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Monday, 16 December 2013

The road from the Isles

Carrying on from my last posting, we are now back in Mallaig (MAL aig) – still a busy enough wee place. mallaig harbour There are still fishing boats coming in here, prawn boats; lobster and crab boats, and from several highland harbours.  SY on the blue boat in the foreground for example, indicates it’s from Stornoway.  Mallaig reminds me of a Scandinavian port somewhat, with its boatsheds, shops and houses clustered round the pier area.  It was once a lot busier when big herring catches were landed here.  Fish was the reason the railway line was extended to the village from Fort William, while now its fame lies in the beautiful scenery along the length of the line.  In summer there are regular trips to and from Mallaig by steam locomotive, always popular!  See, trains are meant to run under steam.  These diesel whatsits may be all very well, but don’t we all really want to travel by steam train?  Sadly it wasn’t running the day we arrived back at Mallaig.  Margaret, Marge, and Lisbet were travelling back to Glasgow in the comfort of a modern diesel train.

I was returning home with Morag and Mike, so we meandered around the coast by a mixture of old roads round the coast, through lots of little settlements all with their own tiny station, and the fairly recently completed new road that takes at least half off the old route time.

morar bridgeFirst we stopped at Morar to look at the silver sands.  The sand feels like silk between your fingers, it is so fine.  Walking barefoot on the beach is a wonderful experience!!  In the picture above, is the “new” bridge across the river Morar.  Flowing from Loch Morar half a mile upstream, the river has the distinction of being the shortest river in the country.  I’m just not sure where river ends and sea loch begins – probably at the waterfalls beneath the old bridge!

morarWe strolled along the beach a fair distance and found several little bays where the sand was dry, but the evidence of wet sand showed these bays to be cut off at high tide.  It would be rather pleasant, I think, to be in your own little bay with the sea lapping against the rocks on either side of you.  However there is a pathway  behind the trees and bushes on the shore, so I don’t think you could be completely cut off! 

mike swingingWe found a swing made of a rope over a tree branch and a fishing buoy, and got Mike swinging on it for the photo!

Walking back – you can see our footprints in the wet sand – morar silver sandsthe sun was shining on the beach ahead.  Where did we put the sunglasses?  It was that bright!  Dazzling!

arisaigBack to the car and on to Arisaig where we knew the cafe there would do us a good cup of tea and something to eat!  You look from the cafe window to the sea loch which is very popular as a mooring spot for yachts exploring the west coast.  The street lights here are fairly recent, imitating the style of old gas lamps from years gone by, and the log amused us, being the place to park your bicycle!  Take a look at the undiscovered Scotland webpage for more pictures.  The top left photo is the cafe we were at!

arisaig m&mWe had a bit of a daunder over the rocks and the seaweed on the coast nearby.  The rock pools are always interesting, and in one I found a cowrie shell, not the most common of shells round our coast, though further north in Sutherland there’s a beach where they are reasonably easy to find and on the Isle of Iona a beach on the west side certainly used to be, if it isn’t still, a good place to pick up the odd few.  arisaig rock poolThere’s the cowrie. looking like a thumbprint just waiting for me to pick it up.

arisaig daisies






The grassy area above the shoreline is called “machair”, taken directly from a Gaelic word, and used in Scots too.  All the wildflowers grow in the sandy earth, and these daisies are very prolific in such conditions.red admiral

We found this peacock butterfly having a siesta on the sand.  It’s one of our more common butterflies as far as I’m aware.  I get loads of these in my garden in August/September.

glenfinnan monumentSo, next stop Glenfinnan, famous on two accounts these days.  First, historically, this is where Bonnie Prince Charlie (Prince Charles Edward Stuart) raised his banner in 1745 to call on the clansmen to support him in his mission to regain the British throne for his family.   (History lesson coming up!) His father was the ousted King James VIII, the rightful heir to the throne of Great Britain, but because he was of the wrong religion in the eyes of the law of succession, King George of Hanover in Germany was invited to take up the reigns of governing Britain.

Of course not everybody agreed with this decision, and in Scotland, as well as England, many took on the mantle of Jacobism, supporting James, instead of George.  In 1715, a rebellion took place that was quickly quashed, but thirty years later James’ son Charles was persuaded to head another army in a bid to regain the throne, so he soon found himself sailing from France to land in the Outer Hebrides (HEB rid ees) and from there make his way to the mainland to the agreed spot at Glenfinnan where his supporters were to gather.

The troops marched south and into England, gathering support all the way, but before they reached London, the Jacobite army were getting tired and hungry, and by the time they reached Derby, they felt they couldn’t go on.  Some say that if they had entered London, the result would have been quite different, but instead, the Jacobites turned back, eventually to face a battle with King George’s army, not far from the highland town of Inverness, at Culloden (CullODDen).  It was all over for the Jacobites.  In a matter of minutes they were overwhelmed by the Hanoverians, and many killed, the rest retreating into the hills, invariably to become outlaws whose heritage was all but destroyed by the laws that followed.  Prince Charles survived the battle but spend many weeks hiding in the mountains, being taken in by supportive families and gradually getting back to the west coast where he was spirited off to France in a sailing ship.  The last Civil War on British soil was over.

P1050979The monument in the photos, above and right, is the Highlander monument raised to commemorate the ‘45, as it was known, and the many who died for the cause.  It can be climbed and the view from the top admired, but we didn’t do the climb that day.

The second claim to fame is that the railway viaduct curving around and across the Glen (narrow valley) appears in the Harry Potter films.  glenfinnan viaduct and visitor centreLooking from the path to the monument, the viaduct is not easily seen, but it crosses about the centre of the photo above individual trees but below the grey looking forest on the hillside beyond.glenfinnan flying car You might see it better if you click the photo to enlarge it.

Remember the flying car?  Obviously not my photo, but thanks goes to the film makers.

So, on our way once more the weather deteriorated and there were no good views of Ben Nevis this year.  We drove on and were back “in civilisation” before too long.  Our holiday was over, and we had so many memories to look back on, and plans for next time.  It can’t come round soon enough!

Talk again soon.


Dragonfly Dreams said...

Hope you had a suburb Christmas and I wish you a very Happy Hogmany!

Evelyn/Ev/Evee said...

Thanks, DD. Nice to hear from you again. It's well into the new year now, but I wish you a very happy 2014.