Expo and Travel - Scotland

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16th June

11 of us left at 6 in the morning, which considering England beat Denmark 3-0 in the 2nd round of the world cup on Saturday, and considering lots of beer was had, it was far too early! We picked up Sam from Weston Super-mare and Rachel and Sarah from a service station outside Birmingham, where we were able to watch Senegal’s golden goal against Sweden. We stopped in the Lake District for an hour, and listened to Ireland losing to Spain on penalties when we left. Another hour and we were in Scotland, however almost ran out of fuel before there, as there are a lack of service stations the higher up you travel in England. After a trip through Glasgow, and along Loch Lomond, we were in the Highlands. We arrived at the campsite in Glencoe, the Red Squirrel about to 6, nearly 12 hours in a bus!

In the service station waiting for Rachel and Sarah

Just set up camp at the Red Squirell. This was just before the midges found us!!

Camp again!

We set up camp, with the two frame tents in the middle, one acting as a mess tent, and realised that even though the campsite was pleasant, the ground was a bit boggy in places and there were a lot of midges. The fact that we were between 2 rivers and in a little wood didn’t help this. When everything was set up, we cooked a meal and walked up to the Crainlarich Inn, mile up the road. They had some Scottish folk playing, a group called the Band of Gypsies, which was quite good and it was a real ale pub. There was also a pool table that was very long. After being beaten by the locals a few times, we realised we needed more practise on this table, as it was hard to get used to. We also asked about the possibility of watching the England game at 7:30 on Friday morning, but the pub had no TV. The pub shut at 11, and we walked home, in the light, which was very odd.

All the group in Glencoe Village.

The opposite view!

The main square in Fort William

Monday 17th June

Next morning, we were up around 8ish, Andy and Conor cooked breakfast. We then drove down to Glencoe village and had a little walk around, but there was nothing there, so it was off to Fort William, about 20 minutes away. It was a pleasant little town, full of bed and breakfast places and hotels. We wandered around some kit shops, found a pub showing the football, and watched the Brazil v Belgium game in another pub to pass some time. They had streamers of all the world cup nations, but the England flags had been ripped off, now how bitter is that. I bought a newspaper to see how the England team were being portrayed in Scotland, to find out that there was a lot of positive press, especially about Rio Ferdinand. One shop assistant actually told us that there would be a lot of people supporting England really, just not admitting it!

Looking down Fort William high street.

A pub showing all the world cup colours except 1! (Guess which one!)

Dave and James watching Brazil V Belgium, to see who would play England.

We then tried to find a launderette to dry some clothes off, however there was a great lack of them in the area. The only one people pointed us to was in a hotel 3 miles out of town. We went down there, and started messing around by the side of the loch. Andy threw the ball in the water, and for some reason let Robyn go into the loch and get it. This was a bad move, as she cut her foot on a rock. Byron then threw the ball in and had to go in fully clothed and get it!!

We stopped off at the only launderette in the area, (in a hotel) and passed the time by the loch!

The other direction of the loch!

Andy threw the ball in, and Robyn went to get it!

We stopped off in a kit shop and craft shop in Glencoe on the way back. I was amazed to find that all the Celtic Jewelry they were selling was actually from Cornwall! We stopped about an hour, then stopped in the visitor centre to get a weather report. It claimed it was going to be damp tomorow, but sunny the rest of the week! It was then back to the campsite for another expo meal, then off up to the pub again, which was quite dull, as there was no music

The North end of the loch.

Andy is feeling guilty as Robyn cut her foot.

Ben Nevis from Neptunes steps, a series of locks on a canal.

Tuesday 18th June

Up early again, and we were of Mountain biking. We hired bikes in Fort William, and set out to the far side of the town, where we would join the Caledonian Canal and cycle up it. We however took the wrong side of the canal (I’m not saying who was navigating, but its awkward on a bike!!). We cycled up past a series of locks known as Neptune’s Steps, and along the bank for 20 minutes, before the path ran out. We had to backtrack, and found a tunnel going under the canal, where we could cross. It was very wet and dark, but we all crossed safely. We then followed the path to Gairlochy, about 9km away. The journey was getting wetter and wetter as the wind and the rain came in, and on arrival, we were very wet and cold. We had a 3 mile journey to Spean Bridge, along the road, which had a long hill in it, which killed off everybody apart from a small group of us. We arrived at the top, where the massive Commando memorial is situated and carried on down to the town, as it was pointless waiting in the cold and wet for everyone else. We stopped at a Spar shop, and waited for everyone to come, which took around 40 minutes.

We all went Mountain biking, 24 miles along a canal and back trhough a forest.

The half way break at Spean Bridge. It was very bad weather, which had stopped by then.

Back safely at the bike shop.

We stared off back to Fort William, which would take us through the Leanachan Forest. When we arrived at the turning, we were told to wait as Robyn had had a puncture, and Dave, Andy and Conor were fixing it. We waited under a railway bridge for around 15 minutes, and set off through the forest, which was a very pleasant ride. Robyn rode up next to me and asked if I had heard about her puncture, at which time a hissing appeared from my back wheel, and the whole tyre had gone down. Lee fixed it, and noticed that the tyre was ripped, so had to perform a makeshift solution, which may or may not have made it back. We carried on through the forest, crossing the main road and ending up in Torlundy. It was then a few miles along the A82 back to Fort William. It was a good day, and by the time we arrived back the weather had cleared. It was then back to the campsite, for another meal, and a campfire, which took some time to get going. Marshmallows were toasted, and then it started to rain, putting the fire out, so most people went to bed early as we had cycled over 24 miles that day, in terrible conditions!

We had to have a camp fire!

Cooking Marshmallows

Another fire shot.

Wednesday 19th June

It was absolutely pouring down and had been all night, how so wrong that weather report was, and we found out that every weather report was the same, wet tomorrow, dry and sunny the days after, a ploy to get people to stay around? The campsite was a bog and it was unpractical to do anything outdoors. We had a look through some leaflets we had, and decided that the Lochaber Lesuire centre in Forth William was our best option first thing. It had a swimming pool, bouldering wall, sauna, steam room, squash courts and a gym. Expo got everyone tickets for everything, after Conor negotiated a deal to reduce the price from 6 to 5 per person. The bouldering wall was good, not too high and protected by crash mats. I got tired after 40 minutes or so, and went to the pool where there was a large 3m water slide. The pool was empty, as you’d expect, and we had a good swim. Then the Sauna and steam room beckoned, which were both really hot, the steam room having Eucalyptus in the steam and a twinkling ceiling. Everyone was very relaxed, dry and clean after this, and we were all in good spirits, so it was time to see how spirits are made.

It was just about to rain!!

Climbing wall in Fort William.

I need a better flash!

We went to the “Dew of Ben Nevis “ distillery, which cost 2 to get in, and was one of the best distilleries in Scotland. It had won gold medals at some awards for the last 5 years. It was also the only distillery that photos are allowed!, and run by only 8 people. We saw all the processes of making whiskey, from the beer making to the distilling of this beer to wine, then spirits. After we saw all the processes, (they were not actually making any Whisky at the time, as it was a dry period for maintenance), we went to the testing room, where we each got given a dram, some had more than others, and Byron had none as he elected to drive.

Lee Scaling the wall.

We went to the Dew of Ben Nevis distillery!

The beer making stage!

The distillers

This is where the whisky is made

The storage of the Whisky

It was off to Safeway to buy more food, (we would only buy food for 2 days as it would go off, and storage wasn’t easy), then to the launderette which had a queue, so we skipped. After another nice evening meal, it was 70s night, a bit more of a damp affair than had been originally planned, so we just dressed up and went to the pub. Conor and Sam went the whole hog, wearing afro wigs and groovy clothes! The band of gypsies was playing again, which was not really apt for a 70s night, but what can you do. A few of us played pool against a friendly guy from Glasgow, who beat us all, and we all then sat around drinking, until Conor and Sam got up and danced in the middle of the pub!! (with Robyn, Alana and Lisa).

The tasting session afterwards!

for some reason we had a 70s night, where we went to the pub in 70s clothes.

About to climb to the hidden valley.

Thursday 20th June

It was dry this morning for a change. So we were going to do a walk to the lost valley in Glen Coe. It was only about 10mins drive away to the start, which made a change. Where we parked was a filming location for Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Braveheart and Highlander. The hidden valley was a valley which started at around 450 metres above sea level. In ancient times, the McDonalds used to hide any cattle they had stolen there, and it was perfect for that. We split up into 2 groups, a fast and a slow one. I stared off in the fast one, but migrated to the slow one with Robyn and Lisa, as I wanted to stop and take photos along the way.

The view from the botom of the walk.

Another view, incidentally, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Higlander was filmed here.

A waterfall on the way to the valley.

The initial climb was steep, but it then carried on at a leisurely pace through a nice wooded valley next to a river. We came to a fork, and the map showed we go up a scree slope, even though other people were going the other way. About of the way up the slope it was getting very tough and the path was hard to follow. We radioed Conor and he said they went the other way, so we descended and crossed the river. We had lunch on the other side, then proceeded up to the valley, only 15 minutes away. It was a wide open valley, and we radioed Conor, who was leading his group up the ridge on the end. We had lost too much time to follow, so wandered around the bottom, not staying too long in one place, as the midges would attack.

   

The hidden valley itself.

In the valley.

A waterfall in the valley.

We descended via a different route which was tougher and sat on a midge free hill waiting for the other group, who only took 40 minutes to reach us. We then went back to the site, where some went to another campsite and used their launderette sneakily, and bought some food. We had no meat and couldn’t get hold of anyone in the van, so they had to go again when they returned! After the meal, everyone just pottered about by the river, avoiding midges, and enjoying a rare piece of sunshine. We all went to bed early as tomorrow was an early morning!

The valley looking south

We went the wrong way and climbed 2/3 the way up this scree slope.

Another shot from the bottom. Highlander and holy grail locations.

Friday 21st June

We got up at 6:30 and Conor drove Me, Alana, Andy, Dave, Gemma, James, Lee, Lisa, Rachel and Robyn to the Crofter pub in Fort William to watch England v Brazil. None of us drank, and most of the pub were supporting Brazil, (babies). Brazil won 2-1 after England took the lead, freak winning goal. The Scots asked all the English to leave, to which Andy replied, “where are Scotland then?” Silence. We left.

Midsummers day 2002

200 metres from the top of Ben Nevis.

Yes that is snow.

Conor was an hour late picking us up, and we drove to the foot of Ben Nevis. It was dry and sunny at the bottom, and we were split into 2 groups, Me, Andy, Dave, James, Lee and Sam in the fast group who were going to walk up, and over. The walk starts at 30m above sea level and climbs to 1,344 metres so is quite demanding. The rest would be scrambling up. We started up a gentle slope, which got steeper and rockier, and had to take jackets off as it was so warm. After an hour we were at the pass, and had to cross over to the Ben Nevis massive itself. The weather started to close in and visibility was very poor. You could only see the rocky path beneath you, which zig zagged up the mountain. It wasn’t an interesting walk, as you couldn’t see any scenery, but it was demanding. About 20 minutes from the summit we came across snow, which considering it was the longest day, was unusual. We summitted after 3 hours 10 minutes, and hung around at the boring top for 15 minutes or so. There were a few huts, a war memorial, and some scrounging sheep at the top, but you couldn’t see much else, so we went back down, foregoing the traverse we had planned.

Andy on the top.

The huts on top.

Looking down from the trig point.

The weather started clearing on the way down, and 45 minutes later we bumped into the other group who had given up on their scramble due to the weather and were just using the same route as us. The weather looked better for them, however it turned out not to be. We descended in just under 2 hours, meeting many people doing the 3 peak challenge on the way up. They had to do Ben Nevis, Scaefell Pike and Snowdon in 24 hours, a tough task.

The highest war memorial.

Me on top!

The view from 1100 metres.

We arrived back down at 5, and took the bus back to camp, as the others would not be down for a few hours. James had to pack as he was catching the 7:00 bus to Reading. Me Andy and James returned to Fort William, dropped James off, and met the rest in a cafe. Conor was being coy about the evening meal, and after we went shopping, we found out why, we were all having fish and chips, which meant no cooking or washing up. It had been a long day, and a few people wandered up to the pub, but the majority stayed in the mess tent, with beer and wine, for an early night.

We met up with the other group while we were descending and they were climbing.

The summit from the ridge looking up!, it can't be seen.

Ben Nevis from the very bottom,

Saturday 22nd June

Water sports day! We went down to Ballaclulish and hired some boats from the water sports centre, 2 single man kayaks, a 2 man Kayak, 2 sailing dingies, a pedalo, and a motor boat. The weather started off nice and was pleasant. Myself and Lee had the single kayaks, and rowed around the islands on the loch. We all swapped boats a lot, using the motor boat as a ferry, I didn’t sail, which was a good job as the weather turned and several capsizes occurred. Conor and Alana went in, though Conor climbed on top and kept dry, then Andy went in badly and cut himself. We went back inshore to dry Alana off, and I got out to take photos. Everyone started coming in, we had had nearly 3 hours and the pedalo was now unusable due to the high winds.

We had a day sailing and Kayaking, Gemma, Robyn and Sam, geting out.

Rachel is canoeing in!

Dave Saling back in.

We were allowed to use the showers in the hotel, which also had a sauna. I talked to the guy who had rented us the boats, an ex-marine who knew Plymouth well! We then headed off for Castle Stalker, some 10 miles down the road, though I did say it was only 5 so they would happily go!! I had seen a picture of it and recognised it as the castle from the BC balloon ad, and the end of the Holy Grail. When we got there, there were little viewpoints, so we stopped, got out and took some pictures. Dave put doubt in my mind whether it was the right castle, ad he said there were loads like it in Scotland, however when I got back I checked and it was!

Andy being towed in, in the very slow pedalo!

Looking towards glencoe.

Looking towards Ballaclulish.

We stopped off at the cafe in Glencoe on the way back, as the boat hire guys had given us 10% off vouchers. It was also a bookshop and sold loads of quirky little books. We then went to Kinlochleven for the first time. It was 7 miles up the valley on an awful road. A few of us walked to the Grey mares Waterfall, which was impressive, had a laugh at the silliest museum in the world, “The Aluminium Story” which was housed in the corner of the worlds smallest public library. We then met the rest who were in the Antler pub, playing cards and pool. We also saw that they sold Buckfast, an expo and travel staple in the local co-op. We left at 6:30 and I drove as I hadn’t been drinking.

The pap of glencoe

The Islands on the loch. One is a burial ground for old Clan leaders.

Castle Stalker, 10 miles south of Glencoe. it was used in the holy grail at the end!

In the evening, we had the normal meal, and then walked to the pub. That night the pub was selling Scots Pine, a nice real ale, which even though it was 6%, you could drink like water. Robyn tried some and liked it. I got talking to some Scottish climbers who were wearing Brazil shirts, and turned out to be good people. The rest left at 10:30 as the pub was too busy, and the bagpipes had come out, however I stayed. Big Mistake. The ale went down smoothly, and hit my head when I got out of the pub. When i got back I tripped over a guy rope (allegedly) and fell on my tent, breaking a pole. I don’t remember, but a shout of “FUCK!”, then  “help” was heard!

Kinlochleven.

The worlds smallest museum. 3/4 of the building is a library!

The grey mare waterfall at Kilochmore.

Sunday 23rd June

I had a hangover. The group was going climbing, and I decided not to go. I just pottered about the campsite all day reading, and drinking the earl grey tea, which was the only tea they had left me. The weather was awful, and they didn’t go climbing, one group had a short dull walk, while the other had a longer one. In the evening I just sat reading, as did most others after the meal!

Monday 24th June

Raining again, surprise surprise. We attempted to climb the pap of Glencoe, a large mound of a mountain above us. The weather was closing in badly, and we had taken the wrong path, and gave up the walk after 2 hours, only having made it 2 miles down the road in real terms. Conor had been listening in on the radio, and found it amusing, while he waited for the RAC to fix the speedo on the minibus.

So it was back to Leisure centre again sadly. A few guys from Cardiff had started camping next to us, and were leaving as there was nothing to do due to the rain. They went to the centre too. We spent a few hours there, before walking around Fort William buying things. Myself and Conor sneaked into a take-away and had chips as we had done on the first Snowdonia trip. We thought we had got away with it, but were seen!, and when I decided I didn’t want an evening meal, the subject was raised!! We wandered up to the pub in the evening again, and ordered food for the last night. We had decided it was worth having no cooking and cleaning on the last night! Went back at the normal time from the pub, I went to bed, however a few stayed up to wish Dave a happy birthday, and he had to drink a flaming Drambuie with everyone present, one at a time!

Tuesday 25th June

Dave was up early which was surprising. After breakfast, we went to Kinlochleven, where we were doing a walk up to the Black Water reservoir, and back. It was 6 miles away. We were going to use the old military road on the way up, and come back on a river side path, after crossing the dam. The road was straight forward enough, starting off as part of the West Highland Way. There was only a small hill to climb, and the group stayed together for the most part. When we had climbed the hill, the road followed the contour lines along a hill, so was fairly flat. It actually featured in Braveheart in a few scenes.

Walking from Kilochleven to the Blackwater reservoir, 6 miles away!

Looking back from the road, towards Kinlochleven.

Stopping for lunch, on a road used in Braveheart!

After a couple of hours walking, we stopped for lunch. The road followed a water conduit from the reservoir, which was used to supply the Hydro-Electrical power station in Kinlochleven. We had lunch on a bridge over the concrete conduit. We then carried on. A mile further on we came across a graveyard, most of the graves having been laid in 1908, when they built the reservoir. Apparently most of the men died when they got paid, went to the nearest pub, which was in Kinlochleven, and got lost of froze to death on the long walk back. There were about 30 graves there.

Looking back down the valley!


The Blackwater dam. unfortunately you couldn't cross it, so we had to cross the river.

Looking down valley from the damn. The small square is a graveyard of damn workers.

We reached the dam about 15 minutes later, to find that it couldn’t be crossed. We had to use a river crossing, which got a few people wet. Once over the other side, we followed a straight forward river-side path which took us through a lot of wooded areas, past a lot of waterfalls. There were some ropey crossings on the way down, a bridge which only had 1 railing left and no floor, which you had to shuffle across. A log crossing under a waterfall. The scenery was fantastic, and a couple of hours later we were back in Kinlochleven. Dave got there first as Andy had chased him down, threatening to throw him in the river for his birthday!

A nice waterfall on the way back.

Another waterfall!

Crossing a waterfall!

We then went back to the campsite, packed some of the stuff away to save doing it in the morning, and went to the pub for our meal. Only myself and Andy had the traditional haggis, neeps and taties you get in Scotland with everyone else going for more constrained meals. It was very nice though, and nice to eat in the warmth, without any midges around. After a few games of pool, and some drinks, we all went back to camp for an early night.

Geting ready for the last night.

The walk to the pub!

The bar at the Crainlarich Inn

In the snug, last night.

A nice way to finish, a proper meal for everyone, with no washing up!!

Pool table was the only entertainment when there was no music.

Byron, Pool table and the bar!

The outside of the pub

Loking north from the pub.

Wednesday 26th June

Up early, the tents were packed away, the bus packed and we set off at 8:45 am. I drove through the highlands right down to Carlisle, in awful conditions, and Conor drove the rest of the way. We dropped Sarah, Rachel, Andy and Lee off on the way, and arrived in Plymouth at 9pm. We all then went home, got showered and into clean clothes and all went to Zanzibar for a nice night out!

Packing up!!

 

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