Drumnadrochit, Scotland
Posted in Travel
Afternoon watch, 3 bells (1:50 pm)

Today I woke up in Crawley, south of London, at 2:30am. I tried to go back to sleep, and think I succeeded for a short time, but was up fitfully until I had to arise at 4am. We had a taxi pick us up at the George Hotel and deliver us to Gatwick North Terminal, where we left the bulk of our luggage for the next two days. We packed everything we need for the Scotland leg of our vacation into a carry-on and a small backpack. Our flight left at 6:30am for Edinburgh. The flight was uneventful, except for the witty Pakistani dude I sat next to that told me how he got the nickname One Crate. He was in a bar with some friends in Prague and they were taking shots from women's bras and he wasn't tall enough so he had to stand on a crate. Isn't flying fun?

Anyway, we had a quick flight on British Airways, only an hour, yet they still served us breakfast! I was pleasantly surprised, as I don't believe any airline serves any food for such a short flight back in the U'States.

So we hired (rented) a car from Alamo, it's a decent 4-door sedan with lots of room. It's got a manual transmission, which shifts on the left since the driver's seat is on the right. The pedals and gear progression on the stick are the same as a standard transmission back home, though, so it's not terribly hard to get used to. The extremely narrow roads, however, are a bit harder. Plus you have to make sure you're always driving on the left, but there are signs everywhere for that. Our B&B hostess, Liz, says the French and German tourists are the worst at not driving on the left side and are always getting in to accidents. But I digress. About our car. It's got a broken rear view mirror. It literally fell off when I tried to adjust it. They darn well better not try and blame that on me. I figured out how to get it adjusted and hooked back on so it doesn't fall off, but it's just going to happen to the next person until they get it fixed right. There was also trash in the center console, so it wasn't cleaned out very well. I have to give Alamo Car Rental a one out of five stars for this one. Get with the program, people.

Since we arrived around 8am, and it only took a little while to get our car, we were on the road to Inverness by around 8:30. It was a lovely drive, but tiring as we hadn't had much sleep last night. Just before we got to Inverness, we stopped at a tourist shop, had a bathroom break, and talked to the tourist information helpers. We decided to skip having lunch in Inverness and head down to Drumnadrochit instead. It was a wise decision. We packed a few scones we picked up in Crawley and they tided us over until we ate. But I'm getting ahead of my story.

The drive down from Inverness to Drumnadrochit is wonderfully like driving around Lake Coeur d'Alene back at home. Its twisty curves and blind corners surrounded by a lake, mountains, and lots of green trees really feels like we're home. It wasn't a long drive, either, around 15 miles or so. We arrived at the Loch Ness Center around 12:30 or so. We bought a bunch of postcards, and signed up for the sonar cruise of the Loch at 2pm, as we were just a little too late for the 1pm cruise. The shops there are a bit expensive, but they have a bunch of fun tourist stuff with Nessie, Heighlan Coos (Highland Cows), etc. They also have a heraldry section where they'll dig up your family coat of arms and print it on parchment for £30. You can get it embroidered for twice that much. I don't know if my family had a tartan pattern or not, but I'm sure they'd find me one if I asked šŸ˜‰

Since One Crate mentioned it on the plane, and I'd heard about it before but never visited, I thought it would be nice to see Fort William, a little ways south of Loch Ness. So we kind of added it to our itinerary, but it didn't work out as I'll soon explain.

Then came the boat cruise, which was every bit as fun as I remembered it from 2001 (I even had the same boat captain and tour guide, and older gentleman named John). We putted around the Loch and breathed in lots of boat engine fumes. We moved into the forward cabin about halfway through the trip. Loch Ness is over 230 meters deep, and has sheer walls that drop just off the shoreline. It's quite amazing to watch the depth finder as you head toward the shore. I'll try to include a picture for you to see how sharp it really is.

After the cruise, which I believe was the fourth cruise of our vacation (those being the main Carnival cruise and our river cruises in St. Petersburg and London being the other three), we drove off toward Fort William when I was sidetracked by the infamous pottery sign.

This is going to take some explaining. When I was in Scotland in 2001, I saw a sign that said Pottery, end of the road on a small sign at the beginning of a small road in Drumnadrochit. Since I had driven out here I thought it would be nice to take a walk up the road. Which turned out to be longer than I ever thought possible. The road never ended, it just kept going on and on, and then I saw a sign that said something like Keep going for pottery. Thinking it was now just around the next bend or so, I kept going. Better I had turned back and driven, but I didn't realize it at the time. After what seemed like hours I got to the top of the road, which was also basically the top of the hill. After walking that far, I was damned if I wasn't going to leave without buying some pottery, so I bought a mug for hot cocoa. That started my buy a mug during every vacation tradition. I try to get handmade ones, but don't always get the chance.

So this time, I was determined to find out how far the walk really was. I kept telling the story to people and saying it must have been at least two miles, but I didn't want to over exaggerate. So today we drove it. It was four miles one way. I bought another mug to go with the last one. This one's a little bigger and brown and red instead of having blue tones. I will love them both forever.

After returning down the very narrow pottery road, we commenced our drive down to Fort William and stopped for some more tourist information in another Fort Something-or-other town. The tourist office was just being locked up as we approached it, it closed at 4:30 (today is Sunday), so we couldn't find out the main attractions to see at Fort William and how long they'd be open. I took this as a bad omen and figured other tourist attractions will be closing as well. So we had a late lunch/early dinner at a Scottish pub, complete with fit-throwing child and screaming mother innkeeper. We both had haggis, neeps, and tatties, a traditional Scottish meal. Neeps are turnips, tatties are potatoes. It was delicious. Lorien talked me in to splitting a strawberry milkshake, which was small, expensive, and not very good. Before dinner we had bought some water and cherry cokes, and Lorien asked the convenience store worker when Fort William closed. The worker was confused, because Fort William is a town.

I really should explain these things better to my wife so she doesn't embarass herself, but it is amusing.

We drove back to Drumnadrochit and our B&B, the Woodlands, which is a splendid place. There is wireless here, but it's password-protected and I didn't think to ask before Liz, the proprietor, had left. Our plan tomorrow is to head back to Edinburgh, going to Ennis first to visit J. Hewit and Sons tannery and book bindery. I really can't wait to see that. I'm sure in the afternoon we'll see the royal mile and Edinburgh castle. It should be a really fun day, and if the weather's anything like it is today, it'll be air conditioned all the way.

I've been very lucky on all my visits to Scotland, England, and Ireland, and have had only two rainy days out of about a month total spent in the three places. I've visited in May, July, and August now and always seem to bring nice weather with me.

Well it's time for us to finish up some postcards and take a nice evening stroll around town and mail them out. And hopefully give the midges a miss. I've been bit before, and they're mean little suckers.

By the way, did I mention I spotted Nessie?

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