Keep right on to the end of the road…….

I don’t know about you, but I have a fascination with dead-end roads, especially in the countryside. In some ways the sign we use can be a bit disappointing, or even intimidating….’Not worth going down this road’…’There’s nothing to see’…….. ……’Better to turn round while you 7559_signs[1]have the chance’……you know what I mean.

However there usually is something to see…a beach, a loch, a little pier, a house, an old church, and often they have a lovely view. Someone obviously thought that it was worthwhile building and maintaining a road for good reason.

And so it was that yesterday, along with two of the ladies in my life, we set off for one of the loveliest dead-end roads in the west of Scotland. Skirting the historic City of P1010551Stirling, you take the A84 and A873 through Thornhill. There you will find the excellent restaurant ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’ where you could stop for excellent refreshment. Continuing to head west and joining the A81, you pass  (or stop to admire), the only lake in Scotland, the Lake of Menteith. It is tiny, but the village is called  Port of Menteith, and it feels quite proud of its watery neighbour, and the Inchmahome Priory.

Just as you come to Aberfoyle, you enter the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, and head on the B829, which has the afore-mentioned ‘dead-end’ sign . The B designation is a good indication that this road is not for the faint-hearted driver, as it is single-track with passing places. P1040845But we managed to stop and pick some blackberries on the way, on the side of Loch Ard.

I should say here that it was not me driving, as medical advice was that I should not get behind a wheel for a little time yet. So it was the Lady of the House, who was in control. (She is, of course often in control when I am driving!) Daughter was in the front passenger seat helping with the negotiation of this nasty but lovely road.

Wonderful country houses abound along here with the sweeping drives, and gardens which would have engaged a number of full-time gardeners at one time. Lovely it must be to live in such locations, but what about the winter? 4WD vehicles would be more suitable than a flash car when the snow comes, or trees fall over the roads, or accidents block roads.

When you are able to stop to admire the vistas, Ben Venue, Ben P1040838Vrackie, and Ben Lomond all offer great views, so a camera, and binoculars are advised on this trip.

Water is not normally in short supply here, and so several lochs have been dammed and channelled to provide water for Glasgow and the Central Belt of Scotland. Besides Loch Ard, where got the berries, Loch Chon also is beside the road, and both offer boat fishing. The water here and ultimately fed to Glasgow is very pure and no lime-scale is produced in kettles or washing machines…….and it is lovely to drink, especially in a glass of amber liquid!

As we move northwest, we are travelling between two large lochs….Katrine (Glasgow’s main water supply) and Lomond (known the world over for the Bonnie banks). At a T junction you can turn right to Stronachlachar (an awkward-sounding word for non-Scots), with a Pier-head Tearoom.

P1040851However we were turning westward past the lovely Loch Arklet heading to the village, or more-correctly, the clachan of Inversnaid.

This is probably the most awkward part of the road as it drops sharply to the northern tip of Loch Lomond, and indeed the Banks are Bonnie as promised in the song. Suddenly, from a narrow country road we descend into a large car park, beside the massive Inversnaid Hotel, and situated beside the pier for boats cruising Loch Lomond.

So, you may ask, why has this large Hotel beenOld Photograph Inversnaid Scotland[1] built here in a remote area, and is obviously popular, with high-occupancy rates? The old photo shows how long it has been operational.

It was built in 1790 by the Duke of Montrose as a quiet hunting lodge. It achieved exposure to the world, when Queen Victoria visited there several times, for privacy. Whether the impropriety involved with John Brown, her ghillie, occurred here I do not know. It has obviously been extended over the years.

We had a very tasty meal in the hotel, chosing the Inversnaid Burger, which consisted of P1040865chicken, bacon and cheese. Afterwards, we went to examine the waterfall just beside the hotel. There has been no appreciable rain recently, so no  great torrent of water, which was a bit disappointing. There are lots of little walks in the area, which we could not explore due to time restraints.

The pier is a place of constant activity during the day, and P1040858no doubt, there is a fair bit of freight brought in by boat. Looking across the Loch, you can see the village of Inveruglas, and the large pipes of the Loch Sloy Hydro-electric Power Station on the hillside. They have a Visitor Centre about the area, so is well-worth visiting.

Two other facts about the area…….

Firstly……The local primary school was, in 2010, the most expensive/pupil in education costs, in the UK. It is said it was £54,000 per pupil! Presumably some may have been accommodation costs for those who could not commute each day, in the scattered community.

Secondly……The famous Rob Roy was basically an outlaw involved in castle-rustling, and in the Jacobite rising. He hid in a cave, close to the Hotel, and which can be only approached by water, and was well-hidden. No doubt the locationis pointed-out to all those on the cruise boats.

……so there you are, a true end-of-the-road journey, which provided on a very-pleasant autumnal day, a lot of visual excitement with the gorgeous scenery,  a trip on narrow roads, a pleasant meal, and plenty of blethering!…….

And the day was complete on our way home, as we popped-into a tearoom in Aberfoyle………pleasure complete……

P1040875P1040876P1040877

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Colzium etc….some photos….

Just a few random shots from the ‘Non-Driving Day Out’ Blog….sorry about the contrast in some of the shots….very-intense, rather-low sun to blame….Click on the link below to see some more of our lovely scenery…..You Lucky People!

Light and dark in the overgrown paths

Light and dark in the overgrown paths

Lots of cones about

Lots of cones about

A particularly-large cone

A particularly-large cone

Colour disappearing from the leaves....

Colour disappearing from the leaves….

Almost transparent....

Almost transparent….

Looking like an up-turned boat.....

Looking like an up-turned boat…..

Just imaging having to trim these trees!

Just imaging having to trim these trees!

Dated....

Dated….

Friendly dog with four tennis balls

Friendly dog with four tennis balls

The burn...

The burn…

Could not resist the colour of the water...

Could not resist the colour of the water…

Ripening for winter.....

Ripening for winter…..

A shady nook....

A shady nook….

Proudly standing....

Proudly standing….

Sun changed within a minute.....

Sun changed within a minute…..

Feeling rather uncomfortable.....

Feeling rather uncomfortable…..

Still uncomfortable!......

Still uncomfortable!……

Good lady beside our Quite-Quirky Juke.....

Good lady beside our Quite-Quirky Juke…..

From the summit of the Tak-Ma-Doon Road...in the heat-haze

From the summit of the Tak-Ma-Doon Road…in the heat-haze

A non-driving day out…….

I’m a guy………so I love driving. I always have, (since first driving a tractor on a farm at 11!), I go to the driver’s door automatically when we go out, and the seat and reversing mirrors are set for me.

However, I am somewhat hors de combat just now, with non-driving the medical order of the day for at least two or three weeks. Meanwhile I have plenty of good neighbours, family drivers, and a bus stop only 200 yards away….but it’s just not the same!

I like using the skill required to negotiate our quirky Nissan Juke through traffic, over the bumpy tracks (sometimes called roads) and the notorious bends in the nearby Campsie Fells. But this has had to be delayed.

So what to do on a lovely sunny afternoon yesterday?……..

Well, how about a trip to Colzium Park, in Kilsyth, and the Lady of the House would drive. In a magnificent setting, with a house by the Lennox’s (who created the town of Lennoxtown, surprisingly), it was a place we would take the children when small, (nearly 40 years ago!) to feed the ducks, kick a ball, and have adventures in the extensive woodlands. There were still dog-walkers, a man in his motorised scooter, people with grandchildren, stones being thrown into the pond, shrieks from children as swans flapped their wings….nothing every changes. A brief chat with each renewed our social-interaction. Now, less-used, it is somewhat dilapidated, but still handy for an hour’s entertainment in the fresh-air. A carton of juice, and a lovely biscuit beside the car, allowed us to proceed on the next bit of the journey.

There is a wonderfully-named road close by called the Tak-ma-doon Road. It is not an easy road to drive at the best of times and by the most-experienced of drivers, due to the bends, sudden gradient changes, single-track sections etc, but as I said, this is something I enjoy. Good Lady, less so! The way from the Park to this road is at a very nasty , badly-sighted T-junction, where clutch control, handbrake, eyes, and accelerator need to be all fully-functioning. She handled this with aplomb, and we proceeded as planned, upwards and onwards towards Carronbridge.

There is a viewpoint at the highest point, where we stopped to get some photos. A car (which had allowed us to pass them earlier) pulled-in behind us, and I thanked them for their kind deed. We chatted and they were from Alberta in Canada, so we had a good blether about a visit we had made to Canada, and also about a pending one next year. Lovely people!

On past the beautiful Carron Valley Reservoir, with relatively quiet traffic to the delightful Fintry. The Crow Road which is better than the Tak-ma-Doon Road but must still be handled with care, then took her attention, and we returned safely, to the bosom of our house after a simple drive out.

It would not have been possible without the courage, and skill of my Good Lady, so a public THANK YOU VERY MUCH, is very much in order.

Ye canna whack it!

Scotland: Argyll and Bute

Anyone who keeps even an occasional eye on these pages will know of my love-affair with Argyll! Well, at the weekend I indulged that affair (along with the Lady of the House, of course!).

In just over an hour from our house we are within a very-diverse countryside with awesome hills (including what are known as the Arrocher Alps), frightening crags, steep gorges, marvellous uncluttered roads (where people will actually drive into passing places to let you go on your way un-delayed), deep clear lochs, water tumbling down rocks, tea-rooms with friendly staff and cakes to die for!

We have travelled the main roads around here many times, but this short break was to give us the opportunity to explore some of the side roads, many of which are single-track but well-kept.

Our accommodation was at the Creggans Inn at Strachur where we found excellent food (including scrambled-egg and salmon for breakfast), a large room with a wonderful view, and local beers! It once was the house of  Sir Fitzroy Mclean, but now it is run by an imaginative young couple, the McLellan’s who are certainly providing a place in which to rest from the day-to-day worries of life.

 However, we didn’t go there just to laze about! On Saturday morning we headed south along the western bank of Loch Fyne, to Kames, a sleepy little village on the outskirts of Tighnabruaich (pronounced TIN-A-BREW-ICH). Close by was the ferry terminal Portavadie, and I knew that it had a history of a disastrous Government plan to develop it in 1975. £11M of our money had been ploughed-into digging a large dry dock, which was never used.

We went to see the collapsing accomodation which was still there but were wonderfully surprised when we came round the corner to see a split-new marina…..certainly a great improvement, and it is privately-funded! I found out that the BBC did a report on it some years ago and you can see it on the following link….. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/8113213.stm

For those who like to ‘mess-about’ on posh boats, they can get more details on moorings and their apartments, on their web-site… http://www.portavadiemarina.com/

After a run to one of the highest points in the area, to see again the Kyles of Bute, we went down to Colintraive, and were lucky-enough to see the Waverley, the last sea-going paddle-steamer in the world, still proudly carrying passengers around all the ports of the western sea-board of Scotland.

http://www.waverleyexcursions.co.uk/

Next day we ventured down Hell’s Glen, a very steep road  into Lochgoilhead  which has a reputation for its holiday homes which are tastefully set into the hillside and provide relative freedom for those who spend most of their life in towns.

Another 6 miles down a single track road took us to Carrick Castle where they were busy preparing for a Summer fair…..and they were rewarded by beautiful weather. However, our day was not yet over, as we had to visit a little renovated smiddy (or smithy) and had the chance to knock nails out of old horseshoes in a smoke-filled forge. ….and all for 50p each person!

We then spent a very pleasant hour in the local tearoom with coffee and apple and cinnamon tart with ice cream, chatting to three lovely ladies, whilst the owner tried to persuade us to leave by brushing under the tables, as it was after closing time!

Rain is never terribly far off in Argyll and this was true this weekend. What is does do, however, is give an ever-changing vista. No two photos taken from our room window were similar.

All good things have to come to an end, however and we had to head homeward today. We diverted to the town of Inverary, the home of the Duke of Argyll,   and saw inside All Saints’ Episcopal Church with the famous Bell tower which can be seen for many miles. have a look on the link for more info.  http://www.inveraraybelltower.co.uk/

If you like fresh sea food you would find it difficult to beat www.lochfyne.com which is a restaurant and smoke house, and much of what is sold is caught within Loch Fyne waters. We always call in for some smoked salmon and maybe kippers. It hit national headlines a few years ago, when Gordon Brown and John Prescott met here to start the plot (allegedly!) which ended Tony Blair’s reign as Prime Minister. None of the staff is available for comment.

Our last visit was just along the road, and is a micro-brewery, where relatively-small amounts of (rather-strong, hic,) beers are brewed. Not surprisingly their web-site is called www.fyneales.com !!

We got a dozen bottles and again helped the local economy a bit!

I hope that this has given you a brief look in at a small part of the most beautiful country in the world…..but why not come and see it for yourself!!

Bothersome bikers!

Last evening, Lady of the House and I decided to drive into the countryside to have a meal in the Rob Roy Inn at Buchlyvie (if you don’t know the village, don’t even try to pronounce it!)

The weather was beautiful, and we took the winding road through  the gorgeous Blane Valley with the low sun glinting off the Campsie Hills. Other car-owners had obviously decided to take the same route and we all meandered along well within the speed limit.

It was very pleasant and enjoyable, until, suddenly there was this tremendous roar from behind and to my utter amazement, there were three ton-up boys, on exceedingly powerful motor-bikes, accelerating past me, on the wrong side of the road, on a blind corner!  There were no more than two seconds between each of them and they cut-in and out as they weaved between cars, pulling-in as coaches and lorries came towards them, with sickengly little distance to spare! 

So why do they go out on these wild sprees?….is it to terrorise motorists……is it to show-off about the power of their bikes….is it for an adrenalin kick?

It certainly can’t be to admire the scenery….or to maintain the quiet of the countryside……or to endear themselves to other road users…..or to encourage others to take up the sport….or to minimise their global footprint….or to show respect for the sanity of motorists…

Can someone please explain why I should abstain from driving them off the road!….so, if you are a biker, please pay those of us who keep to the law, a little bit more respect!

Parting is such sweet sorrow!

…..well maybe that’s a slight exaggeration! 

 

Honda civic

We are parting from our two cars this week. Lady of the house can no longer drive with her eye problems  but the Honda Civic was being held-onto just in case things got better.  However, some months later there appears to be no sign of this improvement happening, and the fact of it sitting at the side of the house was beginning to annoy her, so the decision was reached, and it has gone to a good home! And we hope to see it again, to check it’s not lonely!

 

 

Honda CRV

The love of my life, (besides the lady and the family, that is) has been my old Honda CRV with 122, 000 miles on the clock, but still going well. However it was decided that we now needed a smaller vehicle (are we shrinking?) but still liked the height for getting into the car. Consultations with the local garage have brought forth a Nissan Qashqai (We had never heard of it before either!).So having spruced it up for the last time it will be disappearing from our runway this week. The image above is how it will appear to me as it disappears from view.

People say that you should never get emotional over cars, but we have had to admire the mechanical reliability of these two Japanese cars…..British manufacturers….are you reading this! 

Another day, another car….

Last Monday was a holiday, and the lure of a drive to another part of Scotland was strong. My old CRV has 105,000 miles on the clock so is a bit tired; young Lady’s Civic has to be preserved for when CRV gives up; and son’s BMW needs its own petrol tanker coming behind it. So Daughter, who has just acquired a new Ford Focus, volunteered to give the new car a run into the Scottish/English Border area.

Peebles is one of those areas which is what is a REAL Market Town…..with REAL shops. It is situated on the River Tweed, well known for the fishing. The approach is by quite narrow roads and a sudden twist into the Main Street. It is wonderfully wide, but don’t expect to get easy parking on a nice day. On both sides of the road, you will find every kind of specialist shop, including a great book shop (for Son and me), and shoe shops (for the ladies).

Picnicking was possible on the riverbank, and we watched children happily playing about. Then we walked along the river, and through the rugby grounds. If the borders is known for nothing else, the rugby features highly in the social life of this whole region.

A visit to our favourite group of art and craft shops was essential, and a slightly-roundabout journey back took us to the source of the River Tweed, and a Devil’s Beeftub, a very deep valley in the shape of a deep bowl near Moffat. Back to Daughter’s where she served-up her usual high-quality food ( a gift acquired from my Young Lady) and a snooze, before being driven back home by Son in his BMW.

……………nothing startling, but just a nice day!