On Saturday I decided to take the “scenic route” home from Inverness back to south west Leicestershire. Yes you read right, Inverness. For those of you who are not quite sure where it is, get an map of the UK, start at the top and you won’t have to go too far down the map to spot Inverness.
I was away on business (installing IT equipment) and I had already been to Glasgow for 4 days. Via the A9 it’s around 180 miles to Inverness. It is incredibly busy here this time of year, with accommodation at a high premium. Anyway I left promptly at 7am making the decision to go back via the A82. I wanted the “reccy” Glencoe. I made good progress travelling along Loch Ness which is massive. There are lots of lay-bys along the way for classic viewpoints of the loch. Loch Ness is a large, deep, freshwater loch extending for around 23 miles. It is the second largest scottish loch by surface area at 22 sq. miles. However as its deepest point is 230M it is the largest by volume. Loch Lomond is the largest in Scotland by surface area. Next notable location was Fort William lying in the shadow of Ben Nevis.
Past Fort William, and through Ballachulish and Glencoe village, the splendours of Glencoe awaits. The glen is U-shaped, formed by an ice age glacier, about 10 miles long with the floor of the glen being less than 1/2 mile wide, narrowing sharply at the Pass of Glen Coe about halfway along. The entrance to the glen from above is on Rannoch Moor to the east, below the mountain of Meall a’ Bhuiridh; Glen Etive runs to the south from nearby. The entrance to Glen Coe is marked by Buachaille Etive Mor, “the great herdsman of Etive” at the ‘junction’ with Glen Etive. Glen Coe then runs roughly west for about 7.5 miles before turning north-west towards Loch Leven.
The south side of the glen is marked by a succession of distinct peaks: Buachaille Etive Mòr is followed to the west by Buachaille Etive Beag, then by the Three Sisters, shoulders of the Bidean nam Bian massif which itself marks the western end of the glen. By contrast the north side of the glen is a stark wall of mountain, the Aonach Eagach ridge. The Ridge is crossed at the eastern end by the Devil’s Staircase, an old military road opposite Buachaille Etive Mòr. To the north of Buachaille Etive Mòr, there is Beinn a’Chrulaiste. The western end terminates with the conical Pap of Glencoe (Sgùrr na Cìche), above Glencoe village, at the point where the glen opens out to Loch Leven.
After many snaps, it’s around 10am now, it was time to press onto Glasgow via the banks of Loch Lomond. The A82 after Glencoe is twisty and narrow. I arrived at Tarbet and along this stretch the road improves along Loch Lomond. STOP! Queue. Oh this, is annoying. Let’s see what Sally Traffic says. It’s now 11.20am. DISASTER! The A82 is closed in both directions due to a serious accident. Bugger. Do I sit it out or seek an alternative route. Now for those who do not know Scotland, it worth looking at a map. Basically, like Cornwall, there are 2 roads to the Highlands. The A82 and the A9. If there are any problems on these roads, you are knackered. With the map on my passenger seat, there’s the A814 which is a bit of a trek but at least it’s towards Glasgow. When it’s safe, and turn around and seek out the road. It’s just west of Tarbat at a place called Arrochar. There are other motorists doing the same. The road, the A814, is narrow and not really surprisingly we soon come to a holt. No DAB or FM or mobile phone signal here. The cricket is long finished whilst I was in the first queue, so, by this stage, I was getting a little restless. After talking to some folk, it transpires that on this unsuitable A road, a bus and a campervan have got stuck trying to pass each other. The are many cars now turning round. It’s not looking good. What to do next?
The ONLY way was to return to the A82 and go north, back where I had already been, then take the A84 to Stirling via Callander and picking up the M9. Already I’m over 6 hours into a journey and still in Central Scotland. I decided to take a stop at the Falls of Fallochs, which is a picturesque waterfall near Crianlarich.
Back onto the journey and it’s a slow drive along the A84. There’s a major delay getting through the very nice town of Callander. The road goes right through the centre. It’s Saturday in the holiday season and it’s busy and take a while to get through. I eventually hit the M9 at Stirling around 4pm. Then it was foot down onto the M73/M74/M6 back to England and tea at the magnificent Tebay services. When you’ve been and experienced Tebay, all other motorway services are inferior. The same company are also opening services at Gloucester. Northbound services are open now and is worth a visit. Lovely grub!!!
After a break, it was back on the M6. With fuel low, I found a Morrisons at Walsall just off the M6 at J9. Lovely, filled up and back on the motorway. But there’s a final twist, the getting back onto the M6 southbound at J9 is closed!!! It was back on the M6 but I had to go northbound and leave at J10, round the roundabout and back onto the M6 southbound. I finally arrived home at 22:10, over 15 hours since I started! A nice cuppa was waiting for me.
The car stats where 557 miles, 11 hours 50 mins at an average speed of 47mph. (Collapses into a heap)
That journey was EPIC!
Footnotes: A motorcyclist was killed in the accident on the A82 that morning. I remember queuing and seeing lots of motorbikes overtaking, one almost got hit by a tractor. I appreciate the open road is a place to open the throttle, but the roads in Scotland are fraught with danger, as a Saturday shows, it could be your last if care is taken and the road and other road users respected.