30 March Circular walk around Loch Kernsary
First thing this morning we visited the first weekly market of the year in Poolewe Village Hall. Here the local artists, bakers, jewellery makers, potters and other entrepreneurs showcase their talents. It was a lovely little market with good quality items for sale and would be worth a visit if ever you come up! A bit later in the year you can also buy locally grown vegetables and flowers. Angela couldn’t resist a couple of purchases:
Later in the day, I (Dean) went for a walk around Loch Kernsary. The walk begins from Poolewe near the campsite entrance, taking a right turn after the last house in the village. The weather was atrocious with driving rain/sleet and high winds (this is why Angela stayed at home!) but I was rewarded with some amazing views. The highlight of the walk though was spotting two stags, then a group of 13! They are amazing creatures, and even from a distance you realise how impressive they are especially with their antlers fully grown.
I didn’t have a wide enough lens to capture them all and they were on the limit of my camera capabilities for zooming in! I want to buy a new camera…..
25 March Cove & Strath
Today we took the bike out and went out to Cove, the mouth of the Loch where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. A bit further on is Rubha nan Sasan, where part of the Loch Ewe naval defences in WW2 were based. It played an important part in WW2 as it was one of the places where ships anchored before setting off on the Arctic Convoys to Archangel, Russia. Over 800 men failed to return and Loch Ewe would have been their last view of land.
According to the book by Steve Chadwick Loch Ewe during World War 2, the locals “talk of the time when their loch was black with ships and it was as if you could walk across the Loch from one side to the other, moving from ship to ship”.
You can still see the remains of the buildings. Some of which would have had guns mounted on top. The footpaths linking the buildings are also clearly visible.
Below is the Memorial Stone that was unveiled in 1999 by the Russian Convoy Club.
After paying our respects, we got back on the bike and headed for Gairloch. Our internet research told us there was a grocery store there so we were hoping it would be our lifeline while we’re here. On our journey in we came across the village of Strath and this may well be our village of choice for our days off. Not only are there two grocery stores, one of them incorporated with a butcher (both deliver free of charge to the campsite!) but there is also the Mountain Cafe.
In the Mountain Cafe they sell soup, sandwiches and home made cakes and while you’re in there you can browse their eclectic mix of books for sale – paradise! As the weather had turned nasty we treated ourselves to coffee and Potato and Leek soup before setting off back home.
24 March Inverewe CCC
We were left to our own devices today so we did some tidying up of the site (not much, just picking up fallen twigs and making the pitch markers more visible) then when Philip & Julia came back we stopped for coffee and a chat.
Having chatted for too long, we finished off our jobs, showered and made preparations for tomorrow when we’re planning to scooter out and check out the local shops.
23 March Setting up camp!
We opened our bedroom blind this morning to a beautiful view! The Loch was very calm this morning, and we could hear the birds singing.
After breakfast we were provided with some materials to make a base for the tent to go on and duly set up camp. The tent was put up without much drama, although the wind had picked up by then. All that meant was we knew we needed many anchors around the tent to stop it from blowing away!
Once the tent was secure we off-loaded all the food, drink, table and chairs that we’ve been carting around for ages and stored it in there. Now we can see all the food we’ve got we made a lovely dinner and relaxed in our ‘new’ home.
22 March Poolewe
At last! We finally made it to Inverewe Gardens CCC and met Philip & Julia who will be our managers for the season. So far so good – we’re looking forward to working with them and… they have our sense of humour!
After a cup of coffee they showed us round the site then left us to settle in. We cannot believe we will be living in such a beautiful setting for six months, although we’re well aware the weather can be equally unkind! The Loch Ewe is literally a stone throw away.
The weather might turn out to be an issue for our television viewing but we’re getting used to doing without it to be honest. Any wind above 30mph and the dish has to come down….do they get wind less than 30mph here??? We do have three analogue channels, BBC2, STV and C4 so Dean’s obsession with Deal or No Deal will continue.
19 March Nairn CCC
After breakfast (Bacon sandwiches) we helped Ivor and Nola with a few jobs in readiness for their opening next Thursday afternoon.
18 March Bus to Inverness
There are two bus stops just outside the campsite here. It is the A96 main road between Inverness and Aberdeen. One way takes you into Nain (3 miles away) £3.20 return or you can go into Inverness as we did this morning. It is approximately 15 miles away and cost £6.40 for a return.
We spent an hour or so walking around the city centre before going into Marks & Spencers (Civilisation) as it will be our last chance for a while.
We got the few provisions that we needed before getting the return bus back to the campsite. We had a bottle of wine with our spaghetti bolognese.
As we were under trees in a wood we could not get our satellite dish up (Also it was too windy) so we watched the whole of Series one of ‘Gavin & Stacey’ which we only bought today.
17 March (Happy St Patrick’s day) Fort William
During our breakfast we were discussing what to do and we had until noon before we had to leave site. The phone went and it was Ivor from Nairn saying he had just listened to the message and we could go there if we wanted until the problem was resolved.
As we were already packed up it was not long before we were saying our goodbyes to Margaret and heading off again. This time we were only on the road for 2.5 hours, we had a great drive out past the Royal Marine Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge and passing a few lochs including the length of Loch Ness. Unfortunately we did not spot the wee beastie!
We eventually arrived in Nairn, found the site and met up with Ivor and his wife Nola. We had a good chat before we sorted ourselves out with water and electric.
Angela cooked a lovely meal of mince and tatties!
13 – 16 March Fort William (Glen Nevis Campsite)
We chose this campsite for a few reasons, the main one was that we had been here before and loved it. It is in a great setting right under Ben Nevis, although you cannot see the top. It is within walking distance to the centre of Fort William (approx. 45 minutes). And it has some good walks from the site, especially the walk to Kinlochleven which is the last leg of the WHW.
Apart from walking to and from the town centre a few times we did not do much walking. We are in limbo at the moment as we are on our way to our new job in Inverewe.
The managers of the CCC are all at the annual conference in Coventry at the moment and as soon as they finish on Sunday they will be off to their respective sites. We will them be able to make contact and ask if we are able to get on site earlier than our start date.
We want to do our research of the area before we begin so we can pass what we have learned to the people that come to visit the site. You can go out on a fishing boat from Gairloch or go out on a daily boat with the marine biologists who record porpoise, whale and dolphin activity in the coastal waters.
The area is rich in wildlife and there are regular sightings of otters, grey and common seals and many seabirds including white-tailed eagles.
We went out for a scooter ride to the end of the Glen which was great. Last year we cycled there and back and were surprised to find that it was a 14 mile round trip. We also scootered out to visit Neptune’s Staircase but the weather took a turn for the worse so we headed back to the campsite.
We got the phone call we were waiting for on Monday 16th from our new managers. Phillip rang to say that they had just arrived on site and had a message to call us. After we told him a bit about ourselves and got some information we needed about the site we asked if it would be possible to come up early. It was agreed that we could head up there on the 17th as this is when we were due to leave Fort William.
Because we were concerned that there are no big supermarkets in the close proximity to the campsite we will be working (Ullapool 100 mile round trip) we decided to do a big shop in Morrisons. As it was going to be too much to carry we walked in, did the big shop and got a taxi back to the campsite.
Angela began sorting the inside of the van and once again I went through the ritual of loading the trailer etc. etc. As we were doing this I got a ‘phone call from Phillip telling us that unfortunately they had a big water leak in the loft on site so the water had to be turned off. It would not be worth us travelling up as agreed!
We sat and wondered what to do and what our options were. Do we book a few more days here in Fort William or do we try one of the other CCC sites? I left messages with Dingwall, Rosemarkie and Nairn explaining our predicament and asked if it would be possible to sit on their site until the problem had been resolved.
We had not heard anything by the end of the evening (16th) so we agreed that we would go to bed and decide what to do in the morning.
12 March Keswick to Fort William
We said our goodbyes to two of the assistants (Dave and Cath) and thanked them for putting up with our pestering them for advice which thay had kindly given us.
We then began our long journey to our next location in Scotland which according to our satnav was nearly 6 hours.
We followed the same route as we did this time last year. The scenery is spectacular with the mountain tops still covered in snow and some of the lochs still frozen solid.
North of Glasgow we began to get into some really lovely countryside. It got me reminiscing about the West Highland Way (WHW) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Highland_Way) which I completed a few years ago with ‘Falkirk Eddie’! Especially when we passed the Devil’s Staircase.
It was given its name by the soldiers who were part of the road building programme of General Wade, because of the difficulties of carrying building materials up that stretch of the road. Later, however, the road lived up to its name when workers building the Blackwater Dam chose to travel to the Kingshouse Hotel after they had been paid. For the workers at Kinlochleven the journey to the pub often proved to be more difficult than they realised and on the return trip, after a few drinks on a cold winter’s night, the devil often ”claimed his own“. Fortunately we both lived to tell the tale.
As you drive along the A82 after the Bridge of Orchy you pass along Rannoch Moor. At the end you are met with the imposing feature of the great herdsman or it’s proper name Buachaille Etive Mor.
Not far into the glen we pulled into a layby for a cup of coffee. We stopped here last year as it has a great viewpoint down the pass of Glen Coe ans is right under the ‘Three Sisters’
We eventually arrived at the Glen Nevis campsite (http://www.glen-nevis.co.uk/touring/index.htm) at about half past three. It was almost a year to the day that we were last here and Margaret greeted us in the same friendly manner as she had before. It was nice that she remembered us and was interested in what we had been up to. She could talk for England or should I say Scotland.
We set up on our pitch and had a relaxing evening in front of the TV!