July 14, 2009
We got to sleep in today. It was amazing. Almost 9 am which was amazing after all the early morning rises in order to get to our destinations. It felt really good!
I started the day by going outside our front door and snapping our view. The loch is right across the street with boats in the corner. Our cottage is literally at the end of Loch Linnhe but as you look to the west, the sun sets over our mountains – yes, they’re ours. I think they’re the Three Sisters of Glencoe but I’m not 100%. There are mountains everywhere so don’t kill me if I’m wrong. All I can say is they are beautiful.
Our little cottage is stucco white with flowers dotted along the way and a lovely pink rose climbing the side of the front door. We also have a large yellow flowering bush in the corner of the fenced in area that lots of little bees like to come and collect pollen. A lone seagull floated by searching for his own breakfast as mine was waiting in the kitchen – Scottish Blend tea from Tesco, a blackberry/raspberry yoghurt and a scone with Devonshire cream. Yum! Wendy got up a little bit later and we both hung out in the front yard. Did I mention we got to sleep in?
The day had a lazy start and we continued to putz around the cottage taking our time getting ready. Finally sometime in the afternoon we decided to check out the village of Glencoe. Our host suggested a few hikes along the loch and into the mountainside so we figured today would be a great day to check them out. After we hit the church and cemetery at Ballachulish.
There is no end to the amazing churches and cemeteries in the area. And the local history these places hold is remarkable. The beauty of the day still comes across in these monuments to loved ones. The crosses and obituaries are touching and placed with care among their neighbors. Wendy and I split, grabbing different shots of the area – we tend to gravitate towards the same shots – as I wandered towards the front. A bit later, two sweet little ladies came up arm and arm towards the church entrance. I asked if they belonged to this parish (because it’s active) and they said they were visiting from Fort William. The four of us started a dialogue where they told us a bit about the area and asked us where we were from. I said Chicago and they said they knew someone from Illinois, in the Chicago area, and could I mention some of the cities around there so they could remember. I tried a few – Skokie, Glen Ellyn, Oak Park - but they were a bust. They were some of the most charming individuals we’d met yet; deeply friendly and genuine. I really can’t say enough about the people here!
We waved our goodbyes and headed towards Glencoe to see what it was all about. There was a hike to the Hidden Valley that John Winkler, our “host,” had recommended so we decided to give that a shot. We’d really hoped to get some grub, but it seemed that we got there too late, so we just wandered around this marvelous little town.
Wendy and I noted that everywhere we’ve been in Scotlandhas been completely different – up a mountain, on the sea, by train, driving around – but there was really something special about this place. I called it Hobbiton because all the modest homes were perfect little places of beauty. Each had its own charm and personality. Flowers decorated every free space in the yard, and they were bright, unusual colors. Lots of purples with yellow and orange. Blue hydrangea everywhere. I mean, really breathtaking.
And as we were figuring out what we were doing in the car park, the little ladies from the graveyard popped up next to my car window, scaring the crap out of me! “I remembered the name of the town,” she said, all smiles at remembering. “It’s called Urbana.” I smiled and told her that that was about two hours from Chicago and a lovely area with a state university. She nodded, remembering that bit of information. She was so happy to have remembered, but even more so to have found us to tell us. It was the cutest thing, ever!
We ended up driving a bit and found an entrance to a trail by the Clachaig Inn; a pub that clearly states that “no Hawkers or Campbells are welcome.” A quick bit of history. The Glencoe Massacre happened here in 1692 where the Campbells slaughtered the MacDonald clans because they didn’t pledge their loyalty to the king. If you want more details, you can check the history of the Glencoe Massacre, but basically, it seems the Campbells are still hated for the attrition of the MacDonalds. Here’s the bad part; Wendy has Campbell in her bloodline. I threatened to out her if she didn’t behave. We took a picture of her at the sign for posterity and then hightailed out of there.
The Hidden Valley walk was truly hidden to us, so we ended up going to Signal Rock where, according to Undiscovered Scotland.com “There were up to 500 MacDonalds, scattered over the lower reaches of Glen Coe. The start of the massacre was signalled by a fire lit on what is now called Signal Rock at 5am. It was dark, it was snowing, and reinforcements intended to block escape routes from the glen failed to turn up, leaving Captain Campbell to make his mark on history largely unaided.“ Obviously a depressing place, so we headed right on up there.
The landscape was really beautiful; full, mossy tress hiding us from the sun. The walk up was very nice if a bit steep but we took it slow because we aren’t exactly the lightest on our feet. Several trips, slips and missteps later, we finally made it up to signal rock where we regarded the Three Sisters of Glencoe and had them pose for pictures. We got rather silly in our picture taking and finally decided to meander back down the path into town.
However, down was not nice. At all. I’d jokingly mentioned that this was how horror movies start – two stupid girls hiking alone in the woods... In fact, it was so horrid that Wendy took a fall, scraping her knee. We tried to do first aid (which was basically looking to make sure she wasn’t gushing blood) and then we heard some wild animal baying in the distance. Well, that got us moving rather quickly. Then it started to rain. We kicked it up another notch.
We finally found our way out, dripping wet and we marched back towards the car. As we drove out, we noticed that these jars of jam that we’d spotted on our way in were still for sale with an honesty box outside. We decided to grab some for our crumpets and made our way back home.
We were wet, shivering a touch and almost home when Wendy suddenly shouted out “A rainbow!” so we had to stop and look at this incredible view. All along the highways are these amazing little purple flowers, I think they’re Heather, that we just have started calling the “picture framing flowers” because they add that last thing your shot needs. Incredible! We snapped shots until the colors faded into the sky, disappearing from view. And that was the end of our lovely day in Glencoe!