Sunday, 30 October 2011

Holiday Memories

I was reading Kathy's post about her trip to the Scottish Highlands, and I confess to coming over all envious, as I'm just ever-so-slightly completely and utterly obsessed with that part of the UK myself. As mentioned in my previous post, roughly this time last year we were up there in a place called Portuairk, which is a tiny little crofting village (barely even big enough to be a village in fact) on the very westernmost point of the UK mainland, the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. The weather was pretty typically Scottish all week, but we still had a fantastic holiday. I don't have any links with that part of the world, and apart from a weekend coach trip with my mum, I'd never been there on holiday until Chris and I started visiting. Yet every time I go there, I kind of feel like I'm coming home. The breathtaking scenery of the lochs and mountains fills me with an enormous sense of peace and belonging, and every time we leave, I think I leave a little bit of my heart behind. I suspect it probably is my 'spiritual home' and let me tell you, when I win the lottery, you won't see me for dust! I'll be up there buying a romantic little cottage quicker than you can say "och aye tha noo"! Erm, hopefully Chris will want to come with me too!

Anyway, seeing how pleased Kathy was to get a photo of the majestic stag, it reminded me of my own 'Monarch Of The Glen' moment from a few years ago, which I just thought I'd share with you.

We were staying in a little cottage in a place called Cove, on the shores of Loch Ewe. At the opposite side of the loch is a place called Mellon Charles, and one day we visited a little shop which made handmade soap. I'm pretty sure this is the same place, although it looks like they've expanded a lot since we were there, and I'm not even sure if the same people own it now. At the time though the owners were a lovely couple (whose names escape me unfortunately) who spent a lot of time telling us about the area and suggesting places to visit. One of the places they suggested was the Applecross Peninsula. So we had a study of the map and decided to give it a try later in the week.

To really experience this area, you need to cross the mountain pass known as Bealach na Bà, which roughly translates as Pass Of The Cattle, as it was once a drover's road. It has the greatest ascent of any road climb in the UK, rising from sea level at Applecross to 626 metres (2,053 ft). This is the slightly ominous sign that greets you at the start of the pass:



So off we went, fearless, into the unknown! Once you start the climb, you don't really want to stop unless you have to in a passing place, so there weren't many opportunities to take photos, and to be honest, since I had the steep drops at my side of the car, I think I was clinging on (to what Chris refers to as the 'Jesus Handle') for dear life! But it really was breathtaking though!

We did manage to stop on one of the hairpin bends, where the road widened a bit, and this is where I had my Monarch Of The Glen moment. The reason we stopped was because we saw these three deer running down the hillside:


I got a couple of photos of them, and then turned round to speak to Chris, and saw this guy on the hillside behind me:





He stopped and stared right at me, and I think I held my breath the whole time, whilst snapping away. It felt like such a privilege to be able to take his photo, he was absolutely stunning, and he was literally just a few feet away from us, no zoom lens needed! Eventually he wandered off out of sight, so we carried on, and I got a couple of photos of the road that we'd just travelled up:



At the summit there was an information board about the view - I think on a clear day you can see Skye from there. I braved the gale force wind to walk to the board, but it definitely wasn't a clear day and I couldn't see a blimmin' thing. Chris stayed in the car, and snapped me making my way back, all wrapped up with my woolly hat on, genuinely worried that I was going to get blown away:


A brilliant experience, one I can't recommend enough if you're ever in the area, and if you're brave enough!!

This video, courtesy of twpduk on YouTube, shows you what the road is like. There are lots of other similar videos; clearly driving up there on a motorbike with a helmet camera is a popular thing to do! The engine noise/gear changes give you an idea of the effort it takes to climb to the top. Be warned though, if you suffer from motion sickness, particularly from things like video games, you might want to give it a miss:






I hope you enjoyed that little visit to one of many stunning parts of Scotland!

2 comments:

  1. Oh, I so agree with you! I love it up there, we had a holiday up just above Inverness a couple of years ago and went up higher and its just BREATH TAKING!! I could live up there no problem. I do however, have roots up there, my Nana was Scottish and her family was from Dundee and Aberdeen. I just felt at "home" up there if that makes any sense. Read your last post, I never thought of tying odd balls of wool together for a blanket, good way to use up all those odd ends!

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  2. Wow what a ride, fantastic, this reminds me so much of our Great Ocean Road, here in Victoria, Australia. You drive right along the cliff face for quite a way. My first hubby's family had a holiday home and to get to it we had to drive along this road and back then the road was very narrow. The 'diggers' (army guys) built it with pick and shovel, it took them years and years to do.
    I can understand why you would love to live there.
    x Sandi

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