Sunday, September 30, 2007
Mist hanging low over the south of the loch
Spent today gently idling beside the shore of Loch Ness, starting with a walk from our Dores B&B along the pebbly beach and then around the forested area of Tor Point, about 7km in all. The mould and spores in the woods got to me a bit, producing a gagging allergic reaction for about 15 minutes, but I pressed along following a kayaking family that I'd been talking to on the beach.
Bondi renewed his acquaintance with the cold water of the loch, 2 years and 3 months since we first walked in the Great Glen. I had a torrent of aural cold water running through my ears while I listened to a podcast of Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens pontificating on blasphemy at the 2005 Hay Festival. It's great to hear 78 minutes of dialog, digressions and all, rather than the soundbites of TV.
10 miles back down towards Fort Augustus, Foyes villages (Upper and Lower) sit at opposite extremes of the waterway that presents itself as the Falls of Foyes. Rather bland lunch (withered paninis are all the rage everywhere: hey everyone, we've made toasted sandwiches longer!) and fake (instant) espresso before tackling the stairs with Bondi's supercanine downward lurch on the leash.
I made a few phone-calls through the day to find accommodation along the north coast tomorrow night. Getting B&B proprietors in the UK to return phone-calls or emails is a thankless task: if they've figured out how to use the answering machine or PC to get the enquiries, then that seems to satisfy them for the day. Actually replying seems to be an optional step. If you reach them again by telephone, you'll often get the quietly proud response "yes I got your message".
After a few attempts today I reached the proprietors of another outpost of the Crun & Bannister B&B Empire, more trembling uncertainty as to whether they have a vacancy and if so, should they tell the stranger on the telephone. It reminded me of the story of a London barrister being asked by a cabbie "Where to today guv?", which garnered an icy "Do you think I'm going to tell the likes of you where I live?".
Saturday, September 29, 2007
It took a few hours to pack up everything after 8 weeks' continuous domicile in Leith, but I figured I could wait until I got to my destination to repack the car more efficiently.
On the road a hair before noon, my first bearing was Glencoe, site of the 1692 massacre of the Macdonalds by the Campbells. Entering the Glen Coe valley, I was reminded of Isterdalen in Norway near Trollstigen, although this valley's steep sides were lost in mist today.
Rannoch Moor at the eastern end of Glen Coe
Massacre Monument in Glencoe village
Loch Leven from Kinlochleven.
Small Loch Tarff on the eastern road parallel to Loch Ness.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Queen heads for her Cayman Island tax haven for some duty-free shopping.
The Royal Yacht Britannia, launched in 1953, and decommissioned in 1997 after over a million nautical miles, has spent its retirement years docked in Leith harbour, not 5 minutes from where I'm staying. As such, it's taken until my final afternoon in Edinburgh to pay a visit.
(L-R) Royal Barge; dockside; the helm; round thing;
(L-R) A handy dockside Debenhams for Her Majesty to slip in for something fresh for the evening gala; view over to the Forth Bridge; a bell; Corgi zone
Car kept on board so the family could discreetly evade the seedy types hanging around the docks.
Britannia's nerve centre, where Betty the telephone operator would connect you to your favourite dignitary.
Petty Officers' quarters, where they were allowed to have a quiet fiddle on the lower bunk.
The Chief Purple Fluffy Baboon gets nicer quarters (no, not hindquarters!)
... they're cousins,
Non-identical cousins and you'll find,
They laugh alike, they walk alike,
At times they even talk alike --
You can lose your mind,
When cousins are three of a kind.
Liz entertains her best friend Paul from down-under.
In this room, the Royals would cavort with a stuffed wombat, launching it from the ceiling fan. I'm not making this up. (See below). Maybe this is where the drop-bear legend came from.
Queen's Chamber (but without queen-size bed)
State Dining Room
The Drawing Room, where heads of government would retire to play Pictionary after a challenging series of clarets. The piano on the left was sometimes played by Nöel Coward, entertaining the family with self-penned ditties such as Don't put your daughter on the throne, Mrs Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
Silver pantry; plate pantry; specialized laundry machines for crinkling ruffs and starching upper lips.
Everything is catered for on the Britannia: if a guest is pining for Uncle Joe's Mint Balls, or hasn't packed enough fudge, then the on-board shop has it (VAT-free if less than 25th in line for throne).
Thursday, September 27, 2007
By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes,
Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond
Where me and my true love were ever wont to gae,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.
ChorusO ye’ll tak’ the high road and I’ll tak’ the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye.
But me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.
'Twas there that we parted in yon shady glen,
On the steep, steep side o’ Ben Lomond.
Where in deep purple hue, the hieland hills we view,
And the moon comin’ out in the gloamin’.
The wee birdies sing and the wild flowers spring,
And in sunshine the waters are sleeping:
But the broken heart, it kens nae second spring again,
Tho’ the waefu’ may cease from their greeting.
Maid of the Loch at Balloch
Balmaha Millenium Forest Path
Stirling's Athaneum, with the statue "Wee Wallace" over the porch, honoring William Wallace, portrayed in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Kilt.