A Scottish Journey– part 3, from Glencoe to Helensburgh

Day eight of the journey took us through Glencoe to Loch Lomond and onto Loch Fyne where we stayed at the Cairndow Stagecoach Inn. On the morning of day nine we sadly saw little of Glen Kinglas and Glen Croe, or of Loch Long. The clouds did not lift until we reached Helensburgh.  But on the road we did spot a lot of Ferraris thanks to the Netherlands Ferrari Club.

Day eight:

Dark clouds hung low over the hills that morning and we wondered if we would see much of Glencoe. But at the National Trust for Scotland’s Visitor Centre the clouds lifted enough for us to appreciate the grandeur of this famous glen.

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We spent over an hour in the Visitor Centre learning a lot about the history of the glen since the collapse of a massive volcanic caldera over 400 million years ago  to the massacre of 38 MacDonalds – men, women and children – on February 13, 1692. The exhibition also made us aware of the fascinating flora and fauna of the glen and how it has gained an international reputation as an outstanding area for rock and ice climbing.

For us it would be a drive full of atmosphere as the billowing clouds and intermittent sunshine created a mysterious and haunting landscape around the glen’s austere, towering peaks.  Below: two of the Three Sisters dwarf David’s car. And a pair glasses someone had fun with!

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When I was taking photographs at the eastern end of the glen I found, to my surprise that I was surrounded by heath spotted orchids (left). Amongst them were heath milkwort, lousewort and tormentil.

As we left Glencoe it was truly a matter of taking the high road to reach Loch Lomond, the largest expanse of freshwater in Britain. We stopped at the visitor centre beside the hydro-electric power station at Inveruglas – and made the mistake of buying coffee at the cafe there. That is not to be recommended. But I did enjoy my walk and spotted some interesting “wildlife” on the way.

Below: Loch Lomond – and the “Snake of Loch Lomond”

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And then it was time to find our next hotel – this time at Cairndow by Loch Fyne. The Stagecoach Inn (below) has an odd mixture of needing some tender loving care whilst still providing a very good service. We had asked for a loch view and the staff at the Inn explained that they only way they could do that was to put us in a deluxe room rather than a regular one. We certainly didn’t complain – and that view of the loch soon lured me out for a late afternoon walk.

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It was too late to visit the Ardkinglas Woodland Garden which boasts the tallest tree in Britain and the mightiest conifer in Europe, but I was impressed by what I saw from the outside. Nor was I able to go inside the early 19th century Kilmorich Parish Church with it unusual design of a square tower set against a pyramidal roofed octagon. (Below: a peep at Ardkinglas Woodland Garden, and the church at Kilmorich.)

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Back at the Inn food was served in the conservatory overlooking the loch and so we could watch gannets fishing while we enjoyed an excellent supper. And when David asked, on my behalf, if they had any sorbet, they produced a superb, homemade blackberry one. That made David feel less embarrassed as he tucked into his honey meringue with honey icecream, honey and cream dessert!

After a good breakfast next morning we were on the road south again.

Day nine – morning:

Sadly the clouds enveloped us as we drove from Glen Kinglas into Glen Croe and there was too much atmosphere and not enough scenery to enjoy, at the watershed between the two, the “Rest and be Thankful”

And then out of the gloom came an amazing cavalcade of Ferraris. I lost count of how many of those low-slung luxury super cars passed us on their way over “The Rest” but later the Netherlands Ferrari Club informed me that about 35 took part in that rally in Scotland.

At Arrochar we took the narrow A814 along Loch Long which was often overhung by slopes swathed in either iron mesh or bushes. Signs warned us traffic signals ahead and we came upon the odd sight of “aliens” in yellow fluorescent jackets with hoods over their heads and black veils covering their faces. This wasn’t to protect them from prying eyes but from the clouds of midges swarming out of the bushes and saplings that they were removing from the roadside.

The next “sight” along the road was the peace camp outside the naval base at Faslane which was nearing its 32nd anniversary in its long protest against nuclear weapons. After the naval base the road runs alongside Gare Loch to Helensburgh.

Our objective was The Hill House but that was not open until 1pm so we thought we would have a look at Helensburgh and find somewhere to eat. That was a mistake!

Obviously a lot was being done to give Helensburgh a facelift but that was far from complete and we were soon put off by what to us was a drab and dreary little town. So we went back along the A814 to a lovely parking area overlooking the Firth of Clyde. And there we had our own picnic lunch in very pleasant surroundings.

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