A round trip to Glencoe

July 22, 2016 - Oban, United Kingdom

We had managed to move the car into a safe spot in the back of the hotel's tiny car park last Sunday and it had remained there up until now. Today we decided we would drive to Glencoe and plotted a route that would take us down to Kilmartin first to have a look around the area and perhaps the museum before heading to Inverlochy and up the Glen Orchy road to then head for Glencoe and return via Appin and Connel Bridge. After a few tries we managed to programme our route into Miss Direct and set off to the south of Oban.

When we came up from Glasgow we had passed through Kilmartin but the rain had made it difficult to see a great deal of the countryside. At least today was dry and, if not sunny, at least only partly overcast. In fact it was quite warm in the car. We saw a sign for Arduaine Garden which Margaret had already flagged as a place to stop for a look, and duly parked up. After collecting cameras and coats from the car we followed the pathway down the hill to the ticket office, put our admission fee in the honesty box and chose a path to follow. The gardens had many azaleas and rhododendrons and would have been a grand show in Spring but had finished flowering by now. The woodland was criss-crossed by paths and we lost track of which way we were going but finally ended up on a promontory overlooking Loch Melfort and several islands.

We followed other paths down hill toward the beach and several ponds before making our way in the general direction of the car park once more. Navigation was difficult without a map but once we spotted the glasshouse through the trees we were able to find our way out and continued our drive to Kilmartin. Finding somewhere to park there was dificult as the carpark near the lookout was full but we found a semi-legal spot opposite the local store and walked back to the top of the hill for a quick look at the view. On the walk we stopped for a look in the museum grounds and decided it might be worth a visit.

From the lookout we could look down the valley and the signs described some of the standing stones and ancient settlement areas that were dotted around the landscape although we couldn't determine what to look for so it didn't make a lot of sense. A sign at the church nearby promised some graveslabs from the 13th century and some stone crosses that were even older so we walked up through the churchyard to see the grave slabs and then into the church where the stone crosses are now on display protected from the weather.

A gateway led us from the churchyard into the museum grounds and we went to buy a ticket, only to discover I had left my wallet in the car so while Margaret waited I brought the car up to the carpark and returned with my wallet. The museum and their collection is housed in the Old Manse, hence the gate from the churchyard. There are not many museums where you can look at artefacts in display cases and then look up through the window to see where they were found in the valley beyond. The collection includes items from other sites in Scotland and Europe but focusses generally on the places in the local valleys. The displays were well laid out and the explanations were large, legible and well-lit.

Time was marching on and so did we. We drove on to Lochgilphead and then northward toward Inveraray where we turned off to Inverlochy and joined the A85 near Dalmally. After a short stretch of the A85 we took a narrow B road along Glen Orchy. The drive followed the Orchy River which is deep and in places flows througn narrow cataracts. We stopped in a couple of places for photo opportunities. Luckily there were large areas to park as leaving the bitumen would have meant sinking in the peat. We saw a couple of cars heading in the same direction but otherwise there was no traffic which saved having to use any of the frequent passing places.

On reaching the Pass of Glen Coe we found several spots to pull up for photographs. At one large parking area also used by buses we had a bit of a chuckle at a guy who had walked out to photograph some bog cotton and now seemed to be sinking in the peat bog while being attacked by midges at the same time. With frantic handwaving and some slightly tentative steps (probably accompanied by the appropriate squelchy sucking noises) he finally made it back to his wife who was calling directions while standing on the firm path.  At our next stop, which was on the long driveway to leading to an inn, Margaret wandered into the peat and after being so careful to look for the solid spots she looked up toward me and promptly put her foot into one of the narrow water channels draining the bog. Whoops, I tried not to laugh and was even sypathetic enough to turn the heater up to give her shoe and sock a bit of a chance to dry out. (Sorry, my Love, I couldn't resist putting that into the journal).

The road winds around and is full of tourists trying to pull up for photos, like all of us, but further down the pass we found a parking area near a bridge and waterfall to get more photographs. Meanwhile Margaret took snaps from the window of the car.

We pulled in to Glencoe visitors centre but it was after 6pm by now and the centre was closed so we contined down to Glencoe village itself where we hoped there might be a pub offering something worthwhile for dinner. There was nothing that looked remotely inviting so we continued on to Ballachulish where we tried at the Laroch Restaurant and Bar. Sorry no tables in the Restaurant but if we could find a table in the Bar we could order from the Restaurant menu. There was a crowd in the bar and it didn't really appeal as a place to eat so we moved on down the road and saw a sign for Ballachulish House that offered meals and ales so, when we eventually found the place several hundred yards further down the road and past two major intersections and a roundabout, we pulled in to the car park. There were no spaces left and a couple of coaches parked outside so we decided that wasn't worth even thinking about. Off we went again looking hopefully at any signs that could offer food. Margaret spotted one for the Holly Tree Hotel offering 'All Day Meals'. There were spaces in the car park. Is this too good to be true?

Inside we were greeted by a waitress who said there was a table for two left and led us inside. The dining area looked out onto Loch Linnhe and an old railway pier. In fact the hotel and restaurant had grown from the original railway station and tearooms that were supposedly a Mackintosh inspired design. We couldn't see that from where we were sitting but later I looked around the building and it was obvious where the original building was and where the additions had grown out and up.

I ordered Venison which the chef agreed to do without the normal jus which contains garlic and Margaret opted for the Fillet Steak. When they came the meals were superb and served with a large bowl of vegetables to share between us. The chef had obviously decided he couldn't send a dish out without any sort of sauce so my venison came with a simple red wine jus which I thought was all that was needed with the venison. After a meal like that we foolishly chose to have Sticky Toffee Pudding. Foolish because it was so good and we both had to leave some on the plates.

I was going to say we returned to the car replete but really we waddled back to get cameras and take a few photos of Loch Linnhe just to avoid putting seatbelts around our bellies. We must admit we have been lucky once again to have stumbled on a very good restaurant.

It was only about 30 miles back to our hotel so we were home again before the sun went down. Blind luck and good fortune came to our aid again and there was a parking spot on the esplanade just across from the hotel. Not only would that be easy enough for luggage when we leave on the day after tomorrow but probably safer than in the narrow slots in the car park. When we got to our room we were too tired from our day to do more than sort the photographs from the day.


Pictures

Highland Cow at Arduaine Garden
Fuschias at Arduaine Garden
Arduaine Garden
Beach at Arduaine Garden
 
 
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