Saturday morning we were woken early to the sound of many hobbling walkers rounding up their kit and tents and setting off on the Highland Way. The cloud was low so the view was well hidden which put paid to plans to go up on the chairlift 🙂 . On the downside we had a midge squatter in the van last night – I have bites all over my face and neck, from tomorrow its marmite for breakfast as they apparently don’t like the taste it leaves in your blood. We have slathered on Avon So Soft which we are forever hearing is the ‘repellent of choice of the army’, well its done nothing for us, maybe it needs khaki to get it to work. We decided to up and away in search of better views, a breeze to blow away the midges and less cloud. As soon as we got down to Ballachulish the sun was shinning on Loch Leven and we headed for the mecca of all campervans and motorhomes in the Highlands – Fort William. True to form it was swarming with every size and shape of motorhome, stocking up with provisions at Morrisons. We always feel welcome there, carparks set aside for motorhomes and no height barriers on the loch carparks. Sadly the town itself is not the most scenic we have seen so as soon as we had stocked up we headed off to search out some new tourist hotspots.
Just 7 miles outside of town is the Nevis Range complex and having never been before we decided to investigate. First impressions were good, enormus carpark, plenty of space to park and its free (they ask for a donation for parking). The only mountain gondola in the UK is here, taking you up Aonach Mor on the Nevis Range. There were literally hundreds on mountain bikers taking their bikes up hooked on the outside of the gondolas, the downhill from the top is the only World Cup Downhill course for mountain bikes in the UK, love the warnings on the description “deisgned to be ridden downwards” God alone knows who the hell could ride it the other way, 2.8 km and they come down it quicker than the gondola. Anyway, back to the gondola and my thought that I could conquer the fear of being suspended on a bit of wire up a mountain. We looked at the gondolas and to be honest they look old and not very safe to my untrained eye. However, as many very old people off a coach trip were clambering on I decided I would have a go – agreeing if it was too bad we would walk the 500 metres down! All starts off fine, then it leaves the hut and its very, very high. Just as I find my height skills it stops! It really does stop, every few minutes for 20-30 seconds where it just sways over the drops, terrifying, this is apparantly to allow them to load and unload supplies. Arrival at the top makes it worth the sheer terror as even in the low cloud the views are awesome. From the top of the gondola there are several chair lifts that go higher into the mountains (luckily none of these were running today).
There is a marked walk to Sgurr Finnisg-aig viewpoint which at 2175 feet gives views for miles, its an easy climb and really worth doing to see the scale of the mountains ranges. Back over at the gondola is a really popular mountain restaurant, the Snowgoose, we opted to go out on the balcony and watch the mountain bikers starting their descents, before taking the gondola back down to the carpark and back into the sunshine.
We followed the Great Glen Way on our way up to Loch Ness, stopping for a few minutes at the Commando memorial at Spean Bridge. We have passed this several times on our trips but never stopped before, a very fitting monument to the commandos that gave their lives in World War II, always more than a little sobering to pause and remember how lucky we are to tour around at will due to people giving their tomorrows on our behalf.
Final part of our trip for the day was to head for the new Camping and Carvavan Club site on Loch Ness. We chose this site as its on the South side on the Loch and we have never visited that side of the loch before. We drove along Loch Lochy which could not have looked more amazing than it did with the sun shinning on the still waters and were both saying how the views could not get any better. Of course then they did, we took the B862 which has to be one of the unsung heros of Scottish roads with a view. The road climbs high into the mountains with peak after peak stretching out in front of you. We stopped at Suidhe viewpoint to take photos (which never do justice) and both voted this one of the most scenic roads we had driven in Scotland.
From there it was a slightly twisting and turning road down to Foyers where our campsite awaited for the next few days, settled in, currently midge free and if we crane our necks we can just see Loch Ness from the pitch :).
Sunday there is a little more breeze and its feels a lot fresher. A two minute walk from the pitch and we are lucky enough to have a small beach and stunning loch views in either direction. There are several boats on the loch but its very quiet and peaceful. We took a walk along a footpath beside the loch which gradually climbed into the forest and took us high above the water through the trees. There are a fair few canoeists on the loch and we passed a canoe stop point where they can camp, light a fire and even use the log cabin compost toilet – all mod cons on the loch side these days. This side of the water is by far more quiet than the north, very little in the way of tourist attractions, just the pebble beaches, the water and the views – that’s all it needs to be a perfect place to visit (no sign of the Monster yet, but we live in hope of a glimpse this evening!!)