Fort William – Inverness
We started at around 8.30 am from Glasgow towards the Highlands. Our first stop was at Loch Lomond. Loch means Lake. So if you hear Loch (pronounced as lokkh) Ness that means its Lake Ness. It was literally freezing out there. We had a cruise (charged at 10 pounds). Already experiencing the cruise in Lucerne Lake, I knew what to expect. And moreover it looked like it might rain any time. It was a very huge fresh water lake surrounded by mountains. It was a hour long drive. And after a few minutes it started raining. They were explaining us about the surrounding islands and the very rare houses. That is when I got the opportunity to talk to the guide (which is again a first… I never initiate a conversation at all unless it is official …that too to a stranger). I was first interested if we would pass the path of the Jacobite train that comes in Harry Potter. He said that it came in the route of Fort William and some other place, which we wont be covering. Then I started questioning about the Scotland and its vegetation and I had to question it because I didnt see any particular vegetation. That is when he said that the pines that are seen in the surrounding mountains are not natural. They are actually cultivated and act as a good investment option. It takes 25 years for them to grow to full length. That when I noticed that they were patches of the pine trees and in some they have grown to full length and some they were very small.
We were also discussing why Scots hate the English (They had a celebration party when Margaret Thatcher died recently!!!!) and its history, the current radicalism that is going on, how they wanted to separate from U.K, its impact on the social and economic conditions of Scotland (seriously I never had that kind of discussion because I am not a politically active person), but I could understand and question on their thought process. The guide himself did not seem convinced that it is a good move etc…. and suddenly the discussion became a person one (not from my side). He started explaining how he came from Hungary with almost nothing and how he made it here and how he left a good paying job to do what he wanted to do. I was like ‘Whoa!!!’ where is this going.. but I am good listener if not anything else. Whatever that was, we were interrupted by others as they wanted to ask something and that is when I realized that we had been discussing for almost 20 mins or more. And I learnt more about Scotland and its current problems in that time. Interesting to know that they are in the same shoes as we were some 66 years ago. Hope they learn from others mistakes and make better decisions for their future, whatever that may be.
After the hour long cruise clouded with rain and mist, we came back , had a hot cup of Tea (my first Tea in the U.K) and then proceed for the upper Highlands to Fort William. Do you know that Scotland produces energy from Windmills (you can see quite a lot of them on the way) and they even export it to England. On the way to Fort William we stopped in a view point called Black Mount Estate and the Rannoch Moor. It is Scottish Heritage Site and is very very beautiful.A photogenic place and is 1000 ft above sea level. After the photo shoot there we proceeded to the place where we have three hills called as the three sisters and then straight to Fort William.
Fort William is the one of the largest part of the Highlands (the other one is the Inverness , where we were supposed to stop tonight). The drive to the central part of the city is very beautiful, with the water on one side, mountains spread wide and long everywhere, cold weather with occasional rains. What is not to like here. This being Sunday, it was mostly quiet and the central place was a pedestrian only area with so many restaurants (and enough Indian Restaurants). We had our own sweet time to go around (along with the lunch break). There was a office for the Ben Nevis cable car climb, which was our next stop. Ben means Mountain. After the relaxed stroll through the place and a heavy Thai lunch (I wanted something very spicy because of the biting cold there), we were ready by 1.30 for our Ben Nevis climb. Of course it is not as big as the Mount Titlis but a climb is a climb in the cable car. And I need as much adventures as I can have to reduce my fear of heights.
Its a very short drive to the Ben Nevis , even though you wouldn’t know unless you reach it. We got our tickets (and its just one cable car up there, only 6 people can fit). I did not see any snow in sight so I was ok with it. And when I climbed in one of the car no one else climbed along with me. So I was all alone. I was like…wow.. finally I am doing it all alone. I knew it was a test. I was feeling very brave for a few meters high. And when the buildings began to become very tiny specks that is when I started feeling little nervous so I switched sides. Now I can look up to my destination and it was no where in sight…Oh God!!! Now I wasn’t very sure if coming alone was a wise thing.. After some time, there was this huge wind that was starting and then I heard something hitting the window and saw that the snow flakes were pasted there. Sort of snow storm because within a few minutes I was unable to see anything outside. This was the time I started calling all gods (rama, krishna, shiva and family…you name it) to my rescue and that I was stupid enough to do this alone and started blabbering I dont know know what on my own. More than anything it was like, if something happened, there will be no one to inform my family 🙂 I started plotting ways to inform who I was if things went wrong there. The whole car was shaking so badly, I didn’t know what else to do. I know that I would laugh about it later…but at that time I was dead serious with my conversations with God. For a mountain that looked not that big, it sure did take a long time to reach there. In fact we reached the destination where there was no snow but you have to climb a little far ahead to the snow filled area (and I guess it was ice rather than snow). But since there was this strong gusts of snow filled wind, we were unable to venture outside. They have a cycling track here to have competitions in the summer and I saw a couple hiking the mountain range and struggling against the wind. They also have the ski tracks for the winter. After having a strong cup of coffee and trying to wait for the winds to come down (which did not happen eventually) I tried to brave myself and venture out and take my risks with the shots (of course not much was visible). After almost 45 mins (20 min ride in the cable car) I was ready to go down. But I waited till I have company and made sure I sit in the direction where I dont have to see the city below. Its called learning from mistakes :).
The Ben Nevis Range is popular because it is the UK’s only mountain gondola. They also have rope courses there (not in the high range..but near the parking area). After coming back at around 3.30 pm we started our way to Inverness.We stopped in the place which was popularly used as the training ground for the military. They had a statue in memory of the soldiers who died in the 2nd world war. It was in a very nice place with a beautiful view. But as soon as we got down, it started to rain… God!!! After that we had a stop near Loch Ness (this is again a very large lake and is famous for the Nessie Monster). The drizzling hadn’t let up still. After the stop in Loch Ness, we started our way to Inverness and reached by around 6 pm or so. Checked in and started for our usual Indian Dinner. After dinner (which was way quick for me), we had time to look around the central place, even though we had been through the city in the bus (it was still raining at that time, but did let up after dinner). Because it is the proper Highlands, it is more colder most of the time and it is called the mouth of the river Ness. Gaelic is highly popular here. I had some beautiful shots of the places around. And by the time it was ready to go to the hotel back, it started raining again.
If the lowlands were beautiful, the Highlands are breathtaking. Except that the journey time is too high. They have trains, if we are inclined to do so.
Again I went to sleep by 9 pm because the next day we had to start the journey by 9 am to Edinburgh. Actually on the way to Inverness, they also did a detour to show the places that were used by Bollywood in their movies. One such place they took us was to a house which was used in SRK-Rani mukherjee-Kajol starrer movie ( I forgot the name) and it was raining so were did not get out (and I wasn’t that interested anyway). But it was a secluded place with just that house near by. Seems like Scotland is much popular in Bollywood for the amazing locations.