For this week’s photo challenge, Dinnertime, I decided to share these pictures of the delightful Cafe Mango in Fort William. If you’re climbing Ben Nevis, this Thai and Indian restaurant is well worth a visit. It was the best restaurant we ate at on the West side of the Highlands, everything was simply delicious and the staff were friendly and made us feel very welcome even though it was 9pm, and we were the last customers (because we had just climbed Ben Nevis – everyone seems to eat early in the Highlands)!
Driving to Fort William takes at least 7 hours from Bradford. When you get there, however, there’s a pretty decent Morrison’s (supermarket) and it’s right next to a McDonald’s. On both of our driving holidays around the Fort William area, we saw a lot of this part of town because it’s the only supermarket in town as far as I know, and it sells things you can eat without having to cook them.
We didn’t actually make it to Fort William on the first night, because we didn’t set off at a reasonable time of day – I’d stupidly decided at 8pm the day before that life was slipping by without anything interesting happening, so I convinced my future husband that we absolutely had to pile into the car and find the Loch Ness monster (or rather, go to see Loch Ness). I felt it was deplorable that I’d never been the entire time I’d lived in Scotland, and now I lived 7 hours away it was suddenly imperative that we go. I get like this sometimes.
Before we got to Glencoe, as the road started to incline and about ten minutes after that point on the A82 (the main road) where my ears always pop, I got too sleepy to keep driving so we pulled into a layby and reclined the seats in my VW Golf (aka VW Rabbit in the USA) then caught some Z’s. FYI, the VW Golf is a very uncomfortable place to kip, and I awoke with a crick in my neck, sleep in my eyes and a bladder full to bursting. Luckily, around the corner from the layby we’d stopped in, there was another one which was surrounded by three spectacular waterfalls. Not only that, but there was also a brick wall on one side. I climbed over it, with difficulty due to what the rushing sound from the waterfalls was doing to my psyche, and I took care of the bladder problem (why is it that those of us with female anatomy get so embarrassed about urinating in public but people with man parts just do it at the side of the road in full view of traffic? We should get over it already). Anyway there were quite a few good waterfalls because it was the right time of year for them to be really big with the snow melt and rainwater off the mountains (in summer most of them are nondescript) and this was my favourite (all photos taken on Samsung Galaxy SII as this was early 2014 before I got a camera):
We carried on up to Fort Bill, stopping along the way to take some photos of the beautiful waterfalls and surprising rainbows, which formed from the clammy Scottish morning mist in the Highlands:
When we arrived at Fort William, we grabbed some breakfast from McDonald’s; my future husband had some sort of bacon McMuffin and I had three hash browns and a pot of Barbecue Sauce, all washed down with a nice cup of tea.
We headed upwards some more until we reached Fort Augustus, about which I remember nothing, and appear to have taken no photos, so I suspect it was just a main road, a roundabout and possibly a primary school. It looks bigger on the map. The significance of Fort A. is that it lies at the southernmost tip of Loch Ness, which was what we were there to see. From here onwards, we were driving with Loch Ness on our right and a bunch of trees on our left. The trees seemed oppressive, cloying, like they were clamoring to just reach out and push us off the road and into the Loch.
There was something very primal about this part of Scotland. The temperature stayed quite chilly around Loch Ness in the early morning, and we pulled over a couple of times to get a look at the water. I can confirm that it’s much longer than it is wide. And it’s very wide, too. Like, I could see to the other side, but I couldn’t make out what was there beyond distance-trees. And I definitely couldn’t have swam to the middle let alone the other side. We pulled into Invermoriston with the intention of walking around on the shores of the Loch, but we found this to be impossible because a) Invermoriston is a lot further away from Loch Ness than it looks on the map and b) the road is the only thing between the trees and the water. So we had a better view from the car. Having said that, Invermoriston is a place of spectacular scenery and if we were staying in the area for a few days, I would probably have wanted to stay in Invermoriston because its scenery kinda looked like Rivendell:
In all honesty I have to say Invermoriston was a nicer place to look at than Loch Ness. Loch Ness was a black, inky, deep place of mystery. I’m sure you know the story – that it’s a deep fissure in the land, that separates the top of Scotland from the bottom, that they’re just attached at all because of tectonic plate movement. Somehow, even though I could only see the surface, it *looked* deep. I certainly wouldn’t want to swim in it.
We climbed around Invermoriston for a while then got on. Having reached Loch Ness, we weren’t really sure what we were doing here or where our end point was. It was impossible to walk around Loch Ness and to be fair, the Loch was so big that it was entirely probable that a giant monster of the deep could live under it’s pitch black waters and never be found. Perhaps there would be a clue at nearby town Drumnadrochit.
I’d at least heard of Drumnadrochit from that episode of Count Duckula where the Count and his BFFs teleported their castle to Drumnadrochit and had some sort of episode involving both of the townspeople. Count Duckula was very good at taking Londoners’ perceptions of the rest of the world and playing with them.
In real life, Drumnadrochit is a reasonably sized village, with a post office and three Loch Ness visitor centres, all of which, I believe, are privately owned.
We went to the first one but it was closed (despite a roadsign claiming “open every day”) because apparently it was the wrong time of year. The second one was also closed for the same reason.
The third visitor centre took itself very seriously and had a cinematic entrance (and correspondingly high ticket prices). It looked like a proper museum. I think they were catering to fancy people with plenty of holiday money (of which I believe there is a steady supply in the tourist season).
We weren’t feeling very fancy, and we didn’t have lots of money so we just walked around to the gift shop which was free entry, and where I *finally* found the Loch Ness Monster. She’s now sitting upstairs on one of my bookshelves with her friend who is a Loch Lochy Monster but was visiting Nessie at her home in Loch Ness when they both got caught and put in a gift shop:
After that we drove on, following the road beside Loch Ness until we reached Inverness. The Loch really is spectacular and I highly recommend seeing it out of season when you don’t have to worry about hitting someone because they’re trying to take photos whilst driving (I narrowly missed crashing into a lot of distracted drivers last summer when we used this road to get from Fort William to Aberdeen), and out of season there are also far less entitled angry Audi drivers, talking on their phones and speeding on the wrong side of the road as well. For the best of both worlds, most things in the Highlands are fully open in April and it’s still fairly quiet by then. If you’re looking for an actual Loch Ness monster, it’s also far more likely that you’ll spot one off-peak because everyone knows that Nessie is scared of tourists. Here’s what Loch Ness was looking like:
I’m back, I got back from the Highlands, Islands and Aberdeenshire this afternoon. Did you have a nice quiet week without me? I will catch up on blogs as and when I can.
So I was pretty ill on my first two days of travel and then the day before yesterday I hit my head pretty hard on a large piece of Scotland, so the holiday was far less productive than I anticipated, however, I have now been able to tick the following things off my 30 list:
- Visit the Brochs in Scotland (yay I can finally tick this one off – I went to Tappoch broch near Falkirk in April which I did a Youtube video about here:
; and now I have seen two more up at Glenelg – Dun Telve and Dun Troddan which were even more spectacular (I filmed them and THEN realized I haven’t sorted out the sound on my new camera so I may have to Redo from Start).
- Go to Skye. On my 40 list it’s more specific and says I have to go to the caves but my 30 list just says to visit Skye. Which I did.
- Climb Ben Nevis. This was the most exciting thing I did on holiday (and I did it yesterday so I’m probably suffering from the recency effect) and I felt really proud given that five years ago I couldn’t even walk to the front door unaided because I had a back problem. Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the UK and I climbed the crap out of that badboy. I have the hip pain and “runners knee” (except I get it after I climb mountains) to prove it.
I did a bunch of other stuff as well, including getting sunburnt on the beach 20 miles north of Aberdeen (I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t even take suncream), going around some of the Harry Potter filming locations (I will do an article on this VERY soon) and photographing a beautiful partial moon that was BRIGHT ORANGE (I haven’t seen an orange moon for AGES – probably since I moved away from Bonny Scotland) with my new camera. It needs a decent telephoto lens but it was cool to have an opportunity to try out astrophotography even if it was a bit of a non-starter. Here’s how those pics came out:
I am very tired and my head is still very sore from where I hit it (the egg cracking sound is still making me cringe as I keep reliving it over and over) and I set off for home from Fort William at about 11:30pm last night, so I will sign off for now but rest assured, gentle and fearless readers, I shall return in…
Ms Adventure: The Full Scottish Breakfast that Loved Me (cue James Bond theme).
Ever wanted to stay in a genuine stone Scottish blackhouse, a railway signalling house, an art gallery or a traditional broch? Dreaming about spending the night in a castle? Fancy hanging out in a yurt? This list of the best unusual accommodation in Scotland will inspire you!
1. Mongolian-style Yurts, near Loch Lomond:
This organic working farm in central Scotland has three traditional Yurts for a sustainable tourism experience in the midst of the beautiful Trossachs and Loch Lomond. Each Yurt sleeps 4, and the centre often has lots of activities and crafts for you to join in with.
Find out more and book: http://www.westmossside.com/
2. Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, Isle Of Lewis, Hebrides, North Scotland.
Off the top left of Scotland, the Hebrides Islands sit waiting for you to discover them. What better way than whilst staying in a traditional longhouse (called a Blackhouse) with all the modern amenities, but with architecture that gives you an insight into how people lived in the Iron Age.
Find out more and book: http://www.gearrannan.com/
3. The Brochs of Coigach, Ross-shire, Highlands
Two iron age roundhouses in the North of Scotland, renovated and fully modernised, these are a truly luxurious way to explore a rugged and uninhabited corner of the world.
Find out more and book: http://www.achiltibuie.info/
4. Stay in a real lighthouse. Shetland Islands,
Make a trip to Shetland even more memorable by staying in a lighthouse on the main island. Just imagine what sort of views this lighthouse gets!
Find out more and book: http://www.shetlandlighthouse.com/eshaness-lighthouse
5. Holiday like a King in a castle, numerous locations across Scotland
Scotland has a huge selection of castles to accommodate those with a taste for luxury and something a bit different. With 41 castles to choose from, if one is booked, you can always try another.
Tulloch Castle Hotel
Find out more and book: http://www.celticcastles.com/castle-search/list/scotland/
6. Stay in a church on the shores of Loch Ness
Drumnadrochit is the town with the Loch Ness visitor centres, on the banks of the stunning Loch Ness, a huge glacial crevasse filled with water and famous for entertaining kids with its stories of the Loch Ness Monster.
Find out more and book: http://www.visitscotland.com/info/accommodation/glenkirk-bed-breakfast-p180831
7. Or how about staying in Europe’s smallest working Cathedral instead?
This fully functioning cathedral on the Isle of Cumbray in southern Scotland takes guests.
Find out more and book: http://www.visitscotland.com/info/accommodation/college-of-the-holy-spirit-millport-p212221
8. If that’s too formal, there’s always this delightful treehouse, in Skye:
Find out more and book: http://www.sykescottages.co.uk/cottage/Fort-William-Isle-of-Skye-The-Western-Isles-Fort-WilliamAn-Gearasdan/Acorn-Lodge-18920.html
9. Stay in a first-class train, at a train station in Sutherland:
You can stay in a first class train, which has self catering accommodation. Each carriage sleeps two people. Sleeperzzz also offers a converted bus, and they’re all next to a working railway station – but don’t worry about losing sleep, after all, how many trains go to the north of Scotland each day?
Find out more and book: http://www.quirkyaccom.com/sleeperzzz
10. Or you could stay in a Signal Box, at Kyle of Lochalsh train station:
If you don’t want to stay in the train, how about the signalling box? At Kyle of Lochalsh station, you can pretend you’re the Station Master and re-live Thomas the Tank Engine. Just don’t start believing your life is being narrated by Ringo Starr…
Find out more and book: http://www.quirkyaccom.com/kyle-station-signal-box
11. An art gallery
The Arthouse in Glasgow… is it a hotel? Is it an art gallery? It’s both! And it has a restaurant.
Find out more and book: http://www.thearthouseglasgow.co.uk/
12. A working water mill
This listed 18th Century watermill offers accommodation in Bonar Bridge, Sutherland, Highlands.
Find out more and book: http://www.migdalewatermill.co.uk/
Which of these is your favourite? I want to stay in all of them!! Let me know which you love (or hate) in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe to Invoke Delight via WordPress or Bloglovin’ (links to the right).