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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2003
When last we left our intrepid hero (i.e. me), he was staying in the stunning Inverlochy Castle and forced to wear a coat and tie to dinner. Life is hard. He's about to begin his first full day in Scotland. This is his story:
I woke up to geese honking. Dozed a bit longer.
Wake up call came in. I went to take a shower and like my father before me found that the darn thing was too complicated. Couldn't for the life of me strike a balance between frigid and scalding water.
Room service brought me the breakfast I had ordered the night before. Scrambled eggs on toast. That English Bacon which really is more like ham and way undercooked for my tastes, despite the fact that I had asked for it "crisp". Wheat toast, a chocolate-chip croissant and a regular croissant. Corn flakes.
We hit the road... w/ a couple of problems.
1. While walking to the car, the sole of one of my great old hiking boots split away from the boot itself. I'm now clomping along, with every step. This is actually very upsetting to me. I've had these boots for twenty-five years and they fit like a glove. I've had them resouled once before. But the opportunity to have them fixed doesn't look like it's going to present itself here.
2. As we're driving away in the Bug, its car alarm goes off. Now, let's just consider the wisdom of putting a car alarm in a rental. Now let's consider the wisdom of not having any kind of owner's manual in a rental with a car alarm that seems to go off for no reason whatsoever. This becomes a daily problem for us. Usually in the mornings, but frankly anytime we turn off the engine, we run the risk of the car alarm going off again when we restart the car. And not just once, but usually two or three times. It takes us multiple trial and errors just to figure out how to turn the damn thing off. But we can never quite figure out why sometimes it goes off and sometimes it doesn't.
Our first stop is Neptune's Staircase. A series of locks on the Caledonian Canal. We watch a large boat traverse a couple of the locks. It's really kind of impressive. Cool, slow and impressive.
We leave Torlundy and drive back through Fort William on the A82, unaware that we're also driving through our best chance to fix or replace my boots. We head back along Loch Linnhe and catch a small ferry at Corran across the Loch.
From there it's the A861 past Strontian (the town that gave its name to the element Strontium). The roads now begin to take on a single lane character. That means that when a car's coming in the other direction, one of you needs to pull over. There are plenty of passing places, however, so it's never really a problem for us. But I do think that had we been travelliing in July or August, when there were more tourists about, it might have been a different story.
At Salen, we detour down the B8007 into the Ardnamurchan Penninsula. Our hope is to take this to the Point of Ardnamurchan, the westernmost point of mainland Scotland so that we can see the Egyptian lighthouse there. But we have a time constraint. We need to catch a 2:40pm ferry at Mallaig, and we want to get to Mallaig a bit early, so that we can see about repairing or replacing my boots. So we stop at Ardslignish, look around and take some pictures of the Inner Hebrides in the distance where the Loch turns into the Ocean. Then we turn around without making it to the lighthouse.
From Salen, we head north to Mallaig. We stop at a Tourist Info Center to get boot advise. They send us to the only store they can think of that might have boots. At this store, they literally only have one pair of boots, which are a size too small for me. We ask where else we might go, and the guy suggests Fort William. That's the exact wrong direction for us at this point, so I'm still clomping around. D'oh!
We grab some lunch. I have an amazing plate of Grilled Split jumbo prawns with Goat Cheese. And a coke. One of the best meals of the trip.
Then we board the Ferry to the Isle of Skye. While we're up on the deck, we hear a car alarm go off, and afraid that it's our car, we go to investigate. It's not our car, but it's a good thing we checked. My dad left the parking break off. Woops.
The Ferry ride to Skye takes about a half hour, and the view crossing the Sound is wonderful. (I'm gonna start to sound very redundant about the views. But it truly was gorgeous about 99.9% of the time.)
The ferry lands at Armadale. We try another store for boots there. It's another no go, but the lady recommends a store called Walker & Welles in Broadford, which is at least in a direction we're heading.
We head south a half-mile to stop in at Ardvasar, which is the traditional home of the Macintyre clan, the clan of my good friend Tuppence Macintyre. We stop by the hotel that I believe the Macintyre's used to run (for centuries). Then we head north again on the A851.
Tuppence had recommended another detour, an inland loop toward the northwest coast of the Sleat Penninsula in order to see Dunsgaith Castle. So we headed toward Tarskavaig. Took a right turn there and headed toward Tokavaig. The castle was supposed to be between Tokavaig and Ord. But we hit Ord without spotting either the castle or even a sign for the castle. We thought about turning around, but we had no real hope that we'd find it the second time, so we just kept going and reconnected back up to the 851.
I know it sounds like the day was full of abortive failures. No lighthouse. No castle. No boots. But we didn't really feel that way. We saw so much beautiful scenery. And we just were enjoying the trip.
By this time, we had finished Tup's mix tape. So I popped in the beginning of the KCRW unabridged production of Ross Macdonald's "Zebra-Striped Hearse". This is a Lew Archer novel, directed and starring Harris Yulin, who was great. It also featured Ed Asner as Colonel Blackwell. Plus Jennifer Tilly, Tyne Daly, Kathryn Lloyd, Jodi Thelen, Joey Pants, etc. I had read the book some time ago, and although I remembered the gist of it, it was great to hear. And my dad really enjoyed it too. It's a six cassette tape production, so it would last us nearly the entire trip.
At Broadford we found Walker & Welles. As promised, they had plenty of boots. I found a pair that fit very nicely right off the bat. (And they had many other options.) So I got 'em. Then I... I... I toss my great old boots in a dumpster that stinks of fish. They truly deserved better. I still feel guilty about it. I hope someone found them and salvaged them before they got too smelly.
Back on the road (the A87 now) we drove through Sligachan and headed north to Portree. Now this trip was almost entirely planned by my father's assistant Anita Kelty Nitta (with a few recommendations from Tuppence and Carol Wagner). Anita provided us with directions, and a map that highlit our route and had stickers for all the hotels. But the sticker for our next hotel was in the wrong place. Horrors! We'd have to figure this out for ourselves for once. Fortunately, finding the hotel wasn't a problem. We took the A850 past Skeabost, Flashader, Edinbane and Blackhill and found the Greshornish House Hotel off Loch Greshornish. Dad was given "The Clydesdale Room". I got "The Palomino Room". It's not quite Castle Inverlochy, but it is a big room with a lovely view of the Loch. The people are very nice, as is the short bread cookie.
After checking in, Dad & I went for a short walk. The Midges make their first appearance, but a wind is blowing and they don't bother us much.
We went back to our rooms briefly. I talked to Beth and left a message for the kids.
We head down to the lounge, but cigarette smokers drive us back upstairs until Campbell, the son of the owner, begins playing his bagpipes to summon us to dinner. It's fun. He's standing out by the old cannon in full regalia, playing. Campbell's a very nice, self-deprecating guy.
Dinner is Mussels, Venison, Potatos, Broccoli, Rolls, Chocolate Mousse.
After dinner, we meet some of our fellow guests (the non-smokers) in the Lounge. An older couple from Lincolnshire and a family from Guernsey.
I stayed up that night until 11:45pm watching "Sex and the City". Then went to sleep.
TUNE IN TOMORROW for more adventure. *Here's a preview: "The Old Man of Storr" "Duntulm Castle" "Two reasons why America is ascendant" "The Fairy Flag" "Posh"*