Sunday, May 18, 2014

Interlude: Fort William, Mallaig, Inverie

For three days we did no walking. Well except for walking up and down from our B&B; traversing, numerous, numerous times, the Fort William High Street; and a little day trip. The third day stopping in Fort William was a last minute decision which assisted in facilitating the social experiment I was telling you about the other day—we needed the extra weekday. So here is the big announcement: in the interest of a fair analysis and good research, in an effort to see how the other eighty per cent live, we have organised to walk the Great Glen Way bag free! That is correct. For the first time in what is now a thousand miles, sixteen hundred kilometres, I am walking a section (seventy-three miles; one hundred and sixteen kilometres) without a bag. Well, without a large backpack. We will still have day packs with all the essentials—wet weather gear, dry weather gear, emergency/everything else gets lost, destroyed or abducted gear. It is necessary to book all the accommodation in order to book the bag transfer, so we have planned slightly longer, bit-of-a-push days to compensate for the return to normal gravity feeling of having no bag. I am sure to tell you, in days to come, how it all works out and how good it feels. The expectations are high.

The view from our room at Balcarres B&B

We had planned two day trips for the days not spent organising the bags: bagging the biggest Munro in Ben Nevis (Ben to the locals) and a trip on the 'Harry Potter' railways line to Mailllag and somewhere onwards.

Ben Nevis never popped his head out from cloud for the one beautiful morning and two and a half days of rain that we were there, so we didn't venture onto him. Apparently the paths were stilled snowed under. Foolishness happens regardless on Ben Nevis. And people who are sensible and prepared still step on what they think is firm ground and find, a thousand feet later that it is a snowy overhang. We preferred bar hopping with blogging, sewing (still sewing the damn Brownie uniform!) and reading.

Top: The most remote pub on mainland Britain, The Old Forge, Inverie
Bottom: One of our dinner stops, The Crannog, in Fort William (we also had great curries during our stay—including the world-famous jalfrezi)

The day we tripped to Mallaig rained. All day. Relentlessly. But the train was warm and it sailed over sodden fields surrounded by beauty. The onward ferry point we chose was Inverie. I'll take the blame actually—the boy, I believe, thought I was mad. You see, the ferry was a little bit of an exaggeration. It was more like a fishing boat, seating six comfortably, and as many as wanted to stand outside in the weather uncomfortably. It landed us in Inverie for an hour and a half. Enough time for a pint in the most remote pub in mainland Britain. The 'ferry' or and eighteen mile hike are the two options for reaching it. It was surprisingly full of hikers. V—— did very well, boat-sensitive as he is, especially on the rather bumpy return trip.

In the forefront: Our ferry

Have you noticed how many 'Inver-'s we have been to? Snaid, arnan, oran, ie, and on our next hike, garry, moriston and ness. I randomly asked Mike, the host at the Balcarres B&B in Fort William what 'inver' means. On the morning we left he presented us with a print-out of the origins of Scottish place names that Jackie, his partner, had looked up when Mike mentioned it to her (can they get any cuter?). Turns out 'inver' means confluence of waters. So much water, so many 'invers'—makes perfect sense.

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