It’s been a busy few days…
On Tuesday afternoon, I bongoed down to Bridge of Orchy. Glen Coe lived up to its reputation: steady rain, poor visibility and – no doubt – murderous Campbells behind every rock. The weather forecast looked to be unduly optimistic. I parked in what I think was a public – as opposed to privately-owned – car park next to the Bridge of Orchy hotel. The weather improved a bit, the rain stopped and I fired up the barbecue, eating olive-based tapas as my burgers and onions cooked. Untypically, it didn’t occur to me to go into the bar. Eventually, with the roof up and the Barbie burnt down safely I retired to bed.
The night passed uneventfully, only broken by the sound of passing traffic and showers of rain.
The morning broke with more promising weather and crowds of early-rising West Highland Way walkers leaving the hotel. I drove back a couple of miles and parked in a large area kindly provided by the Black Mount Estate or the farmer specifically for the purpose. It was at this point, following a sign that read “path to the hills”, that I discovered that “path” is the local word for “quagmire”.
My goals today were Beinn Achalader (not “cavalcade” as predictive text keeps insisting) and Beinn a’ Chreachain, with the possibility of Beinn an Dothaidh as an appetizer (see blue route).
When I reached the bealach to the south of Beinn Achalader, I decided to give my appetizer a miss and go straight to the main course. By now, though still chilly on the tops, the weather was improving. Nevertheless, the pattern for the day had become evident: feel a bit cold, so put on a layer; get hot and sweaty so take a layer off. Repeat ad infinitum.
On the top of Beinn Achalader, I met a pleasant young chap and we blethered for a few minutes. He had parked in the same car park I had used, but was convinced his had been the only vehicle, which left me slightly concerned. Though it’s unlikely someone would drive up a side-road off the A82 to an obscure parking place in order to steal a less than youthful Bongo, I didn’t fancy discovering it had actually happened.
All in all it was very enjoyable: there’s still a bit of snow around, especially in the NE facing corries, but even lying in patches on the more level areas. The midges are still dreaming of blood-baths to come and after removing one tick after a previous walk, I’ve not yet seen any more. However, the ground is very wet in many places. No doubt a combination of some recent heavy rain and the continuing snow-melt.
I began to regret not having gone up Beinn an Dothaidh as it would now have to be included on the second day’s walk. On the other hand, it would leave more time to try out the beer in the Bridge of Orchy Hotel…
I found the Bongo exactly where I’d left it, with one other car parked right beside it!
The BofO Hotel was hotching when I got back to my overnight carpark: WHW walkers were arriving in droves and I had the misfortune to get stuck at the bar behind an upmarket woman who seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time pondering exactly which white wine she’d have, whether she wanted ice, whether that bottle of water should be sparkling, did they have grenadine etc. etc. I quickly settled for a pint of Harviestoun’s Schiehallion and sat in a corner watching the world go by. This then developed into having a second pint, this time of Harviestoun’s Broken Dial, which I had never tried before, but which I took an instant liking to and I thoroughly recommend. I think I did very well not to have another.
Tonight would have been a better choice for the barbecue, but although I had more barby-food available, I’d no more charcoal. So I had to settle for heating up some home-made stew on the gas cooker in the van.
Day two dawned rather grey and unappealing. I was up and ready to start walking about 7:00am. The reason for this promptitude was that I had an engagement in Inverness at 18:00 and I wanted to be home in time for a shower.
I started up the red route which was quite a good, though bouldery, path. Even here there were large areas of bog in which the unwary could easily sink to some depth. Eventually, a steep pull took me up to the bealach, marked on the map as being 744m high. Now of course I had to do Beinn an Dothaidh as well, having wimped out the previous day. The cloud was low and the wind briskly snell, so it wasn’t a day to hang about. The ascent of BanD was uneventful but with a fairly featureless ascent and low cloud I was glad of the gps to confirm my navigation. When I reached the top, there was absolutely no view and the grass was frosted as the cloud had condensed and frozen on it. I was reminded of a colleague who use to give out the punishment of writing an essay entitled “Life inside a ping-pong ball”.
I got back to the bealach as soon as I could and started up Beinn Dorain. There was another guy on the hill, but we didn’t bump into each other at the start. Eventually I reached a large cairn and stood in the cloud for a moment, wondering what had driven some idiots to build another large cairn about 20 yards away on what was clearly a lower point. The other chap hove into view and I made such an observation to him. He looked at me for a moment and then commented that this cairn was also in the wrong place and the summit was actually another 400 yards or so further on. I later noted that my book warned of this distractor and commented that many had been fooled into making the same mistake. I was lucky I met my fellow-walker when I did. Anyway, when finally at the real top, he sat down to lunch but I decided to push off back immediately as it was cold, windy and damp with more frosted grass and no view. Ten minutes later, I looked back over my shoulder to see the cloud had lifted from the top and there would have been a good view. Such is life.
The weather picked up from there on and by the time I arrived back at BofO, the sun was out with early arrivals from the WHW sitting in shorts and tee shirts supping pints and all was well with their world.
The journey back to Inverness was slower than it had any right to be: traffic controls at roadworks, the beginnings of the caravan invasion, slow lorries… You name it. Glenurquhart Road was so jam-packed that Radio Scotland were warning about it. I got home just in time for my 6:00pm meeting.
Friday, Sonia and I took Megabus (or should I say it took us?) down to Edinburgh to attend the Saturday wedding of Lynda Graham to “Titi” Le Tessier. In fact they got married in Grenoble a few months back, but decided to have a ceremony over here as well. Lynda was head girl in the IRA some years back and we’re friendly with her Mum and Dad. It was a good do, full of kilted Frenchmen who started off looking self-conscious, but were quite relaxed about their dress later in the evening. We got back on Sunday. This time, the bus-driver knew the way and didn’t end up taking us via Aberdeen, so that was good.
One of the things we did in Edinburgh was visit the Scottish National Portrait Gallery: one of our favourite haunts in the capital. We are always struck by Ken Currie’s “Three Oncologists” which you can look at here: https://www.nationalgalleries.org/media/42/collection/2012AA01538.jpg There was also a very moving exhibition based on the First World War.
Serendipity is alive and well as we found, by chance, two pretty good places to eat. Pomegranate is an East Mediterranean restaurant near the top of Leith Walk, opposite the Playhouse. Good food and – amazingly – take your own wine with no corkage charge! There’s a Tesco with a reasonable wine section just round the corner! The other place was Chez Jules in Hanover St. It was typically French: plain tables, paper napkins etc. but pretty good food. I started with cuisses de grenouille et escargots: the first time I’d tried either. Can’t say I was terribly impressed. We both quite enjoyed our scallops. However, it was very noisy: diners packed in a bit like sardines and few soft furnishings resulted in a real hubbub. As there were just two of, we could converse and hear each other well enough, but with four it might have been impossible. Mind you, it was Saturday night. I said two pretty good places to eat, but that’s unfair as probably the best meal was in the Portrait Gallery’s cafe at lunchtime. Good imaginative food well presented by pleasant staff in a busy though stylish ambience. And some brilliant baking! What’s not to like?