Those of you who read my last blog post will know that we’d enjoyed a rather wet and wild time in Fort William. Thankfully, and typically, the weather took a positive turn on the day we moved on.
We woke up at Linnhe Lochside Holidays on the day we were leaving, to something we hadn’t experienced since we’d arrived a few days earlier- Bright blue skies and silence. There was no rain lashing against the tin roof, no wind swaying the caravan side to side, and no cloud swallowing up the mountains. It was a perfect day to be back on the road!
As we left the campsite and headed south we could instantly see that the mountains had a fresh dusting of snow, and it was totally breathtaking! Winding down the A82 through Glencoe we were more in awe with every corner we turned, and couldn’t resist stopping at the visitors centre for lunch. Luckily we knew that they had plenty of parking, including spaces for caravans, so we pulled straight in with no problem.
The visitors centre itself was modern and a lot bigger than I had expected, with a cafe, shop, exhibition and small cinema room where they were showing interesting historical documentaries. All of that was great, but of course the first thing I wanted to do was check out the viewpoint!
From the visitors centre there was a short (and very wheelchair accessible) boardwalk leading to the lookout, which “looks out” over those stunning mountains that shape The Highlands, and the valleys in between. There was a quiet calm in the air and I could’ve happily sat there all day, totally mesmerised by the dramatic scenery, despite the rather cool breeze. But with Stephen’s tummy starting to rumble we headed into the large cafe for some lunch. We decided on a delicious homemade vegetable and lentil soup and chocolate cake, and thankfully there was seating space left by the huge windows, so we could enjoy our lunch with a view. We’ve enjoyed many meals with great views during our time in Scotland, but this had to be one of the best so far!
Eventually, we managed to peel ourselves away from the idyllic setting, and continued the scenic journey to our next destination- south east of Loch Lomond. And if it wasn’t for the title of this blog post, you might be surprised to learn that we weren’t heading to another campsite, because we were off to meet our friend who had kindly offered us a stay in his holiday cabin!
In our usual fashion, we arrived as darkness began to fall. But it didn’t matter so much this time as we didn’t have a caravan to set up. We arrived, had a good catch-up with our friend Larry, then started to unpack a few of our bits. It certainly felt strange to be staying somewhere that wasn’t our familiar home-from-home, but with tartan curtains and a country cottage feel, it was so warm and comfortable that we soon settled in for the night.
After a restful nights sleep, we woke up the following morning to another beautiful day, and we couldn’t wait to see what adventures it would bring. Opening the curtains, we got our first proper glimpse of the view- lush green grass framed beautifully by a sky with barely a single cloud, and a couple of deer gracefully grazing on their breakfast. It was certainly a contrast to the weather we had experienced at our previous stop!
As lunchtime came around we headed out to the nearby village of Balmaha, on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond. We had heard great things about The Oak Tree Inn, and upon arrival it was clear that we weren’t the only people to have heard of its reputation. It was full to the brim of locals and tourists, even on this chilly but bright Thursday afternoon in early January! Despite the pub bustling with people, we were welcomed very warmly and shown to one of the only tables left, in a cosy corner by a window. As usual for me, I wasn’t feeling particularly hungry (I’m a cheap date!), so only Stephen ordered- crispy battered haddock and chips. When it arrived it was so big that we assumed they had kindly given us an extra portion in case I changed my mind, but apparently that’s just the size of their regular meals! It was certainly impressive.
After lunch we decided to go for a little stroll down to Tom Weir’s Rest, where the statue of the late famous outdoorsman perches on the edge of Balmaha Bay. We didn’t know of him at the time, but later found out that he was a much-loved tv presenter and author, and among his many achievements, he campaigned for the protection of the Scottish environment that Stephen and I have fallen in love with.
Continuing our stroll we went through the boatyard which housed a number of small vessels, all lined up in rows- some looking shiny and new, while others had seen better days. The boundaries of Loch Lomond’s water had been blurred due to the heavy rainfall over the previous week, and, like a big kid splashing in puddles I enjoyed driving through the flooded parts way more than any grown adult should! The late afternoon sun was bright and sitting low in the sky, and as I moved, the mirror-like reflections rippled in the still water. We were the only people there and it was beyond tranquil!
As you can imagine, it was difficult to leave the waterside, but with temperatures sitting just above freezing the warmth of the car was calling us back. Besides, my chair isn’t Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and unfortunately cannot glide across water. (But how cool would that be?!)
Back at the car, we decided that it was far too nice of a day to start heading back to the cabin, so opted for a scenic drive up the eastern side of Loch Lomond instead. The winding single-track road meandered gently alongside the glistening water, and regular breaks in the trees opened us up to spectacular views. We couldn’t help stopping at car parks along the way, each one presenting new photo opportunities, but eventually made it to the end of the road- Ben Lomond carpark. There, we got out and wandered over to the water, where the mountains stood tall around the Loch edge and the winter sun casted a warm orange glow on everything it touched.
Also admiring the view, stood an 87-year-old Glaswegian man who was extremely chatty and kindly offered to take a photograph of us. We love being the only people around, but we also love meeting the locals and hearing all about their lives!
With the final full day of our winter Scottish adventure drawing to a close, we slowly made our way back to the cabin to spend a fun-filled evening with Larry and his lovely wife- Ghislaine. Taking the same route back, we cruised alongside the loch as the most beautiful sunset lit up the skies. It gave us time to reflect, and was a perfect end to another perfect day- The kind of day where the weather is ideal, everything just feels right, and you spend the journey home smiling contently for no reason in particular.
The following morning was a quiet one, as we packed our bags and said goodbye to our wonderful hosts. But before we left we had time for one more thing- a short stroll up to the remains of Buchanan Castle. We’d heard a lot about it’s interesting and colourful history, so couldn’t leave without checking it out for ourselves! Having seen photographs of it in its glory days, it was fascinating to see it in its current state- overrun with shrubbery and barely a shell of its former self. I couldn’t help but imagine the comings and goings of the people who once lived and worked there- a once loved home, now eerily derelict remains. The saying “If these walls could talk” certainly came to mind.
Much like our trip, all good things must come to an end, and it was now time for us to start the long drive home. Our Hogmanay adventure had flown by in a mix of hustle and bustle, mountains and tranquillity, meeting friends and strangers, and experiencing every kind of weather possible. Although it was quite mild by Scotland’s standards, we have wanted to enjoy a Scottish winter for ages- and enjoy it we did!
Once again we have made some unforgettable memories and cannot wait for our next adventure.
Thank you so much for reading!
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