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Via Glen Coe to Arran

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Friday 20 May, via Glen Coe to Arran

Snow on the hills Snow on the hillsWe have a journey of only a few hours ahead of us so we are not in a hurry to leave and after breakfast we chat extensively with Iain and Cathy and only at 12 o'clock we leave Beauly. It is always nice to be here, but we are also always happy when we leave because then we can explore new areas. We drive through the Great Glen, actually a geological break that makes a long valley with many rivers and lochs of which Loch Ness is of course the best known.
Snow on the hills Snow on the mountainsEven though we drive the first part the same route as yesterday (to Fort William), it never gets boring, the nature always looks different. Today it looks like there is more snow on the hills and mountains than yesterday. Well, it is not very warm, so it may have just snowed at higher altitudes. If we get closer to Ben Nevis, we know for sure: there is a lot more snow.
Snow on the mountains Snow on the mountainsThick clouds are still lieing on the mountains but the sky is blue. It seems that as many as 100,000 people per year climb the Ben Nevis and that more people die there than on Mount Everest. This has to do with the fact that it seems a fairly easy walk and the mountain is only 1,345 meters high so that many untrained hikers make the trip. But the weather in Scotland can be so treacherous and most accidents happen because people are not prepared for it. From a hot sun you can suddenly end up in a fierce snow storm or a heavy rain shower, making the paths impassable.
Snow on the mountains Glen CoeBeyond Fort William we cross the Glen Coe, a large volcanic valley that has once been carved out by a glacier and is surrounded by mountains. Against one of the walls is a ski center where, in winter, a cable car goes up. We have been in Scotland between March and September, but have never actually seen the cable car in operation. Too bad, otherwise we would also go up for the view.
Glen Coe Along the A82After the narrow passage at the village of Glencoe, the valley becomes wide, bare and lifeless except for the meandering road where a long ribbon of mainly tourists is driving. And this is a region that is appreciated especially by the Dutch, because we always see dozens of Dutch cars here. In Fort William we had already met a few yesterday.
At the places where you can park the car along the road, it is usually filled quickly, the landscape is very inviting to admire and to photograph.
Stirling CastleAt Crianlarich we have to choose: the beautiful and shorter road to Glasgow or the beautiful but longer road via Stirling. We choose the last, through a somewhat rougher area, and at Stirling we look at the magnificent castle that is built high on a steep rock. Stirling is located in a very strategic location and is also called the gateway to the Highlands. Here was one of the few crossings to go to the north (or south) of Scotland and the lonely rock offers an excellent view of the land around it. There have been dozens of battles in this neighborhood.
Elisabeth opening the gate Elisabeth opening the gateAfter Stirling we go off the main road and take inland roads. Teije can see on his map where we have not been yet and so we quickly arrive on increasingly narrower roads and eventually in an area where there are no game grids are on the road but fences to keep the cattle in. And so I always have to leave the car to open and close the gate again. Well, hurry up, it's cold outside!
Campsie Hills near GlasgowWe are less than 20 kilometers north of Glasgow but you would not realize that a city is so close by. The Campsie Fells consist of a series of extinct volcanoes that have flattened to slightly sloping slopes. This area is very popular with hikers, as is also Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park which lies slightly to the west. From Glasgow you are within half an hour in a beautiful nature.
We have been once in Glasgow but feel not really compassionate about it so we pass that city.
VIP hotel near CrossfordAnd then we have to look for an affordable hotel again. This time too, we spend over one and a half hour finding one and the rescue again comes in a pub. People start making calls and we are invited to drive behind one of the people. After fifteen minutes we arrive at an abandoned series of buildings of the Valley International Park. We pay, get a key and have a great room, but otherwise we seem to be the only ones on the complex. No breakfast tomorrow and we can leave the key in a mailbox. The park with about 31.5 hectares of land is now for sale (2017).
The sun is shining nowe but we turn on the stove inside since it is quite chilly.

Saturday 21 May 2011, taking the ferry to Arran

Craignethan CastleWhen we drive away at the abandoned VIP hotel we see a small castle after 10 minutes, at least a ruin of one. It is Craignethan Castle, built in the 16th century and surrounded on three sides by deep ravines. We only look at the castle from the outside and then drive on again because we have to get a boat.
Church at KamesWe drive to the west through all kinds of small villages. There are still many places here that we have never been before. In the hamlet of Kames we see this funny church tower, at least that's what it looks like. But the turret also seems to be part of an ordinary house. When we look at streetview later we see a number of red post cars standing nearby, maybe it's the post office.
Gatelodge of Sorn Castle Gatelodge of Sorn CastleAnd then we come across a gate lodge, a gatekeeper's house. And then there is always an estate and a castle behind. These two houses guard the entrance to Sorn Castle, originally a 15th century tower house and expanded considerably in the 18th century. Now it serves as a hotel but we like the gate lodges better than the castle itself.
When we drive further west for the ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick on Arran it starts to drizzle and then rain. Taking photos makes no sense, there is nothing to see at all. In the pouring rain we drive after an hour-long crossing onto Arran and look for our house that is not so easy to find. It turns out to be closer than we thought, a bit past Lamlash, only we have a slippery sandy path to follow which is full of holes.
Our bedroom on ArranQuickly we get the bags inside and find out how the stove works, that is not always easy when you're used to have central heating with just one buitton to control it
It is a small but cozy house and upstairs we have a nice bedroom. A nice starting point for exploring Arran where we already wanted to go once before but then had too little time. This time we have a whole week to explore the island.


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