Ben Nevis, birching, Bonnie Prince Charlie, C Tarrant, Charles Edward Stuart, Chris Collingwood, commandoes, Comyn, Devil's toenails, Drambuie, Fort William, Glenfinnan monument, Golden eagle, gryphea, Highland Soap Company, Inverlochy Castle, Jacobite rebellion, Loch Lomond, Lord Lovat, Model T, Queen Elizabeth II, Scotch argus, Secret Portrait, silk map, Spanish Armada, Spean Bridge, WEst Highland Museum, Westminster Hall
Saturday, 17th September. My day in Fort William. Jon and Angela dropped both their guests at the railway/bus station, David for his bus to Inverness Airport, me to walk the short distance to the pedestrianised High Street, where my very modest hotel – about which no more will be said – was to be found. It was too early to check in, but I was able to leave my luggage there.
I had thought to take a boat trip on Loch Linnhe, but the facts that: it was once more pretty chilly; that I had done two boat trips in the previous few days; and that I was unlikely to see much wildlife without expert eyes, decided me not to. I wandered up and down the High Street, and first called in at WH Smith to buy a little replacement notebook for my next wildlife /photographic outing. I was delighted also to find a regional map covering the area we had been ranging. I had been trying to make sense from a map at Glenloy Lodge where we had been, but had succeeded only in the broadest of detail. Much of the location detail I have given in the last six blogs has been thanks to that map. I had been noting names, but had often not been really sure of where we were. It has all made sense since with the aid of that map (of which there is a photo of part in the first of this series of posts).
I also called in at Mountain Warehouse to buy some inner liner gloves, so useful not only for added warmth, but for taking photos with frozen fingers, when warmer gloves do not permit enough sensitivity. (I had had to do some emergency and very bad darning in the ones I had bought with me, now binned.) I also came away with a ‘folding sit mat’, to the existence of which Jon had introduced me.
I had had a recommendation for a vegan café from Angela, but having had a coffee and a pastry at another café, I had no need of lunch, and sadly the vegan one would not be open in the evening.
I walked up and down the High Street, and didn’t fail to call in at the shop I had been told about, opposite my hotel, where I was able to by some of that bottled bog myrtle scent I had coveted on Thursday. The Highland Soap Company believes it is the only enterprise to make bog myrtle products and I came away with two large bars of soap. (It does other scents as well.)
Fort William High Street is mainly lined with shops selling outdoor activity and Highland tourist souvenir goods, some cafes, and not much else. But it does have the West Highland Museum, which Angela had very firmly recommended me to visit. And indeed it was excellent, and pulled together so much of what I had seen during the week.
The rest of this post consists almost entirely of photos I took there.
The first room was about those commandoes who had trained in the Spean Bridge area, and whose commemorative monument we had seen on the Sunday.
Room 2 was called ‘Local history’.
Room 3 was natural history, geology, and a film about Ben Nevis’s creation.
Room 8 (don’t ask) included military history.
I was delighted to see an old map of the area between Lochs Arkaig, Eil and Lochy, with Glen Loy not far off the centre. This is part of that map. I reckon that Glenloy Lodge (build circa 1930!) was within the area marked ‘Strone’.
Room 4 was small and contained exhibits on archaeology and mountaineering. Room 5 was also very small and had some Victorian costume in it.
Room 6 was a separate room which required payment of a small fee to see. (The rest of the museum was free.) I was happy to pay the extra to see a small exhibition devoted to the Jacobite rebellion, when Prince Charles Edward Stuart, ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ and grandson of James II (and VII of Scotland) sought to claim the throne of Great Britain which he believed was rightfully his.
Simon Lord Lovat was one of the rebels, having previously been a supporter of the House of Hanover. He was tried in the 11th-13th century Westminster Hall, and condemned to death.
My own thoughts, on that Saturday, two days before her funeral, were of our late monarch currently lying in state in that very hall, which had seen so much history, (and where in January 1965 Winston Churchill had laid similarly, the last to do so, and when I had had the privilege of paying my respects.)
‘This simplified family tree should help you untangle the various relationships between the various monarchs.’ Indeed. In order: James I (and VI of Scotland), Charles I, Charles II, James II (and VII of Scotland), William of Orange and Mary II (who themselves were cousins), Anne, and George I.
This was fascinating. A shiny cylinder, and some blobby paint around it, turns into a secret portrait if you look at the cylinder from a certain angle.
Room 7 was Highland life.
Finally, there was a film which explained the bronze statue of the Ford Model T car outside. In 1911, such a car had been driven to the top of Ben Nevis and down again. The descent had been filmed, and here were extracts.
Immediately outside was a cinema with a substantial, waiter serviced, café. I had a hazelnut-flavoured coffee, and then went just back over the road to my hôtel, from where I emerged a few hours later to have a pizza in that same café, which projected old black and white films onto the wall, including a full one about that Model T’s descent from the top of Ben Nevis.
A civilized rising time the next day, a gentle wander to the bus station (and a sandwich bought in the Morrison’s there) and a splendid bus journey back down Glencoe, Rannoch Moor and Loch Lomond to Glasgow Airport. Again, I did not listen to the podcasts I had to hand, and just revelled in the scenery for three hours. With no sun, there were fewer reflections, and I was able to grab these photos of the Loch.
Even if Jon and Angela will no longer be in business, I am already daydreaming plans for a return visit to the area, perhaps next year…