Today was one of those days we should have stayed in bed. My beautiful breakfast was spoiled because the chef overcooked my bacon. I couldn’t cut it let alone eat it. The boss lady said I should have said something but you don’t like to say anything. However, she asked me on check out if everything was ok and that’s why I told her. I didn’t complain about the traffic noise. On the whole, it was a lovely hotel with character. Would love to be there for the snow.
Now, I had planned to take the “Harry Potter” train ride from Fort William to Mallaig but I have been umming and arring about it due to time. Anyway, I decided to can the ride and to head straight for the gondola to Ben Nevis as the sky was relatively clear but not sunny - overcast. As we approached the Ben Nevis ranges, we could see cloud covering the big fellow but the lift was operating as it doesn’t go all the way up. The lady warned us prior to purchasing the tickets that there was a strong wind warning expected around 11 – 12pm and if that came through, the lift would be closed. We told her that that would not be a problem as we only intended going straight up, take photos and back again. Just as we went through the entrance gate there was a sign that said that the lift would stop now and then and not to be alarmed as they load goods. So off we went.
There were a couple of short stops and we were off again. At about the three quarter mark, we stopped. We waited and waited and no movement. There we were dangling 20 metres in the air, goodness knows how far up. Now I thought I could actually have a heart attack – I was not happy. I thought maybe if they opened the door, I could jump and grab a tree (mind would be willing but the body would probably not be able). Ross lay down on the seat and had a sleep. Meanwhile, 20 minutes must have passed and I decided to ring the Ben Nevis Ranges Centre!! I explained to them that I was sitting in the gondola on the side of the mountain and could she tell me what was going on. The woman on the other end of the phone assured me that they would get us down. Apparently a gondola had come off the rail at the top. Shortly afterwards we started moving – backwards. By this time, I was happy and I didn’t care that I wasn’t going to the top of the hill as planned. Then we stopped again and low and behold they started forward again. We went well until we were almost at the top and it stopped again and the wind was blowing and the cabin was swinging back and forth. I put my head in my hands – I thought I was going to die! Ross laughed. Finally, we pulled into the platform and the chap said to us that we probably hadn’t a ride like that for a while. He didn’t know he was speaking to someone still in shock! He explained that an emergency light had come on and they had to go through their emergency procedure.
Now we have taken quite a few gondola rides in our travels – Banff, Mt Roberts, ski lifts – but this had to be the worst I had experienced. I had no interest in taking photos. It was freezing cold and spitting to rain so we took a few quick shots and got back on the gondola - 11 pounds each believe it or not. I had said I would walk down but it would have taken some time. Back at base, we bought a cup of tea and shared a gypsy cream (biscuit) and headed towards Fort William.
Even though I had changed my mind re the train ride, I still wanted to go to Glenfinnan to see the viaduct. It is about 12 miles out and once we arrived, the chap on the gate would not allow us into the car park as it was full. We had to park on the highway and walk back, a risky business. The walk to the sight was around 1.3 kilometres and it was certainly worth the drive. For someone who has never watched a Harry Potter movie or read one of the books, you would ask why I would be interested. This bridge features in one of the movies. We were talking to a lady and she told us that the train had not come through from the morning and they were waiting for it to come. There was great excitement when we heard what we thought was the roar of the steam train coming to the bend but we were disappointed when we realised it was a jet plane flying overhead in the heavy cloud. It was a great sight – the first formed concrete bridge in the world so a chap said up there. We thought we would take the bush track and walk to the station. Half way it started to spit so we turned and headed back. On the way, we heard that a train from Fort William and one from Mallaig should be coming around 3pm. We weren’t going to wait to see if this happened. So, all in all, if we had have had tickets today, there would have been no train ride as apparently they had “technical difficulties”.
The rain started falling so we were pleased we stopped our walk when we did. The spotted umbrella that Lesley bought me years ago has been worth its weight in gold. Once we retraced our steps to Fort William we headed south towards Oban. Even though it was raining, we could see that it would have been lovely in fine weather. We happened to spot a café and a castle standing on its own so we turned around and headed back up the hill. The castle is called Stalker Castle. We hadn’t had lunch so we ordered a scone each and tea. We have become tea drinkers because you get two cups of tea each (4.5 from the pot here today) from the teapot that they serve compared to one cup of coffee and sometimes it is cheaper. Oban seemed to have a lovely shopping area but we basically drove through the city centre, did a u turn at a roundabout and headed out of town.
It was a bit disappointing to see some accommodation available at Oban. When we looked the other night, there was nothing there or at Fort William. The only place that came up was at Luib Hotel. This was around 50 miles from Oban and in the Loch Lomond and Trussocks National Park. It rained all the way and after going into the wrong hotel thanks to Suri, we found ours. Now I was quite nervous and we were in the middle of nowhere, at a hotel on the side of the road with 7 motor bikes parked outside. I walked into the bar, with all these eyes on me and I asked if this was where I had to check in. A lady with a German accent said that it was and she took me to show me the room. It was lovely. We grabbed a few bits of clothing so that Ross didn’t have to lug the ports up the stairs again. Apparently the hotel building is over 350 years old. The hosts, James and Nelly, cooked us some dinner – hamburger, salad and chips. We decided to have sweets – rhubarb crumble and sticky caramel pudding. What a day!