- Roads go ever ever on,
- Over rock and under tree,
- By caves where never sun has shone,
- By streams that never find the sea;
- Over snow by winter sown,
- And through the merry flowers of June,
- Over grass and over stone,
- And under mountains in the moon.
- Roads go ever ever on
- Under cloud and under star,
- Yet feet that wandering have gone
- Turn at last to home afar.
- Eyes that fire and sword have seen
- And horror in the halls of stone
- Look at last on meadows green
- And trees and hills they long have known.
- (Bilbo’s song – The Hobbit Tolkien )
When we arrived in Scotland, in June 2000, we looked with much anticipation to the few days we were going to spend there but we didn’t know yet how deeply we would be impressed by our first journey « en Terre d’Ecosse ” and what unforgettable adventure was waiting for us!
« Bon voyage au pays des Celtes » had written Serge Oliero on dedicating his book to me at the end of a lecture he gave on January 17 th 2000 … how true it proved to be !
We had booked all our B & Bs in advance and on June 12 th, when we arrived at Renfrew airport in Glasgow, we immediately rented a car so that we could embark as quickly as possible on our journey…
Day after day, on our road to the north, we got under the spell…
This journey was to lead us as far as Bettyhill on the north coast, for I wanted to go and see what remained of the village of Rossal, a place which is the setting of Consider the Lilies, a historical novel by Iain Crichton Smith which takes place at the time of the Scottish Clearances …
Don’t ask me how we did that but on the very day of our arrival, we managed to visit quite a number of places in Glasgow. We immediately fell in love with the big city, walking up Buchanan and Sauchiehall streets without taking time neither to do our shopping nor to share a good cup of tea at the famous Willow Tearoom for we wanted to visit Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the old Museum of Transport (it was still situated in the nearby Kelvin Hall) , St Mungo cathedral and St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art which, until 2006 housed Salvador Dalí’s magnificent painting “Christ of Saint John of the Cross“. We ended in the very atmospheric Necropolis looking for the most emblematic ghosts of Glasgow and also to get a panoramic view of the city. We promised ourselves to come back soon to re-visit the European Capital of Culture, a title it gained in 1990.
On the evening of our arrival we got lost in the countryside in trying to find our first B & B and knocked at several doors before arriving, at a rather late hour, to the farm where it was situated. After a cheerful welcome we spent a very good night and set off rather late in the morning after our first Scottish breakfast. Home made scones and marmalade were among the Scottish delicacies waiting for us! What a feast! We also had a very interesting chat with our host, a learned gentleman who had travelled the world as a yarn dealer before becoming a farmer. He did speak French very well, which we quite appreciated after our first experience of the Scottish language. Try to use in Glasgow the English you’ve learned at school and you’ll understand how we felt on our arrival there!
“There are 32,999 miles (55,266 km) of roads in Scotland, of which 212 miles (344 km) are motorways and 1,807 miles (2,922 km) are other trunk roads. There are eight motorways, all in the southern half of the country. The terrain and level of population in the Highlands is such that it is doubtless not cost-effective to construct motorways in the area. The main trunk road in the Highlands is the A 9 which runs from Falkirk, about midway between Glasgow and Edinburgh, to Thurso on the north coast. Although many roads in the Highlands and Islands have been upgraded in recent years, there are still many single-track roads with “passing places”, small bays at regular intervals along the road used to allow oncoming traffic to pass.
Roads in Britain are classified using an alphabetical system. Motorways are high speed, multi-carriageway roads. There are indicated by M followed by a number e.g. M8. They are marked on road maps in blue and the road signs on motorways have a blue background with white markings. Major roads are ‘A’ road: e.g. A9. They are subdivided into ‘Primary routes’ which are marked in green on road maps and the road signs have green backgrounds with yellow markings. Other A roads are marked in red on maps and the road signs are generally red and/or white with black markings. Smaller roads are indicated by B followed by a number: e.g. B778. They are marked on maps in yellow. Other minor roads are not numbered.”
(Live & Work in Scotland Nicola Taylor)
Leaving Paisley, we took the A 82 which starts in Glasgow, crossed the Erskine Bridge over the river Clyde and headed north in the direction of Glen Coe…
I’ve largely made use of this very interesting book to describe the main Scottish landmarks we’ve discovered while driving north from Glasgow to Fort William…
Dumbarton: “Former capital of the ancient kingdom of Strathclyde, Dumbarton lies at the mouth of the River Leven, which flows south from Loch Lomond to enter the Firth of Clyde 16 miles (26 km) northwest of Glasgow. A prominent landmark on the north side of the Clyde is Dumbarton Rock, an isolated 73-m/240-ft-high volcanic plug that was first fortified in the 5th century AD (…) The castle which stands on the Rock was built on the site of a Roman fort and was the ancient capital of Strathclyde. It was also a royal seat, briefly being the home of Mary, Queen of Scots before she departed to France at the age of five in preparation for her eventual marriage to the Dauphin (…)” (Scotland Encyclopedia of Places & Landscapes)
While driving along the western shore of Loch Lomond we could have a glimpse of the picturesque Trossachs and crossed nice villages : Arden – Luss* – Inverbeg – Tarbet – Inveruglas – Ardhui – On the other side of Loch Lomond the road stops at Bahama and there is only a foot path.
*Luss : “an attractive grey-slate village located on the western shore of Loch Lomond, Luss lies 8 miles (13 km) south of Tarbet. Originally named Clachan Dubh meaning ‘the dark village’, it is believed to have taken the name Luss from the Gaelic for a plant. Developed by the Colquhouns of Luss who lived at nearby Rossdhu House, Luss pier was developed as an outlet for slate from nearby quarries and as a steamer landing for tourists. It is now a conservation village with cottages built to house cotton mill and slate workers in the 18th and 19th centuries. A visitor centre for the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is located in the village, and to the south at Rossdhu is a championship golf course designed by Tom Weiskopf. ” (Scotland Encyclopedia of Places & Landscapes)
From Tarbet, the A82 then leads through:
Crianlarich one of the places claiming to be the “gateway to the Highlands”, halfway along the famous and much trodden West Highland Way, a long distance footpath 96 miles long (154.5 km) opened in 1980 and running from Glasgow to Fort William. Crianlarcih is very popular with hillwalkers for it is surrounded by moutains among them several Munro peaks, the most famous one being Ben More.
Bridge of Orchy: A village in northeast Argyll and Bute to the south of Rannoch Moor, it lies at the head of Glen Orchy, 6 miles (10 km) north of Tyndrum. A bridge over the River Orchy was built here in 1751 during the construction of a military road. An inn erected in the settlement became a stance for drovers, and was visited by Dorothy Wordsworth in 1803. (Scotland Encyclopedia of Places & Landscapes)
Black Mount – (small lochs: Tulla – Ba)
The A82 continues north and passes the western fringes of Rannoch Moor**
**Rannoch Moor : An upland plateau to the north of Breadalbane and east of Glen Coe, Rannoch Moor comprises an extensive area of moorland dotted with lochans and peat bogs occupying an area of 5180 ha (12,800 acres) in southern Highland Council area and western Perth and Kinross. It reaches an elevation of over 384 m (1260 ft) and is surrounded by mountains that rise to heights in excess of 914m (3000 ft) to the southeast and west and 610 m (2000ft) to the north (…) Although traversed in a north-south direction by the A 82 from Glasgow to Fort William and by the West Highland Railway, there is no west-east crossing of the moor, which is regarded as one of the last truly wild places in Scotland (…) In his novel Kidnapped (1886), Robert Louis Stevenson noted that ‘A wearier looking desert a man never saw’. (Scotland Encyclopedia of Places & Landscapes)
and finally through the spectacular Glen Coe with the Three Sisters on the left.
We discovered Glen Coe rather late in the evening and it was all the more impressive… the wild and grim landscape of this narrow glen is truly breathtaking with its precipitous mountains and changing light. It is one of our favourite places and certainly one of the most spectacular and beautiful ones in Scotland. Indeed it is part of the designated National Scenic Area of Ben Nevis and Glencoe. There are no less than 40 National Scenic Areas (NSAs) in Scotland. When you look at the NSAs map you can see that these areas almost cover the whole of the Scottish territory! No wonder…
It’s often quite frustrating to follow such beautiful roads without being able to stop to admire the landscape and in Scotland you feel like stopping at each bend of the road… it’s like being obliged to content with an inviting cover of a book you can’t read!
We could not content with our first journey to Scotland and that is why we came back in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007… and we’re planning a new one for 2012. We’ll never tire of it !
- The Road goes ever on and on
- Down from the door where it began.
- Now far ahead the Road has gone,
- And I must follow, if I can,
- Pursuing it with eager feet,
- Until it joins some larger way
- Where many paths and errands meet.
- And whither then? I cannot say.
(Bilbo’s song - The Lord of the Rings Tolkien )
Bonne lecture et bonne route if you’re planning to go to Scotland soon