Hamish, the large Highland cattle beast (a Highland bull) is the big tourist attraction with his enormously long horns like motor bike handlebars and long ginger hair. He lives in a field next door to the woollen mill shop and is the most photographed animal in the country I think! Well, you have to take his picture, don’t you?
On again through Crianlarich, past the green welly shop at Tyndrum, by the end of Glen Etive, onto Rannoch moor, and down into Glencoe. It was quite misty and grey as we came through the Glen, but very atmospheric, and then we reached Ballachulish. Isn’t that a great name? It’s the Gaelic again! Baile, or in English, Balla, is a town.
Loch Leven and Glencoe village with the Pap of Glencoe towering above.
Ballachulish grew up round the slate quarry that has been in existence since the end of the 17th century. It closed in 1955 - probably because it is now cheaper to import foreign slate than to quarry our own – but the huge part of the hillside it covered has been turned into an interesting nature reserve with paths here and there with explanation boards dotted around that explain the quarrying and what the quarry would have been like in its heyday – sights, sounds, etc. Now trees, bushes, grass, wild flowers and brambles have taken over and the deepest part of the quarry has become a small loch/lake filled with water whether naturally or by intention, I don’t know. Anyway it was something to visit this morning, as we left it a bit late for photos last night. Of course it rained this morning, but nevertheless we had an interesting time poking about the paths, and watching a group of young kids being taught to rock climb.
Saturday, 19 September 09: The B&B was great, run by a couple from the northeast of England, and we had a very comfortable stay with a beautiful breakfast this morning in the company of a young French couple at the end of their first visit to Scotland who were heading for Stirling and Glasgow today then home to Poitiers. We of course were heading in the opposite direction and were on our way north after our Quarry Experience. We drove over the Ballachulish Bridge, with no views today because of the mist and rain, through Onich, and on to Fort William, the Garrison, as its Gaelic name is. These are the signboards at Ballachulish, giving directions in English and Gaelic. An Gearasdan is The Garrison.
Still raining, the views we had last year of Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain, were obscured, so we decided just to keep going to reach Mallaig in plenty of time. However a few miles further on, the sky cleared and we had some lovely sunshine, enough to make us want to stop at Arisaig for a cup of tea and a scone. The tide was way out, leaving a stony beach covered with seaweed – and in the distance we got our first view of the Isle of Eigg – seen between the two trees in the photo.
Finally we reached Mallaig, still a busy little town at the end of the road and the railway where fishing boats still come into port and the ferry to Skye has its own roll on - roll off dock. We had a wander round the town, before meeting up with the rest of the lacemakers at the steps where the boat from Doune usually ties up, (Gripper II is the boat you can see beneath the big white container) and Stephen the boatman was there to meet us. All our bags were loaded aboard, and soon we were off through squally showers and rough sea to Doune. Only Marge was missing, having been taken into hospital yesterday with an eye problem we hope is not serious. Otherwise there were
Joan, Janet and Margaret,
A trifle wet after staying on deck, we arrived at Doune pier to be met by Liz and Andy, our hosts (Liz is the lacemaker). It felt good to be back. We have a short walk to the lodge where we stay, so here are some photos on route.
First, the White House, Martin and Jane’s house, built after the Clearances of the mid 1800s, for the factor – or manager – who looked after the sheep brought onto the land after the people were evicted.
…and now the path to the Stone Lodges and further on, Doune Bay Lodge where we stay. The house on the left of the picture is the newest house, built only a couple of years ago by Alan and Mary who started the Doune project and renovated the White house. The nearer stone lodge is the dining room and kitchen, while the second one has three beautiful en suite bedrooms for guests.
We got sorted out as to who was having which wee room in the lodge, had a cup of tea with some shortbread biscuits, and chilled out until dinner time. That involved the walk around the headland to the Stone Lodge dining room, just before sunset, where as usual we had the most fabulous meal: celery and artichoke soup: salmon and apple in filo parcels with a big selection of vegetables, and to finish, gooseberry sponge pudding with meringue topping. It was pitch black as we came back to our wooden lodge with our torches, thankfully along the new concreted path that covered all the difficult rocky bits we have coped with for years. It’s much easier but we are a bit sad that the character of the path has gone! However, it shouldn’t get washed away in high tides over the winter as has sometimes happened in really stormy conditions. The stars were incredible tonight too. Here you realise just how much streetlights block out the starlight.
And so to bed!
Talk again soon.