Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Argyll Coast Road


I slept badly - the room we were in was small and unventilated (window locked) so pretty stuffy. I woke early as the curtains couldn't block out the early dawn, and struggled to get back to sleep. An expected tour package from my accommodation bookers had failed to materialize, and so after breakfast we headed for EasyInternet again to look up directions for getting out of town to Fort William. After chatting with some locals I decided to take the car rather than train so we could explore the area south of Fort William, and around Inverness. Weather was excellent, even warm.

Minor observations: ATM money was now issued by the Bank of Scotland; and Scots "clap" dogs rather than patting them. I assume this is in the vein of "clap your hands on"...

Drove out along the airport route, before branching onto the A82 for Fort William. The train journey would have been 3.5 hours to go a little over 80 miles, so I figured I could easily take in some coastal towns like Inverary by taking scenic detours and easily match the train's time. We passed Loch Lomond and Loch Long (hmmmph Long!*) before branching off from the A82.

Our first car stop was at the top of a valley at a spot called Rest and give thanks. We stopped 5 minutes later so Bondi could get a drink from a small loch. He opted for the full immersion drinking method, and ran around like a pup afterwards.

Loch Fyne
After that we made for the very picturesque port of Inverary which is a bit tourist-twee but still attractive. Snacked there and saw the weather rolling in along Loch Fyne. All the staff of the historical Inverary gaol came running out of the building to check Bondi.

Drove on to get to Kilmartin, where I understood there was a ring of standing stones. The Kilmartin Glen holds traces of the very oldest human civilizations in Scotland, and I spent some time in the by now rainswept local church and graveyard looking at the carved stones. Had some great mushroom soup and gingerbread at the WildFood cafe adjoining the local museum, but got so relaxed, I forgot to go look in the actual museum (of ancient cultures). Backtracked on the road to see the standing stones, of which there were not many, being rather overwhelmed by the surrounding standing sheep.

No pitstops until Fort William, but it was slow going up the coast due to winding roads, rain, slow trucks and a series of traffic jams getting through the regional centre of Oban. That town looks worth a proper visit at a later date, but I was worried that the building traffic would prevent me getting to Fort William at a reasonable hour.

More feckin' roundabouts and inscrutable signs in Fort William. Took ages driving backwards and forwards to find the right street to take to my B&B. On one of our many criss-crossings of the town we stopped to look at Inverlochy Castle. It's an interesting ruin, about 750 yrs old, and demonstrates how short people were in the medieval period: the entrance to the lord's private tower required that I bend double.

Found my charming B&B Rhu Mhor, and a really good internet cafe. Spoke to Easyways folks, and found out that the Glasgow B&B had lost my travel pack. Really annoying as the manager's husband had made a big detour to deliver them for me. We walked up and down the High Street (mostly closed now after 6pm) to check locations for provisions in the morning. Took some food back to my room and had an early night to make up for previous night's lack.

(*) private joke

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