The sun greeted us when we woke up today, which was the most wonderful surprise since every minute here has been rain or threat of rain. We ran downstairs for another Scottish breakfast, which is truly the best way to start a day. The breakfasts here are filling and nutritious with fresh eggs, local meats, beans and toast. We’ve been so full that we don’t eat lunch, and instead have a pint or a cup of tea midday with some local cheese or a pastry.
GLEN NEVIS & STEALL FALLS
Today we wanted to explore Glen Nevis, the beautiful space of land at the base of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Scotland. The Steall Falls trail can be accessed at the very end of Glen Nevis road. There is ample parking if you arrive early. The morning was sunny with blue skies, turning the dull browns of the rainy landscape warm. Even the greens seemed brighter, reminding the sheep that spring is here! The entire road to the trail is awash with pastures of happily grazing sheep, steep inclines dotted with firs, and ribbons of falling water everywhere. The rain falls in buckets the land can hardly contain, so it spills into every crevice, causing waterfalls in all directions.
The trail to Steall Falls is an easy one at 2.25 miles roundtrip with some moderate climbs over rocks and roots that eventually lead to a meadow where the falls can be seen at a distance. We rounded the bend and the sight was wondrous…white water cascading powerfully down the side of a hill, gushing into the river below.
Wanting a closer look, we crossed the cable bridge over to the other side. The cables are quite sturdy, and even though I was a bit nervous, with some careful maneuvering, it’s possible to make it to the other side. Gloves really help with added grip on the cables. When you reach the other side with the little house, the land turns into shoe sucking bog, reminiscent of a Hobbit walk through Middle Earth. I couldn’t help but conjure fantasy scenery in my mind, seeing Harry Potter flying away from a harrowing chase with a horntail dragon, or diving for the snitch during an intense quidditch match…I almost expected to see Hogwarts students flying round the bend straight for us.
We sloshed and mucked our way over to the base of the falls. Waterproof shoes are a must, and the Vasque Mesa Treks I wore held up really well while walking through streams and stomping up wet, muddy hillsides.
We enjoyed the mist from the falls before it started to rain, just in time for our hike out. With raincoats on, we sloshed back through the bog, shimmied over the cable, and hurried down the trail with the wind whipping rain straight into our frozen faces. Then just like that, it all stopped. This entire day was one bipolar weather experience. Note to travelers: even if the sun is shining in all her brilliance, wear a raincoat.
CALEDONIAN CANAL & LOCH NESS EXHIBITION CENTRE
Since all the other hikes in Glen Nevis were longer, more arduous affairs, we opted to head to the Loch Ness Exhibition Center for a bit of amusement. The drive was gorgeous. We passed loch after loch…they are all long, wide, and vast, with huge mountains rising straight up out of them.
We happened upon the small town of Augusta where the Caledonian Locks are, so we stopped for coffee and a stroll round the cute little town. The canal connects the coast near Inverness with the coast near Fort William.
The Loch Ness Exhibition Centre is like something out of a 70s science film. You walk into the building and are sent through a series of rooms with screens that project old video, narrated to describe the history of the Loch Ness monster, hoaxes throughout the year, and the scientific studies that have been done to prove or disprove Nessie’s existence. We learned that the loch is so massive that it could hold the entire human population on earth three times over! The information was pretty interesting, and while I’m glad we went, I’m not sure I’d recommend this as a must-see.
The town surrounding the Centre is quite adorable with gorgeous little planters showing off colorful primrose and tulips. It’s so exciting to see the primrose and foxglove growing wild here! We bought tea and a tart from a local shop and sat a spell in town. The tea here is absolutely the best I’ve ever had. I know this should go without saying since we are in the UK, but I can’t get enough.
On the drive back we stopped briefly at the Urquhart Castle to take some pictures, but opted not to pay the entrance fee since we had seen some other ruins that morning. The castle is gorgeously situated on the shores of Loch Ness.
During our drive, we saw a wind turbine being transported down the narrow two lane road and stopped to watch as the turbines sailed past. I have no idea how those truck drivers navigate the narrow lanes.
Still wanting to enjoy the remaining daylight, we headed back to Glencoe near the Three Sisters because we simply couldn’t get enough. Standing in the midst of these open landscapes makes a person feel small, and at the same time, wrapped up tightly by the loveliness of it all. Once again, it rained and seemed as though we might end up in another downpour, but the weather eventually subsided as we walked through the countryside. The light play over the mountains as the sun set made everything feel warm and glowing. A faint rainbow decorated the hills, a reminder that the rain doesn’t last forever. We climbed part of the way up to see some of the waterfall and stood atop the heath, soaking up the grandeur of this amazing place. Stags could be seen in the distance grazing by the river.
Dinner at the Glencoe Gathering was excellent. Food on this trip has been hit or miss, with some of it being great and some being less than stellar, but this place had delicious hearty fare, cold Guinness, and very nice locals. The sticky toffee pudding is to die for, so we had another round at our hotel while looking out over the hills that had been covered in mist yesterday. I am filled to the brim with thankfulness.
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