11 October 2011--We cross the Spey again this morning, this time passing the Macallan distillery and passing through Archiestown before
joining yesterday's route at Knockando. To the south, Ben Rinnes looms above the valley, keeping watch over dozens of distilleries in Scotland's
whisky heartland. It occurs to me to wonder why we've never walked up it. Next year, maybe.
Pass through Dallas and stop in Forres, looking for a pharmacy. Ron needs something to deal with the cold he's been struggling with. Whatever it is he buys, it knocks him out for the ride through Inverness, up Strath Bran, and down Glen Carron. He comes to when I stop in Lochcarron for my obligatory stroll around the Spar shop, and after a walk up and down the one and only street, we decide to have lunch at the Lochcarron Bistro. It's very good. I think I'd enjoy a couple nights' stay here sometime, but proximity to Plockton makes it unlikely.
After lunch, we take the spur road hugging the shore to the southwest. Before 1973, when the road along the south shore of Loch Carron was finished, this was the route to Lochalsh, via the ferry at Strome. Now it is just a scenic little dead end.* The remnants of Strome Castle, a 15th-century tower house, look over the former ferry landing. It was destroyed in 1602 during clan warfare between Macdonalds and Mackenzies. The castle must have presented a formidable aspect, guarding the narrows of the loch. The view out, with the Cuillins of Skye in the distance, is a fine one.
Down at Ardnaskean, at the very end of the road, we have a view of Plockton across the water. It's not two miles away now, but it will take us the better part of an hour to get there, circling back around the head of Loch Carron. A detour around a road closure at Achmore doesn't help.
Teresa greets us at the B&B, and we rest up a bit before heading to the Plockton Inn for dinner. It's just after sunset when we get out, and I marvel, as I have so often in past years, at the gorgeous blue twilight reflecting off the bay, deepening from minute to minute. It's always good to be here.
*On 22 December 2011, a landslide blocked the A890, and the Strome ferry route was revived. The primary consideration was getting children from Lochcarron and Applecross to school in Plockton. This was achieved by passenger ferry (none other than Calum's seal-watching boat) and an early morning train provided by Scotrail. Limited vehicle service was also introduced, using the Kylerhea ferry. In March 2012, the A890 was reopened on a very limited basis, with traffic being routed over the rail tracks on the affected stretch, subject to the train schedule. The road was fully reopened in late April, with only minor disruptions ongoing. Following this story has given me a greater appreciation for aspects of life in the northwestern Highlands. As well, I've seen a number of inactive ferry slips around the northwest--Kylesku and Glen Etive come immediately to mind--and find myself wondering what strange circumstances might bring them back into service.