Wednesday, 2 November 2011

First day continued

Ben Wyvis
The run through Carrbridge, Tomatin and down to Inverness was marred by road works which always make me grind my teeth in frustration. Except for brief stretches of dual carriageway, where the speed limit is 70mph, most of the journey is single carriageway and limited to 60 mph. Road works frequently reduced this to 40, and sometimes 30 mph.

The worst bit was where a convoy system was in operation, with long tails of traffic following a ditzy little vehicle at a very sedate 30mph. Still, once we've crested the last hill, the view down to the Moray Firth opens up and it is so spectacular it always makes up for any delays. I didn’t take pictures because I was driving, and anyway we were dithering about stopping for petrol. As it happened, we didn't and I continued on across the spectacular bridge where the Moray Firth becomes the Beauly Firth, and took the A835 to Maryburgh and on through the soft green fields to the wooded hillsides of Garve.
Somewhere here we changed drivers again, and it’s at this point that the land starts to rise through the forests and the bulk of Ben Wyvis looms ahead and then falls behind us. The railway line follows the road at this point, but it soon branches off down the Strath Ban to Achnasheen and on to Kyle of Lochalsh while we take the right fork towards Ullapool. For a while the land is bleak and barren, though at this time of year the land is covered with the rich golden brown of bracken and heather. The contrast of such colour against the blue sky is wonderful.
Aultguish Inn
It isn’t long before one of the less spectacular sights of Scotland looms into view – the dam at the end of Loch Glascarnoch, immediately behind the Aultguish Inn. I doubt I’d sleep very deeply if I ever stayed there, for I'd be imagining the dam wall breaching and water pouring out onto the inn. Happily it isn’t an establishment we’d ever choose to stay unless caught in a snowstorm, for it seems to be the haunt of bikers, backpackers and those who like loud music in their bars. Scotland isn’t all spectacular. Particularly on the west coast, machinery is often abandoned and left to rust into the ground. Modern homes are plonked down in the middle of wonderful landscapes, and the old home, no more than three tumbled walls of grey stone and a tall chimney gable, rears up like a lone tooth, sometimes only yards away.

Ahead the mountains are rising. Excitement rises with them.

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