Inverness, Scotland

Sunday, September 6, 2015

We head through the Fort William tunnel and hop onto a bus…  Destination?  Inverness, Scotland!whw_day9-1100533eThe word Inverness is from Scottish Gaelic language and means mouth of the River Ness. Inverness is the administrative centre for the Highland council area and is regarded as the capital of the Highlands of Scotland.  ~ Wikipedia
Scotland_Inverness-1100582rInverness Castle is in the background overlooking the River Ness.

Scotland_Inverness-1100602rInteresting architecture throughout the city.

Scotland_Inverness-1100603rcrInverness Tourist Hostel  is our home for two nights. Filled to the max due to a music seminar at the university, but they provide coffee grounds, electric hot water pots and a well equipped kitchen, so life is good. (Life is not so good from 6-8 a.m. as we wait for the kitchen to be unlocked with no caffeine)
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Ivan, the hostel employee extraordinaire, is very friendly and helpful. He’s from France, studying extreme sports at the university and with his personality, I’m sure he will do well in life.

Scotland_Inverness-1100605rMeet the Outlander Girls!  Enjoyed visiting with them at the hostel and hearing of their adventures and interest in the Outlander series. They were even lucky enough to be part of the “Rob Roy” 6 a.m. serenade in the hostel lounge room. Such an interesting trio and so easy to converse with.

Culloden Moor lies nearby, and was the site of the Battle of Culloden in 1746, which ended the Jacobite Rising of 1745–1746.  Visiting the battle site sounds like a good plan to me. Tomorrow…

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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: Bridge of Orchy to Glencoe Mountain

September 3, 2015:
WHW_6-1090962eAfter spending a night in the lap of luxury at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, we are recharged and ready to tackle the challenges today has to offer.

WHW_6-1090958eWe cross the 18th century Bridge of Orchy and find some of the tent campers still waking up, including the group from Holland.  Wild camping is quite economical but the downside is the extra weight of carrying a tent and camping gear. Upside is extra money to spend on food and drinks at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel bar next door.

WHW_6-1090978eThe high point of this section, Mam Carriage, is marked with a cairn. A cairn is a human-made pile (or stack) of stones often used as trail markers or burial monuments. The word cairn comes from the Scottish Gaelic: càrn (plural càirn). ~Wikipedia

WHW_6-1090987eThank you to Wolfgang, a musician from Switzerland, for taking this photo for us.

WHW_6-1090994eIt feels eerily remote and I’m reminded of the Love Rock Story.

WHW_6-1090992eJoan adds a dash of color as she poses by the lone tree cairn.

WHW_6-1100017eBuilt in 1708, the Inveroran Hotel could also be named The Last Chance as this is the last opportunity for a stop before crossing the dreaded Rannoch Moor, the remotest and wildest section of the whole Way, according to Charlie Loram in his West Highland Way guidebook.

For the next ten miles we will have no escape from the elements should the weather become inclement. What have we gotten ourselves into?

WHW_6-1100013eVintage photo of the Inveroran Hotel and beautiful flowers brighten the views as we sip our hot coffee, hoping it charges our spirits for the next ten miles.

WHW_6-1100089eMichael, the Irishman, takes a moment to drink in the view. (Maybe along with some Irish coffee?!)

WHW_6-1100091eThe open feel of the terrain reminds me of South Dakota as you drive west from our home along the Minnesota/South Dakota border. The guidebooks give a warning of this awful section, but it reminds me of home and I’m especially enjoying the hike today.

WHW_6-1090976eThis boggy moorland measures 50 square miles and caused major difficulties to builders of roads and railways. When the West Highland Line was built across Rannoch Moor, its builders had to float the tracks on a mattress of tree roots, brushwood and thousands of tons of earth and ashes.  ~Wikipedia

So, don’t step too far off of the path as you may sink into the bog.

WHW_6-1100113eSnack break along the bridge before we tackle the last stretch for today. Thankful for good weather…it could be rainy, windy and cold. Lucky us!

WHW_6-1100127eLodging tonight is within a couple of miles and the quiet gal that didn’t want to stay in the haunted room at Drovers Inn briskly walks by me. I haven’t gotten her life’s story yet so I pick up the pace to get the full scoop:  From Taiwan, assistant professor at a university in Taiwan.

Can’t talk… wrong turn back at Bridge of Orchy and got lost.  Must get to Kinlochleven by tonight. 

She seems a little stressed and understandably so. It’s about 3:30 p.m. and she must hike another 12-13 miles through Kings House and over the challenging Devil’s Staircase before arriving in Kinlochleven. Scary thing is that she will likely be alone since most people will not be walking this leg until morning. Yikes! Hope she has a torch.

WHW_6-1100143eTwelve miles completed today and our home tonight is in a hobbit house at Glencoe Mountain Ski Resort.

WHW_6-1100137eCozy quarters tonight, but we have a space heater and a coffee pot for the morning brew of instant coffee. We now know from previous experience which water bottles can handle the heat of boiling water.

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Plus, locally brewed beer is available in the ski lodge.

Atlas Nimbus Blonde  and Red McGregor brewed by Orkney Brewery. Scelpt Lug dark ale brewed by Oban Bay Brewery

Cheers to another great day!

Below is the video of our hike from Bridge of Orchy to Glencoe Mountain:

Thank you to Charlie Roth for his beautiful rendition of Wild Mountain Thyme from his Tartan Cactus Heart album. For more information on this talented gem of the Minnesota prairie go to charlierothmusiccom.

West Highland Way: Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy

September 2, 2015:

We make our way to The Green Welly Stop  in Tyndrum, Scotland to pick up snacks for the short 7 mile hike from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy.  I am quite sure that the hikers doing the long twenty-mile walk today are long gone and quite a distance down the trail.

WHW_5-1090816eSurprise! We are delighted to see Scottish friends, Thomas and Allan, just outside the shop. We get in some last-minute chatting and bid them farewell again with best wishes for the remainder of the hike. Sure going to miss those guys…

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According to Google, Tioraidh is a greeting similar to Cheerio in Gaelic. Not sure why it appears on this stone monument.

WHW_5-1090821eRandy is striking up a lively conversation with young Leon towering over him at nearly seven feet. Not surprising that he is a basketball player from Holland.
WHW_5-1090896eScottish mother/son hiking together and going for a long twenty-mile hike today.  We have quite a bit in common since they are also farmers and the mother does daycare for her grandchildren.

WHW_5-1090912eIt’s about time I bring out the Love Rock.  This rock was given to me by a woman camping in the Black Hills of South Dakota and I’ve been carrying it with me on this journey. Click on the Love Rock link for more background information on this heart touching story.
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We enjoy the company of Laura, from Germany, who has just finished her master’s degree and is celebrating by hiking the West Highland Way. I feel as though we are celebrating along with her through this experience.

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The path isn’t too bad today as this is the only rocky, hilly section with uneven footing.

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Sheep creep under the railroad.

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Someone did not watch their step and found a monster sized cow pie. (Wasn’t anyone in our group).

Much of the route today follows a military road. In the years after the 1715 Jacobite uprising the government put a huge amount of effort into building roads and bridges over the length and breadth of the Highlands. Previously, drove routes had existed to move cattle to the lowland markets. This bout of road building was intended to provide a means of moving troops quickly around the interior to suppress rebellion. Those rowdy, high-spirited clans, right? They built some 1200 miles of road and 700 bridges in the years from 1725 and 1767.  ~Undiscovered Scotland.co.ukWHW_5-1090936e

We are tickled to see our Northern Ireland/Ukrainian friends, Michael and Stacy  catching up with us as we near Bridge of Orchy.

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Bridge of Orchy Hotel looks  a little like the background of a Harry Potter movie. We eat our dinner about 2:30 p.m. in the hotel bar while we wait for our room. Since we didn’t sleep that well in the hobbit house last night, we are weary and feel like napping.

It’s time to check in and they inform us that we have been upgraded to a cottage (Our own bathroom/shower, no less!) at no extra charge. Yippee!!  It seems as though two people were in need of a room and they figured the three of us would fare better in the cottage while the couple took the smaller hotel room. Little did we know it was Michael and Stacy who decided to try to get a room instead of waiting the rest of the afternoon for the hostel to open up. (I think they felt in need of a nap, as well.) Thank you!

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From the back door of our cottage, we can easily see the Bridge of Orchy which spans over the River Orchy and dates back to 1751 .

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Our lodging is very posh, it’s cold and rainy outside, so we really want to stay inside where it’s nice and warm.

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I mix some dehydrated peanut butter powder with water, slather it on a prepackaged (doughy?) baguette and we have supper.  Yum?

Laundry is drying, we’ve had hot showers and we are sipping hot tea which means a cozy night in luxury. Z-Z-Z-Z…

Below is today’s video:

 

West Highland Way: Rowardennan to Drovers Inn

August 31, 2015WHW_Day3-1090515e

A nice, bright morning to start our day as we leave Rowardennan Youth Hostel. Great breakfast, friendly hikers and slept like a rock, so all is right with the world.

westhighlandway3-mapToday we plan on hiking 14 miles from Rowardennan to Drovers Inn located at Inverarnan.

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The arrow reminds us of the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.WHW_Day3-1090544e

Quick snapshot of the WHW Gang.  We always look forward to seeing Mandy, Karen, Thomas and Allan due to their friendly smiles and fun trail banter covering a wide range of topics. The two on the left carrying heavy camping gear started at the West Highland Way trail beginning sign in Milngavie at the same time as us, so we often see them as they pass us, they stop for breaks so we catch up and pass them and so on…

WHW_Day3-1090557eLove locks bridge meets Scotland… One of the tent campers we frequently greet is on the other side doing deep knee bends with her heavy pack on.  Now that’s impressive!

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We find a picnic table in front of the Inversnaid Hotel and pull our lunch out. I mix powdered peanut butter with water, spread on bread and we have sandwiches and top the meal off with energy bars for dessert. Easy peasy…

Public bathrooms were torn down the year before, but the hotel is very gracious to hikers and allow us to use their facilities and fill our water bottles.

We see two hikers with backpacks going up the hill from the Inversnaid Hotel parking lot and assume this is our path, too.  After hiking up the hill and around the bend, Randy comments that there haven’t been any trail markers and something just doesn’t seem right. Back down we go and, sure enough, the missed trail marker is on the other side of the parking lot. Extra credit of about one mile.WHW_Day3-1090585e

This section of the trail is described in the book, Walking in Scotland:  “The path twists and turns around large boulders and tree roots, a good test of balance and agility.”  They weren’t kidding…WHW_Day3-1090549e

We cross stream after stream when we aren’t scrambling rocks and it seems to take forever to leave Loch Lomond. There are wild ferrel goats in this section that elude us today, but we do hear the loudspeaker from a boat cruise as it comes in close to view Rob Roy’s cave since this is where the famous outlaw allegedly held his captives.

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We are still hiking well into the evening and darkness is inevitable.  We didn’t plan to be hiking this late, but the path has been extremely slow going. This would be particularly challenging in the dark and we didn’t bring any flashlights/torches. (Just a cell phone flashlight). Note to self: Always bring a head torch when hiking even if you think you won’t need it.

We finally get to the Beinglas Farm campground and the little bit of daylight left immediately vanishes and we are enveloped in darkness with our lodging located just over the bridge.  We cross the bridge only to find a massive gate has locked us out. The gate automatically closes off the bridge at night, but has malfunctioned and closed earlier at 9:00 p.m. Great… guess we’ll just sleep on the bridge. The video below has a short clip of a man opening the bridge gate and you can see how dark it really is. The campground authorities are notified and the gate is opened. Yay! It’s 9:30 and we are tired, hungry and ready to have this day completed.

We stroll up to Drovers Inn and notice familiar faces peering out of the bar window. Mandy, Karen, Thomas and Allan come rushing out with excited relief that we are not lost in the woods. The ghost of Drovers’ Inn must have played tricks with my camera as I thought I was turning the video on and was actually turning it off.  Thus, the clip is short, but you can hear Mandy exclaiming about how worried they were. To say we were touched by their concern is an understatement. Thank you for the legendary welcome to Drovers Inn!

Song credit:  The Henry Girls digital download purchased from Amazon. The Henry Girls are three immensely talented sisters from Donegal, Ireland. Check them out at thehenrygirls.com and discover their soothing harmonies and instrumental talents. Thank you to Charlie Roth for bringing their talents to my attention.

Now, what’s all this fuss about ghosts?

 

 

 

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:

Strolling Santiago de Compostela

2014Camino-1070857dmvView from our small third floor room with 5 bunk beds for a total of 10 persons in our room. Cozy…

 

2014Camino-1070858plcrWe call Roots & Boots our home for two nights. It is in the old part of town, three levels of multiple rooms down narrow hallways with as many bunk beds as they can possibly put in each room.  We had two bathrooms for our floor, so we had to be patient or find an open bathroom on another floor…maybe.

We shared a room with sheep farmer from Portugal, college students waiting for housing and a grandfather/grandson pair (Sweden? ), as well as another silent partner that did not converse with us.
2014Camino-1070813dmvcrRandy is wearing his strolling attire today, so let’s start exploring.
2014Camino-1070810dmv Interesting, but I don’t think I’ll put these sculptures on my deck.

2014Camino-1070830plThank you, Random Strolling Ladies, for following the photography Rule of Three and Odd Numbers.

2014Camino-1070832dmvcrShe must be my relative since Pemble women are known to wear bright red attire.

2014Camino-1070834dmvObviously, she draws the attention of old and young alike.

2014Camino-1070838dmvcrSign reads:  Painter looking for work urgently – I’m hungry. 

2014Camino-1070881dmvcrYou’re going strolling whether you want to, or not!

2014Camino-1070829plBeggar outside the coffee shop.

2014Camino-1070855dmvNeighborhood near our hostel.

2014Camino-1070871dmvWe crossed through Alameda Park several times as it was between our hostel and the city center. The origin of the park goes back to the donation of the grounds to the city by the Counts of Altamira around the middle of the 16th century.

2014Camino-1070824plcrHarry Potter influence here?

2014Camino-1070867dmvWe see many monuments amidst the garden area of the park.  Mirador da Alameda.  Translation: Viewpoint of Alameda

2014Camino-1070883dmvWe are thrilled to meet up with Al, our Spanish friend that we met at the pilgrim meal in Fonfria just past O’Cebreiro. I sincerely hope he is doing well with his new job in South America.

2014Camino-1070889dmvThese Italian pilgrims are all smiles and glad to be done with their journey.  We shared the trail frequently with them the past few days. A smile is comprehended in any language.

2014Camino-1070841dmvWe attend the Pilgrim Mass and they did not swing “the thing.”( Botafumeiro) We are 0 for 2 on this, so if I ever return to the Camino experience again I will not be leaving until they do swing “the thing.”

2014Camino-1070845dmvOutside the church, I notice this beggar who is prepared for rain with an umbrella tucked behind her.  I’m guessing she is a Gypsy, which is a slang term for the Romani people that frequent European countries.  More to come on this topic in future blog posts.

2014Camino-1070826plcrThese gypsies appear to be quite stern.  Is this an omen?