Monday, January 18, 2010

West Highland Way, Day 6: Inveroran, A Place of Real Escape

We stocked up on lunch food at the Green Welly Shop in Tyndrum before setting off to the north through the Bridge of Orchy to Inveroran (not to be confused with Inverarnan), ten miles today but it will be three days before we come to a grocery again. We preferred to supply ourselves with cheese, crackers and fruit to eat on the trail rather than traditional lunch food. Kathleen and I had some differences about the tasteless crackers she liked, but I would count that as one of our greatest differences. Our clutch of ladies is getting on well, all mavericks that we were.

Our morning walking traversed the slopes of a munro, Ben Dorain at 3524', and a wannabe munro, Ben Odhar at 2948". I could relate to Odhar. Not so long ago, he probably met the 3000' requirement for a munro and now he was just a sub-munro. I used to be 5'4 and a half inches, now I'm 5'3 and a half.

These guys are conic mountains of volcanic origin, truly beautiful structural shapes. The big guy in the distance is Ben Dorain.

The flanks of our Bens were grazed by herds of sheep and Highland Cattle, an ancient Scottish breed that survives, even thrives under harsh conditions, much like the Highlanders themselves.

Beats me how they see past that mop top, but it must serve some survival purpose. They all seem to have the same hairdresser.

This sharp horned guy was pretty intimidating, but fortunately they seemed to be pretty even tempered animals as we had some up close and personal encounters.

In the fields just before Bridge of Orchy we came across either an antique piece of farm equipment or field sculpture. I couldn't decide which, but it looked the part.

We stopped to chat with a couple come out from the city to tend an elderly mother's house and garden, in her 80's she was and not wanting to move away from her home. I was in love with the shed. It had seen its share of hard weather, probably like its owner. It had a distressed look in furniture parlance, but naturally come by.

The hamlet of Bridge of Orchy was named after the bridge over the River Orchy built in 1751 by the government, again part of the transport project for control of those pesky Highlanders. Guide books referred to the "famous" Bridge of Orchy but I couldn't figure for what it was famous. Nothing significant happened here, no one famous lived here or did anything here. Just this beautiful old bridge, good for river watching. One of the best white water rivers in Scotland.

We lingered lunch beside the river.

As we headed up and out of Glen Orchy, I turned for a glimpse back at this peaceful little spot. I find myself doing that more often these days, at an age I know the probability I'll be back this way again is pretty small.

We crossed through a pine forest, hillsides covered with heather,

emerged onto open mountain on Mam Carraigh and scrambled up to a little cairn* to what one of Sally's guidebooks touted as the most beautiful view in Scotland, a panorama impossible to capture with a single shot, looking out over mountains, heather covered hillsides, sky, and water. Pure tranquility, and clear weather to view it all, pretty chancy in this part of Scotland, or all of Scotland for that matter.
*cairn = from Gaelic carn, a mound of stones piled up as a memorial or marker.

Looking northeast over Loch Tulla, I could see our route tomorrow crossing the small col* between Ben Toaig and Meall Beag onto Rannoch Moor, and my heart rate went up a bit. Our map and guidebooks cautioned there is no escape route or shelter crossing the moor, you are on your own, the weather is notoriously cruel, don't step off the track into the bog. Hm-m-m, just my kind of place.
*Col = a pass between mountain peaks or a break in a ridge

We hung out on our cairn a good long while with this landscape candy,

before taking the path down the mountain to Inveroran where our inn is the whole of the town.

We continued our lingering on a stone wall just a few yards from the door of the inn, as usual not wanting our walking to come to an end for the day.

The Inveroran Hotel is a rambling, narrow staired inn with eight rooms, blessedly in the middle of nowhere. The inn has been here since 1703 and, remote as it is, has had guests the likes of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, and the great Gaelic poet Duncan Ban Macintyre who was born just down the way on the shores of Loch Tulla. The Palestinian author Raja Shehadeh writes this description of his visits to the area.

I wondered whether funky Highlander Black Watch carpeted the floors when those famous guys stayed here.

Our room faced out toward Loch Tulla,

and after leaving my bag in the room I took a walk back outdoors, catching these red deer in the back field.

Later we all took a walk - just couldn't keep off our feet - and watched the muted colors of afternoon fade into the shadows of sunset.

Tomorrow, crossing the Rannoch Moor.


Pat said...

You only had one typo! And how else would you write a post about wandering the Highlands but in a wandering style??

Very, very nice. Makes me want to be there. Instead, I'm in Magnet hell!

Katharine said...

The cat is out of the bag. Patty is my editor.

Seven days and counting.

Pat said...

BTW, did you notice the similarity between the photos of the old farm equipment and the Highland cattle? *heh heh*

Katharine said...

You saw a similarity in the photos? I have stared at them but I need help for my non-abstract mind.

Pat said...

Think horns, color, and position (peeping out of the long grass).

Katharine said...

I think you've been in Magnet Hell too long.

Kappa no He said...

My soul gets rejuvenated just looking at those pictures. I can't imagine actually being there.

I didn't catch the typo. And what's this about tasteless crackers?

Katharine said...


Patty fixed the typo.

Between our Scottish breakfast and dinner at the destination, Kathleen and I lived on cheese, crackers, and fruit. Red headed Scot that she was, she found their cracker tasty, and I found them tasteless, one step up from cardboard. I ate them, what else can you do when you're hungry?