Our bodies protested going down to breakfast, despite how delicious we knew the “full Scottish breakfast” awaiting us would be. We were quite sore and our thigh muscles didn’t seem to be very willing to allow our knees to bend. We pressed on and just used bagging a Munro as our excuse for appearing as though we aged fifty years in one day. Today was one of the few things Ben actually added to the plans of our trip.
Not too far from the beautiful tourist laden Glencoe is the almost silent Glen Etive. Beautiful in its own right, yet very different. We found this to be true of every glen we visited. Not like the last and not like the next. Glen Etive has some beautiful scenery accessed by a single track road that is dotted with sheep and houses we could only guess the ages of.
The road follows the river and opens up to a beautiful loch bearing the same name as the glen. You are treated to several waterfalls on the river and many more meandering down the hills if it has rained recently or if any snow is melting.
We wandered down this road for a small layby that was a 007 Skyfall filming location. This is the particular road that M and 007 drive an Aston Martin down to his “home”. They pull off and look down the glen. Ben wanted to recreate this image, unfortunately for him our travel budget didn’t include a fancy car.
From Glen Etive, we made our way northward again. We had to navigate around tour buses and crowds not yet encountered on our travels. This was our 3rd day experiencing Glencoe. We were sad for the busloads of people who only experienced 30 minutes of this majestic and storied glen which presented a different personality each and every day.
After that, we were on our way to a beautiful place I saw on the Visit Scotland Facebook page. Glenfinnan Viaduct, a 21 arch viaduct from the turn of the century located near Loch Shiel, and its Jacobite train that crosses 4 times a day. Bonnie Prince Charlie landed here when he came to try and reclaim the Scottish throne, but more people visit here because the Jacobite train was the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter Movies.
It is a gorgeous glen and worth the visit, even if you aren’t a Potterhead. There is a monument marking the landing of the Bonnie Prince on the beach of the loch. You can buy a ticket to climb to the top at the visitors center that also houses a museum, cafe and gift shop. Parking fills up quickly, but if you are patient and willing to go back and forth a few times, you can park in the parking lot for a small fee.
To catch a glimpse of the train, you have to plan ahead. Forty-five minutes before the train is due in Ft. William, the train crosses the viaduct. Usually you can see the two trains, one going in each direction. If you want to see it up close, take the path that crosses under the viaduct and up the hill. If you want to see it set against the glen, try the path up the hill to the viaduct viewpoint. Or for the less adventurous, you can eat at the cafe set in a dining car with a view of the tracks near by. We opted for the hill, it was an excellent place for a picnic.
Our next glen on the list was Glen Nevis. Unfortunately we had fine Scottish weather today and Ben Nevis was hidden in a misty shroud or drizzle the entire time we were nearby. This glen had one of the most enjoyable drives we experienced in Scotland. Single track, curvy, low traffic and gorgeous views.
Braveheart was filmed in this glen, all of the village and fort scenes. The back story before you get to the fighting. However inaccurate Hollywood depicted William Wallace, it was important for us to visit this glen because it was our introduction to Scotland and Scottish history.
We decided to venture past the fort and village location to Steall Waterfall. From the car park there is a rugged .6 mile hike up to a beautiful area that made me want to set up camp, and many people do. We could have stayed here for a very long time. The fact that the area around the waterfall is flat is amazing considering the elevation you gain. There is a cable bridge that crosses the river to appeal to the adventurous. I opted for my rubber boots and played in the creek.
Dinner consisted of the instant dishes courtesy of the in room kettle and several other items left over from our Morrisons run. We drifted off to sleep with the setting of the sun and the sounds of the bagpiper in the lobby. Scotland has been purely bonnie indeed and magical to boot.