Day 17: NOOKS AND CRANNIES
It was about 6:50am when we awoke. Trying to get our stuff packed away and the car loaded up before breakfast at 7:45am, I went ahead and did my part. Outside, we could clearly see that it was raining (sometimes pretty hard). So now it appeared that on this day, our luck had run out regarding the good weather that we had been having for the past four days or so. Even the rain from yesterday gave way to a beautifully sunny afternoon…
Eventually, we would finally start having breakfast at almost 8:30am, which was right at the end of the early-bird brekkie hours. I guess when you have a little toddler, things just tend to take longer.
The Baccleuch Guest House was served us a full Scottish breakfast where I tried some black pudding along with the standard eggs, toast, bacons, and even beans. It was a very filling breakfast to say the least, and given the amount we were eating on this morning, we were didn’t feel the need to stop and have a full on lunch. This big brekkie was our brunch.
After having the breakfast, Julie was quite impressed with this guesthouse as the hosts Stewart and Lorna were very nice. Our room was spacious, and finally the breakfast was top notch. We couldn’t have asked for a more comfortable stay even though we were only here for the night as we were on our way to Glasgow.
Finally at 9:35am, we left Fort William for good. By now, the weather continued degenerating into heavy rains as the clouds were very low and the surrounding mountains were too hard to see.
After following a caravan of cars, we’d finally get to Glencoe Valley at 10:05am. And now that it was raining hard, this valley seemed to have a bit of a different personality than yesterday when the weather was mostly cloudy but fine. Now, the mountains were coming alive with thin waterfalls in a way that kind of reminded me of the way waterfalls would come down like veins in the mountains near the Milford Sound Highway in New Zealand.
We noticed a fairly sizable waterfall near the base of the valley on the same side as the Three Sisters but further downstream. Funny that we didn’t notice this waterfall yesterday. But now that we did see it (and it looked pretty significant), we doubled back and turned off where we were surprised to see a car park right across from a bridge leading to some house, which I think was an inn or some historical building.
So we stopped the car at around 10:05am, and just as I was busy taking both photos and movies of the cascade dwarfing the house with the surrounding mountains barely visible behind the low clouds and mist, the weather seemed to turn for the worst as me and my camera were getting pretty wet from the heavy rain.
Ten minutes later, we continued our drive further up the Glencoe Valley. We went past the stop we were at yesterday, and we continued further up the valley where we saw there would have been more opportunities for views (perhaps even photographing all three sisters along with the U-shaped valley together).
Near the top of the valley, we saw another waterfall. But this one was on the watercourse that was responsible for channeling through the middle of Glencoe Valley towards the west. So we stopped at a pullout here at 10:20am, and seeing how the rain was now quite bad, I put on a rain poncho and tried to protect it under the poncho until I got to the viewing platform.
When I got to the view, I had to bite the bullet and risk water damage to the camera as I was taking long exposure photos as well as movies. But I could see that it was a losing proposition against the elements so I quit while I was ahead (so to speak) and returned to the car to resume our drive further south at 10:30am.
In hindsight, maybe we were too hasty yesterday to get the Steall Falls hike started because we easily could have been to these other viewpoints up and down the valley before returning to Fort William. This was especially the case when the weather was improving from raining in the morning to pretty sunny skies in the afternoon…
Anyways, the drive further south towards Crianlarich was under a lot of heavy rain. There were standing puddles of water on the sides of the road, and given the reduced visibility as well as how narrow and curvy the roads were, it could’ve been a recipe for a disastrous spinout or hydroplane. Indeed, the drive turned out to be a pretty dangerous one.
Eventually at 11:20am, we were at the car park for the Falls of Falloch. The turnoff was pretty easy to miss as there wasn’t a sign to give us a heads up until we were practically right at the turnoff when we were heading southwest from Crianlarich. When we doubled back at a turnout and went the other way, we saw there was a heads-up sign and then the actual sign for the turnoff right across from the entrance.
It turned out that the car park was hidden in the trees right next to the A82. At first, we were the only ones at the car park, but since it was raining hard when I first got out of the car, I took some time to put on the waterproof pants while donning the rain poncho. Julie didn’t feel like going into the rain, and Julie didn’t want Tahia to be hiking under this inclement weather.
So I went out on my own again, and it was barely but a few minutes when took one of the spur paths nearly along the gushing river before I finally saw the angry Falls of Falloch before me. This 30ft waterfall was quite impressive as it was totally in full spate. Then, I noticed there was a metal cage-like walkway leading to an overlook with a poem. The view of the falls was fine from here, and I was even able to use part of the railing for long exposure photos.
I was back at the car park barely 15 minutes later, and I encouraged Julie and Tahia to do the hike because it was so short. Unfortunately, the weather had calmed while I was doing the hike, but the rain picked up again when Julie and Tahia got started. Still, we all got to see the impressive falls (though I ended up doing it twice), and we were back at the car park again at 12:05pm. By then, we were surprised at how many other people showed up at the car park despite the rain.
Since the Falls of Falloch was the lone waterfall excursion of the day, it was also going to be our last Scottish waterfall on this trip. The drive then continued for a bit more as we were headed around Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, and then descended upon Stirling and the Stirling Castle. We’d eventually get to the castle (said to be the rival of Edinburgh Castle) at 1:35pm.
Most of the drive to get here was behind strings of caravans of cars typically caused by a slow driver to two or three. And when we got to the castle, the weather seemed to have calmed quite a bit contrasting mightily to the downpours we had been experiencing in Glencoe Valley and beyond.
After parking the car near the castle entrance, we first checked out the views over the surrounding countryside. We could see some impressive monument atop a hill in the distance, and I believe that was the William “Braveheart” Wallace monument.
Once we were inside the castle itself, we started seeing that there were many nooks and crannies that were waiting to be explored. At first we intended to join the 2pm guided tour, but when Julie wanted to get a sandwich, that kind of killed that idea. So we ended up exploring the castle on our own.
First up was the Palace area, where we saw the Stirling Head collection as well as a bunch of extravagant and grand rooms. There were even employees in costume acting the part. There was also a brief 3.5-minute short film about the Stirling Castle itself, especially about the artistic detail along the palace exterior.
We then explored the kitchen area, which was impressive, and we also checked out the tapestry studio, parts of the castle walls, and even some war museums and memorials. We concluded our tour with a bit of castle history before it finally started raining fairly hard again. By that time, it was 4:40pm and we retreated to our parked car.
But just before leaving the castle, Julie noticed that our admission ticket also included a visit to the Argyll Lodging, which was a short distance downhill from the Stirling Castle entrance. So we extended our visit by checking out the extravagant rooms in here as well. And finally at 5:05pm, we left Stirling Castle while forsaking the Old Town since we were itching to check into Glasgow.
As we drove the M80 out of Stirling and towards Glasgow, we were hit with some heavy traffic that was kind of reminiscent of the kinds of traffic jams we would routinely see back on the freeways of Los Angeles. So it wouldn’t be until about 6:10pm when we finally managed to find the Premiere Inn in Glasgow city center, and Julie went to check-in while absorbing information about where we can park the car.
When Julie returned, it turned out that the car park happened to be right across the street from the hotel. So with that, we parked the car at 6:25pm, then we got settled in the room about 15 minutes later.
At 7:05pm, we went downstairs and started exploring the city center of Glasgow while looking for a bite to eat for dinner. Julie and Tahia had their hearts set on Italian food, and after a few minutes of walking, we encountered the impressively grand George Square. This place reminded me of the city center square at the Hotel de Ville in Lyon, France.
Immediately on a corner on the far end of the George Square away from the Hotel de Ville-like building, Julie found this Italian restaurant called La Vita. Once we were seated, we ended up with pizza and pasta; neither of which were particularly good. The service was also lacking because it seemed like the wait staff was too busy.
So after 8:30pm, we left La Vita then decided to meander about Glasgow. We really didn’t have a set plan in mind at this time, but we did want to walk over to the Central Station to entertain the possibility of taking a train out to Edinburgh and back.
As we were making our way over there, we picked up a takeaway ice cream, then found some empty waiting benches in the Central Station to enjoy the ice cream. And both on the way to Central Station as well as on the way back to our hotel, we were being bombarded by surprises from charming and grand buildings (like the Central Station facade) as well as a pedestrian walking street that was lined with what appeared to be shop-till-you-drop mall shops. And the whole city seemed to come alive with fashionable young people looking to get lucky or just hang out as they would bar hop.
Initially when we showed up to the modern city of Glasgow, we were entertaining the idea of going to Edinburgh just in case we thought Glasgow had nothing to really offer in the way of keeping our interest. But with our after-dinner self-tour of the city center, slowly but surely the modern city was growing on us even though it didn’t feel as medieval as Edinburgh.
And we’d eventually can the idea taking the train to Edinburgh and back seeing that we should just give Glasgow a chance while minimizing the chances of having yet another hectic day on the road. So by 10pm we made it back to the room and pretty much called it a night.