Monday, September 10th - Fort William, Mallaig, Kinlochleven
On Monday morning, we wanted to start early, already at 7 o'clock, in order to arrive in any case in time to our train journey on the Jacobite Train in Fort William. But first of all, we had to clear the apartment, i.e. pack our suitcases and bring them downstairs and into the car, leave the apartment proper and clean, empty the trash cans and throw the key into the mailbox, as agreed with the agency. We wanted to have breakfast only at the Drover's Inn, our first stop of the day, where I had reserved a table for breakfast, an absolutely extraordinary inn! So after the suitcases were stowed away, we threw in the keys and Karin received her first coffee of the day from the Tinderbox café, at about a quarter past 7, we hit the road. A short track on the M8 and then on the Great Western Road, which leads as A82 continously further northwest and which would bring us in the course of the day up to Fort William. However, we got jammed into the morning rush hour and the satnav was constantly raised the estimated time of arrival in the display. The area became more rural, we entered the nature reserve Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and drove many, many miles on the shores of Loch Lomond. Finally, it felt like after millions of curves, we reached the Drover's Inn, it was already after 9 o'clock and breakfast was only available until half past 10. It is a nice rustic restaurant in an old post station from the 17th century. The highlight is the man-sized bear in the hallway and the metal shark in a parlour; the stuffed genuine shark, which used to hang in the hallway and which I had seen only last year, unfortunately crashed down, but they promised to me it will be hanged again soon. The choice of breakfast was unfortunately quite small, consisted mainly of varieties of scrambled eggs, toast and jam as well as quite tasty tea. I had already told some stories to my girls, which I had gotten told last year by the landlord. During the waiting time, we asked the young waiter to tell us some more ghost stories which the Drover's inn is famous for. The deceased, regular guest called Old George, who wanted to have his urn kept in the pub, actually rests behind the oil painting on the right wall in the pub, but he's not lonely there, he has another few for company, post mortem so to speak... And if you happen to have some stuffed animals at home that you don't want or need anymore, you can send them to the Drover's inn, they will take them in!
Well strengthened and with a few rustic photos in our cameras, we immediately set off on our journey to the next stop, only a mile away. The Falls of Falloch are right next to the A82, there is a small parking lot for about 12 cars, luckily it wasn't full when we arrived. At the car next to us, three young men were preparing their kayaks for a whitewater trip. The waterfall is only about 5 minutes walk north. Already on the way, we heard and saw it rushing right beside us, a few small streams crossed our way, which was damp from the rain, water just everywhere. And at a rocky spur, we finally saw the thundering waterfall right in front of us, simply breathtaking. This waterfall outshadowed all the others that might have been halfway on my way in the next days! We could not tear ourselves away for quite a while.
On the way back, shortly before we reached the car, we spotted a little bird that jumped around weakly and finally rested on a boulder.
After this short stop, the A82 took us steeply up to the plateau with a wild lake landscape, which then borders on the mountainrange of Glencoe. We stopped at a steep parking uphill with a viewpoint and met for the first time two German motorcyclists, whom we would see a few more times in the course of the morning, either before or behind us, likewise on the way direction Skye, but they were completely relaxed, no appointments made. Just when we wanted to drive on and climbed into our car, a big bus full of Chinese tourists (or were they Japanese?) arrived, so just in time, you could say...
Driving through the breathtakingly beautiful mountains of Glencoe, we stopped at several view points and enjoyed the wonderful view, the vastness of the landscape, which is majestically beautiful and impressive, simply not to be put into words. The camera simply cannot capture the immense beauty, that's what I think every time I'm there. But on some pictures, you can see how stormy it was on that day, and also not very warm, so we had nothing to fear from the midges (small but penetrating mosquitoes) and I had bought the mosquito repellent just in vain.
At the end of Glencoe valley, where the tragic story about the massacre took place more than 300 years ago, (please look it up online or read my report from 2017, I won't explain once again), we finally found a gas station and Karin was able to buy a new memory card for her video camera whose memory was full. Unfortunately, it didn't work as well as the big 32 Gigabyte she got from her daughter, she was really very disappointed and kept complaining, so we had a big problem. Karin wanted to film the train ride in the afternoon and of course also during the rest of the tour. A bit later, we crossed the Ballachulish Bridge over Loch Leven (not the Loch Leven where the island with the castle is located) and immediately after that, there was a parking place with a fantastic view over the loch and soon afterwards, we found St. Johns Church to our left...
...and continued on the A82 at Loch Linnhe to Fort William, where we found a parking lot directly at the station. At the counter of the train station, I wanted to inquire about the steam train, the Jacobite Train, but they told me that this was another railway company and they couldn't help me at all, I should wait until the train was there and their staff. For a memory card, we were sent to the supermarket around the corner, Morrison's, where most of us got cash first at the ATM. Inside, Karin and I found a young employee who advised us in detail, solved the problem with the previously purchased memory card, so that it worked (it wasn't wrong or broke, just needed an adapter!), and Karin bought another one to be on the safe side. The other 3 girls had meanwhile provided themselves with coffee and cake, I wanted to get something warm, a soup or a snack, but was soon quite frustrated, because although the dining area was not huge and also not fully occupied, according to information of the staff, it would take about half an hour until the kitchen would have finished something warm, even something as simple as a soup. Finally I chose a panini, which - with a little begging - should be warm in 10 minutes only, time was pressing, we had to get on the train in time! We had finished when the train arrived and we asked the staff about our pre-booked seats. Our departure was at 14.40 o'clock.
This is the famous train that almost everybody has seen from inside and outside, even from above in a flying car, watching various movies of Harry Potter. It drives twice a day from Fort William through the western Highlands to the coast at Mallaig.
We sat right and left of the aisle, the pre-ordered Jacobite High Tea packages were already on the tables at our seats. Unfortunately, since the late morning, the occasional light showers had turned into a steady rain. The windows were full of raindrops from the outside and heavily fogged from the inside, but unfortunately nothing worked with looking out or even taking pictures. And so nothing was to be seen of the hoped for beautiful views, also the live announced crossing of the famous Glenfinnan viaduct was not really to be seen, outside everything was a more or less grey-green monotony, really a pity, we were all very much looking forward to the train ride before. With the ordered High Tea, there was of course also fresh tea or coffee, more drinks or snacks for extra payment, e.g. a chocolate frog à la Harry Potter for 4 pound. At each of the 3 stops on the way, there was a longer stay, so that we could also have got out sometimes, but none of us would take that risk.
Finally, after almost 2 hours ride, we arrived in Mallaig, a small quaint coastal town that we actually wanted to explore for a stroll, but there was not much that could be done in the pouring rain, nobody would go for a walk on the beach. The first shop with knitwear that Christina saw across the road was unfortunately closed, so we ended up in a nearby Harry Potter café, where each of us found some souvenirs, also high-quality jewellery. Next door there was another Hardcore-Harry Potter shop that actually looked more like a museum, with really everything there about Harry Potter one could think of - and more. We considered sitting in a café, but then we went to the Heritage Museum with a gift shop for a while, we didn't want to pay another entrance fee any more, and soon, we could sit in the train again to be in the dry. Unfortunately it was not possible to take a picture of the smoking locomotive, we could hear it and see the smoke coming out, but it stood too far ahead of the platform to be seen.
On the way back, it soon got dark and this time, we saw even less of the surroundings. Only those who looked out of the open window, despite the rain, saw the famous viaduct, a young woman even took a mobile phone video which she sent us by whatsapp.
On may way through the train, I happened to find the train compartments with the sliding doors where they had actually shot the Harry Potter movies. Around half past nine in the evening, we were back in Fort William and we found our rental car where we had left it in his parking lot.
Actually, it was already very late, past 8 p.m. and most of us didn't want to eat much anymore, just get as soon as possible to our hotel in Kinlochleven, where we were announced for a late arrival. But on the way towards Kinlochleven, at the borders of Fort William, we passed a road with one B&B next to the other (mostly without vacancies) on the left side of the road and we discovered an advertising board for a hotel called MacDuff Inn. We turned round, got at parking place and asked for a late meal in the restaurant and actually, shortly before 9 o'clock, got offered something to eat! Frozen to the bone as we were, we were happy about the delicious soup of sweet potatoes which came with something other than toast bread as in the restaurants before, with crispy delicious farmer's bread. We're Germans and so we like crispy dark bread!
The drinks menu had one full page with only whiskies! So we tried a few ones, had a nice end of the evening before we made our way to our Allengrange B&B in Kinlochleven. This was quite a way back along the shore, a rather curvy stretch, which unfortunately was also quite long, in the darkness and on wet, slippery roads I could not drive so fast and it took me longer than expected. Finally, we had identified the house, which was located at a steep access road; in the dark it looked completely different than on the photo at booking. The light was on for us as promised, and the front door was open, so we entered. No one was to be seen. To the left was the breakfast room and straight ahead some private rooms, to the right was the staircase and next to it a single room with the number 1. We went in and found a spacious room with two single beds - but without bathroom. Somewhat shocked, we looked further and found the room no. 4 as mentioned in my email from the landlord, a three-bed room upstairs with its own bathroom, which we left to Sabine, Conny and Karin and I took with Christina the room with two beds, whose bathroom was separately on the 1st floor. Otherwise, the room was very nice and commodious, old fashioned but with a giant TV, which we didn't need anymore. For breakfast next morning, we filled out order forms and put them on the table outside in the hallway, where some from the other guests were already lying, to be picked up by the owners in the early morning.