Sat 31 Aug - Arrochar, Scotland

Big Ben II...

Hiking day for Hans as Ben Nevis, the highest mountain (ehh.. hill) in Britain called for conquering.

Di had also read a bit and decided this was not her type of fun hike so made other plans in Fort William to fill the day, basically a long hairdresser appointment, some wandering and lunch.

We started out early as Arrochar Hotel was 90 minutes drive away and the Mountain Trail up Ben Nevis has been quoted as taking somewhere between 5 and 9 hours, depending on where you read and who you believe.

By 8.15am Hans was prepped for his hike from Glen Nevis Visitors Centre just outside Fort William, ready to set off with boots, beanie, gloves and of course his new LL Bean jacket for a first roadtest in a "serious" climate. A before photo...

We agreed that it would probably take Hans 6 hours and that Di therefore will return at 2pm. A kiss goodbye and we go our separate ways.

Di went to Fort William to find parking is at a premium - it all is pay and display - and her hair appointment was not for 10.30am. She decided to pass some time at Maccas, where you can park for free and coffee and hash brown is ok. But damn Wifi! It needed a code sent to a mobile phone number so that wasn't going to work with Hans carrying our phone. Oh well, she filled an hour or so with drafting emails, some solitaire and blogging.

Fort William, like many British towns has shops on a High Street. It was ok but nothing special. The attractions here are all the outdoor activities.

Not many photos for Di but we do have "before and after" hair appointment photos to show the improvement.

Before pic

After pic.

Then Cullen Skink for lunch.

Di was back at Glen Nevis visitors centre to meet Hans at 2pm.

Meanwhile, on the hills outside Fort William... This is how it all ended up.

The mandatory "kick off" sign...

The experience certainly didn't start well. Look at the photo below to see what Hans had just in front of him. Bloody Pitt Street...

Well, Hans soon overtook the groups as the "lowest common denominator" always rule and there is always one or three... It continued to be busy on the track but not as bad as above and the further Hans hiked, the less people he saw.

The track soon started to go up, up, up, up, up... You get the picture. It was relentless and really no break from the ascending at all, as the hike climbs more than 1,000m.

A couple of track pics...


Self portrait. Yep, it got colder and windier the further up Hans hiked.

Sort of a third up or so, there is a loch next to the trail. Not much around it though, but it looked nice.

And we continue up...

Ben Nevis is up there and behind somewhere.

The green soon gave way to rocks... And more rocks... And...

A view between the frequent clouds when it very temporarily cleared towards Fort William down there to the left somewhere.

And more rocks...

Parts of the Ben Nevis track had been made up nicely, but what you see below was an exception.

This was more the norm. The higher up Hans hiked, the more misty and cloudy it became. The next two photos are taken from the same spot and shows the track in both directions. One way...

... And the other...

Cairns started to appear... Even though it was cloudy this day, Hans was certain that it could get a lot lot worse. The cairns must be needed and are probably very well received by hikers.

After little more than 3 hours, Hans arrived at the Ben Nevis plateau, the end of the line. Hans found it all a bit disappointing, more rocks, ruined buildings and the only marker was the one that Hans is next to below.

Well, this is apparently the tallest point in Great Britain. 1344 metres high.

And this is how it looked around there... There were even a few flakes of snow dancing around in the air (and today was the last day of summer).

The "view" from the top... Ehhh...?

Unexpected at the top of Ben Nevis was this storm shelter. Hans went up to have a look inside and it seemed that it fitted at least 4 people. Wonder how often it is used...

This appeared to be a memorial for UN peacekeepers and was dated 1965. Why here...?

Not only hikers found their way to the top of Ben Nevis. Three bikers were there as well when Hans arrived. The guys stayed a bit longer than Hans' 20 minutes there so later the bikers bypassed him.

Gotta admire the guys. This is seriously tough terrain for biking.

The hike to the top seemed to attract a very diverse number of people. This lady hiked in what looked like a set of pyjamas or maybe she just wanted to be sure that she would be found if the got lost.

One guy was hiking without a shirt and another hiker looked like a skinhead with black pants, black singlet and shaved head. Sorry, no pictures of either of them.

After a while coming down and coming underneath the clouds, it got warmer (well, a little less nippy) and cleared up. Good views.

Coming down was easy and fast apart from paying attention to where Hans put his feet on the rocks. It took around 2 hours and 15 minutes including breaks. He arrived back at the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre's parking lot at 2pm almost on the dot. Di was already there and after a short break, we were on our way.

A couple of additional final notes:

  • There were quite a few Muslims on the trail. Mostly youngish people, blokes with bushy beards and girls covered up in traditional gear. Hans didn't know why hiking Ben Nevis would appeal to so many of them.
  • Hans got rained on 3 times, perhaps 15-30 minutes each time. Mostly light rain so manageable
  • Hans clothes worked fine for the hike and its varying temperatures and conditions. Surprisingly, what didn't work so well was the gloves which attracted moisture and made the fingers and hands very cold indeed and red. Also the face and the nose took a beating from the strong winds up there.

On our way home we saw this sign in Fort William and read it as anybody who climbed Ben Nevis will get a certificate. So we stopped and got into the shop, but the certificate it turned out was for people who had completed West Highland Way which goes from Glasgow to Fort William. Hmmm... That was a bit unclear to us.

After a break in the room, we went for dinner at Village Inn down the road. We had booked a table for 7pm.

It all started well enough. Very nice setting at the Village Inn, good service, nice wine...

Hans ordered red snapper, but that was overcooked and chewy and very disappointing.

Di ordered the potato skins, the 3rd Special dish on the menu above and it was all served in a small bowl, sort of mixed together, meaning that the potato skins were soggy. When we spoke to the waitress about it, she said it was Mexican style. Now, what's wrong with that? Well, the word Mexican was not on the menu, and anyway, potatoes are not a big staple food in Mexico, rice and corn are. We didn't have to pay for it though so that was good. And given that Di only had a salad, due to not eating the potato skins, they brought her 2 complimentary shortbread. Not quite the same but nice anyway.

We left the restaurant after an hour, went back to base and chilled for the rest of the evening. Good night.


Fri 30 Aug - Arrochar, Scotland

A planned down day...

Spitting, drizzling and raining was predicted for most of the day so we decided to hang around the Arrochar Hotel all day and to not do very much.

Arrochar Hotel is, like our last hotel in Kyleakin, managed by Bespoke. Hence, there was a certain sameness between the two. For example, similar room decorations such as lights, curtains and TVs of the brand Haler.

Even the breakfasts were similar, with some differences. Fruit pieces and ham and cheddar cheese were served at both places (fantastic), but the "pork" sausages at Arrochar Hotel tasted of breadcrumbs and can not have had much, if any, pork in them. We thought that Kyleakin was bad - these were even worse.

Arrochar Hotel had a very nice breakfast room, doubling as a dining room at night, overlooking Loch Long. Hans is settled in here...

After breakfast, we wandered up and down our local street along the loch edge. This ex-pier had been taken over by the seagulls. Nice and sheltered.

Loch Long was very still this time in the morning, around 9am, with low cloud hanging on the mountains. Scotland was being photogenic again and Di looked OK too.

We took 3 photos of the same boat below from the same spot. We left out one of the photos, but then we couldn't agree which photo looked the best. Hans liked this one the most...

...while Di was in favour of this photo. Readers can judge!

This church must have one of the most scenic backdrops anywhere.

Looking back north towards "downtown" Arrochar. We were not 100% sure about the name of the mountain in the background, but it could be Ben Vorlich.

There were a few shops, a couple of pubs / inns and no less than 3 small grocery stores. This grocery store traded in a few different areas, but we were a bit uncertain about the naming of their cosmetics. Will it give an explosive difference in appearance...?

Part of the shop was a post office. Here is Di preparing to ship something to Australia, a present to somebody... No, we can not reveal who it is for or what's in the package..

Further up the road, there was water coming down the hill through a stream and through a small pipe. Hans was certain that the water was drinkable...

Hmmm.... Perhaps not...

The "Three Lochs Trail" passes through Arrochar and it diverts off the Main Street here. We liked the very targeted advertising to hikers from "Arrochar Tearoom". You just couldn't miss the signage irrespective of which way you came.

At this food outlet, you could have any type of potato with your meal, as long as it is chips (with apologies to Henry Ford).

There is a small park at the towns northern end with artistic animals carved out of old timber. Di became an instant fan of these otters.

According to the sign, this guy is a "bodach", an "elf-like character in Scottish folklore". We just thought he was cool. And yes, he had a bit of a lean...

Here, the road turns to follow Loch Long on the other side after first crossing this bridge over Loin Water. Adjacent there is a foot and cycle bridge which looked new and was probably very useful for local to get in and out of the town centre.

We had enough of the strolling at this time, and frankly there wasn't really anything more to see locally in Arrochar, so we returned back to Arrochar Tearoom for a cappuccino each. The Scottish bloke from Glasgow who ran the place in season was a very chatty character and sat down with a cuppa at the next table and talked in rapid Scottish... A lot... Di was even drowned. It didn't help that he peppered his Scottish with a lot of slang and we managed to only pick up parts of his... Monologue.

Back to Arrochar Hotel for a sit down in the lobby for online research, mostly by Di (all credit to her) and we booked a few more places along the way. The Lake District and Yorkshire Dales were proving to be very popular despite lots of accommodation, and were therefore not cheap. We persist...

Later in our room, we first had a light lunch then nanna naps (nice!).

Afterwards Hans planned for his hike up to Ben Nevis for tomorrow, with Di throwing in ideas.

It will be the first test for Hans' LL Bean jacket that he purchased in Maine, USA - it should work - after all American Weather Channel TV presenters use the same jacket . The weather forecast for tomorrow for the top of Ben Nevis is 2 to 3 degrees Celsius, but hopefully the rain will stay away (one can never be certain that it will be totally dry is our experience in the UK).

Di has an appointment with a hairdresser in Fort William while Hans is hiking, but she has kindly offered to have "jägarväckning" and early breakfast with Hans and then drive him to the trailhead and pick him up later.

We decided on an early dinner and thought the Arrochar Tearoom might be open, but no, so we instead went to the dining room of a pub nearby, which turned out to be a good move. Ben Arthur's Bothy had a relaxing lounge/dining area overlooking the water. Very nice atmosphere too. We ordered some drinks and dinner and settled in. The TV was playing "Vintage TV" video hits from 1983-1985 and we reminisced and enjoyed the old video clips and styles.

Hans with his "good enough" beer - a pint of ice cold Tennets. It looks empty here but by 7pm there was not a free table. Very popular.

Our dinner was definitely more than "good enough" - delicious indian curries, home made hot chicken for Hans and medium veggie for Di. Huge servings, delicious and good value. Two thumbs up from Di for finally getting a decent curry in Scotland.

We thought that a football match of Chelsea versus Bayern Munich would be broadcast at 6.45pm and waited patiently after our meal. The staff then told us the broadcast started at 7.45pm and with a big day tomorrow we opted out and went back you hotel for some blogging in the reception lounge area.

All fine with wifi and relaxing in the lobby but we kept laughing as today we had first gone back to the 80's at the pub then in our hotel we returned to the 70's - with background music playing loud old disco hits, with ABBA, Cliff Richard and Village People's YMCA featuring. Better than yesterday's 50's and 60's from the crooner. Di sung along and did YMCA arm movements. No photo evidence is probably a good thing.

Then another "entertainer" started and she ass not good. We soon had enough of the "music", went back to our room and switched on the TV and what was on... Football!!! Bayern Munchen vs Chelsea. Gotta go. Good night.