Friday, September 6, 2013

Scotland Day 3 - Showing signs of dementia

I arose after a fitful nights sleep, thanks to the pain in my ribs, which must have been caused the by the fall I had the previous day (and made every move in the cramped confines of my canvas home an uncomfortable exercise), to the pitter and patter of raindrops on the tent.

And also in it, which is how I discovered my tent was not waterproof. It’s supposed to be, let me make that very clear, I’m not so inept to deliberately choose a tent that wasn’t waterproof, for my trip to Scotland. But this one wasn’t, and my views towards camping were growing decidedly dim.

The rain eased off in the end so I crawled out and made some coffee before heading off for the day. My first stop was Loch Achtriochtan, a small loch that is served by the river Coe, the same river that gives the glen its name.

Looking along the Loch bank with a swathe of reeds in the water

Despite it often being said that Glen Coe means "Glen of Weeping", perhaps with some reference to the infamous Massacre of Glencoe which took place in 1692, "Gleann Comhann" the Scottish Gaelic name, does not translate as "Glen of Weeping". It’s named after the river, end of story.

Bit of fern, bit of heather and a lot of cloud
I followed the edge of the loch getting a few pictures along the way, but the further round I got, the more miserable the weather became. The rain was quite fine, but in fairness, it did its job admirably, and by the time I got back to the car I was nothing less than wet.

Small row of trees under the mist tressled mountain

Once I had changed into my waterproof trousers I drove back up the road to An Torr for a bit of forest walking. This spot is home to Signal Rock, which was possibly the meeting place of the MacDonalds, the largest of the highland clans. In previous centuries, unlike now though, the views from the rock were all encompassing, so they could see up and down the valley for miles. It’s also been suggested that it was the place the Massacre of Glen Coe was ordered from, but there is no evidence for that. 

Moss covered forest ground

But no matter that the views from the rock were non-existent, despite the fact they are boldly promised to be very existent on the information board, the forest itself more than made up for it. With its moss covered floor and picturesque selection of ferns, pines and stumps scattered around, it was very easy to lose track of time.

The place was also filled with heaps of ferns
Once that was completed and sandwiches were duly consumed, I headed back to Etive Mor, as the light was know starting to pick up a notch, and pulled into one of the many parking spots that dot the road, and got a few photos looking into the glen.

I was lucky to get some sun on the foreground and have a few beams appear in the distance.

It looked so inviting that I rather fancied a walk, so I hitched up my britches, found myself a stout pair of boots and put my best foot forward. I soon happened across a nice old domed rock that was obviously in need of a photo. So I did what I usually do in these situations, set up the gear and watch as the beautiful sunlight fades away before my very eyes, and then stand around for ages in the hope it may return.

The clouds had now broken up a bit so the landscape was looking a bit brighter.

It did in the end, after a bit of a wait, and I got a picture of the rock with Stob a Ghlais Choire and Creise behind it, with the sun playing across their grand flanks. After that I carried on into the glen, soon meeting up with the river Etive, where a few more shots were had, before turning back.

Here's a little video I took on my phone, just showing how empty the place was, it's like I had it all to myself.

I then drove along to Rannoch Moor, one of the last remaining wildernesses in Europe, the area is a vast stretch of land composed of blanket bog, lochans, rivers and rocky outcrops, with the upper peat layer reaching depths of up to 20 feet in places. During the last Ice Age (approximately 10,000 years ago) an enormous glacier covered the moor - with powerful, slow moving ice sheets radiating outwards and gouging out many of the glens in the region including Glen Coe and Glen Etive.

Warm evening sun on the moor with a forbidding mountain behind

I got some images of the trees and lochans in the warm evening sun. It also made me realise that I’d started talking to myself, and perhaps more worryingly to my camera. I don’t mean that I’d started to issue the urgent ramblings of maniac, I mean more sort of general conversation.

Looking over Loch Ba, the light just kept getting warmer.

This was brought home to me whilst up on a small windswept hill, overlooking one of the lochans, trying to sort out the correct exposure for the scene. Where I, without realising it, began chatting to my camera and asking it, with some concern, why it wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do. I wouldn’t have thought much of it normally, but I became surprisingly aware that there was a young couple about six feet behind me, posing for photos.

I turned around, said hello and smiled at them, and they said hello back, but wouldn’t look me in the eye. It also seemed they were slowly backing away, but trying not to look like they were backing away, so I returned to my troublesome equipment and the next time I checked, they were gone.

I had only been up in Scotland on my own for 3 days, and already I was worrying strangers. I had visions that by the end of the trip I would be like one of those people you see in shopping centres, in animated conversation with whatever voices are currently occupying their heads, and who always get a table to themselves in the BHS cafe.

Putting such thoughts behind me, I raced back to Glen Coe in an effort to get the last of the sun, but I got stuck behind a lorry, which I could do nothing about. Aware that time was fast disappearing, I decided to stop when I saw the mountains being lit up by the fading light.

I managed to catch a rich band of red light across Sgorr nam Fiannaidh
The Three Sisters get the last of the evening sun

By the time I got to Glen Coe the light in the sky was almost on its way out, but as I set up the tripod I could see it had been a spectacular sunset. Which was quite annoying. 

Looking across Loch Leven at the disappearing light.

After which I retired to the campsite and feasted on boil in the bag rice and a tin of chicken in white sauce. Cooking does not come much ropier than this.


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