Ike, Jane and friends decided to go on a guided minibus tour of Glencoe, Glenfinnan and Mallaig to visit the historic places in the western highlands of Scotland. Jane said she had done this trip a few times on cycling holidays and it was very scenic.
They caught the minibus from Buchanan Street Bus Station at 08.00 for a busy day out in the Highlands. The weather was cloudy as they travelled through Dumbarton and Luss to the first stop of the day at Tarbet. This is near the top of Loch Lomond and is the ferry departure point for many places around the loch.
Ike, Jane and friends went for a short walk around the area before heading back on the minibus to Bridge of Orchy and the Loch Tulla viewpoint.
Ferry at Tarbet
Loch Tulla is one of the smaller lochs in Scotland and is near Bridge of Orchy and Glencoe.
The tops of the hills were covered in mist but this only added to the authentic Scottish scenery. The next stop was Glencoe.
Ike noticed that there was a memorial, or cairn, to those who had lost their lives in the mountains:
As they travelled up the road to Glencoe they passed the Glencoe Mountain Resort. This was established in 1956 and is Scotland’s oldest ski centre. The chairlift runs all year round, offering sightseers and hillwalkers easier access to the mid and upper mountain and provides access to snowsports in winter and mountain biking in summer. Sno-tubing is available in the summer and sledging in the winter. There is a cafe which is open all year offering hot and cold food and drinks.
The area around Rannoch Moor and the Pass of Glencoe was stunning and they saw the area which was used in the James Bond film “Skyfall” before arriving at the viewpoint for the Three Sisters of Glencoe. This is a range of mountains comprising of Aonach Dubh, Beinn Fhada and Gearr Aonach and are collectively also known as Bidean Nam Bian. In the photograph below the hills from left to right are Beinn Fhada, Gearr Aonach and Aonach Dubh.
Jane said there were good walking paths in the area. Experienced walkers could take the more challenging routes but she said she always sticks to the paths for safety. It is also best to stick to the paths on Rannoch Moor as the area is very boggy and it is very easy to sink into it and become another casualty of the moor!
The West Highland Way, a long-distance footpath from Milngavie, near Glasgow, to Fort William, follows an old droving route across the wilds of Rannoch Moor. Although it is not difficult, it is a serious walk and should only be undertaken with proper hill walking equipment and clothing by people who are confident of reaching the next populated area.
Much of the footpath can be seen from the road. There were quite a few people on the path and some runners as well. Jane said it is possible to take the bus from Buchanan Street Bus Station in Glasgow to one of the villages on the route and walk part of the way before getting another bus back to Buchanan Street.
Glencoe Visitor Centre
Before arriving at the Glencoe Visitor Centre the tour guide pointed out the area where Hagrid’s Hut was transposed on the background of the hills in the Harry Potter film.
Glencoe Visitor Centre is run by the National Trust for Scotland and is a good place to stop for a comfort break and for something to eat. The well-stocked shop sells many interesting books, postcards, Scottish quality goods and gifts and some Scottish biscuits, preserves and a variety of beverages and soft drinks. There is also a nice cafe.
Of interest to Ike, Jane and friends was the Turf House. This is a replica of a 17th-century turf house. The work involved in building it involved preparing the ground and raising the sturdy timber cruck frame. This was completed entirely by hand. Hundreds of complicated joints are all held in place with 3,500 hand-whittled wooden pegs.
Turf houses were dotted across Scotland for thousands of years. The turf was used as a building material as it had the ability to waterproof and insulate properties.
The wattle walls are constructed with 3,000 locally harvested, flexible hazel wands passed in and out of upright posts every 40cm. They provided the ‘creel’ basket-like interior framework.
The turf builders cut and laid chunky turf blocks to construct the 80cm-thick exterior walls. These blocks are laid in an intricate herringbone pattern to offer maximum strength and stability.
The mud masons mixed up a concoction of Glencoe cow manure, straw and clay to create the ‘daub’ which they applied to an internal partition wall, which divides the building between a living room for the humans and a byre for livestock.
After spending an hour at the visitor centre they got back on the minibus and made their way to Mallaig which lies at the end of the evocatively named “Road to the Isle” passing through Fort William and Glenfinnan.
On this point of the journey, the tour guide pointed out an island with fir trees which was used in a Harry Potter film. He also pointed out a cairn which commemorates the departure point for Prince Charles Edward Stuart orBonnie Prince Charlie after his army’s defeat at the Battle of Culloden, when the Government troops defeated the Jacobites on 16 April 1746.
The Jacobite army was defeated by a British government force under Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, on Drummossie Moor near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. It was the last pitched battle fought on British soil.
The Jacobites wanted to restore the Roman Catholic Stuarts to the thrones of Scotland and England. There was not much support for this as most of Lowland Scotland had converted to Protestantism, leaving only the Highlands remaining loyal to their Catholic faith.
Mallaig is gateway to the Isle of Skye. Scheduled services connecting Mallaig with the island are operated by the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry and run throughout the year.
The well-known Jacobite Steam Train which was featured in the Harry Potter movies follows the famous Road to the Isles and operates in the summer months from Fort William to Mallaig, calling at Glenfinnan Station where visitors can visit the museum. and monument.
At Mallaig they stopped for some fish and chips. The fish is caught locally and many fishing boats which unload their fish in Mallaig. Jane said the last time she was in Mallaig there was a large fishing boat unloading its fish. On this occasion there were no fishing boats were in the harbour.
They also saw the sculpture “In Memory of those Lost At Sea, Mallaig”, by Iain Chalmers. In the background is a Fishing Industry Mural by James McCallum:
They then went to look at the Jacobite Steam Train before it set off at 14.10 on its journey back to Fort William. They would see it again at Glenfinnan when it crossed the viaduct.
Travelling by Car
Take the A82 road to Fort William and then turn left onto the A830 to Mallaig.
There is a regular rail service from Glasgow Queen Street to Fort William. There are 8 daily services from Fort William to Mallaig.
Megabus and Scottish Citylink both run a regular service to Fort William. Connecting buses leave Fort William to Mallaig and back.