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On the way back down from our adventures in the Orkney Islands, we’ve had several nights in a rustic lodge near Plockton. Plockton is a gorgeous village where The Wicker Man and Hamish Macbeth was filmed and overlooks Loch Carron. Our lodge is on a secluded farm west of Plockton and the views are to die for.

Loch Carron
Loch Carron

We’re based at Craig Highland Farm to get away from it all. The place we are stopping has no TV, no mobile signal, a self enforced digital detox. It’s stunningly quiet and night time gives a fantastically dark sky with the Milky Way clearly visible overhead.

This was our view from the lodge. The first timelapse was taken using a Canon 200D with 300 x 0.5 second shots:

It’s also a great place to explore the Isle of Skye. Visitors to Skye are naturally drawn to its landscape, the sharp ridges of the Black Cuillin mountains, Trotternish and Quiraing and it reminds me of the rock formations and landscapes of Iceland. Who can blame the visitors coming here, after all, Skye is gorgeous and its also pretty popular with the tourist hordes that descend on Sky to leave their mark, and they certainly do leave their mark. A walk to the Fairy Pools will never be in seclusion with paths and grass worn away by the thousands of footprints left from the day.

The tourists are not the only ones to leave their mark, so did the dinosaurs, and the one of the main reasons for our visit to is to go dinosaur hunting, walking in the footsteps of dinosaurs on the Isle of Skye.

Our last journey here dinosaur hunting wasn’t that successful, attacked by midgies on a very wet and misty day and trying to convince ourselves we’d found the famed footprints on An Corran beach at Staffin Bay. Fossils are best found in dryer conditions but Skye isn’t exactly known for its rain free climate, beaches are known for having bodies of water… but today we seem relatively lucky as the sun is out.

plockton
Plockton. The place of Summerisle in The Wicker Man was filmed here.

Returning back to Staffin Bay, the last time we came here it was deserted, this time there a few visitors each with their head down looking for the dinosaur footprints. Lord Nelson remains uninterested in the beasts, and wees quite possibly in the footprints of a beast that wandered past millions of years ago. Eventually we were advised by someone to go and see the newly discovered footprints at Duntulm where they were much more noticeable and giving us very specific instruction on where to find them.

Heading past the Trotternish Ridge, finally seeing the Old Man of Storr and the rock formations of Quiraing, we ahead to Duntulm. Most visitors to Duntulm will head to the castle, the viking stronghold, but wont look to the unremarkable looking beach area to their left. 170 million years ago during the Middle Jurassic period, this area was a shallow salt water lagoon and a much more temperate climate.

In 2015, a study team discovered hundreds of footprints made by plant-eating long-necked sauropods and now we’re standing in the footsteps of these giants, some footprint up to 70cm in diameter. We know we’ve got the right place because there is filming here and the expert attached to the filming team offer to show the prints. The footprints look like large round holes but are in a clear walking line.

Sauropods dinosaur footprints at Duntulm in Skye
Sauropods dinosaur footprints at Duntulm in Skye

Sauropods were the early distant relatives of Brontosaur and Diplodocus weighing more than 10 tonnes and 15 meters in length, the largest animals ever to have lived on land, you wouldn’t want them stepping on your toes. I get a kick knowing that these huge beasts walked here, especially great for kids, even those at 47 years old. If you do visit, just consider that these prints have been happily sat there for the past 170 million years, they’ve survived years without interference and they don’t need you hammering and chiselling the ground to try and claim a fossil footprint for your collection. Leave them alone to let others keep walking in the footsteps of dinosaurs.

Our Orcadian adventure now captured, partially at least, in a travel video. Just a bit of fun using a mixture of a Canon 200D and our very basic Go Pro. It’s a long way from the (Nottingham) shire to the edge of Scotland and then on to the Orkney Islands but don’t worry, its not just 12 hours of us driving each other mad.

I actually quite like this video though, a lot more fun editing this one together. I didn’t quite do the whole storyboard thing I said i was going to do last time although some of the planned shots didn’t quite work but some really did well, especially the car going over the camera and then away from the camera.  In fact I might just do more of these, blogs are dying, kids these days can’t be bothered to read  more than a few words so video looks to be the way forward.

I’m not expecting to fly up the ranks of YouTube just yet but with a whole 5 subscribers… I should start monetising, reaching out to brands, directing Bond movies, show my bum in a bikini as a preview thumbnail….

Enjoy The Road to Orkney travel video. You can see the other posts on Orkney below:

Adventures in Orkney – What you need to know

Adventures in Orkney – Top Sites to See in Orkney

Following on from the earlier post of our Adventures in Orkney- What You Need To Know and for those who are absolute suckers of big erect stones (schoolboy giggle), then you might like the below of our top sites to see in Orkney. Orkney has it all, a collection of fine features that we saw on our adventures in Orkney. Not a comprehensive list, but I’ll add to it later when I finish the video.

The Ring of Brodgar

Moody, atmospheric, yes, they both describe me and this place. The Ring of Brodgar is one of the largest neolithic henges in Britain and an iconic site in the ancient history of Orkeny. Set against a dramatic sky and the moody waters of the Harray and Stenness lochs, gives this near perfect stone circle of 104 metres across a very atmospheric place for prominent community ceremonies. Erected 4500 years ago, these stones are much smaller than those of Stenness with 27 of the original 60 stones still stand and watch as visitors pass.

The Broch of Gurness

Heading north on Mainland to The Broch of Gurness, we find a wallet full of cash. Not quite Viking or Iron Age treasure, especially as we handed it in (yes all of it, every penny). Located on a windy shore overlooking the nearby island of Rousay,  at first glance, the place looks inhospitable, the water of Eynhallow Sound looks deadly choppy with a constant battering from the wind.

The Broch of Gurness

But back 2000 years ago, the climate a a couple of degrees warmer and this was one of the most important settlements in Orkney with up to 14 houses around the broch. The broch itself, a fortified tower, would have been imposing, up to 10 metres tall. I can’t build a greenhouse base 2 bricks high never mind a lichen spotted drystone wall that high. Less busy than Maeshowe but no less important, its worth a trip.

 

Cuween Hill Cairn

First off on our visit is the neolithic chambered cairn of Cuween Hill. Constructed over 4500 years ago, this stands over 2 metres tall inside. Historic Scotland has thoughtfully provided a torch for you to grab before you enter the gated narrow passageway but the batteries were as long dead as the 8 human remains that were found inside. Also inside, the skulls of 24 small dogs. We didn’t have the heart to tell Lord Nelson, he was already traumatised by the ferry trip and now he’s inside a tomb wondering why the smell of ancient dogs is hanging around.

 

The Standing Stones of Stenness

Magnificently tall. You see these stones long before anything else around the Brodgar area. Raised 5000 years ago, these four remaining stones are up to six metres eight. As if neolithic man didn’t have enough to do, slogging these stones from different parts of Orkney would have been a mammoth undertaking. Estimates suggest 50,000 hours to build the circle and henge. That’s nearly as much time as we spent planning our Orkney trip. I’m just glad Nelson didn’t wee on them.

 

Unstan Cairn

A well preserved and a free to visit tomb. Even better that there’s no hoards of people. This cairn located on the scenic shore Loch of Stenness looks like a smaller version of Maeshowe but built differently inside with stalled burial compartments. Unstan is notable for the pottery that was found inside and gave rise to Unstan Ware that was found around afterwards and thought to date back to 3000BC. An undignified shuffle will get you through the narrow passageway.

The Churchill Barriers

The sea is everywhere in Orkney. Wherever we drove, you were always reminded that you were on an island as the fantastically blue sea was always in view. Some of the islands are connected by the Churchill Barriers, constructed after the sinking of the HMS Royal Oak and the loss of 834 lives in 1939 by a German U Boat that had penetrated the previous blockship defences of the scuttled German fleet in WW1. Some of those scuttled boats still jut out of the water at Scapa Flow and reminds me of the boats in the harbour at Stanley in the Falklands. The barriers were constructed with the help of Italian prisoners who also manged to build themselves a little Italian Chapel.

Tomb of the Eagles – Isbister Chambered Cairn

Another tomb but one with a more personalised experience. This tomb was discovered by a local farmer back in the 50’s when he was looking for some stone for his farm. Digging by a wall he found some axe heads a a few other items, kept on digging and uncovered a stone chamber with human skulls and eagle bones inside. Recognising that he was coming across something quite significant, he contacted the archaeology department who took 18 years to come out. So he opted to continue on his own and the Tomb of the Eagles is still run by the family now.

It’s a more personalised experience with hands on artefacts, talks on the discovery of the 5000 year old neolithic tomb and how the bodies were excarnated before being placed inside. In the end, 16,000 human bones were found. Its a mile walk to the tomb, located, and I would suggest deliberately placed overlooking a stunning rocky outcrop. To get in to the tomb’s low entrance, you pull yourself along a trolley with an overhead rope. It’s a superb location and on the way back took a walk around the coastal route spotting a group of 5 seals in the water.

 

We were in Orkney for 3 days. There are loads to see, loads to do and in all honesty we should have stopped longer. We should have visited more islands, especially Hoy which looks stunningly moody and impressive as you drive to Stromness. Don’t let the long drive put you off, you wont regret it.

The road to Orkney is a long one. It doesn’t look far on a map but it’s a 12 hour drive and far more than the 500 miles that The Proclaimers would walk. There is also a pretty hefty swim involved if you don’t get the ferry across to the Orkney Islands as well. That’s just one way for our 3 night stay on our adventures in Orkney.Sunset at the Ring of Brodgar

We’ve decided to go somewhere a little bit off the beaten path, somewhere a bit more remote to get away from it all and get away from people. So, a bit like Brexit, we decided to drive off the edge of a cliff and then just keep going regardless eventually hoping to hit something. We said that last time we visited Scotland that we’d be back and do an extreme Scottish road trip, driving to Orkney is defiantly that.

Orkney is not one island but a collection of seventy low-lying islands populated by Orcadians, more Scandinavian than Scottish. Orkney has its fair share of sites to see from the neolithic, norse, nature, wildlife and weather. Now they’re all on our doorstep for us to discover and explore with our adventures in Orkney. Considering the amount of questions we’ve had, I’ve decided to list these in the style of a Q and A session on Orkney – what you need to know.

Orkney, it’s a bit remote isn’t it?

Yes, that’s the idea. Don’t worry though, it’s got Tesco. You don’t have to drive far to get away from anybody and it’s also close enough for civilisation. Mainland Orkney is not massive and you can drive round in a day if you wanted but you’d be cheating yourself. Yes, there’s WiFi. Yes there’s accommodation, yes there’s Airbnb. And yes, Italian prisoners of war were held here during WWII although not in Airbnb and they didn’t have WiFi. They were put to good use though constructing causeways to get between some of the islands.

Block ships at Scapa Flow
Block ships at Scapa Flow

But it’s miles away isn’t it?

Yeah…. not wanting to drive 12 hours in one go from Nottinghamshire, never mind the 30 wee stops for the dog, we’ve split our trip up with an overnight stop on the way up at Blair Atholl. We did consider camping but our tent was so mouldy that even after disinfecting it, it was still creating new cultures of unbelievable toxicity that it could spawn a chemical catastrophe that a third world dictator would die for and give us some awful lung condition in the next few years. So we opted for a cheap Airbnb caravan instead.

John o' Groats Orkney sign

The Proclaimers would walk 500 miles but we drove nearly 600 miles, and considering diesel prices for a guzzly 4×4….. Driving north on the eastern part of the North Coast 500, we drive just past John o’ Groats to catch the ferry from Gills Bay for the one hour trip to the Orkney Islands. No you don’t have to book the ferry but you might be taking a chance. Yes, it’s not cheap (£140 return).

Surely there’s nothing to see?

Are you kidding? Considering that neolithic Orkney is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the sheer amount of neolithic stones and tombs, some older than the Pyramids and Stonehenge, give the long-suffering Mrs Cook déjà vu of our megalithic monument tour from a few years back. I’m a sucker for big erect stones, I wish Mrs Cook was as well.  People have been here for 10,000 years, they’ve left a few bits behind. Have you not heard about Maeshowe, the Ring of Brodgar, Skara Brae? There’s even a current archaeological excavation going off at the Ness of Brodgar.Broch of Gurness towards Rousay

Did we tell you about the wildlife? Plenty. We see seals swimming in the sea and swear they waved at us. Sea stacks at Yesnaby and stunning coastal scenery, clear blue waters and lovely sandy shores at Skail Beach at Skara Brae. Drive right through the quaint fishing village of Stromness or explore the many cairns. You don’t have to pay to go into most cairns, there’s an element of trust that the people who visit Orkney are not complete scumbags who will come in to a tomb and daub graffiti of sexual innuendo or steal the torch that’s provided. Unless you are a viking boasting about a sexual conquest at Maeshowe. We spent 3 nights in Orkney and still had so much more to see.

What about the weather?

Yeah, it’s wild and its windy, well it was for us. The weather is mix of sunshine and soaking showers with wild wind. The ability to look like a man who’s left his waterproof coat in the car and get completely drenched in 30 seconds from one moment of having glorious sunshine to stinging rain whipped up by the winds caught us out a few times. A walk on the Brough of Birsay or the coastal area of Mull Head past the collapsed sea cave called The Gloup and up to the Brough of Deerness made sure we regretted our clothing choices.

Should I visit the Orkney Islands?

Yes. It’s good enough for Vikings s it should be good enough for you. See the next post, Top Sites to See in Orkney. We loved it. Video coming soon.

Prepare yourselves dear reader, for a story of betrayal, misery and murder, for today we visit Glencoe for its gorgeous glen and its murderous mountains. The weather is appalling, ‘pishing it doon’ as they say up here.  We’re also well aware that the local inclement weather of the UK can do a perfectly reasonable job of killing us without adequate protection, even for the bravehearted bare chested painted Picts.

That’s exactly what the weather is trying to do to us now in late ‘summer’ as the rain comes down with fist sized punches slamming into our faces. But we’re not letting that stop us, even if it is ruining every camera shot with water on the lens. I remember Glenoce being incredibly photogenic when I came here on a mountaineering course when I was in the RAF, but that was 20 years ago in the snow and better weather than today. Today is unfortunately not the day for that, I’m dragging Lord Nelson round and can’t see further than his 6 foot lead.

 

First we’re off to James Bond’s back garden, Skyfall, the home of James Bond. Standing on the spot of the single track road where Bond gets out of the car to look down the moody and misty valley at Glen Etive. It’s like I was born for the part, I always knew it, I swear I can hear the theme tune. I’m just like James Bond but without the suave, sophistication and devastating good looks. He probably also doesn’t drive a Kia Sportage either.

It’s stunning and beautifully quiet, apart from the odd few James Bond wannabes and canoeists on the river. Towering peaks, waterfalls, gloriously green valley, its no wonder its been used for many film locations including Highlander and Braveheart (a film which no doubt is a significant factor for some recent Scottish nationalism despite it being wildly historically inaccurate).

 

Glencoe
Glencoe

Glencoe has many beautiful mountains and waterfalls, with these stunning towering peaks forming 470 million years ago by colliding continents and volcanic eruptions lifting theses giant rocks up. Filled by giant ice sheets during the last Ice Age, the moving ice gouged out the U shaped glen we see today from Buachaille Etive, the Three Sisters to Meall Mor.

 

An Torr Glencoe
An Torr Glencoe

Glencoe is known by most for its story of bloody murder under trust in 1692. Captain Robert Campbell had marched 130 troops to Glencoe and had them quartered and entertained there for 10 days by the local MacDonalds. At 5am on the morning of 13th February, 38 men, women and children from clan MacDonald were then brutally slaughtered in cold blood by those same troops carrying out government orders. Another 40 women and children fled to the mountains and died of exposure.

The Glencoe Massacre as it became to be know and inspiration for George RR Martin’s Game of Throne Red Wedding chapter. Brutal. Like today’s weather.

 

We’ve loved Scotland, we’ll be coming back.

Related:

The High Road to the Highlands – Scotland Road Trip Part 1

Loch Ness and Beyond – Scotland Road Trip Part 2

Glenfinnan to Morar – Scotland Road Trip Part 3

The Road to Skye – Scotland Road Trip Part 4

Glencoe – James Bond’s Back Garden – Scotland Road Trip Part 5

Another day in our Scotland road trip and this time we make for the road to Skye, and we’re accompanied by a fine Scotch mist. This is significantly better than be being accompanied by a squad of suicide Scottish midges. Never underestimate the power of the midges, all females with teeth, taking a bite. It’s like a coordinated attack, a real flymare. Either get a decent tube of midge spray or at least wear enough aftershave to drown a household pet.  Though it’s just occurred that the haze of chemicals we’re wearing could be causing the mist….still, we’re off to Skye, dinosaur hunting (cue Jurassic Park theme tune) with a few stops in-between.

 

Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle

Today’s journey on the road to Skye takes us past the Battle of Glenshiel (1719) where the Jacobite army of clansmen and Spanish fought and lost in this battle.  They chose this spot on the hilltops with hasty fortified positions on either side of the gorge from which to fight with musket and swords after marching 12 miles from Eilean Donan Castle. Although the Jacobites had the advantage of a natural choke point, Government forces fired mortars as soon as they were in range which exploded into the Jacobite troops with government soldiers then storming the Jacobite positions to which they fled. This was the last close engagement of British and foreign troops in Great Britain.

 

Eileen Donan Castle sits at the meeting point of Lochs Alsh, Long and Duich on a little island of its own that is connected to the shore by a stone bridge. Built in the 13th century, the castle was blown up in 1719, first being bombarded by cannon that had little effect but then being blown up by big barrels of gunpowder left behind after previous occupiers were overwhelmed by force. The castle was rebuilt in 1932 and is these days bombarded by film crews (Highlander and The World is Not Enough), camera flash and overwhelmed with visitors, and all of them appear to be following us on the road to Skye.

 

The drive to Skye and its major town of Portree has taken 3 hours and we were hoping to be rewarded with stunning views so we head to the Trotternish ridge to see the Old Man of Storr, the highest point on the Trotternish ridge at 719 metres high.  Extreme dog walking indeed, we decide to take a closer look, along with hundreds of other on this mountain, and climb the path up to get a better view. Except it didn’t get any better, we stood right next to it and still didn’t see it, thanks to the thickest mist, rain and midge infested place I’ve ever been.  It makes for some very underwhelming summer photos as you can see (or not see…). The footpath to the Old Man of Storr is allegedly 1km in length and rises 250 metres in height with the footpath being described as ‘strenuous’ by the information sign. What the sign doesn’t say is ‘It’s steeper than you think’ and ‘Good Luck.’ I’ve had motorbike accidents that were kinder on my knees than this climb. All this for something we couldn’t see. I can only imagine that the $120m budget for Prometheus and its opening scene filmed here was spent on waiting for the weather to clear.

 

Sam and Nelson examine dinosaur footprints at Staffin
Sam and Nelson examine dinosaur footprints at Staffin

We’re on holiday so we’re not going to let a little bit of weather stop us from having some fun. So for this we head off to Staffin, the dinosaur stomping ground of Scotland. Staffin was the name given by the Vikings and means ‘the place of pillars’ and refers to the menacing basalt columns that form the cliffs with great examples of these at Kilt Rock. Kilt Rock is so names because it’s supposed to resemble a kilt with the basalt columns forming the pleats. Mealt Waterfall between the viewpoint and Kilt Rock, falls 60 metres into the Sound of Raasay below.

Staffin has an impressive collection of dinosaur remains that have been found in the Jurassic rocks of the coast and we’re off to hunt for the giant footprint of carnivorous dinosaur on the beach at An Corran. So on a very wet and misty day at An Corran, on a very wet and slippy seaweed beach, we search for the beastly footprints to geek out and imagine that 175 million years ago, these fearsome beasts once walked where we now stand. Sam thinks she’s found them, it’s not that easy to tell and we’re not quite convinced, it’s very wet, very rainy and very much covered with seaweed. There’s no need to feel guilty about this. The in situ footprints were only discovered in 2002, they’ve done a perfectly reasonable job of being missed by people all this time as Dugald at the Staffin Museum at Ellishadder tells me.  If like me, you like dinosaurs, and like me you are an old dinosaur, the Staffin museum, contained in a traditional stone building with no electricity, is a great little place for fossils and other bits of Skye life.

Tomorrow, we are off on a tale of bloody murder at Glencoe.

Related:

The High Road to the Highlands – Scotland Road Trip Part 1

Loch Ness and Beyond – Scotland Road Trip Part 2

Glenfinnan to Morar – Scotland Road Trip Part 3

The Road to Skye – Scotland Road Trip Part 4

Glencoe – James Bond’s Back Garden – Scotland Road Trip Part 5

After the disappointment of Loch Ness, this time we’re heading to west Scotland’s spectacular scenery of Loch Shiel and Glenfinnan to the silver sands of Morar away from screaming sirens of society.  This is after all, a digital detox away from the madness of mankind. At least we were hoping it would be but that was cruelly swept aside when we reached Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel. Easily visible by the hoards of tourists lined up. For some, Glenfinnan might invoke the film Highlander with our protagonist: “I am Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. I was born in 1518 in the village of Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel. And I am immortal”

Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel
Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel

Well, I doubt he’d stay immortal for long these days, that’s a murderous road that cuts through Glenfinnan, one that tourists have to cross to see the Glenfinnan Monument on the shores of Loch Shiel. Most people will be here for the historical site.  This is where Prince Charles Edward Stuart or Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender, rallied his forces and raised his battle standard signalling the beginning of the Jacobite Uprising in 1745. He made a march to London getting as far as Derby (if you’ve been to Derby you’d understand why he turned back, we live 9 miles away and never go there – apart from the excellent Derby Museum) before turning back to Scotland and a final disastrous defeat at the Battle of Culloden. Forget any romantic visions of dying in glory with cannon shot, musket and bayonet cutting down nearly 2000 Highlanders.

Not so Bonnie Prince Charlie then fled, eventually dying in Rome. The Glenfinnan Monument marks the spot where he raised his standard with a column of a Highland clansman in full battle dress. A walk past the visitor centre up the hill marks a great photo capture and a glimpse of the Glenfinnan Viaduct where the Jacobite Steam Train, or Hogwarts Express for Harry Potter fans, makes it way into the moody west highland countryside.

 

McDog executes a perfect Highland fling at Camusdarach beach at Morar
McDog executes a perfect Highland fling at Camusdarach beach at Morar

Past Glenfinnan feels very much a different part of Scotland, more remote, more relaxing and certainly less people. A superb coast of stunning silver sands and see through seas on the alternative coastal route from Arisaig to Morar.  First up is Traigh beach.  It is deserted with alcoves of pristine private beaches and the perfect opportunity to try out DogCam. Despite what you might be thinking about a couple walking their dog in a deserted spot with a few visitors passing by, this is actually a Go Pro strapped to McDog’s back as he scrabbles in the sand, snorts seaweed and slogs over seashells.  The silver sands of Morar beach are world famous and none more so than the stretch of sand at Camusdarach where the beach scenes for Local Hero and Highlander were filmed. The coastline from Glenfinnan to Morar is a great unspoiled spot and should be on your list of must see in Scotland.

 

Related:

The High Road to the Highlands – Scotland Road Trip Part 1

Loch Ness and Beyond – Scotland Road Trip Part 2

Glenfinnan to Morar – Scotland Road Trip Part 3

The Road to Skye – Scotland Road Trip Part 4

Glencoe – James Bond’s Back Garden – Scotland Road Trip Part 5

The Great Glen is a huge geological fault, not nearly as many faults as me as my wife likes to point out, that cuts diagonally across the highlands 62 miles long with shadow of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak dominating nearby Fort William in the south. Today though we are heading a little further north and extreme dog walking/monster hunting towards the largest body of water in the Great Glen fault, its most famous place and resident, Loch Ness and home of the legendary mythical monster Nessie.

 

Castle Urquhart overlooking Loch Ness
Castle Urquhart overlooking Loch Ness

Following the A82, we pass the Well of Seven Heads, another gruesome episode in clan warfare which is the story of the murder of two sons of the 12th Chief of Keppoch by seven of their kinsmen in 1663, and of revenge killings two years later. Allegedly, the heads of the murderers were washed in the spring on the site and then presented to the Chief of the Glengarry MacDonnells. It’s a lovely spot, if a little busy on this main road, with views over Loch Oich on the way to Loch Ness.

Loch Ness is no doubt the most monstrous tourist PR stunt in history. It is the ultimate tourist trap with 23 miles of deep water from Fort Augustus at the southern tip, Castle Urquhart in-between and Lochend at the northern end towards Inverness with plenty of space to pull in the punters. It looks cold, grey, murky and a hell of a lot of water. Deep enough at 755ft to hide all sorts, dead bodies, probably mine at this rate, and allegedly Nessie the Loch Ness Monster. We sloshed about a bit on the shore with Nelson tentatively dipping a paw in before sniffing and giving up on his monster hunt. Trust me, that dog has the ability to find anything unusual.

The only monsters we saw were the tourists and what dreadful beasts they were too but not nearly as beastly as the tatty tourist attractions, clearly designed to rob all the charm out of the place, Castle Urquhart doing its best rob all your money out of you. While Castle Urquhart saw much conflict passing between the English and the Scots during the Wars of Independence, today, the conflict is all in the car park with legions queuing up to try and spot the beast from the scenic setting over Loch Ness. In all honesty, it’s a little underwhelming, there isn’t that much to see on the west side of Loch Ness.

 

Corrimony Cairn
Corrimony Cairn

Figuring that Nessie is non-existent or long dead, we head off to another site of the long dead at the Corrimony Cairn. This is a chambered tomb known as a ‘passage grave’ and if I take my wife to any more of these locations, I’m pretty sure I’ll end up being a resident of one, this isn’t the nerdy neolithic monster megalithic monument tour of last year. Built around 4000 years ago, this domed chamber looks pretty impressive work with careful construction leading to fantastic preservation today. The chamber is aligned south-west for a midwinter sunset common with other ‘Clava’ passage graves. The mound is built from small stones gathered around a central chamber with a still intact passage chamber that you can climb through on hand and knees. There is a large capstone with cup-marks that would have formed part of the roof. Eleven standing stones circle Corrimony Cairn. Excavations in 1952 revealed the evidence of a single burial, probably of a woman but the remains had deteriorated in the acidic soil leaving only a dark stain.

 

On the way back we stop by Invermoriston Falls, a small and pretty village that forms part of the walking route of the Great Glen Way. The River Moriston, River of Waterfalls, winds its way to Loch Ness through a woodland of mature scots pines and carpet moss on every tree with McDog (Lord Nelson) wanting to pee on every one of them . There are some great views and steep drops along the way with waterfalls and rushing water making for a tranquil walk. It’s certainly more tranquil than what our Scotland Road Trip has in store for us tomorrow.

Invermoriston Falls
Invermoriston Falls

Related:

The High Road to the Highlands – Scotland Road Trip Part 1

Loch Ness and Beyond – Scotland Road Trip Part 2

Glenfinnan to Morar – Scotland Road Trip Part 3

The Road to Skye – Scotland Road Trip Part 4

Glencoe – James Bond’s Back Garden – Scotland Road Trip Part 5

We’re north of the wall, one built by the Romans to keep the buckfast binging, bagpipe bashing, tartan totting, kilted claymore wielding clansmen and painted Picts at bay. This is the wild frontier of “auld enemy”, visiting our geographic Celt cousins and waving to the half-naked highlanders in the rugged highlands, luscious lochs and gorgeous glens, we’re taking the high road to the highlands on holiday in Scotland and another saga in our UK and World Tour. We’ve based ourselves at Bunroy at Roybridge in Lochaber, living in a lodge where the River Roy and River Spean meet and the perfect place to be based to while away our time to the wilderness from Skyfall to Skye, the West Highlands and the Great Glen.

The Ice Ages landscape of The Parallel Roads of Glen Roy
The Ice Ages landscape of The Parallel Roads of Glen Roy

To get to the here, we’ve taken the scenic route, in reality the motorway, and there’s been some arguing along the way on which road to take…cue spontaneous singing in a thick Scottish accent “Ohhhhh, ye’ll tak’ the high road, and I’ll tak’ the low road and I’ll be in Scotland before yeeeee.” I’d best be careful though, my wife is giving me some murderous looks from arguing and I’m nervous that her ancient lineage of Scottish ancestry (surname Fyfe of the Macduff clan) might start stirring and she’s mulling over the murder of this slow Sassenach. It wasn’t helped when I accidentally tuned into BBC Gael with the car suddenly sounding like we’re extras in Rob Roy film, I involuntary threw my haggis crisps on the floor and started doing a highland fling around them. Lord Nelson, or McDog as we are calling him on this road trip, just looked on puzzled, salivating at haggis crisps within sniffing distance.

 

Its taken 7 hours to get and we’re keen to use the remainder of the light and investigate the local area. We head to the Parallel Roads of Glen Roy, a world-famous landscape formed in the last Ice Age with historical importance which developed ideas for the role of glaciation in the evolution of the landscape of northern Europe.  Not really parallel roads but horizontal ridges of ancient shorelines of a huge loch, lochterraces, held by a glacial dam that filled Glen Roy 12000 years ago in the last Ice Age. The shorelines are at heights of 260m,  325m and 350m.  20,000 years ago the landscape of Lochaber was covered with an ice cap 1km thick with the last glaciers leaving Lochaber 10,500 years ago. This is exactly the kind of geological geekiness I drag Clan Cook to come and see and exactly they type that will drag me back here in the future. You can find more information at www.lochabergeopark.org.uk. The Scottish Highlands know hot make an impact.

 

Following this same road back, we pass by a cairn that marks the Battle of Mulroy that took place in 1688 and the last inter clan battle fought in Scotland. Fought between highlanders from MacDonalds of Keppoch (MacDonells) defeating the much more numerous Mackintoshs. The two sides met at Maol Ruadh with the Macdonalds on the high ground executing a classic highland charge down the slope towards the Mackintoshs, firing a volley, charging with drawn swords and Lochaber axes down towards the Mackintoshes where the two sides battled bitterly for an hour. A soldier from the Mackintosh side, Donald Macblane, immortalised the exploits at Mulroy when he wrote:

“The McDonalds came down the hill upon us without either shoe, stocking, or bonnet on their head, they gave a shout, and then the fire began on both sides, and continued a hot dispute for an hour; then they brok in upon us with sword and target, and Lochaber axes, which obliged us to give way, seeing my captain sore wounded, and a great many more with heads lying cloven on every side, I was sadly affrighted, never having seen the like before, a Highlander attacked me with sword and targe, and cut mt wouden handled bayonet out of the muzel of my gun; I then clubbed my gun and gave him a stroke with it, which made the butt-end to fly off; seeing the Highland men to come fast upon me, I took to my heels and run thirty miles before I looked behind me, every person I saw or met, I took for my enemy.”

This chap then went to fight on at Killercrankie, running away again. Clearly we’ve chosen the right area for some action, this is an important historical battle site and I’d be dying to drag a metal detector around if I had one, but I’m just hoping we don’t get a Glaswegian kiss from the locals, which is quite possibly what will happen if I keep on stereotyping.

 

Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge
Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge

The Commando memorial at Spean Bridge is dedicated to the memory of all Commandos who gave their lives during World War II and at the most appropriate spot as this country was their training ground while based at Achnacarry. It looks out over the mountains of The Grey Corries to the left made of quartzite and The Ben Nevis Range to the right, which is the remains of a Devonian volcano. The footpath behind us and to the right leads to High Bridge, the site where the first shots were fired in the 1745 Jacobite Uprising.

 

glenroy

 

With light fading we head to Inverlochy Castle at Fort William. Built in 1280 by John Comyn, the castle had a strategic southern entrance to The Great Glen and controlled the River Lochy. It’s the site of 3 battles including one naval engagement and with its 10 metre high angled walls and deep moat attracted many Victorian tourists to its once romantic ruins. Queen Victoria visited here in 1873 but was left unimpressed “there is little left to see” she complained.  She’s right and like us, we are not amused.  There are better places to be on our road trip. Tomorrow there’ll be a full day of taking the high road to Scottish Highlands…

Related:

The High Road to the Highlands – Scotland Road Trip Part 1

Loch Ness and Beyond – Scotland Road Trip Part 2

Glenfinnan to Morar – Scotland Road Trip Part 3

The Road to Skye – Scotland Road Trip Part 4

Glencoe – James Bond’s Back Garden – Scotland Road Trip Part 5

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