Vroom vroom Splash Roar

Fort William to Drumnadrochit, edge of Loch Ness. 

A family of four californians started their day with hot chocolate with whipped cream. They were on their way to Edinburgh and then to Ireland – by car. 

A group of German students struggled with my explanation of ‘the early bird gets the worm’. Why did I launch into that? 

Breakfast was continental including wonderful soft Scottish cheese: 

This stay at the  Guisachan guest house was one of the most efficient and welcoming of our three week tour. 

Then we came across yesterday’s elf in his cave:

His name is Lee. He adjusted things on Keith’s new tyre. Everything safe for the remainder of the trip. 

Stopping at a station level crossing  outside Fort  William we were somewhat surprised to see a couple of masts going by  – we were at the foot of Neptune’s Staircase,  a series of eight locks without intervening pounds built by Thomas Telford between 1803 and 1822. The longest staircase in Britain lifting boats up to 20m long, each lock is 55×12 m. It takes boats 90 mins to pass through the system (half a day prior to modernisation). 

Of course this is at the western end of the Caledonian canal built to facilitate passage from eastern to western Scotland, and vice versa, avoiding the treacherous route round Cape Wrath. 

Lots of today was spent on main roads, with fewer heavy lorries but many coaches, motorbikes and camper vans, one of which came very close to me and within a few yards had driven off the road onto the verge for a few moments. Narrow escape! 

As such, few birds, but I saw Mimulus, mixed with buttercups, in its typical damp ditch location, as often found by the Shropshire Union Canal. I was surprised to find it here. Also broom mixed with gorse, our first heather (small patch), and ridiculous huge fields of buttercups and orchids! Together! Just there by the road! 

The Great Glen is broad and flanked in its more southern area by Mountains including Ben Nevis. Low cloud precluded sites of this today but here are some typical views:

The Great Glen was the original training ground for the Commandos. This is a moving memorial to these men, and I will not trivialise it by attempting to précis the information. As we near John o Groats, and as routes along the glens become  limited, the paths of the LeJoggers are converging. We met today Lorenzo, a classroom support worker from   Varese 40 Miles north of Milan, on the Swiss border. He brought his bike to Dover and has cycled from there. After JoG he is going to Ireland, but from  Glasgow, not Edinburgh like our US friends. Sensible man. 

He supports two autistic boys, one of whom asks at least 100 times each day: at what time will the bell ring? Respect for Lorenzo. And good luck on the rest of your trip. 

Lorenzo walked his bike down the hills when it was particularly windy yesterday. I’m not such a Wuss after all. 

Fort Augustus is, of course, as a beautiful village by Loch Ness, a great tourist attraction. I liked this piper on the boat going through the lock however: ​​

​​And we saw Nessie too! 

Along the  Great Glen Way we saw: a a line of Caterham Sevens, what looked like a boat preparing to row the Atlantic, a capsule complete with solar panels and sleeping area, and what to, our now very strange minds, looked like miles of Miniature  railway track! Ridiculous thought. 

And to our accommodation : all purple and grey, nine cats, a ring through the owner’s nose (she has three big motorbikes) and absolutely lovely attention to caring for people. This is her bike mudguard:
In fact it’s so lovely here, people obviously don’t need to communicate with the outside world: Mileage: 54.5 (cumulative 853)

Ascent: 3345

Tantrums: I wasn’t having a tantrum, was trying to sort things out!

Sounds – a mixture of traffic, Keith swearing at Yet another hill – and those bagpipes 

Smells: mainly wet pine. 

Mechanical issues: 0

Pints: 1 

Ps: Noooooooooooooo!!!!!!

Pps: for tomorrow – we need to talk about midges. Can you identify all these items?

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