Scotland’s “Great Glen” stretches about 60 miles from the west coast around Fort William northeast to Inverness, but it’s far from being a straight line route. Our ultimate destination today was Castle Urquhart, but we’ve learned over the past 9 days that Colin (our driver and guide) always has interesting detours for us. We’ve seen so much more than what was on our printed itinerary, and learned so much history along the way.
We COULD have taken Route A82 today, but Colin prefers to have his passengers gasping and holding their breath as he navigates the coach along winding mountain roads, so instead we took the “old road” A382 over the mountains and through the moors. We stopped at the top for some spectacular panoramas of the moors. In the photo, you can see a member of our group taking a picture of the narrow roadway we’ll be following as it tapers off in the distance.
Our first “detour” was to Neptune’s Staircase, a set of 8 locks that move vessels 19m (62 feet) vertical feet over just 1/4 mile on the Caledonian Canal.
Next we stopped to walk down to the 165 foot high waterfalls at Foyers. These falls once supplied cooling water for the aluminium smelter. Today, the water entering the falls had a brown streak in it: peat runoff from the heavy rains of the past couple of days.
From Foyers we continued for about an hour on largely single track (single lane) roads, many of them signed as having narrow verges (sides), and most of them with low or no barriers protecting us from steep drops to Loch Ness on our left. By day’s end, our route had taken us completely around all sides of the loch.
Loch Ness is a freshwater lake, 37 km long and an incredible 227 metres deep, making it the largest by volume in the British Isles at 263 million cubic feet. To give us some perspective of it’s volume, Colin had two analogies. First, if the loch were drained, it could fit the entire population of the world ten times over (Google it!). Second – and this was the one he really, really liked – the loch holds enough water to cover all of England and Wales to a depth of over 6 feet.
At the far end of the loch we stopped in Inverness for lunch. The city has beautiful buildings on both sides of the River Ness, as well as a lovely cathedral.
From Inverness we continued on to the ruins of Castle Urquhart on the banks of Loch Ness. Although built on the ruins of a fort from as early as 580AD, the current ruins date from the 1200’s through 1600’s as the castle was expanded to its full size. It was largely destroyed by its owners, the Grant Clan, in 1692 to prevent it being taken by the Jacobites.
After dinner at the Loch Ness Inn in Drumnadrochit (“the bridge on the ridge”) we returned to our hotel. Tomorrow is a 7:30 a.m. start, so hopefully we’ll sleep well.