10 October 2010--Pretty Highland villages are often masks for a dark history. Bowmore and Plockton, to name two, were planned
fishing ports meant to house tenant crofters evicted during the Clearances. The transition from herding cattle to herding herring can't
have been easy. The story behind lovely whitewashed Inveraray is a little more benign. The original fishing village was nestled around
Inveraray Castle, at the mouth the River Aray. When the Duke of Argyll decided, mid-18th century, that his digs were outdated, he built
the castle which stands to this day, and moved the village off the grounds to its current location. It has an air of dignity and
importance, and in fact has long been a regional administrative center, but it's actually smaller than it seems--there's very little back
of the main street. It is nevertheless a handsome town, the kind of place tourists like to stroll around looking at, absorbing the
Highland experience. We did some of that when we arrived late yesterday afternoon, and feel compelled to do a little more after
breakfast, in morning light. The landmark Loch Fyne Whiskies shop was closed when we got here, and is not open yet today. I like to go
in and browse when I'm here, but I wasn't really planning on buying, and I don't think the boys are all that interested, either.
Fifteen or twenty minutes up the road, at the head of Loch Awe, is Kilchurn Castle. The castle originally stood on an islet just offshore, similar to Eilean Donan, I suppose, albeit in fresh water. A subsequent clearing of the loch's mouth lowered the water level just enough to make it approachable across the marsh. I've been here before, taking the boat trip from across the loch, but a later visit was thwarted by the railroad's closing of the trail that crosses the line. Now there is a new path under the trestle crossing the River Orchy, a development which I would guess displeases the boat operator. I imagine him smirking as we find the castle closed for the season. It is nevertheless a very picturesque edifice, although it must be said that the best aspects are from the boat.
We head up Glen Orchy, then down Glen Coe. We stop at the viewpoint looking up at the Three Sisters, and I tell Win and Scott about the assault on Bidean Nam Bian that Ron, Bobby, and I made in 2007. They wander down into the glen, just to get a feeling for it, while I zone out in the car. Shortly they are back, with a young couple from Seattle in tow, asking how to get to the Hidden Valley. I point the way, and ask what neighborhood they live in. Queen Anne. It would be just too cool if I happened to be wearing my McMenamin's Queen Anne t-shirt under my fleece, but the Six Arms Capitol Hill one is impressive enough.
On down the A82 we go, finishing the descent of Glen Coe, then turning northeast, along the shore of Loch Linnhe; through Fort William and Spean Bridge, along Lochs Lochy and Oich, to Fort Augustus. From here the busy A82 travels up the west side of Loch Ness. We elect to take the quieter route along the east side. This is in fact the older road, part of a network built by General Wade in the early 1700s to facilitate troop movements at a time when support of the Jacobite cause was strong throughout the Highlands. We drive through some scenic hilly country, and then a long stretch right alongside the loch, where we get a good view of Urquhart Castle on the opposite shore. We'll visit that tomorrow.
We pass through Inverness and over Kessock Bridge, onto the Black Isle (which isn't an island, less so even than Kintyre). We arrive in Fortrose in late afternoon sun. I have in mind to walk out to Chanonry Point, but there won't be time before sunset, so I drive us out instead. I mention to the lads that the point, thrust out into the Moray Firth, is well known for dolphin-spotting, although in fact I haven't ever seen any. I pull the car into a parking spot overlooking the water, and two dolphins surface right in front of us, before we even open the car doors. Would-be spotters are rushing over toward us from all over the point. "I give you dolphins," I announce pompously to the lads. I am beginning to feel that I can do no wrong on this trip.
Jim Anderson greets us with typical cheer at the hotel that bears his name. There is, of course, another evening of fine food and beer. There is also a session in the public bar, which we attend for a short while. We're all tired, and go to bed relatively early.