Monday, June 7:  The Great Glen

Discovered at breakfast that our B&B had been sold, and we’d been taken in as an exception between owners. We were the only ones in the place. Escaped town with no problem, except for a hesitation as we passed the Whisky Shop downtown while waiting at a traffic light. Immediately outside of town we twisted along the lake shore of Loch Ness.

At Rick’s suggestion, we took care of our “monster business” at the first exhibition, Loch Ness 2000. (Photo 199) Bordering on being a tourist trap, it was a balanced look at the origin of the legend of the Loch Ness monster (“Nessie”) and the attempts made by science to obtain the truth. We moved with a group through six or seven themed rooms, each with a five minute presentation, along with props. Knowing only the legend, I hadn’t realized that Loch Ness is Britain’s largest lake and contains more water than all the lakes in England combined. Out the last room and into the gift shop, no surprise there. First the stuffed comical Nessies, then the four-part ceramic neck-and-humps sets. Then the tartan shop after that. But out the window, I spied the Whiskey Shop across the plaza and my spirits were lifted. A cute little two-ounce Bowmore flask caught my eye and left with me. I also learned that they have a branch in San Francisco. Let’s see, do I know anybody who travels to San Francisco frequently?

Further down the lake ended and the Caledonian Canal began. We pulled over at Fort Augustus to see the flight of five or six locks in a row, which was a better bet (according to Rick) than Neptune’s Staircase. A very small (and free) museum described some of the history of the canal, and we learned that the lockkeepers preferred the Lock Inn for lunch. So we took our noontime meal there, and it was good. The mounted head of a deer above our table had a plaque with the name of the two men who shot it and the date, along with “150 community service hours, 650 fine, Eaten by Sgt. Waugh.”

Another 40 miles or so through terrain and countryside that could have as easily been the shores of Lake Crescent, and on Anne Wood’s suggestion we detoured for the scenic route through Glencoe. The hills were indeed immense and impressive, and we stopped at the Scotland National Trust site in the valley. There we learned more about the 1692 massacre of 38 members of the MacDonald Clan in Glencoe, at the hands of government troops, with support from the Campbells. There was also a great display about climbing in the area, though I found it had to be impressed when the summits here rarely exceed 3000 feet.

The drive up to Ranach Moor and down through Bridge of Orchny was striking and was the stuff of movies and coffee-table books. Eventually we arrived at Oban, which has the most stunning physical setting I’ve seen. The harbor is fronted by a walkway for much of its length, and about a half-mile away is sheltered by a green, hilly island with just a few buildings. (Photo 200) Beyond that, the hills of the mainland and other islands stand in the background. As pretty as Gig Harbor and Lopez’s Fisherman Bay combined. In the San Juan’s it would be mobbed by pleasure boats, but here there were only a handful. No shortage of tourists, though, and we joined representatives of nineteen countries for dinner and the Scottish Show at McTavish’s Kitchen, despite Rick’s scathing review. Dinner was passable, and the portions caused me to leave food on my plate for the first time in a long time. The after-dinner selection of single malts was superb, though. A champion fiddler, an accordionist, a Gaelic singer from the Hebrides, a piper, and a young, nervous dancer rotated through the stage for a two-hour show.

We walked a bit up the hill after dinner, to catch the deep purples of sunset in the north over the harbor and bay, and back to our B&B, Sutherland Hotel. (Photo 201) The hotel is at the extreme north end of the Esplanade and we have half of the top floor, with plenty of room and a view of the harbor. All for just 100 Latini units.