Scotland: Castles, MacDonalds

Posted: Sunday, April 05, 2009

From Inveraray, Scotland, my husband, Don, and I and our English friends, Alison and Laurence, drove to Castle Stalker, the Glencoe valley where 38 MacDonalds were killed and the Glenfinnan Monument where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised the flag of rebellion in 1745.

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Courtesy Of Don Harris
Courtesy Of Don Harris

After two pleasant days in Inveraray, we checked out of the Argyll Hotel. Our first stop of the day was Castle Stalker. The picture-perfect castle is on a small green island that has obviously provided centuries of protection for the castle and the inhabitants. Photos of Castle Stalker are often featured in Scottish magazines and travel stories.

From Castle Stalker, Alison drove steadily to Craig Mhor Lodge in North Ballachulishe, Inverness-shire. We checked into the lodge and then drove to Glencoe.

The Glencoe area of Scotland is rugged and like Juneau the mountains are covered with snow in April. The Glencoe area has a small population. Many tourists, hikers and photographers admire the rugged beauty of Glencoe.

I was disappointed that we could not find the valley entrance to the area of the Massacre of Glencoe where the Campbells killed 38 MacDonalds. I subscribe to two Scottish magazines that have printed photos of the entrances to the valley and photos of two MacDonalds' monuments. We could not find the valley's entrance. I asked several locals and they answered that there is no one place to enter Glencoe. I finally concluded that the locals did not want snoopy tourists messing with their history.

From Glencoe, Alison drove to Fort William that is sited on a wonderful loch (lake). Fort William is famed for its proximity to Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain at 4,409 feet. We wandered through Fort William's sad streets. The town has changed since the last time Don and I visited. Fort William now has tacky tourists shops and old buildings are left neglected or boarded up.

We returned to Craig Mhor Lodge to relax. Around 7 p.m., Alison, Laurence, Don and I went downstairs to the lounge. Alison, Don and our host discussed the best restaurant for dinner. We drove four miles to the Corran Inn at the Corran Ferry. Our waitress was quite interested in the Alaskans and the English. Unfortunately, the venison was tough and the vegetables were over cooked.

Breakfast was interesting the next morning. Two couples run the lodge. The two women went on a retreat. Our hosts, the men, had been left alone to take care of the guests and to cook and serve breakfast. The guests that ordered hot breakfasts had to wait some time to get their meal.

We checked out and drove to the Corran Ferry and crossed to the other side of the loch. Alison drove on a one-lane track. We enjoyed the great views of lochs, mountains with snow on the peaks, small farms and a manor house. Sheep and lambs were often grazing on the side of the road. Luckily, we did not see dead sheep or lambs.

We followed the Road of the Isles. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery but we did not enjoy the road construction delays.

We stopped at the Glenfinnan Monument. Alison and Laurence had tea while Don and I read the placards about Bonnie Prince Charlie who raised the flag of rebellion in the 1745 Jacobite rebellion at Glenfinnan. Don climbed up the narrow spiral stairs to the top of the monument's tower. A statue of Bonnie Prince Charlie stands on the roof of the tower.

From Glenfinnan, we drove to the Mallaig ferry. We arrived at about 12:30 p.m., bought our ferry tickets and left the car in the ferry line. The ferry's departure time was 1:15 p.m. We found a charming teahouse for lunch. Three of us enjoyed tea and scones. Laurence had a sandwich. We ordered and finished eating within 20 minutes. We managed to get on the ferry on time.

The ferry from Mallaig to Ardvasar took about 30 minutes. Just a mile from the ferry landing is Armadale, home to the Museum of the Isles and Armadale Castle and Gardens on the Isle of Skye. We learned a great deal about the long history of the MacDonald Clan from pre-history to the 18th century. The Norse played a significant part in the history of Scotland. We also enjoyed the scenery and the extensive gardens. We relaxed with afternoon tea and toasted teacake.

From Armadale we drove to the mainland and to the town of Kyle of Lochalsh and the Kyle Hotel. The outside of the hotel looked rather tacky but the inside was of average quality. Again the cost of the rooms included breakfast and dinner. The rooms were fine and the breakfasts were good.

Alison, Laurence, Don and I enjoyed our dinners. The tables were covered with white damask tablecloths. The four of us had chicken for dinner. Don and I had chocolate cake with cream. The Kyle Hotel's restaurant was excellent.

• Alma Harris is a retired Juneau-Douglas High School English teacher who loves to travel and write.

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