Scottish Memories- Fort William to Inverness

This is another look back to a post from my early blogging days. On this day in 2014, I posted the third in a series of posts about our visit to Scotland in 1990. I have edited it slightly but it more or less as I wrote it at the time. I don’t think it is likely that I will ever visit the UK again but when I dream of places I would like to see again Scotland is always one of them.


This is the last post about our trip to Scotland in 1990. We were only there a week. How I wish we’d had longer. I guess that’s why I’m so attracted to television programs and films set in Scotland. Not “Braveheart” though. Too bloodthirsty. I preferred “Local Hero”. On television I liked “Shetland”, “Hamish McBeth”, “Taggart” and “Takin’ Over the Asylum” (even before I’d ever heard of David Tennant).

Our train is delayed.
Our train is delayed.

The last leg of our journey was partly based on “Confessions of a Train Spotter” an episode of  the BBC television series “Great Railway Journeys”. The narrator of this episode was Michael Palin and I sometimes wonder if it was this program that started him on his career as a globetrotting documentary maker. In this episode he travelled from London to the west coast of Scotland by train ending his journey at Kyle of Localsh. We loved the scenery so much that when we planned our trip we decided that we wanted to see the West Highland line and Kyle of Localsh too.

Fort William

Loch Linnhe near Fort William

By Nilfanion (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

First we travelled from Glasgow to Fort William which is on the shore of Loch Linnhe, a large sea loch on the west coast. That journey was very scenic and we didn’t even mind the signal failure that delayed us en route. Our “Let’s Go” guide book described Fort William as being a climbing centre for nearby Ben Nevis and rather a boring town but we really liked it. One day while we waiting at the railway station  I saw a railway cleaner washing a carriage on the platform . Cleaning trains was my job in Adelaide at the time and I often did exactly the same job myself. I remember thinking that it would be nice if I could exchange jobs with that person for a while and stay in Fort William for longer.

We had been staying in youth hostels for a couple of weeks so in Fort William we treated ourselves to a bed and breakfast place. There were a few other guests who we met at breakfast the next day. A lady who had just returned from a trip on a sail training vessel which we saw in the loch later and another Australian couple who were a bit younger than us. I’m sure most people know about the concept of “Six degrees of separation”. Well we had that experience. We chatted to this young couple and it turned out that they were from South Australia like us and they lived in a nearby suburb. But the best part of the story happened more than a year later back in Australia. One day when David was on the train home from work, he met the guy who we’d met in Fort William and discovered that he and his wife had moved to our suburb. What are the odds of that?

Loch Linnhe at Fort William.
Loch Linnhe at Fort William.
Sail training ship on Loch Linnhe
Sail training ship on Loch Linnhe

At Fort William we had haggis for the first time; we liked it. We had plunger coffee for the first time at the cafe in the Mountain Shop which probably started our coffee addiction.  We had a huge pot of it for a Scottish “poond”. We walked 3 miles from the town to the beginning of the path to Ben Nevis.  Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Scotland at 1344m (4,406 ft). We had no intention of climbing the mountain although many do, we knew our limitations even in those days. The photo that David took of me at Glen Nevis is one of my favourites and that day was one of the best of our entire trip for me.

Near Ben Nevis
Near Ben Nevis
On the slopes of Ben Nevis pretending to be a mountain climber.
On the slopes of Ben Nevis pretending to be a mountain climber.

We also went on a bus tour to Glen Coe scene of the infamous massacre of the McDonald Clan by the Campbell’s. Our guide, if I remember correctly, said that the historical facts of the massacre were not quite the same as popular history suggests. Of course he may have been a Campbell himself ! However there has certainly been a lot written on the subject, some of it factual and some not so much. I did have to agree with our guide that the scenery alone is worth going there for whatever the truth of what happened is.

The West Highland Railway

Another highlight was the train journey from Fort William to Mallaig on the West Highland line. In summer you can ride a steam train on that route but we were too early in the season. However it didn’t matter. It was another day of beautiful views and impressive railway engineering. In particular the fabulous Glen Finnan Viaduct. You can’t actually appreciate how amazing this is when you are on it as well as you can in this photograph.

Glenfinnan Viaduct.jpg
Glenfinnan Viaduct” by de:Benutzer:Nicolas17 – Self-photographed. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

Mallaig is a fishing port and we enjoyed wandering around the town for a few hours. The fishing boats were very picturesque. I would have liked to have taken a ferry to Skye from there. It’s certainly a place I would love to visit again.

Fishing boats at Mallaig
Fishing boats at Mallaig
Fishing Boats at Mallaig
Fishing Boats at Mallaig

Kyle of Localsh

Our journey to Kyle of Localsh from Fort William was an anti climax in some ways as we had to take a bus, a very crowded bus, which we were obliged to stand up on for most of the journey. As I am short that meant that I was not able to see very much of the scenery.

At that time there was no bridge to connect the town with the Isle of Skye so we took the short ferry trip across to Kyleakin, so that we could say that we had been “Over the sea to Skye”. The bridge was opened in 1995 and it is now free to use, initially it charged a toll which became a contentious issue for local people, so much so that many refused to pay it. The toll was removed in 2004. We took a photograph of the Kyle of Localsh Station sign but unlike Michael Palin we didn’t take a replica home with us. Nor did we sample the variety of malt whiskies served at the nearby Localsh Hotel. Instead we continued our journey by train on another scenic route, the line to Inverness.

Kyle of Localsh Station
Kyle of Localsh Station

Wick

At Inverness we stayed at a small hotel popular with rail enthusiasts. I had found the address in one of David’s rail magazines. They were happy to leave breakfast supplies outside our door when we chose to go out early in the morning on a day trip to Wick. We were a bit surprised that they left toast though. I hadn’t realised that in parts of the UK people ate cold toast.

Wick and Thurso are as far as you can go by train in the UK. We chose Wick as our destination for a day outing. Wick is a fishing port and once again I was captivated by the fishing boats. Wick was originally a Viking settlement and it would have been interesting to spend more time exploring the area which has ruins, walks and wildlife to see. I think a car would have been handy up here though.

Fishing boat at Wick
Fishing boat at Wick
Fishing boat at Wick
Fishing boat at Wick

Loch Ness

We couldn’t leave Inverness without travelling to nearby Loch Ness. We took a local bus to visit the ruins of Urquhart Castle. We also visited a local museum which had a lot of information about the loch and the various expeditions that had been made to try to find the elusive Loch Ness Monster. I have to say that on the day that we were there we didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. There have been a lot of hoaxes over the years and I think that I would be sorry in a way if scientists were able to prove or disprove that there was a creature living in Loch Ness. The mystery of it is part of the attraction. Either way tourist operators and businesses in the region have done well out of “Nessie”. 

We watched the movie “Loch Ness”  released in 1996 which starred Ted Danson. It wasn’t a brilliant movie, we watched it for the scenery really, but we did like the ending where Nessie is left in peace. I thought the castle ruins were very atmospheric and I liked hearing the piper who was playing there the day we visited.

Ruins of Urquhart Castle at Loch Ness
Ruins of Urquhart Castle at Loch Ness
Urquhart Castle ruins
The ruins of Urquhart Castle from above
The Piper
Piper at Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness

We left Inverness finally and took the train all the way back to London and then on to Bexhill-on-Sea to spend Easter before travelling around southern England and North Wales. As you can tell from how much I have written twenty-five years have not made me forget how much I loved being in Scotland and I’d go again in a heartbeat if I could.

 

Further Reading:

http://www.electricscotland.com/books/paterson/glencoe.htm – The Massacre at Glencoe

http://www.seat61.com/WestHighlandLine.htm#Fort%20William%20to%20Mallaig – The Man in Seat 61 blog

http://www.lochalsh.co.uk/skye_bridge.shtml – Skye Bridge story

http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index.htm

Superstition – Unlucky Plants Revisited

I wrote this post in the spring of 2014 and rather to my surprise it has become one of my most viewed posts ever. Who knew that so many people were searching for articles about unlucky plants? Certainly not me! Anyway I thought that I would run it again for those of you that are interested in the subject or just like pictures of pretty blossoms.

Two old nectarine trees next to our "rustic" shed.
Two old nectarine trees next to our “rustic” shed.

Our old nectarine trees are blossoming again. I love seeing blossoms on trees. We have some lovely flowering trees in Australia  wattle, bottlebrush and flame trees to mention just a few of the native plants.  I always look forward to the apple blossom which comes and goes so quickly that you could easily miss it even in orchard laden Tassie.  I always think that pink blossoms would look lovely in a vase with daffodils but I never pick any. Why? Superstition.

Apple orchard, Ranelagh Tasmania
Apple orchard, Ranelagh Tasmania
apple blossoms on our tree.
apple blossoms on our tree.

My mother always used to tell us “Don’t bring blossoms into the house. It’s bad luck.” Well mum thought a lot of things were bad luck but she was mum, we didn’t argue.

Some of her superstitions were:

  • breaking mirrors – seven years bad luck unless you broke a match straight away
  • walking under a ladder is bad luck – well that makes sense, something could fall on your head or you might dislodge it (bad luck for the person on the ladder)
  • spilling salt  is unlucky-you are supposed to throw some over your shoulder if you do that. I can never remember which shoulder though so I do both.
  • black cats are unlucky – I love black cats and the worst bad luck I’ve had  with them is that mine died way too young.
  • peacock feathers in the house are unlucky – I never found out why this is unlucky, maybe they give you the “evil eye”? Some further research required here I think.
  • Putting new shoes on the table is unlucky – Don’t know where this one came from but bet it was invented by somebody’s mother.
  • Opening an umbrella indoors is unlucky – I don’t know where this one came from either. It’s certainly bad luck to be standing too close to someone opening one. You can get poked in the eye.

I don’t know if I really believe all these things myself but from habit I do what mum did – except the one about cats. I’d have another black cat any time.

I wondered about origin of the “no blossoms in the house” myth and googled it just now. I found that it was pretty widespread amongst my mother’s and grandmother’s generations. A lot of superstitions involve particular plants one of the main offenders being hawthorn or as it’s sometimes called in England, may blossom.

Common hawthorn.jpg
Common hawthorn“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

This has just reminded me that two relatives in mum’s family were called May and Blossom.

Mauve lilac came in for a lot of mentions too and one superstition that I had never heard of was about having red and white flowers in the same vase. Supposedly they signify blood and bandages. I don’t know if mum had heard of that one as I am sure we did that many times when we had red and white roses growing. I also know that mum was not superstitious about honeysuckle because she loved perfumed plants and would often bring it in.

Plant Lore is a website that collects folklore about this sort of thing and it has some interesting information on it.  Most of the responders to their “Unlucky Plants” survey seem to be like me, warned off by older family members with no real explanation given. “Just don’t do it. Because I say so!”

One writer, a former nurse said that she’d been told not to put red and white flowers together on pain of dismissal. Even in the 1960s this seems a remarkably superstitious attitude and a harsh penalty. Although this is an English site I’m sure that there is a lot of folklore about plants from other countries too.

 

Red and white flowers are considered unlucky
Red and white flowers are considered unlucky

As far as I know it’s not unlucky to post pictures of blossoms on your website so here are a couple more pictures of flowering trees. Will I be cutting some of my pretty blossoms to bring indoors? Probably not.

Tulip Magnolias

nectarine blossom
nectarine blossom

Links:

TOP TEN AUSTRALIAN FLOWERING TREES

http://everything2.com/title/bad+luck

 

Which Way to go, that is the question.

We Did It! — Maybe?

Well here is some good news. The web harvesting site Tygpress has been temporarily closed down.

This, That, and The Other

I just went to tygpress.com to see if Carol Anne’s (Therapy Bits) posts we’re still showing up. In her post she asked, “If you can check on tygpress for therapy bits and let me know, I’d appreciate it!”

So I did. I typed “tygpress.com” in my browser and this is what came up: EF7872CD-EC88-4411-8AC7-2D3CE09DCC66Wow! Tygpress.com is “temporarily out of service.” And the out-of-service message even included an apology: “We are extremely sorry to the content owners.” Well I’ll be damned.

We did it. We shut down Tygpress!

Well, at least temporarily! How great is that?

Congratulations to all of you who made your voices heard, who posted complaints to DigitalOcean and to WordPress, who completed the forms, and who used this badge:Tygpress not authorizedAll of your efforts seem to have worked. Woo hoo!

Now we just need to mobilize like this and maybe Trump will be a one-term President!

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Embracing the chill at the Huon Valley Midwinter Festival

I have often wanted to visit this even and see the Wicker Man burning but not this year, way too cold and wet for me.

No Visible Means Marketing and Communications

Since the first Huon Valley Midwinter Festival inspired us to celebrate rather than hibernate in the middle of July back in 2013, the event has grown in reputation and scale, outgrowing the Willie Smiths Apple Shed site. This year it relocated to the Huon Valley Showgrounds at Ranelagh, a couple of kilometers down the road.

Organisers put a lot of effort into logistics and into creating an environment that aimed to match the rustic charm of the old apple orchards from which it sprang, so it was perhaps unfortunate that the weather really decided to test the celebratory mood by turning on rain, sleet and snow (on the surrounding ranges) for the weekend. But if you are serious about celebrating the coldest, darkest, wettest time of year, then you need to take the weather in your stride, whatever it brings. And put your gumboots on!

Sculpture and art

Here be…

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AN AWFUL TERRIBLE HORRIBLE DAY AT WORDPRESS – Marilyn Armstrong

So WordPress is at it again giving us “improvements” that many of us don’t need and don’t want. It reminds me of my mother’s suspicion of any packet that said “New. Improved” at the supermarket. Whenever they did that to pet food the cats would not eat it.

Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

I went to take a look at the brand spanking new format for WordPress.


WARNING: If you do that, you will NOT be able to go back to your old format. I think what they have done is eliminate all the old versions of the editor we used, so you can use the new one, or hope they don’t delete the old ones entirely and leave you with this mess.

Which is what I think is really going to happen.


Now, there are things about the “new new new new editor” that may — eventually, when they get the bugs fixed — be useful. But right now? You can’t even get a set of standard editing functions across the top of your page.

They also (apparently, unless it’s a bug) have a limited number of categories — AND they no longer offer you the option of picking up an…

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Good Times

I decided to reblog this post which I wrote in 2016 because it has been three years now that David has been gone. I like to remember the good times we had.

Our Other Blog: Two Sisters and Two Points of View

David at Port Huon 2014 David at Port Huon 2014

One of the things that David and I enjoyed was going for a drive together. Sometimes we had a plan, where we would go and what we would do, other times we just picked a direction. David always carried a camera in the car, he was old school and still using film cameras long after I’d switched to a digital camera.

After I started this blog I would sometimes ask him if we could go for a drive so I could take photos of something or other. Every year for about five years we would go for a drive along the Channel Highway when the scarecrow competition was being held and David would stop the car every time I spotted one I wanted to photograph. When I said that I wanted to photograph the apple blossoms he happily drove me around the orchards till I…

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Unforgivable

The things people do to other people! Although this is about the US government it is not so different from the way our government plays border politics.

Red's Wrap

The kids in the orphanage in Nicaragua where we adopted three children didn’t cry. They’d already done their crying someplace else.

They might have looked concerned but they didn’t cry when passed from one person to the next like a bowl of mashed potatoes being passed at Thanksgiving dinner. In their tiny heads they had figured out the futility of complaint. There was no use crying, it wouldn’t change anything.

They had already lost everything.

Children cope with abandonment. They will appear to cope at least. And how they appear to cope is that they don’t cry. It won’t be long before the little children who have been separated from their parents by American immigration officials, who feel the same as if their parents had abandoned them on the side of the road, it won’t be long before they stop crying. Because crying won’t change anything.

In their minds, they…

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