Winter is coming. Storm Ophelia is heading our way. So we decided to go to the rainiest place in Scotland for a weekend break. We booked a lodge in the Lochy Holiday Park, which was similar, though a bit nicer, than a caravan. We stayed from the Friday until Tuesday morning and managed to find enough gaps in the rain to get out and see the country.
We drove up on Friday, stopping off at Inveruglas for a bit of lunch, the Green Welly Stop because you have to, and Glencoe Visitor Centre, where we went for a walk along one of the trails. No snow on the hills yet, but we're passing through again in April for another trip to Skye, so we'll probably see some snow then.
It's just a two and a half hour drive up to Fort William, plus stoppage time, and our place was just outside Fort William, across the river Lochy. It's just a wee place, but nice, with a grassy area with picnic benches and access down to the river, though it was too wet to do much here. The view was great though, with Ben Nevis looming over us, when it came out from hiding behind the clouds that is.
For our first night we went to the Ben Nevis Inn, which is out in the wilds along Glen Nevis. It's a big converted barn at the foot of Ben Nevis and serves some great food.
On Saturday we got out early to take advantage of a dry spell and drove to the Ben Nevis visitor centre, and then down the road along Glen Nevis to the car park at the end. It's a single track road for some of the way, but in decent shape. I only noticed one pot hole on the way there but still managed to hit it on the way back.
Walking from the car park we followed the path beside the river, sometimes high up, across some waterfalls and through a gorge, eventually coming out into the open glen, with Steall Falls right across from us. There's a rope bridge you can cross and Cate ran across it before I cautiously made my way over. Cate then decided that wading across the river would be a good idea.
On the way back we passed some other families making their way over, but the rain had set in fairly heavy by this time and they looked a bit miserable as they asked how far it was to the falls. We were thankful to get back to the car and drove back to the lodge for a lunch of cheese on toast and a set of dry clothes.
The afternoon was still wet, so we thought we'd see what the nearby gem museum in Corpach was like. It was a decent hour's visit, with more variety than I expected and a good gift shop as well.
Glenfinnan was only 11 miles away, so we thought we'd see if we could get a decent view of the viaduct, famous for featuring in the Harry Potter films. The visitor centre car park was pay and display and the machine was broken so you had to go into the centre to pay, but I found a wee car park nearby, at the start of the pathway that goes up to the viaduct. We approached it, went under the arches and found a path up the hill that gave us a great view overlooking the track. No train came while we were there but we got some good pictures. Well, Cate and I did. Claire had decided to have a nap in the car.
Back home and then a trip out to the town to the Geographer for dinner. Claire had the best curry she's ever tasted in their Burmese lamb. We watched a film when we got back and found that when Harry Potter fights a dragon, the landscape in the background is the very one we'd been to earlier in the day: Steall Falls. So we'd been to two Potter filming locations in a day without realising.
On Sunday we looked up the nearest churches and went along to the local baptist church. They were very welcoming and mentioned that a special service was going on that evening along with the Mod celebrations, so we stuck that in the diary.
It was wet again so Cate and I went to the local leisure centre for a swim. Lots of floats in the water and loads of kids in, but that's what you'd expect on a dreich Sunday afternoon.
After a takeaway from the local Chinese, we went into town again for the Church of Scotland Celtic Praise service. They started off with a couple of bagpipers, and had a number of singing and playing pieces in between a few hymns and a short reflection from the minister. It was quite different and an enjoyable hour. The place was packed out, and a lad from the baptist church sang one of the solos.
Last full day, and we drove back to Ballachulish and headed out west towards Oban, and the sea life sanctuary. We were armed with a voucher from the Fort William car park, which had an expiry date but no mention of what the offer was. On presenting it with a hopeful shrug I was told that we'd get in for half price, £18 instead of £36. Great!
We arrived just in time for the seal feeding, and they were quite comical as they rolled about and fought off the seagulls for fish. There's an aquarium section, and an area for otters, which kept themselves hidden. And that's about it apart from the cafe and some woodland walks. But for the reduced price it was decent.
Next we continued along the road into Oban. We just wandered about the shops for a bit, and climbed up the pathways to McCaig's Tower. I'm sure it used to be called McCaig's Folly, but maybe they're trying to be a bit more positive about it these days. It must bring in a few tourists after all. With a brief burst of sunshine we got a lovely rainbow over the town.
Back to Fort William, and Cafe Mango for dinner, which does a decent Indian/Thai mixture, the tempura starters being very good.
The next day it was off home again. In the rain as usual.
I haven't spent too much time playing with the new camera, but it has some "artistic" filter modes, one of which gives everything extra contrast and makes the clouds quite dramatic if you set it right. Here's a few test shots. More on the Flickr link at the top.
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