The West Highlands

5 September 1999

The ferry ride back to Thurso was much smoother. That night we stayed in a microscopic village (1 pub, 1 store, about 10 houses!) in central Cathiness called Rogart (pronounced like yoghurt). The hostel was right at the train station and we slept in first class train cars! It was a very very nice hostel in a beautiful, relaxing place. Again I got a bike and pedaled in the rain, around the hills. In Inverness, after a very interesting police action on the train to remove a drunk passenger we changed to a bus which went right past Loch Ness.

It was gorgeous with the rain and clouds and mist mixing with the lake and hillsides. Wow. We went right past Urquhart Castle and its parking lot Urquhart Castle full of tour busses. The bus ride was worse than the first ferry ride! ug. I will keep to the train thank you very much!

We stayed at an apartment called Caluna in Fort William run by a family of mountaineers. They run classes, and hikes and rent out space. It was very comfortable -- it felt like a ski lodge (but without the sauna!)... The next day we met my friend Justin (who we stayed with in London) and we all went out for a Ben Nevis 'walk'... we climbed the hill next to Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in Britain... 4004 ft almost exactly the same height as Mt Si, in the Cascade foothills). The weather was not right for climbing Ben Nevis, which I guess can get pretty hairy in bad weather. In fact, when we summitted the nearby peak, the summit of Ben Nevis, and half the mountain, was immersed in clouds and rain. From the top of Cow Peak we saw the steam train chugging into the tourist town of Fort William. On the way down, after coming out of the forest Catch the hat! and walking along the road, we discovered a rushing mountain stream, kind of a constant waterfall and we had a nice snack in this beautiful location!

This is a center of the Highlands and there is a lot of stuff about the Clans floating around... some of it focused on tourism, and some of it more historical. I found it rather interesting -- I had no idea that the Clan period was in the 16th - 18th centuries. I always thought it was much earlier. The historical information tended to suggest that much of the touristy stuff about the Clans was extensively embellished, and everything was quite frustrated with the completely inaccurate Mel Gibson movie that came out a couple of years ago. Unfortunately we did not make it to any of the Clan cultural centers that were around.

The next day we headed out for the Isle of Skye -- after buying a few raincoats, ponchos, wool socks and a wool shirt; Fort William is just a row of outdoor stores. We took the train to the town of Mallig on the water. It was a very pretty train ride, and rather interesting too! The wind was fierce, and the power kept going out, which kept the switches from working so the train was rather late into Mallig. The wind was so fierce that all the ferry runs for the rest of the day were canceled. We quickly booked ourselves into a little bunkhouse (again, above a snack bar)... we along with an English couple who arrived with us got the last 5 beds!

We played cards with a couple of Germans on the porch while the rain pounded down around us. Unfortunately my very nice Pike Place market wooden Cribbage board disappeared sometime between Bonn and London (sob!) so we have had to improvise! Later on we went for a long walk around the three block town, and up the hill nearby.

© Copyright Mark Canizaro 1999



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