Before I turned up to visit them, Janet and Ray had planned to drive down the Great Glen to Fort William on the Sunday to meet up with her mother, brother and sister-in-law for lunch, so as I at least already know her mother, we saw no reason to postone the occasion! I’ve only seen Alasdair once in many years and had never met his wife, so I looked forward to catching up with them. We took the road to the south of Loch Ness, as a change from the main A82, and had the smaller road almost to ourselves.
The views were very pretty, looking down Loch Ness, the home of Nessie – the Loch Ness Monster. She wasn’t in evidence at least while we were looking down but maybe she managed a sneaky airing elsewhere on the loch out of sight of Nessie-watchers! I think I have told you before that I saw her once! I was with my dad, years ago, and having stopped the car for a bit of a leg stretch, he and I walked to the edge of the hilly bit above the loch. Looking down we saw what appeared to us to be a small boat upside down in the water with the line of the keel very prominent. However far from just lying in the water, it was moving at a considerable speed leaving a wake behind it! Dad and I looked at each other in disbelief! Was this the monster? I believe it was! She wasn’t a long serpent with humps like arches, as they tended to think in those days, but is now thought to be like the “upside down boat” we saw, so who knows!!
As we continued on our way we had several beautiful views. If I had been driving in my own car, no doubt I would have been screeching to a halt far more often, to take pictures, but you can’t do that when you’re in someone else’s car, can you! Ray was kind enough to stop a few times, otherwise I’d not have had much to show you of the moors and mountains, lochs and trees.
Soon we came down into Fort Augustus,at the foot of Loch Ness, and joining the main road, crossed the canal before Loch Oich and again before Loch Lochy and continued on our way to Fort William. well almost to Fort William. Janet’s family live a couple of miles out, across the bottom end of Neptune’s staircase, a series of locks on the canal, at Corpach, with beautiful views – on a good day – of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. A Ben or a Beinn is Gaelic, and there are many of them in the north and west of Scotland, along with Sgurrs and Stobs, Stucs, Mealls and Carns and a few others, generally representing the shape of the mountain. In Fort William Ben Nevis is just known as “The Ben”!
Sunday wasn’t a good day so this is the view from Alasdair’s and Jane’s living room! Not a good day and not a good photo either but it gives you the idea! The arrow is pointing to the Ben hidden in the mist.
We picked up Janet’s mum and continued to “the Fort” – its Gaelic name means “the Garrison”. where we were to meet Alasdair, Jane and son Finlay. at the seafood restaurant where, in my young day, the pier used to be. The railway station was right at the top of the pier too, but has now been consigned to the north of the town, the railway line now being the town centre bypass road.
There are reminders that passenger boats once used this pier as you can see in the photo on the left from the red and green gangplank lying unused but decorative. When I worked in Fort William as a student in the summer, we always used to say when looking down Loch Linnhe (Linny) that if you could see Ben Keil (Keel) in the distance it was going to rain – and if you couldn’t see it, it was raining! Ben Keil is the very last faint hill you can see. It was going to rain! Nothing more certain! This area has the highest rainfall in the country! Before we left the restaurant after a nice lunch I took a photo of Janet and Ray with the family. You’ll note Fergus isn’t there! He’d decided to go and hang out with a friend instead of being treated to his dinner.
After lunch we drove back out to Corpach, detouring by the ruin of Old Inverlochy Castle – not to be confused with the Inverlochy Castle Hotel! It’s very upmarket! The family treated their mum to lunch there last summer for her 90th birthday. The old castle dates back many centuries, and when I was a student working in the town a mile or so away,in the late 1960s, it was a dangerous collapsing building, fenced off and with DANGER signs all over it. Today it has been restored to its former ruined glory and visitors are encouraged. Our detour here was really for Sasha who had been cooped up in the car, but I took a quick run round looking at the history boards telling its story, and looking at the square courtyard with a tower at each corner. There would have been wooden buildings inside the stone curtain wall, and would have looked very different in its heyday! This is an artist’s impression of how it may have looked in 1300.
This is the tower in the far away left corner, Comyn’s Tower, where the lord of Inverlochy had his apartments. It is the largest tower and the most easily defended, by its position near the river.
The rest of the afternoon was spent at A&J’s house, enjoying a cup of tea, and a blether (conversation). It turns out that Alasdair and Jane each know people in Peebles, and I know them too! Amazing! Normally when people ask if I know such-and-such a person I have to say I don’t, but not this time!
Soon it was time to start heading back up the A82 to Inverness. Alasdair came with us to stay overnight as he had an early appointment up there. We bade Jane farewell and piled into the car.
Next morning Janet and Alasdair left for town early and later Ray took me down into town for my bus back to Edinburgh. The weather had perked up again, and I managed to get a picture of Inverness Castle as we drove in alongside the river. It’s not an ancient castle – not even 200 years old yet - but it does replace several other castles built over the centuries in the area.
My journey home was uneventful, and direct!! No detours off the A9, and no stops till Perth. After that there were one or two other drop offs or pick ups but only at designated stops so we returned faster that we went up on Friday. I met Linda for tea in Edinburgh before catching the Peebles bus home! What a good weekend!
Talk again soon.