Lochs, Walks and Castles

A couple of weeks ago I got back from a spontaneous week-long trip to Scotland with a friend.  Whenever the two of us plan a trip it’s always going to be over-ambitious, if history’s anything to go by.  What had started as a plan to drive around almost the whole of Scotland (ok, it had actually started as a plan to go to Finland, but we won’t talk about that), morphed into the rather less ambitious but wholly more doable trip to the Ardnamurchan peninsula and the south west highlands.

The drive there only took twelve hours thanks to the motorway being suddenly declared unsafe and closed just past Birmingham.

But we got there in the end.

We woke up in Moffat after having finally arrived the night before, to be greeted by a statue of the ubiquitous highland sheep on our way to find breakfast.

We woke up in Moffat after having finally arrived the night before, to be greeted by a statue of the ubiquitous highland sheep on our way to find breakfast.

After the first of many hearty Scottish breakfasts (I don’t think we could really have found any other sort of food apart from hearty, even if we’d tried) we wandered into the shop of Moffat’s ‘singing potter’, a born again Christian by the name of Gerry, who believes he’s been saved by a miracle (you can read about him here).  He invited us into his workshop and tried to sell us Jesus, but we ended up buying just a couple of pottery seconds, which didn’t at all break while we unpacked the car at the end of our trip.  Noo.  Anyway.  It made for an interesting introduction to Scotland.

We carried on through Glasgow that morning towards Ardgour, where we’d booked for two nights, driving across Rannoch Moor and the Trossachs and Loch Lomond.  The scenery is stunning, the moor about as desolate a place in the fog as I’ve ever seen, with just the odd white box house accessed by tiny roads.

Waterfall on Rannoch Moor

We pulled the car over to photograph this waterfall just beyond Rannoch Moor

Rannoch Moor

The moor.

Ardgour itself is a tiny hamlet, and mostly I’m guessing made up of holiday properties.  The inn we stayed in, accessed by taking the ferry across from Corran (around £7 for a car) was old fashioned (think green rooms and inappropriate music playing in the restaurant) but friendly and there was a jovial atmoshpere in the bar area, where we sat and planned our trip to the Ardnamurchan peninsula.  The next day we drove out into what felt like the middle of nowhere , and I was never sure if I was on a road or a private drive, but we eventually found a car park and walked for a couple of hours.

The Inn at Ardgour

The Inn at Ardgour

Abandoned boat in Ardgour

Abandoned boat in Ardgour

Walk near Arisaig

Walk near Arisaig 2

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We thought we were walking to the Silver Sands of Morar, but to be honest I'm not sure we were!

We thought we were walking to the Silver Sands of Morar, but to be honest I’m not sure we were!

On the drive back we headed for Castle Tioram, a ruin that you can only reach at low tide. The castle was bought up by someone who wanted redevelop it as a private house, but he wasn’t allowed, and so now it’s just standing there, needing to be rescued, because it’s visibly crumbling.  The sign that says don’t approach the walls is fixed on the wall, so you get all the way up to the stone, read the warning, look up, and suddenly become aware of the slightly worrying angle the place is sitting at.

Castle Tioram: would have been imposing landing here.

Castle Tioram

You can only reach the castle by walking across to it at low tide

You can only reach the castle by walking across to it at low tide.

It was much more atmospheric than the massively touristy Castle Urquhart that we visited later in the week.  That one even came with a hilariously half-arsed video, complete with marauders advancing on some sheep, flanked by unbothered highland cattle.  I don’t doubt the conservation money is vital, but I’m glad I got to see Tioram without any of the gift shops and car parks.

A bridge on the drive back from Castle Tioram

A bridge on the drive back from Castle Tioram

We also inadvertantly drove over a mountain to get a glimpse of a loch.

We inadvertently drove over a mountain to get a glimpse of a loch.

 

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