The Great Glen

We reluctantly left our lovely Smithy’s cottage in the Cairngorms and set out for Inverness, driving through some of the most scenic spots in the Highlands, and Loch Ness monster spotting on the way!

To get to our Great Glen starting point, we drove through Dunkeld, which I later discovered has a wonderful park called The Hermitage (thank you, Shelia https://deskgram.net/sheilasewssporadically). Given that we didn’t get there I’ve provided the link for others who might like to check it out.

We passed through Aberfeldy (again) and enjoyed this view of the River Tay enormously.

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We did a short hike at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, just because we could and it was a beautiful day.

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As we moved towards Glen Coe we passed the Three Sisters, a massive and rather formidable group of spurs. They are so big that I could only fit two into the photograph, but you get the idea.IMG_5666

The Great Glen is a geological fault running dead straight across Scotland, filled with lots of lochs, including Loch Ness, perhaps the most famous of them all. We followed the road which was completed in 1933, which coincidentally (or perhaps not!) was the year of the first sighting of the Loch Ness Monster, and which links two areas of outstanding beauty – Glen Coe and Glen Affric. We managed to visit both.

We didn’t dally in Glen Coe as we had already visited there, instead passing through Kinlochleven and on through Fort William to Glen Nevis and more amazing mountains which were used as a filming location for both Braveheart and the Harry Potter movies. I must say that, look as I might, I couldn’t recognise a single thing! Perhaps I can imagine Mel Gibson rushing down the side of this hill chanting “MacAulish”, but it’s testing me!

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A bit of a highlight for me was Fort Augustus which is bisected by the Caledonian Canal. The boats are raised and lowered 13 metres by a ladder of five locks which are one after another in quick succession.  It takes an hour to complete the journey and was really interesting to watch.

This boat was on the final step.

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This is the first “rung” of the ladder with the boat in the distance at the top. IMG_5694

The boat was obviously purpose built to navigate this part of the canal as the width of it fitted perfectly

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Apart from the canal, Fort Augustus is quite a pretty spot, with lots of tourists wandering around. These shops give a bit of an idea of the town.

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We spent the night in Drumnadrochit, which apparently wasn’t photo worthy as I can’t find a single photo of it. However, it is clearly cashing in on the Loch Ness Monster tourism machine, with shop names such a “Nessessicities”, which made me smile.

We did a little detour to Urquhart Castle, which has a wonderful view over Loch Ness and apparently it’s a Nessie hunting hot spot! We got there too early to visit, which is fine as I’m rather castled out.

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This was an early morning photograph which rather caught my fancy. The water was mirror-like and I love that reflection. It also gives quite a good idea of the colours – how many greens are there in nature?

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Another hike, this one lasting a couple of hours, and this was at Glen Affric, which is the bookend of Glen Coe. This is supposed to be one of the most beautiful glens in Scotland and the hiking trails extend deep into the mountains.

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I rather liked this sign, which is hewn from a single piece of wood and shows the topology of the area. The little saying is rather charming.IMG_5709

The view from the top is breathtaking with the sparkle of lochs, rugged mountains and the native Scots pines. Lots of birdsong too.

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We sat up here for quite a few minutes in quiet contemplation, just breathing in the atmosphere. Just so you know, Mark is totally in clothes made by me too.

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Our walk carried on to Dog Falls, which are not terribly spectacular, but it’s always lovely to see a nice waterfall.

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A quick trip up the road to Plodda Falls, which are reached by a short loop with a very gentle slope, but the end of it is really dramatic – a cantilevered viewing platform over a high waterfall.

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Mark is a braver person than I am (although he later confessed that he didn’t enjoy it much) and leant over the railing to take this photograph for your benefit, dear reader. It rather makes my stomach churn!

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A shot from below gives a bit of perspective.

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I had to include this photo as I love the colours and textures that it shows. The lichens are just splendid.

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Not that we worked especially hard, but a cup of tea is always welcome at the end of a walk. We brought our Trangia to the UK with us and occasionally have a brew in the middle of nowhere. The collapsible keep cups are especially good for travelling.

 

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Beauly was next on our itinerary and I kept reading that Mary, Queen of Scots is said to have named the village as she exclaimed in French “Quel beau lieu”, (what a beautiful place) and so it was shortened to Beauly. Its main claim to fame is the red sandstone Priory, now a ruin, of course, which is home to rooks nesting in the walls. Their raucous cawing was everywhere.

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I must admit that I preferred the drive in – the gorse is in bloom and the hillsides are covered with it and sometimes the roads are lined with it. Just gorgeous!

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Our final destination was Inverness, and this completes the Great Glen drive.

Inverness straddles the River Ness at the northern end of the Great Glen, and also capitalises on the Loch Ness monster carry on.

There are some lovely old buildings in Inverness. The Victoria Arcade is lovely, but not quite as good as the ones in Leeds.

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This building has been cleaned and it’s come up really well. It’s not that old, but beautifully preserved. The sandstone is a lovely colour.IMG_5777

A quick shot up a side street. I do love buildings with turrets and towers. IMG_5775

The castle on top of the hill dominates the city and the red sandstone positively glows in the sunshine.

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It is relatively new being built in the 1900s, and is occupied by the council so we weren’t charged to walk around it, although there was a fee for going to the top of the tower. We didn’t!

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A lovely view can be had from the ramparts. I have to say at this point that I finally get why everyone wanders about scantily clad when the sun comes out. There was a positively festive air in the open air pubs as everyone sat around enjoying the wonderful weather. Mind you, in Australia we’d all be huddled under umbrellas with hats and sunglasses trying not to let a spot of sun touch us anywhere.

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There are some beautiful buildings scattered about and I think I photographed them all

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and I’d like to finish with a photograph of this pub and the message across the front, which really resonated with me. To all my friends, both in real life and on social media, thank you for being there!

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Fadanista

21 thoughts on “The Great Glen

      1. Diane has summed it up perfectly. I’ve been saving your posts for when I can sit and savor the experience. This armchair traveler thanks you very much for sharing your journey xx

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  1. A lock staircase is where the locks open directly from one to another, with the top gate of one forming the bottom gate of the next. This unique 5-rise staircase has a total rise of 60 feet.
    A bit more info………..

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    1. I realised that I had overthought the spelling of “lock” and changed it to “loch”. I’ve now changed it back!! Thank you so much for the extra info, it was an amazing set of locks.

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  2. More evidence that we need another holiday in Scotland. It all looks wonderful, and I hope you managed to avoid the midges!
    I’m listening to an elderly diesel engine running on the Severn Valley Railway (which can be seen from my house) and thought I’d you were staying with your sister you may both enjoy a visit. Lunch could be arranged Chez Hood 🙂

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  3. Such lovely pictures- love this area of Scotland! We took a cabin cruiser through the Caledonian canal a number of years ago with my Scottish cousins- thanks for bringing me back to this special trip with your lovely travelogue! If you go a bit East you will come to Elgin and the woolen mill – Johnston’s of Elgin- definitely a great stop – their cashmere is amazing!

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  4. Just a fabulous trip Sue. It’s lovely to follow you around and discover new places that are only just up the road , and reminders of places we’ve visited.
    We need to get our vitamin D when we can in Scotland! Although being careful of skin cancer is important everywhere, they are discovering that vitamin D deficiency could be an indicator of the high levels of MS in Scotland.! Although I don’t think that’s why it was ‘tapsaff’ in Inverness (tops off)… I think people just love to make the most of the sunshine when it appears! Happy travels.

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  5. I have really enjoyed your travels. You have taken me places I will never see in my lifetime. Your pictures are fabulous !

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