Wednesday 20th June – Day Nine

What an amazing day! Never seen any thing so lovely…I’ve never been to the highlands before and it was fabulous!

Here is a picture of me at the start – I’m wearing a Elliot Wood cycling shirt – some lovely friends of mine and a very generous sponsor. See their website here, if you need a top structural engineering solution these are the boys for you!

The day was low cloud but the wind was blowing and we set off in beautiful fresh weather.

Heartbreak hill turned out to be more ‘She-stood-me-up-outside-the-Knutsford-Civic-Hall-but-I-didn’t-like-her-very-much-anyway-slope…it was a worrying start but the gradient settled down and it was a lovely gentle climb up to views over the glen (the low cloud got blown away but Lordy it was cold, you could see your breath on the air and I was wearing what I would normally wear in October..

On the other side we had amazing views of Ben Cruachan. I had seen this last year when James, Fergy, Chris and I had climbed from Loch Awe to Inveraray. Ben Cruachan is a looming mountain with a dam that provides hydro electric power.

Of greater interest is the position Ben Cruachan provides as a symbol of the Campbell homelands…

“Cruachan!”

is the battle cry of the Campbells – the mountain dominates their birthplace.

Ben Cruachan is a very striking mountain which is even more impressive when you realise they hollowed it out to create a turbine hall for the hydroelectric power station powered by the Cruachan Dam.  Thirty-six men died in its construction (fifteen when the roof of the turbine hall roof collapsed) – unthinkable today.

Shock and awe – it was Loch Awe! Stunning!

We stopped for a cup of tea at the visitor centre (tea is awesome! It powers good cycling…) It was also time to mark another century off – 700 miles!we are getting close to the end…

The scenery changed all the time, fantastic mountains, fast straight Loch side roads…the riding was easy and the weather was dry…we were very lucky with the views we had and the marvellous changing scenery without getting wet.

We rolled over the Connell bridge – just lovely. We saw highland cattle! After a water stop pushed on towards Fort William.

We took the Cycle path and had a fantastic view of castle Stalker – dates back to 1200s and is typical of a sea castle created because land routes were few and far between. Very Game of Thrones…

We did not get a chance to detour to Glencoe – we had 90 odd miles to go today and the extra time was just not available, a fact I’m now rather glad of.

It is the location of an infamous massacre of men women and children of Clan MacDonald in 1692 by the Campbells.  The Campbells behaved particularly badly by betraying the tradition of highland hospitality.  Thirty-eight men were killed by soldiers billeted amongst the clan, and another forty women and children died of exposure after their houses were burned down in the middle of winter (the shame of it!).

Regardless of its sad history and being most famous for the massacre there, Glencoe is said to be one of the most stunning pieces of scenery in the highlands. Our route and timetable just didn’t allow us the opportunity to visit so definitely one to stick on the bucket list for the future.

(Glencoe above, not my picture!)

We stopped outside Fort William for lunch but were delayed – incidents and logistics! It actually let the rain pass over, we were very lucky!

We stopped at Fort William to pick up wine – no bar at tonight’s accommodation.

Ben Nevis dominates Fort William but to get a good view you need to pass through and look back, truly stunning! Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the UK. Its 4,411 ft above sea level.

The summit is actually the collapsed dome of an ancient volcano. Apparently, there is fog on the summit 55% of the time this time of the year – true from my views of it!

In 2006 a piano was discovered buried on the summit…its believed that it was carried up as a charity stunt by removal men from Dundee in the 1980’s (those crazy Dundonians!).

Fort William is the second largest town in the Highlands, Inverness (where the virgins came down from) is the largest.

Fort William is named firstly after William of Orange who ordered the original fort to be built to pacify the Clans and then after William Duke of Cumberland. The Duke was also known as ‘Butcher Cumberland’ (they occasionally suggest changing the name of the town because he was a rank bad hat).

Close by is the Glenfinnan Viaduct which is famous as the Harry Potter viaduct – featuring in the films.  Sadly our route does not take us past it…

(Again not my photo!)

We did pass the Ben Nevis distillery though…it’s one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland…we didn’t stop in, we are off to Dalmore tomorrow.

We had a great route out of Fort William…over the Caledonian Canal and up the valley overlooking the Great Glen and the canal – just beautiful!

The waterstop was by the canal and was awesome! We did not tarry long, it had been a long day and the hostel was close… on route however was the commando memorial.

The commando memorial is a mile north of Spean Bridge village and overlooks the training areas of the WEII Commandos.

The Commando Training Depot was established in 1942 at Achnacarry Castle.  The statue is 17 feet high made of bronze and listed. It’s a famous tourist destination but when you see it there you see why.

It stands overlooking the wild highlands and you get a sense of how hard the training was to become a WWII commando, even in summer the landscape dominates all.

The site was chosen because it was on the route from Spean Bridge railway station to Achnacarry Castle.  Prospective Commandos would disembark after a 14 hour rail journey, load their kit bags onto waiting trucks and then have to speed march the seven miles to the castle in full kit which weighed thirty six pounds.  Anyone not completing this feat in 60 minutes were immediately failed and returned to their unit (they were hard men in those days).

It wa then a fast and easy descent to Laggan…

Laggan’s main claim to fame is that the TV show Monarch of the Glen was filmed here.

The ‘battle of the shirts’ was fought at Laggan between Clan Macdonald and Clan Fraser assisted by the Cameron’s and the Grants respectively (pick a side!). It was 500 Macdonald’s versus 300 Frazer’s with only eight Macdonalds and five Frazer’s surviving! Not sure who could claim to win that battle (the Macdonald’s did).

Traditionally the name of the battle is said to have come about because the day was so hot that the boys threw off their tartan plaids and fought in their shirts (jumpers for goalposts?) It’s probably more likely a mistranslation of the Gaelic and should be titled the Battle of the Swampy meadow.

Apparently the Chiefship of the Macdonalds was in dispute and this, coupled with what Angus said about Morag at Christmas led to the battle and the death of nearly 800 men…

Laggan is at one end of Loch Lochy (not to be confused with Loch Loch which is elsewhere and named by someone with real imagination!). Loch Lochy is the third deepest Loch in Scotland.

Folklore tales mention ‘a supernatural being’ called the River Horse (affectionately christened Lizzie) which was said to emerge from the lake and assume a horse’s shape before feeding on the loch’s banks.

The River Horse was also known as the Lord Of The Lake and the Water King and would overturn boats and ‘entice mares from their pastures’. Spooky!

Accommodation was in the Great Glen Hostel…a bit of a change from the Loch Fyne Hotel. DA did a blinder of a meal (however curry was a brave choice when all were sleeping in rooms of six middle aged men in bunk beds…)

L’Outil D’Or was won by Maurice and William who took three goes to find the road out of Inveraray… mind you I took two goes and I’d been there before!

The glasses of awesomeness were won by Jono who entertained us at the lunch stop with his fabulous piano talent…

A great day…sadly the trip draws to a close….


Enjoying the blog?  Please take time out and sponsor us!  Maurice and I are riding in support of Fresh Start – new beginnings, a treatment service for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.  My just giving page can be found here and all donations go straight to the charity (my ride is 100% self funded).

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