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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Easter in the Highlands of Scotland - Time for an Easter Break


Easter is quite early this year with Good Friday on the 3rd of April.

You might be forgiven for thinking that it would be too early to head for the Highlands but have a look at these photographs I took on the Great Glen Way in March 2012.

We had great weather and I remember as we walked the last stretch we were actually too hot!

Actually the timing of Easter is quite good this year. Take an Easter break in early April, work a few weeks and then you have the Bank Holiday weekends in May to look forward to as well.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Great Glen Way - The High Route from Fort Augustus to Invermoriston


As we have lots of Great Glen Way walkers staying with us I am keen to walk as much of the way as I can to help answer any questions they may have. Today's section was from Drumnadrochit to Invermoriston on the much acclaimed High Route.

Fort Augustus and Loch Ness are just 30 minutes up the road from our guest house in Spean Bridge so by 8:30 I had started walking from a sleepy Sunday morning Fort Augustus.

The blue GGW signs let you know you are on the right track, more of this later.

The walk out of Fort Augustus is largely all up hill and in some sections very uphill. I would suggest not to overdose on breakfast. The photo below shows the small hill with the huge pine trees

Being the tail end of Autumn there is still lots of colour around

Eventually a gap in the trees gives the first great view back down to Loch Ness

A little higher and looking South the sky is really clear down there.

Now the High Route separates from the Low Route but not where I thought so I had a little circular detour of about a mile. At the first white marker post you see which I think is opposite a viewpoint bench do not, do not, do not take it.
This is the path I was on which was fascinating because it was very dark and the path was untrodden. Look at the pine needles on this section. But if I had not taken the wrong turn I would not have seen this nor my first red squirrel of the day.

This is the Allt Na Criche burn which you walk up alongside to get to the High ground in a series of zig zags which seem to go on for ever.

First view from above the tree line back down the Great Glen with the curve of the Caledonian Canal in the middle.

All the views South had been great and I thought could not be bettered until I turned a corner and here was the view North

At this point my camera battery gave up so I used my mobile phone camera but it really did not do a great job towards the end of the walk.
This was the view from the shelter on the path which I guess is about half way on the route.

The walk along the top section is really quite easy on a great path and as I was nearing the end of the top section I thought I would enjoy the cheese sandwich I carefully made the night before. Oh dear tea, crisps, chocolate bar but no sandwich - still in the fridge! (note the 1990's Boots thermos flask)

 My first glimpse of Invermoriston - amazing from up here

The path down is pretty steep and I am glad I did not come up that way

Wildlife, right this photo below is of a red squirrel - can you see him in the middle. On the day I saw 3 red squirrels, 8 grouse, 3 ducks, two pheasants (worth counting?) and two birds that I don't know. They are blackbird sized, light brown in colour with white under their wings, very timid (they fly away as soon as they see you and don't stop flying!) and always seem to be in a pair.

 Down in Invermoriston and proof that it is so cold there they have heaters outside

The signpost with no paths

Monday, 27 January 2014

Good advice on car hire when visiting our guest house in Spean Bridge, near Fort William, Scotland (or indeed anywhere!)


I was thinking ahead to when our visitors start arriving and trying to think what other information would be useful to them.

Well I know when I go on holiday finding the best car hire and watching out for potential problems can be a bit of a head ache so why not read this article on Money Saving which goes into great and useful detail.

I know I have saved a fortune on "excess policy" costs by using this site and so have some of our guests including those from continental Europe coming to Scotland.

So go ahead and have a good read before its too late but one other tip - get a road map. Sat Nav is all very well but a map will always be by your side and the battery will not fail (:-)

And some ideas of what to do when you are here

Enjoy your week ahead


Friday, 6 September 2013

East Highland Way from Spean Bridge to Inverlair and back by mountain bike


I have walked part of the East Highland Way before from Spean Bridge to Chlinaig (a settlement before Monessie) but I was keen to see the rest of the route out to Inverlair.

As I was a bit short of time I decided to cycle the way and taking the bike did not give me any great issues.

I first cycled out the A86 from Spean Bridge to Inverlair which being on the road was the least interesting part of the day. This picture is taken from near Tulloch Farm looking across to the EHW.

It did not take long from Tulloch Farm to Inverlair and striaght away I had to climb quite a steep forestry road. If you are travelling West to East and you see this house then you may be glad to know that you are almost at Inverlair!

I did think the upward road would go on and on but suddenly it plateaus. At the top there are great views East including the Laggan dam

From the top its downhill all the way ( I would not like to cycle up this hill from West to East) and with the logging that has taken place and is still ongoing its really opened up the views.
Some walkers have been a little confused in areas where there are lots of little new roads for the timber lorries and in particular this junction
Just carry on straight up the hill as the roads veers slightly to the right. The forestry guys or Kevin Langan have kindly placed yellow tape on sticks all the way along this section to guide you.

Across the glen there is a church on a hill and you may be interested to know that this was a location used a few times when Monarch of The Glen was filmed here.  You can just see it and the graveyard as a thin grey line on the hill face.
After this it was down hill again to the infamous hidden gate into the forest which is now a lot more obvious I think with the trees down and you can certainly see the track climbing the hill back up behind me. The river/stream/burn which is mentioned in the guide book is very low at the moment and nothing to worry about. Bike and I scrambled over without getting wet.

The way is now a bit vague but there are pieces of track and its obvious that you carry on between the river and the fence on the higher ground. I skirted past a substantial ruin of a croft or township and it makes you wonder why this was abandoned. Once you enter a green field the farm track that exits the other side carries you from the Monessie area all the way to Spean Bridge. The Monessie gorge is worth a wee detour.

On the final leg now and I should mention that the path you see up above you on the hill side is the old puggy line which was a narrow gauge railway created to aid in the construction and maintenance of the British Alcan hydro power pipelines from Loch Treig to Fort William.
On the opposite side of the glen is another track like mark. This is a glacial lake mark and more of these can be seen in Glen Roy.

The photo below is looking West towards Spean Bridge and you can see the lovely bright blue sky.
The River Spean is interesting on this stretch as it varies in depth and speed.

It took me about 3.5 hours to do this loop with a few photo stops thrown in. A really good mix of countryside and river bank to take in.

If you have any questions about the route I would be happy to answer them for you.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Great Glen Way from South Laggan to Spean Bridge - by bike


We have a lot of guests who come to walk the Great Glen Way usually going South to North - from Fort William to Inverness and whilst I have walked the Fort William to Spean Bridge leg I have never done the next day which is Spean Bridge to South Laggan.

So keen to know what guests can expect I decided see it for myself but did not fancy walking it this time so hence the mountain bike. I also figured it would be logistically easier to drive up to South Laggan, leave my car and cycle back to Spean Bridge. Car to be picked up later with the help of my lovely daughter (:-) or I could catch the bus.

Not sure of how long the 17 miles would take I packed one apple, one satsuma and an oatcake! I got to South Laggan around 10am and set off straight away but of course checking three times that I had locked the car.

The first great sight is of all these cruiser boats over wintering

It was a beautiful crisp morning and Loch Lochy was looking smooth and beautiful. I disturbed a great example of a heron in a pond next to the loch - tall and with great colouring. He joined the ducks in the loch instead.

So off down the track and overall it was a great cycling track. Tarmac single track initially and then a smooth forestry road as far as Clunes.

Not far from the top of the loch I came across a wild camping site and I loved this wooden shelter.

I don't know if anyone has slept in it but it looks very dry inside with its back to the prevailing West weather and a fire pit at the open door.
The scenery was more varied than I thought it might be as I feared that it might just be conifers plus the path runs close to the shoreline which creates interest.

Eventually Aonach Mor , Aonach Beag and Ben Nevis came into sight letting me know I was nearing home.

Clunes was a welcome sight and this is the Forestry Commission woodland college building. The Great Glen Way Rangers also use this on a Monday to give advice to walkers, a cup of tea and use of their facilities.
I was now in the Achnacarry estate and it really is beautiful. I took a few minutes to have a look at this old boathouse and the fishing licence information board. I love the colours of the wood on this building.

So only a few miles to go. I was fascinated to see this old practice landing craft base at the side of the road.

I then reached the very familiar Gairlochy where I pick up walkers on the Great Glen Way every other day. I quick waive to Carrie a look at the lock keepers chickens and I was off on the last stretch. After 13 miles the climb out of Gairlochy was a bit challenging and pushing the bike for a while seemed a good idea. I also decided to have a little something from my lunch to boost my energy levels in the sheltered lea of the old church.

So my day was almost over as I passed the Commando monument and rolled downhill into Spean Bridge.
A grand day out and whilst it seemed longer it was only 3 hours.
If you are walking this route I think you will enjoy the variety of scenery which is very different from day one of the GGW from Fort William to Gairlochy/Spean Bridge.

Should any of our guests want to drive to a start point and walk or cycle back to Distant Hills Guest House then I would be happy to drive them back to their car if other responsibilites allow and within a reasonable distance of course! We also do have a good bus service for such a small village.

If you have any questions about the Great Glen Way I would be happy to answer them.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Spean Bridge accommodation to Mallaig on the train

Thought I would tell you about our recent train trip on the West Highland railway line to Mallaig. You can also do this trip on the steam train from May to October (steam train from Fort William) but our £13 day return tickets on Scotrail's diesel was a perfectly acceptable alternative.

We caught the 11:54 train from Spean Bridge which still has the original station building and signal box (not like that modern thing in Fort William)
The train arrived on time and we settled in to our allocated seating. I was looking forward to seeing the scenery without running the risk of driving off the road. Father in law enjoyed seeing the Spean Bridge golf course from a different view rather than from the rough.

Pretty soon we were coming out of Fort William and over the Caledonian Canal. In the video here you can see some of Neptunes Staircase which is a series of locks on the canal.

The next major item had most people on their feet to get the best view as we came to Glenfinnan and the viaduct featured in Harry Potter.

There followed spectacular lochs and glens and tiny historic Victorian halts until we reached Arisaig. A lovely wee village and the most Westerly railway station in Britain.

After that views out towards Skye and Eigg and we pass the River Morar (Britains shortest salmon river at 400 metres) which flows from the deepest loch, Loch Morar (over 300 metres deep).

We roll in to Mallaig at 1:34 and stroll along to out lunch destination the Steam Inn. Plenty time for sight seeing afterwards. Lesley and I went straight for the prawn cocktail and chips. The prawns are fantastic, meaty and flavoursome and the bar lady very friendly.

After lunch we had a stroll around the village (although it could also be called a town) including the Skye ferry terminal, had a chat to a couple of guys from the terminal staff, the 8 foot fisherman statue, the Art Gallery (good to hear a local voice behind the counter) and the Visitor Centre (more West Highland accents).

(Update - the weather was not great on the day we went but if you would like a 1.5 hour walk circuit have a look at this one   )

It was then 4pm and time to depart. A wee glass of whisky and a snooze made for an enjoyable journey home to Spean Bridge. A grand day out.