We took an early boat tour. There were only the two of us at first, the crew said they would go if there were four or more. Luckily six or so more people came along and we were on our way. The captain was a dour Scott, with a wicked sense of humour. “If you feel your feet getting damp, or smell smoke, we are either sinking , or the boat is on fire. In either case I’d appreciate being informed”.
Neither event occurred and we enjoyed a leisurely sail down the loch passing a salmon farm and later a muscle garden. It was a cloudy day, but this lent a very calm but moody atmosphere. The colours were muted and subtle.
We could see wisps of smoke rising from the shore – some from people’s homes others from burning barrels. The delicate changes of colour as the hills receded made us think of quilts Susan would like to sew.
The town of Fort William is quite small, but houses, now mainly B&Bs run alongside the Loch from the town. Here you see their reflections in the loch as well as the towering Ben Nevis in the background with clouds hanging from the summit.
This is a close up of Ben Nevis, the British Isles highest mountain. The captain helped us see the Ben as a large elephant walking behind the hills – do you see him?
While most of the colours were muted this part of the loch side displayed lovely orange and yellow clusters among the bright and pale greens.
Time and distance travel slowly up the loch and beyond.
After our boat ride we drove a short distance along Glen Nevis. We found a quiet spot to have lunch then decided to carry on to find the lower and possibly upper falls.
We had no plan, and had not prepared ourselves for a strenuous hiking afternoon. Next time we will!
The sun came out and the clouds stayed around just enough to keep us company and add interest to the views.
There was something enchanting about this farm gate and hint of track leading towards the hills. Notice too how the line of the trees on the hill in the foreground continue into the hill in the background. I wish I could say I intended that when framing the photograph. But a nice accident.
The winding road took us right to the lower falls. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the path by the river. I tried various approaches to shooting the falls (photographically not in a kayak). I decided to try Steven Gingold’s slow shutter speed – but, with a handheld camera and the light too bright, these are less than I had hoped for. Later I discovered how to use the built-in ND filter (Neutral Density) but not in time for these shots.
At least it gives you an idea of the beauty of these small but powerful falls.
This is the path that winds along the banks of the river from the lower falls. The crowds do tend to get to you at times…
This is where the river starts its descent through the rocks to become the lower falls
I was distracted from the water by these gorgeous rocks.
The patterns on the rocks were very striking, I just had to run my hands over the striations.
We left the lower falls and drove along a ‘one-track’ road towards the upper falls. One-track means it’s barely wide enough for one vehicle. The road is narrow, steep and winding. Helpfully they have made several cuttings where cars can squeeze by. It usually means one car having to back up quite a way and manoeuvre into a rocky lay-by.
We wondered how far this track went – but after climbing for quite a while we came to a rough parking lot. There were several cars already there and a few families returning from the upper falls to drive back down the track.
The sign said “Upper Falls – approximately .6 mile” I think the sign was in the wrong place or they use a different measure for miles in Scotland. We started out on a reasonable path. Fairly narrow, not too step, but quite rocky. The valley we were climbing was lovely. We decided we could handle the .6 miles. Then we passed a warning sign. “Danger, fatalities have occurred by people falling from the path”. Oh lovely! At which point the path became narrower, steeper and more rocky and wet in places from run-off from the hill streams. One side of the path was against the hillside which climbed steeply, high above our heads. The other was more of a drop over the edge down towards the river far below.
This fungus was growing on the hill-side of the path. It was quite spectacular.Susan put her hand there to give a sense of scale. She didn’t touch it.
A little further and we saw these fairy-tale toadstools. Just look at the variety of fauna all around. It was a very interesting path. No wonder people fell off, they were probably too busy looking at all the treasures nature had put together here.
I need a rest from this hike – it’s very taxing – so meanwhile back in the valley the cattle are grazing. These highland cows are unique.
We continued our climb along the path towards the upper falls. The path became very steep in parts, with rocks to climb over. It was at about this time we realized we had brought no water, no snacks, nothing! We really could’t tell how far we had come and more importantly how far we had yet to go. Some hikers were coming back down the path. They were vague about how far we had yet to go, but assured us it was well worth the effort. They were all about thirty tears younger than this pair of “Concessions”. That’s what seniors are known as when getting a lower price for something in the UK. They make a concession because of your great age! But there is something offensive in having to ask for two adults, two children and two concessions please! Concession in deed! Mind you two pounds off is two pounds off! Almost enough for a bad cup of coffee! But perhaps I digress.
We continued on. The valley became very narrow and the path quite difficult to traverse. We came through the narrow part and the valley suddenly widened into a meadow. We could see the upper falls in the distance. But we just ran out of steam – and lack of water. We sat for a while, looked and decided we would come back on our next trip to Scotland properly prepared.
I am happy to report that the return hike was easier than the one coming up.
It was a great day and we drove back to the B&B happy, relaxed, ready for a shower and then out for dinner in Fort William.
The next morning we left Fort William for Balloch at the lower end of Loch Lomond. I was going to say at the bottom of Loch Lomond, but that sounded like the town had sunk. Almost on the way (just a short detour) we stopped at Castle Stalker. Stalker was Susan’s mother’s maiden name – part of the Stewart Clan So we had to stop to see the castle. The only one in Scotland, we are told, that has the title castle before the family name i.e. it isn’t Stalker Castle, it is Castle Stalker – and don’t get that wrong! There is a pleasant coffee shop/restaurant/gift shop, that provides access to this view of the castle from it’s grounds and when sitting in the dining room.
This was another very special moment as she sat there quietly looking at this lovely scene and thinking about her mother and the times they had talked about Castle Stalker. The coffee was good too.
Next Time: Not My Cup of Tea
This will be a short break from the travelogue and a rather disturbing tale…