Monday, 19 August 2013

The Highlands

The scenery in the highlands of Scotland is gorgeous. Majestic mountains rise above clear lochs, dwarfing the wee white houses dotted along the hillsides. Today's drive was wonderful, except for the traffic. It was difficult to stop as the cars were bumper to bumper, some not being very courteous. Impatient. There were so many people along the way; stopped in the laybys, walking along the side of these lovely hills, taking photos high above the lochs, the bright colours of their wet weather gear dotting the landscapes.

And wet it was, very wet. The rain earlier in the day had formed waterfalls that cascaded down, over the rocky tors into the tarns formed by much earlier glaciers. The A82 from Fort William towards Glasgow took me past Ben Nevis while traveling alongside Loch Linnhe through a barren landscape of grasses and heather. As I dropped into the lower lands, lochs peeked out from trees lining the roadside. I had entered Argyll Forest Park. Below is a photos of what seemed to be the larger of the lochs, Loch Lamond with it's myriad of islands and water sports. Loch Lamond is huge, long and narrow like most of the lochs seem to be. A result of their glacial history.

Just as I was wondering if there was a ski industry, I saw the Glencoe ski resort on the side of the hill. I can just imagine the winter playground this place would be when covered with snow. There were lots of cars with bikes on the back and it was easy to see why, a mountain bikers paradise with places for all levels to ride. I feel like I'm writing a travel brochure, on my next trip I'll make more time to explore this lovely place.

While it was a relief to get onto the bigger road, two lanes and no narrow stone bridges to avoid, I was sad to be leaving this place so soon. The New Zealand couple I met at Innseagan House Hotel  had the right idea. They were staying in the area for a couple of weeks. They had also booked in advance for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and I was privileged to be able to see some that they had recorded on their tablet. Nice folks from Christchurch out having an adventure, well traveled folks with whom I could swap stories of other places and talk of home and family.

Innseagan House, I had a fantastic stay there. I tend to stay in the smaller, quaint hotels and I'm seldom disappointed by the friendliness of the staff and how they are happy to share their time with their visitors. Traveling on my own, it's nice to arrive somewhere where it's small enough that the other guests will talk to you as well. I met two couples form the UK who kept us entertained, one a retired PE teacher. They laughed and said fancy that when I said I was from New Zealand then steered me towards the New Zealanders seated at dinner. My kia ora had them look up, we had a bit of a chat from then on.

Dinner was lovely, Scottish smoked salmon. Now I know where it comes from, I will always smile as I eat it. The entertainment was delightful, two musicians who had many claims to fame, playing for a small and appreciative group. We chatted later, one had visited New Zealand and had played at the Sydney Opera House. The other was a singer song writer, both really interesting to talk to. Alexandria, our host, was lovely, such a busy job making sure the guests in her full house were happy. She joined us for the evening, along with her hard working team. An evening of red wine, music, conversations, laughter, meeting new people, making connections. Memories to keep me smiling for a while, the friendliness of people to this traveller.

Loch Lamond

Seats with a view - Innseagan House Hotel

Some of the Innseagan House family - lessons from the experts

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