Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Scotland: Fort William & "I think" the highest peak in the UK . . .

Guess what, Marta was right! I was able to find wi-fi access...I forgot it is available here in my hotel in Arisaig...but more about this quaint little village/town later!

Yesterday, I narrowly missed my train because I guess I didn't understand the ticket girl at the Queen Station. I thought my train was not there yet, and as I am passing the time by people watching I look up and I see Fort William but the time of departure differed from what I remembered it to be. I politely ask the lady next to me and she looks up and tells me that she thinks my train is Platform 3 which is departing now! I pick up my things and run towards the platform, barely got in before it started to roll! Hmmm I think I like the trains in Spain better...sorry UK! :)

The ride took a long time, nearly 3 hours but to watch the landscape change as we neared the highlands was so exciting to me. I may have dozed off for a few minutes (okay about 30 minutes) but for the most part I tried to stay awake to enjoy the scenery. Once in Fort William, the car rental company was already there waiting for me. I picked up my train tickets to Edinburgh while I was there just to get it out of the way. After a quick two minute lesson and directions to my hotel, I hopped in my car and off I went. Of course the first thing I did was turn left on to the right lane. I quickly moved left after I saw an oncoming car. Next, I tackled was is famously called a "Roundabout" --- Europe's version of an Intersection. I felt like Chevy Chase in that crazy movie, "European Vacation!" I got honked at once and went around 3 times before finding the right exit. I got honked at because I slowed down when I saw a car coming not realizing they will come to complete stop before entering the Roundabout. In Salzburg the Roundabout keeps going even with the merging in traffic. So that was new. Anyway, I found the right exit (mind you I can actually see my hotel while circling the roundabout)! :)

My hotel is "okay". The staff is pretty friendly. It's best feature is the location. Right on the edge of the center of town which is a pedestrian zone. Since Fort William is a very popular stop for hikers and mountain bikers because of it's close proximity to Ben Nevis and other climbing hills and to it's champion downhill course, the pedestrian zone is lined with oodles of Outdoor Adventure gear shops. Luckily, thanks to Marta's tip, I already have my hiking boots, pants, fleece top, gloves and rain gear. :) But I did get a couple of postcards and a key chain in the 1 lb store which is equivalent to our .99 cents store! Mostly I just looked around.

I decided to go find Ben Nevis (little did I know that it is right there but I just couldn't see it because of the heavy clouds). So I got in the car and actually did much better on the Roundabout! Well, I went to the visitor center which is very close to the Ben Nevis Distillery (I was tempted but I'm saving myself for some Talisker Scotch). Now I realized that I can't see Ben Nevis because of the clouds. Oh well...let me head back then. I got twisted around and ended up taking the wrong exit on the Roundabout and started heading south (going back South to Glasgow). I soon realize that if you are on these roads it can be a long while before you can find a place to turn around. I came across a small park looking over Loch Linnhe and used it as a photo taking opportunity too.

And although the clouds look threatening in the above photo, I've been lucky to catch some moments of sun. I can only imagine what an amazing place this must be to visit during the summer months!

Next up the Road to the Isles . . . .


  1. Good to hear from you! That park looks so nice and very green for almost winter time. Sounds like you are having fun (and I'm glad you made that train!).

    Lordy, we have a few roundabouts here in NC and they scare me to death (no one understands how to use them or who has the right of way). I can't imagine driving in on on the other side!

    I saw in the comments that you've already seen some cows and sheep - woo hoo! I'm so curious to know how close you were able to get to them.

    Have fun!

  2. Hi Annie, thanks so much for your comments! If I had missed that train, I would've had to wait at least 4 hours and seeing that as soon as I arrived here in Arisaig the weather turned rainey I'm very lucky my instincts told me to ask that nice lady next to me.

    I didn't realize you have roundabouts too. They are really hard to navigate and everytime I come across one which I did earlier today again in the tiny town of Mallaig I am very cautious. I didn't know that you have them in NC too! LA would be a complete mess if they had any there. :)

    Yes I did see some sheep and cows already. The sheep are skiddish. As soon as I parked nearby they took off and all I got was their behind. I did get a couple of Highland cows but they were while riding on the train and I just got a far distance photo. I got an close up of one but it isn't one of the caramel looking ones that I saw earlier on the trains. One shop owner told me that I should see plenty on the island of skye. But I'll be exploring around here for two more days and I'll keep my eye peeled. You'll really like my next post Annie! I saw the church from Local Hero. And the Sands of Morar. I was able to take a photo of the church but it was down pouring when I saw the Sands of Morar this afternoon so hopefully with any luck I'll have better weather tomorrow to go for a walk there.

    Thanks again. I'm working on my Road to the Isles post now! :)

    Have a good evening!

  3. Oh my! The photos are breathtaking! I can't imagine seeing this scenery in person. Get goosebumps -- or chicken skin! It's so very nice of you to post.

    I give you a lot of credit for tackling driving on the left...it's no easy feat. And the roundabouts~my niece was explaining them to me when I was in London....yikes! Stay safe....

  4. Hi M, thanks so much for your comments. The scenery here is just so stunning. I am managing pretty good on the roads. I can't even imagine driving in London. Kudos to your niece.

    Today, I drove a single track road. I stopped to give way for the oncoming driver and I recieved the acknowledging wave of thanks from the other driver which made me quite proud of myself for doing the right thing. The key is looking far ahead, which is a challenge for me because of the beautiful scenery. :)

    Thanks again M.

  5. I think I'd be hitting the Scotch pretty hard by now, if I had to cope with so many roundabouts! There are some in Alberta and, of course, I've dealt with them in Italy but I am never comfortable with them!

    It's wonderful to see the green grass, even if it is cloudy -- that just makes it seem very atmospheric! I hope you get to see more of those funky Highland cows!

  6. Kathy, it is so fun to hear about your adventures! The picture of Loch Linnhe is beautiful, it is so green. I love your round about stories. I remember the first one we came across in Spain it was huge, I think 5 lanes. My Mother In-law was in the back yelling, and we kept going round and round and round!! I have a feeling in the next few days you will become an expert in left-hand driving and roundabouts. Keep safe in your explorations.

  7. Hi Sandra, tonight I had dinner in the hotel's restaurant. Rather than eating in the dining room I decided to have my dinner in the bar where there were other people. There's only three of us in the hotel right now and so it feels like I have my own private chef and bartender! When he asked if I wanted a drink, trust me I was very tempted to try a shot of scotch whisky but I was strong and asked for some hot tea instead. :) The scenery is really gorgeous (green and beautiful) and I totally agree with you. The clouds does add some interesting atmosphere to the experience. I was able to see sheep and a highland cows but it wasn't the pretty caramel ones with the long horns. I saw them on the train ride over but not up close. I will post the photos that I was able to take. Hopefully I will get a better shot. I just love the ones that Deborah took. I hope I'm lucky to find a couple that'll pose for me too.

    Hi Maya, oh that is a funny story about your mother in law and her first roundabout experience. I cannot imagine navigating a 5 lane roundabout, so I can completely understand her emotions. Yikes! The round and round feeling is so funny to me. It's like you know you should be getting off but you can't. It's like playing jump rope. You have to time your entrance and exit. I am getting more and more comfortable and don't get that panic feeling as much once I approach one, but of course there are in these small villages where I am usually the only one in the roundabout. :)

    The other interesting thing about driving is that your turn signal and windshield wipers are on opposite sides too. And so for the first miles I kept putting my windshield wipers on when making a left turn. I never thought of those being turned around too.

    Yes, I thought Loch Linnhe is very beautiful. And it is so quiet and peaceful here.

    Thanks so much Sandra and Maya for your comments. Have a great evening!

  8. So glad you didn't miss that train!

    In Massachusetts they call roundabouts rotaries. We had a rotary the next town over from my town. After I first got my license, I was so scared to drive it. People in Mass. are crazy aggressive drivers and no one stops. You just have to close your eyes and drive on into it. We have one rotary on Oahu. I think it might be the only rotary west of the Mississippi (at least I heard that once). People don't know how to drive it here and stop at the entrances. Interesting that they stop there also.

    When I was in Brussels with a friend, we drove around one about 10 times laughing hysterically because we could not figure out where to drive out of it.

    Cute town and beautiful park!

  9. I love your jump rope analogy. So true. We don't have a lot of roundabouts here in NC but in the past few years, they have put some in. Supposedly it saves gas since you don't have to come to a complete stop at an intersection. They are treacherous though because some people can't get the jump rope timing down!

    Good luck with the skittish sheep and cows - I hope you run into some friendly ones!

  10. Oh Kathy, you are such a great story teller! Love the tale of the roundabout. I've never driven in the UK, but even as a passenger, it freaked me out going around the roundabouts in the opposite direction from what I'm used to - bravo you!!

    Loch Linnhe is absolutely gorgeous! I think it was a stroke of fortune that you missed your exit and got to see this gem of a park :)

    Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog. (I haven't been able to publish it because there's something going on with the service provider.) I am starting to feel better, finally, although still exhausted. Can't wait to have my energy back!

  11. Kathy, you ARE very brave to drive there - I got kind of used to driving in Italy, but I would never attempt to drive on the left-hand side of the road. I know I would have an accident.

  12. PS: Hey, G -- now, be careful what you say about MA drivers -:) Sorry, K, couldn't let that one go unanswered! m

  13. Yeah! You are still connected. It looks so beautiful and your pictures really convey the beauty and serenity. And it looks so beautiful even in the gray.

    You are doing well with the road especially on your own. They confuse me also - I can never remember if the sign is before the exit or behind the exit. Also watch out for parking lots. I always go wrong in parking lots (wrong way exit, wrong way turning...)

  14. Hi Everyone, thanks so much for your comments,

    Nancy, thanks so much I appreciate your comments. I was so scared too before my trip and the first time I actually drove out of the train station parking lot but after awhile, I began to get used to it and now I don't think it is half as scary as I thought it would be. But I was really scared at first.

    No apologies necessary M, I hope Girasoli reads your comeback. :)

    Marta, thanks so much for your comments about my photos. That's funny that you mention the getting in and out of parking lots. I caught myself going the the right a couple of times but caught myself ... that is so true what you said. I appreciate the reminder. I made a sign Keep Left and it is there in the passenger seat floor just as an added reminder. :)

    Thanks so much everyone!

  15. Ok, just read it :) Still have to stand by my statement. Mass. drivers are generallyy very aggressive drivers. I am sure menehune is the exception :)


It's me Trekcapri (aka Kathy). Thanks so much for visiting and leaving a comment.