Today started out with the most amazing Scottish breakfast at Culag Lochside Guesthouse. The owner, Patrick, is the nicest man who just loves making his guests feel at home. Everything on our plates came from a short distance away and it was the perfect meal to start our day in the highlands. The full Scottish breakfast was a highlight throughout the entire trip. Little did we know how happily fed we would be. Continental breakfasts in the U.S. can’t compete!
We struck out early for Glencoe and went straight to the Three Sisters. The entire drive was a dream. We drove the length of Loch Lomond and passed through some really quaint towns. The scenery became more and more dynamic, and finally we saw a sign that said “Welcome to the Highlands” with snow capped peaks in the background. Even though we missed the sign, I made Rob stop for a picture. The whole place looked like a scene from Lord of the Rings.
GLENCOE & LOST VALLEY
The Glen Coe is simply stunning. This is one of Scotland’s most historic glens, where a famous massacre took place in 1692. Surrounding peaks form this valley awash in waterfalls, lochs, and heaths which take one’s imagination to clans that once lived on this land. How on earth did they carve out a life for themselves here? The beauty was jaw dropping.
We hiked to the Lost Valley from the Three Sisters car park. The rain was intermittent, and even though a misty wall of clouds was working its way toward us, we struck out on the trail.
Moss covered everything. Dried heather brushed past our legs as we crossed through terrain sliced with stone steps, flowing with fresh foamy rivers, and craggy hillsides. The view behind us keep getting farther and deeper as we climbed. The trail ascends over a thousand feet in a mile, a respectable difficulty level even for folks used to hiking in the mountains.
We came to a river crossing with water flowing quite quickly and had to decide whether to cross or turn back. Cross we did! Thankfully the rocks weren’t slippery and we found our way even though it was deep enough to flow right into our shoes. Would recommend removing shoes for stream crossings.
As we continued upward the rain grew steadier and the wind blew it right down on us. The scenery kept us going until we reached a high viewpoint above the Lost Valley. What a sight. The snowy peak in the distance kept shifting in and out of view. The grandeur of what we were seeing was not lost on me. Trees climbed the hill to our right, and to our left a waterfall came tumbling down. It was heaven on earth.
(Click below for a short video. Be sure YouTube is set to play in HD)
As we headed back, I crouched and grabbed hold of whatever I could to keep from slipping while enjoying the views as the clouds once again cleared. I get why this place is filled with magic and faeries.
After a thorough soaking, we sought the shelter of the Clachaig Inn for a flight of local beer. I imagine the place is usually bustling with people, and we enjoyed the quiet of midday in the Boots Bar.
On the hill across from the inn sits the location where Hagrid’s Hut was in the Harry Potter films. If you walk up the hill, you can see a very small, unassuming little loch and get the same view that was captured by Ron, Hermione, and Harry when they went to visit Hagrid. The location is so perfectly out of the way, quiet enough for a magical gamekeeper’s residence.
Straight into Glencoe we went, a charming little village that we drove right through until we reached the Ballachulish visitor center, a nice shop/cafe/information stop.
The Loch Leven Hotel was our resting place for the night, and since our room wasn’t ready for 40 minutes, we walked down the path beside the loch.
There was a tiny harbor with sailboats resting beside a peninsula that looked like an island. We hopped onto it and climbed over the small knoll to the edge where we could see distant hills as they were engulfed in mist.
We decided to explore a bit in Fort William and arrived just before 4 pm, which was lucky because everything there closes at 5 pm, so we were able to buy a few gifts and get a general sense of the town. There are several outfitters here, a train station, little shops and restaurants. High Street is the main strip in town, but looked touristy, so we were glad to be there on a quiet day in the rain as opposed to the height of summer. I found myself envying the backpackers who strolled into town fresh off the soggy West Highland Way, a 96 mile trail that is Scotland’s version of the AT. Someday…
All the views of the mountains across the loch were completely obscured by the rain and clouds, and we were so thankful that the earlier part of the day had been clearer in Glencoe. Our dinner at the hotel was lovely with fish and chips, falafel, and sticky toffee pudding. I want to hike more and go to the top of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Scotland, but with the chilly, rainy weather and a 4000+ ft of elevation gain, we’ll have to save it for another trip.