Harbour Hostel in Cullen, Scotland

September 8, 2015:

We follow the directions from the Cullen, Scotland bus stop to our hostel for tonight:  Harbour HostelCullen-1100733ecrNice and roomy and we are delighted to find ourselves the lone occupants of this 16 bed hostel.

Cullen-1110031The kitchen is supplied with a stove, dishes, pots and pans, refrigerator and more…

A-h-h-h… Let’s stay two nights.

Cullen-1110186Day two finds us gaining a roommate.  Meet Bill Nickson Sr., an ex-international professional cyclist with many notable victories in his career, including the overall in the Milk Race (Britain’s most prestigious stage race) and the British National Road Race championships. He also rode and completed the Tour de France. In 1981 he started Bill Nickson Cycles in Leyland, England and his son runs the business now.  He biked into Cullen from the train station (I think, 30 miles away) and is touring the area on bicycle. What a wonderful gentleman!

Cullen-1100736ecrView of the sea from our hostel.

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Elvis’ roots are also in this region and, fate would have it, the hostel has an “old school” record player and at the top of the pile of records is Elvis’ Greatest HitsO.K., let’s stay here a third night.

 

Culloden Battlefield near Inverness, Scotland

Welcome to Culloden Battlefield, the site of the last major battle fought on British soil. Here, on April 16, 1746, two armies clashed in a final confrontation over the thrones of Britain. In just one hour the army of the British government under Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland crushed forever the Jacobite army under Prince Charles Edward Stuart. This is a very emotional battle for the Scottish people, as the Clans lost their right to wear their plaid colors, play the bagpipes or publicly meet as a family group. Scotland_Inverness-1100621r

The wild and atmospheric moor where the battle took place is where more than 1500 men are buried as a result of the Battle of Culloden.  Click on the link for more details of this historic event in Scottish history. The Memorial Cairn is in the background of this photo.

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Inscription on the Memorial Cairn.

inv-1100669rFlag marking the start of the English line of defense.

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Flag marking the start of the Jacobite line. (According to the audio tour guide)

inv-1100635r inv-1100644r inv-1100638rcrMemorial flowers and stones on family memorial sites. Andrew P. Fazes, President of the Luton Paranormal Society was filming the moor for paranormal activity while we were there. I checked the website and see nothing there from our visit that day. Hope we didn’t scare the ghosts away!

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Placed on either sides of the road driven through the battlefield in 1835, these headstones bear the names of the clans. Erected by Duncan Forbes in 1881, they mark where the battle dead, who amounted to over 1000, were buried by local people. They were identified by their clan badge, a plant sprig worn in their bonnet.

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Old Leanach cottage:  The original farmhouse of Leanach survived the battle and has been restored several times. The roof is heather thatched, a traditional Highland craft.

Following the Battle of Culloden, the way was opened for the Highland Clearances that started some decades later, when vast numbers of Highlanders were cleared off their land by the landowners to make room for more profitable sheep. Surplus tenants were ‘cleared’ off the estates from about 1780. The first mass emigration was in 1792; known as the ‘Year of the Sheep’, when most of the cleared clansmen went to Canada and the Carolinas. Scots left their native soil to live out their lives in America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. ~ Education Scotland.gov.uk

Prince Charlie eventually made good his escape to France, but the price of his adventure for the Highlands was high.

Final destination for my Scottish ancestors? Minnesota… worked out well for me.

A Final Farewell to the West Highland Way

September 6, 2015:
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Living large at No 6 Caberfeidh B & B in Fort William with a huge Scottish breakfast featuring ham, sausage, eggs, black pudding, tatties, all kinds of cereal, granola, coffee and juice. Most of our nights are in hostel type accomodations so this is a real treat.  Too bad we aren’t hiking 15 miles or more today to wear off our breakfast.

 

whw_day9-1100528eIn front of the B & B, we find the couple from Austria that have been guiding a large group of about 18 people walking the West Highland Way. They are checking into possible lodging options for their 2016 West Highland Way tour.

whw_day9-1100541eShrieks of delight fill the air as we spot the Scottish mother and son on their way to the bus station.

whw_day9-1100542eOh, wow!!  It’s the Canadian minister from the bar last night on her way to church. What an interesting person with a charming, sincere personality. Her name is Donalee Williams and she has a blog which I linked to her name.

whw_day9-1100544eManchester, England claims these two hikers who camped all along the West Highland Way and this gentleman has been observing my hiking speed along the trail. At the bar in Tyndrum, I slowly crept past their table while carrying two pints of beer, trying NOT to spill, to which he commented, “Fastest I’ve seen you walk all day!”

whw_day9-1100550eFinally… It took us longer than expected to get to the new end of the trail sculpture due to all of the bonus socializing this morning. As we continue on to the bus station, we are grateful to have another farewell session with Mike and Stacy who are going the Isle of Skye before returning to Belfast, Ireland.

whw_day9-1100533eFor us, it’s time to catch a bus to pursue new adventures and explore Inverness, Scotland.  Stay tuned…

Here is the short video of our last day in Fort William:

West Highland Way: Kinlochleven to Fort William

September 5, 2015: Kinlochleven to Fort William

WHW_Day7-1100286e While gazing over at the campers cooking their breakfasts, I do a last-minute check to see if I have everything.  Yes, I remembered to get our sandwiches out of the hostel refrigerator and pack them in my backpack. (I have been known to forget!)

whw_day8-1100312eWe start our day with Laura from Berlin. I often find myself thinking of her and hope all is going well with her life.

 

 

whw_day8-1100333eWhat a beautiful site for wild camping, overlooking the town of Kinlochleven. Beautiful weather today and hikers seem to be going at a leisurely pace as if savoring their last day of hiking.
whw_day8-1100444eJoan, AKA The Beast, is ready to tackle the last leg of the hike with Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the U.K., in the background.

whw_day8-1100474eWe are fortunate to be able to share part of this last day with Mike and Stacy (Ireland/Ukraine) as we descend into Fort William. Such a lovely pair…

whw_day8-1100493eThis is the last we see of Leon and his gang from Holland as they are staying in the campground just outside of Fort William. We notice they still have energy to play tricks.  Oh, to be so young again.

We see many runners from the Ben Nevis race walking back to their vehicles with their medals and trophies.  Apparently, I didn’t have enough energy to pull out the camera. After walking 16 miles today, I don’t think we’ll attempt Ben Nevis.

Maybe, some other time.

Mike and Stacy are going on through town to pay homage to the new end of the trail, but we are close to our check-in deadline for the B & B so we must bid them farewell.  Sad to see them go.whw_day8-1100497eWe appear to be faking glee and excitement. Maybe we are a little disappointed to not have all of our WHW friends cheering with us at the end.

Hold on.. Who is that I see chatting in the distance? No, it can’t be.  Yes, it is!!!  Mandy just happens to appear along our route.

whw_day8-1100507creLater, we meet up with Mandy and Karen at a the Grog and Gruel Pub, popular with the Ben Nevis race crowd as you can see by the race numbers in the background. The fun-loving Scottish gentlemen in these photos are our photographers tonight so that we could get some group photos. You can’t help but love the Scottish people.

whw_day8-1100508dmvWe also spend time this evening visiting with a minister from Canada on sabbatical doing research. I can’t remember her research topic…  Could an evening in the pub provide inspiration for a few sermon topics?whw_day8-1100510eCheers to the West Highland Way!
96 miles and we did the WHOLE thing! We may walk slowly, but we never walk backward.

Here is the video of our last day hiking the West Highland Way:

 

West Highland Way: Glencoe Mountain to Kinlochleven

September 4, 2015: We pack up and leave our cozy hobbit house at Glencoe Mountain Resort to diligently start down the trail finding the air chilly, but the weather generally pleasant.WHW_Day7-1100155eSeems as though we are in the middle of nowhere and here appears The Kings House, which is thought to be one of Scotland’s oldest licensed inns, originally built in the 17th century. It is called the King’s House because British troops were lodged here following the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Coffee, please!WHW_Day7-1100195eThe challenge today will be the Devil’s Staircase which was named by General Wade’s road building soldiers who were lugging materials up and down it all day. ~ Wikipedia

WHW_Day7-1100218eIt’s a long hike with several switchbacks, but really not a terribly strenuous hike so far.

WHW_Day7-1100224We finally reach the top and the views are spectacular today with clear skies all around.

WHW_Day7-1100230ecrThe Love Rock comes out of my pocket for a little fresh air and is perched on a cairn at the top of the Devil’s Staircase.

WHW_Day7-1100288eBlackwater Hostel is named after the Blackwater Reservoir and is our home for the night after a little more than ten mile hike.  Nice drying room and kitchen with dorm type rooms containing cozy bunk beds. From a camping perspective, the name does not sound desirable to me since waste water is called black water. It’s not the case here, though.

WHW_Day7-1100293eSign on the side of the hostel warns dog owners to keep their poop in a group or the Paw Patrol will take action.

WHW_Day7-1100284eWe find ourselves at the Tail Race Inn at the end of the day to take advantage of their advertised special prices on meals. All eyes are NOT on us as Scotland is playing Georgia for the Euro 2016 soccer qualifier and local patrons are glued to the TV screen. FYI ~ Scotland lost.

Video below shows highlights from day seven. I was able to video the Grand Canyon Girls as they skipped across a stepping stone bridge. We have observed that they are like mountain goats when it comes to rock scrambling. One has hiked down and up the Grand Canyon nine times and the other has hiked the Grand Canyon five times. They are a couple of tough hikers with strong legs and determination.

West Highland Way: Drovers Inn to Tyndrum

September 1, 2015

WHW_4-1090643eThe air is still, so the midges (small gnat like flies common along the West Highland Way) are out in full force this morning and we see Joan sporting her stylish midge netting. Many years ago we would wrap netting around our heads similar to this as protection from mosquitoes, gnats and deer flies when hoeing weeds out of the soybean fields.

WHW_4-1090743eThe plan is to hike 13 miles today through the area of Crianlarich Hills, which are a large group of mountains in Scotland.

WHW_4-1090672eIt’s tricky ducking down through the sheep creep while wearing a full backpack.

WHW_4-1090753eWe pass by the ruins of St Fillan’s Priory, which is a small monastery or nunnery that is governed by a prior or prioress. It is from the 13th century and associated with Robert the Bruce.WHW_4-1090761eAcross the path is a graveyard dating back to the 8th century.

WHW_4-1090783eThis is a bench commemorating the battle of Dal Righ, or ‘King’s Field’ where Robert the Bruce was defeated by English troops in 1306.WHW_4-1090807eHome sweet home tonight is this cute little hobbit house at Tyndrum By the Way Campground.

WHW_4-1090812eQuite cozy and we have a microwave and coffee pot. What more could one need?
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We end our day at the Tyndrum Inn and meet up with several of our hiking friends with fun conversation peppering the air. Now we must bid a sad farewell to our current path mates since we are opting for a shorter hike tomorrow, while they are planning on hiking about 20 miles. Hugs all around and I feel a little tear in my eye as if saying a goodbye that is probably forever. We do hope they take advantage of our invitation to visit and stay with us at our farm on the Minnesota/South Dakota border. Randy and I may even whip up a batch of Rocky Mountain Oysters to go up against their haggis!

Following is a video of our adventures today:

West Highland Way: Drymen to Rowardennan

Sunday, August 30, 2015:  Day two…WWW_Day2-1090332Glenalva B & B near Drymen, Scotland provided a restful sleep and we go downstairs to another delicious smoked salmon and egg breakfast. Shared a breakfast table and delightfully, entertaining conversation with two Scottish gentlemen, Thomas and Allan, who are also walking to Rowardennan today. We chat throughout the day while walking, so we are slowly making new friends along the trail. Fascinating people and their stories add another dimension which makes the hiking experience rewarding on a social level.

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Glenalva B & B displays the spirit of the trail with boots as flower pots.

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Early in the day, we miss a sign and take the wrong path (along with other hikers), which means we must backtrack. Many hikers are now passing us, including a large group of Austrians on a group hiking tour. About an hour and a half later, Randy looks back and notices our starting point is right across the meadow as he points with his walking stick. Slow progress…

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The trail climbs through a section of forestry before crossing moorland to reach Conic Hill.

We spend some time today visiting with a college girl from Colorado who is interning while going to school and traveling in the U.K. I enjoy listening to hopes and dreams of young people as they explore and discover their paths in life. I guess that’s the optimistic teacher in me.

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Up, up and away, we climb…

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We finally reach the top and the views of Loch Lomond are spectacular, although it starts to drizzle. (The video at the bottom of this post will show the panoramic view from the top of Conic Hill.)

 


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Sunday is a popular day for hiking. We meet many day hikers who must have parked at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and approach Conic Hill from the opposite side.

 

WWW_Day2-1090462eOne of many “kissing gates.”  It allows people to pass through but not livestock.

WWW_Day2-1090494eWe hike along the banks of Loch Lomond as we proceed along the trail. We find the last stretch today to be quite rocky and somewhat challenging.  We are thinking that today is about as challenging as it gets. (After all, the Youtube videos look pretty tame!)

Towards the end of the day, we strike up a conversation with a lovely couple (Belfast, Northern Ireland/Ukraine), which makes the path seem less severe. Thank you, Michael and Stacy (Anistacia).

 

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The last couple of miles seem to take forever as we sludge past the Rowardennan Hotel, envious of those stopping here for the night. Wondering…  will we ever get there?  Exhausted, we arrive at the Rowardennan Youth Hostel  (Yes, old people can stay in youth hostels!) after our hilly hike and happy to have beds. It does appear as though our backpacks exploded upon arrival.

WWW_Day2-1090509eLucky for us, a bar and food are available a few feet away from our beds, so life is grand.  We are invited to sit with two new trail friends from England, Mandy and Karen. Such fun and interesting gals and both have travel tales from around the globe!

Bonnie N’ Blonde is a locally brewed beer from Loch Lomond Brewery and hit the spot after walking 14.5 miles carrying a backpack up and down hills and scrambling some rocks.  Tomorrow will be MUCH easier, right?

Below is a short video/slide show featuring highlights of day two on the West Highland Way: