Glasgow – Crianlarich – Morar
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July 9, 1974 (Tuesday)
Fortunately, the next morning we know where to go, because I still remember the way to Loch Lomond from last year. On our way to the motorway we come through a strange neighborhood. The first thing you notice is that there are so many people just standing around, mostly men. If you look into the inner courtyards, behind a high wall or a high fence, you can see that the houses are one-story barracks with a well in the courtyard. In one house you can see the inside. The floor is made of stamped earth … This is the first time for me that I see slums. I never thought that there could be such poverty in Western Europe. [After the discovery of the North Sea oil, things are better, I have been told by a Scottish friend. The slums are gone.] When we ask an elderly gentleman in very worn clothes for directions, he answers us in a nice, educated English. You can never judge by the outside.
Here it happens to us for the first time that stupid guys want to pick us up: A boy about 18-19 years old with three 10-12 year old boys grinning from one ear to the other. At first we don’t want to go with them because the car is already so overcrowded, then they leave us in the dark whether they are going in our direction at all, ”we might”! In spite of all that, we get in. [Speaking of stupid … I guess we felt safe because of the young boys, stupid, stupid.] On the way the eldest stops again to stow our backpacks in the trunk. This is closed with a wire, which the boy has a hard time to loosen. While he is doing this, he asks us what we thought of sex. When we express our lack of interest, he just managed to untie the wire. Now he has to fasten it all again, without having achieved anything, while we stand by with a sneer. However, we only burst out laughing when they leave. We don’t want to embarrass him too much in front of the little ones.
After a few short lifts, we walk along beautiful Loch Lomond. Unfortunately, the weather is mixed and we are very happy when a small truck finally takes us to Crianlarich. We are lucky that someone stops at all, because the main road along Loch Lomond and through the Trossachs is only just wide enough for two tourist buses to pass each other and shave off the lowest branches of the trees with their roofs.
Crianlarich is a very small, nice place. The youth hostel there belongs to the category ’simple’ and is accordingly cold. So my friend and I go to the village pub to warm up. This pub is the first and last where we hear folk music, albeit from a record player [explain to your kids, what that is … ;-)].
July 10, 1974 (Wednesday)
The next morning we ask the Warden about our mandatory job that everyone has to do before leaving the hostel. This can be something like sweeping the floor in the dormitory or similar small jobs. We are supposed to put the blankets neatly together at the foot of the beds in our dormitory. We take care of it, and when he comes to inspect our work, he starts to laugh out loud. He wants the blankets to be folded in a very specific way. How should I know that? Me foreigner! While laughing, his back bumps against the fire extinguisher that hangs behind a curtain on the wall. This makes him giggle again, and he feels the object, believing that someone is standing behind the curtain. (And then he feels it?) I feel a little queasy when he behaves like that, it’s not completely normal, and I look over to my friend, worried. But he is recovering and we are folding blankets again.
We don’t have to wait long on the street when a young English couple stops and asks us where they are. „In Crianlarich“, we answer, and our ’perfect’ pronunciation makes them wonder if we are Scottish. They take us north-west with them.
We drive past Rannoch Moor and then through Glencoe. A part of the gorge looks very strange, completely flat at the bottom, and green with small puddles or almost lakes interspersed with individual trees and boulders. These rocks are invariably rounded (glaciers?) And are randomly scattered, as if two armies of giants had pelted each other with them. I have to think of the story of the Feinn, the original inhabitants of this area from the Gaelic legend, a people of heroes who lived in the neighboring mountains [I don’t remember, from whom I got that story, I cannot find anything about it now, the Wikipedia starts the history of Glencoe with the Jacobite uprisings] ).
There is also a story that says the sun would never shine here again after the Campbells slaughtered the MacDonalds in Glencoe. In fact, the mountains on both sides cast dark shadows into the valley and the rest of the light is muffled by the low-hanging clouds or the rising fog. I tend to believe that this is due to the general high level of humidity in the valley and that the sun never or rarely shone here before the massacre either.
The couple invites us to the Glencoe Folk Museum, a small, ancient Shieling (a traditional house built from natural stones and roofed with thatch. In addition to the old costumes and weapons, you can look at various books about the legends and historical events. At such moments, I always regret to be dependent on a car owner and that we don’t have unlimited time.
[Now there is also something like this: Before you explore, find out more about the landscape, history and wildlife at the award-winning Glencoe Visitor Center. Including exhibition, viewing platform, cafe, shop and ranger information point. I have no idea, if this existed back then.]
After a while we set off towards the west coast. Fortunate for us, the English couple takes the road along Loch Leven, a beautiful lake situated between steep wooded slopes. Instead of taking the car ferry across Loch Head like most motorists do, we take the Ballahulish Ferry, two crazy, converted ships that have to turn around each time before mooring because you can only go up at the stern and back down again. [It looks on the map like there is now a bridge over Loch Head. Surely a lot has changed!]
[Look what I found, a YouTube movie with the ferry! I was wrong about driving backwards, they had a rotating loading area!]
The couple drops us off in Fort William. This city is just like last year: filled with tourists and souvenir shops. My friend and I get some sandwiches first and then discuss what to do next over hot pie in a pub. We plan to take a closer look at the west coast.
The road to the west is unfortunately lacking any kind of traffic. That wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t rain cats and dogs. A young man finally takes us a few villages with him to Corpach, which mainly consists of a hotel and a train station. There we stand in a phone booth for a few hours, because it is pouring down and not a single car comes by.
Suddenly two boys join us, French, who tell us that a train to Morar and Mallaig would leave in 15 minutes. We are seizing this opportunity. The two French people are very nice, one long and thin, the other round and small. The thin man is wearing a black and white bonnet and I ask him if that would be the tartan ’Scott black and white’. He is upset and proudly says that these are the national colours of Brittany! (I don’t seem to have lost my talent for creating a scandalo.) – On my flute he plays Breton dances for us, which remind me of old Scottish and Irish tunes.
In Morar we get off the train. The boys want to go on, across the islands. It is only four kilometers from Morar train station to the youth hostel. That is not a great distance, at least in good weather! But it is still pouring and we are soon convinced that we have already passed the hostel. Then we pass houses and when we ask about the way to the Garramore Youth Hostel, they answer us: „Just carry on!“ – So we drag ourselves on, up and down hills, against wind and weather. On the way we meet the young man who picked us up in Fort William. He’s working on a boat with a friend. He recognizes us and waves to us.
Finally we arrive, soaking wet and completely exhausted. However, a hot meal soon puts us in a good mood again. [Yes, back then we were still robust and sporty!]
(To be continued)