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SCOTTISH HOLIDAY MENUPeterRowlands.com
It was a miracle that we got off when we did as we had numerous jobs to do and the train for Perth was due to leave Dundee at 11.45am. However, after much rushing around and with the help of Mrs. Bayne and Shiela’s Auntie Nell, who lives in the flat below, we finally got everything ready and the bikes pumped up and left 17 Constitution Street. There is a very steep brae on the way down to the station and poor Roma was quite petrified, having never experienced anything like it at home!
We got into the train a few minutes before it departed and sank back in the seats with a heavy sigh of relief. Professor Mackie (a professor at St. Andrew’s University where Shiela was a student) was in the compartment complete with wife and French magazine! Proffered information of 17th century library in Crieff district – fully preserved. Unfortunately, it was not on our route.
1.14 p.m. arrived at Crieff. Went to a garage and had cycles oiled and brake block on Roma’s front wheel “sorted”. (I must explain, in Scotland “sorted is an extremely useful word; you can have anything sorted from your teeth to your shoes. It really means “put right”.) We also bought a bottle of paraffin for the wee stove Shiela had borrowed for the trip. Lunch and drink – we hope… but no lunch available, so an alfresco meal at place called Crolla’s: tea, meat pies, cake (very stale!) and biscuits. Set out for Comrie – very hot but lovely – lay down outside Comrie after looking at poky old teashop which wouldn’t open. Saw parson pass. (Comrie is a small village.)
Crieff to Comrie: seven miles
Comrie to St. Fillans easy going. First sight of Loch Earn unforgettable (incidentally this was Roma’s first sight of a loch at all). Tea at Achray House Hotel which overlooks the loch – tea, sandwiches, “jam soak” scones and cake. Heard of escape of three German prisoners – officer and two men. Wondered about useful implements to hold them up and only available weapon was a bicycle pump! Met two hikers – nice boys.
St Fillans a small, rather pretty place. Cycled along by loch and decided to take photographs. Shed shoes and ventured forth, nearly slipping down the slithery stones, and rendered more helpless when Bay, struggling with camera in one hand and skirt tucked in the other (with a good bit of “nick” showing), suddenly realised she was still lugging her ten ton rucksack.
Six miles by the loch side to Lochearnhead. Most unbelievably beautiful all the way. Little shop for postcards but they had got lost. Terrific climb from this point. Struggled on for some time then rested and had drink from mountain stream. Bay used half a dozen matches to light cigarette and then didn’t succeed! Very steep all the way up Glen Ogle. Cycled on until forced to walk the remaining two miles. Behind us the mist was covering the mountain tops and the cloud and shadow effects truly marvellous on the slopes bordering each side of the glen.
Bay’s ankles rather troublesome. Shiela’s complete self very troublesome! Enticing corner on horizon lured us on to hope for better things. BUT – more climbing still. Shiela’s b….. jerkin tangled in the wheels and there was a more than sudden halt. Tremendously high mountains to the north. We passed a small loch where some men were fishing from a wee boat. A river wound in the valley, shining silver in the evening sun. A curlew walked in front of us.
At this point we were really tired, only we knew we must go on at least to Luib Hotel. Roma warbled gaily, cheering a woebegone Shiela on. At last Luib Hotel – people – the fateful question – a heavy 30 seconds – silence – “I think we could” – two women reborn! Large plate of sandwiches, glass of milk and so to bed.
Comrie to Luib Hotel 23 miles
Rose at 8 a.m., breakfast at 8.30 a.m. – porridge, scrambled egg (real), tea, toast and oatcakes. Set off at 10.15 a.m., Crianlarich Road. Stopped by loch for some time. Weather grey this morning with mist still on the mountains. Wrote cards at Crianlarich Post Office. Then onwards towards Tyndrum. Rested by a bridge over a mountain river. Up Strathfillan and lunch at Tyndrum Hotel. Beastly snooty proprietress and rude table-maid. Soup, baked cod and potatoes, sweet, biscuits and cheese, to which we helped ourselves, and then tea: 9 shillings…! Lay by the roadside and relaxed. Beautiful mountain scenery. Photo of Bay with mount in background. Took our clothes off and sunbathed. Bay waved to someone in her undies!
Onwards towards Bridge of Orchy. No tea to be had so on again to Loch Tulla. Left our bikes and went over to the shore of the loch. Here we bathed – water cold but beautifully blue and clear. So hot that we messed around in a state of undress. Primus stove wouldn’t work so we made a fire and had tea “tinkie” fashion. Tinned salmon and rolls. Shiela nearly lost her ring but Bay found it again.
Set off bikewards at 7 p.m. and were on our way by 7.30. Long climb upwards – marvellous view of the loch. We counted 25 mountain peaks round it. Sat down near the top and after leaving there Bay discovered she had left her purse behind. So back we went and found it, thank Goodness. “Never were so few stung by so many in so short a time!”
We climbed on and on, higher and higher, to the summit of the Black Mount. Nothing but mountain peaks for miles around and then we found ourselves by the Loch of Islands (christened so by us) and through the black moors of Rannoch. Another terrific climb to the summit of Rannoch Muir, 1,600 ft. (“once more unto the reach, dear friend”) and a lovely free-wheel down for several miles although the wind, now pretty fast, rather held us back.
Branched off the main road and took the mountain road to Kingshouse Hotel. Mrs. Malloch, the proprietress – obviously highland in both speech and dress – couldn’t take us in. She told us of the game-keeper’s cottage “three miles down the road”. Mrs. Cameron was the name. A long pull mostly uphill feeling very tired and weary, and yet the mountains so hemmed us in, rising so tall and gaunt with the last rays of sun sloping across them, that we forgot some of our depression. Fingers crossed we approached the door, with a cairn terrier (later known to be Garry) yapping at our heels. Bless her, she took us in and we had each a large glass of milk and the promise of breakfast.
Luib Hotel to Kingshouse 29 miles
What a meal! Porridge, a large glass of creamy milk, bacon and egg, tea, bread and butter and jam and home made scones. After breakfast “once more unto” etc. For some time we climbed again till we reached the head of the Pass of Glen Coe. The Three Sisters – took a photograph of Bay with them in the background. The next part is too wonderful to be put into words. We shall remember it always in our hearts.
Down and down passing Clachaig Inn and into Glencoe Village. Spoke to some of the people in the hotel there; had to go on to a small place for lunch which was splendid. Bay had had bad indigestion this morning. After lunch on we went along the shores of Loch Leven and finally across the ferry at Ballachulish (south) to Kinlochleven.
Round the shores of Loch Linnhe where we stopped for a swim. Salt water, as this is a sea loch – cold but exhilarating and the sun so warm that soon again we were sweltering in spite of the nippy wind off the water.
From here to Fort William the road runs smoothly by Loch Linnhe. Such beautiful country it must be seen to be appreciated. Arrived at Fort William, we had a meal in rather a “hiker’s haunt” but it was good and we enjoyed it immensely. Mr. Macleod of the postcard-shop recommended us to possible accommodation (a relative of his). He sketched the way for us on a little piece of paper.
However, we got in at the Palace Hotel. Such luxury! But they had no more left to eat, and feeling peckish we tried to light the stove in our bedroom – but it wouldn’t work, although it did give the place a delightful aroma of paraffin! So we ate the remains of the cold meat and had spoonfuls of Bournvita for a sweet, plus a great deal of laughter. This increased when Shiela proceeded to make use of the H. & C. to wash the “Billie”. And so to bed, where Shiela is writing this at the moment.
Kingshouse to Fort William: 28 miles
Just got downstairs in time for some breakfast. Very nice chatty table-maid. Left hotel around 11 a.m. and went to P.O. where Shiela sent off wire to mother for biscuits, etc. Then to Frasers where we had coffee in company with two Norwegian soldiers. Then we wrote postcards, bought bread and pies and left Fort William at 12.10.
Lovely run to Spean Bridge. Stopped at the hotel. Broiling hot day, even worse than Friday, and Shiela’s arms and legs were getting rather sore and swollen with the sun. Met Mr. Jack Bell, who told us his life’s history and many amusing stories. He took our photographs on Spean bridge, after Shiela (of course) had dropped the camera. Then Shiela went off to the shop, leaving Bay and Mr. Bell fiddling around with the Primus. “Wasted” nearly two hours altogether at Spean Bridge. “Once more unto the breach, dear friends.”
Unbearably hot and poor Bay had “jaggers”. Stopped by Loch Lochy quite near the road and bathed. We were warned by two old pessimists not to go in unless we could swim well, as it was 189 ft. deep. But we bathed! Then we ate our pies and the remains of the chocolate and rather shocked (we imagined) the passers-by in buses.
Wonderful run along the loch side. In Bonnie Prince Charlie’s countryside now, and it is truly beautiful, with thickly wooded mountains running down to the edge of the water, and mists and cloud shadows over the mountains and reflections on the calm surface of the lochs.
Reached Laggan Hotel about 7.45 p.m. Greeted by a strange wench in ankle-length gown with loud cockney accent and definitely free-flowing figure. Asked for a meal, and she welcomed us with open arms. Felt rather like the flies and the spider. However, in we went and were shown into a most comfortably furnished lounge. Waited nearly an hour before we were summoned by a small girl. We followed her through strange passages and entered the most amazing dining room we had ever encountered. Gathering of people, and such people, who sat there facing us as we ate. Looking around we both had the inclination to abandon ourselves to fits of giggles.
In one corner sat a policeman, being obviously adored by a teacher-like, most exclusive-type female – later known to be a Mr. and Mrs. Cameron. It was “Callum this” and “Callum that”! Next to her sat an elderly female who made us gasp as she unfolded herself to her full six feet plus. In the opposite corner sat a woman called Margaret: long flowing white hair – shoulder length – vacant staring blue eyes, old wrinkled face, black and white dress and positive talons for fingernails. Next to Margaret sat a nice laughing-faced lady, Mrs. Taylor.
At supper, Bay and Shiela, sitting side by side, and Mrs. Robertson, vague but kindly, opposite Bay; and then we just about succumbed when the cockney girl plonked herself down opposite Shiela. After supper we were talking and Heather, the little girl, spoke about Dougally. “Call him in Mummy!” We expected to see a dog answer the summons, so imagine our amazement when a great goose lumbered into the room and came right across the carpet towards us! Mrs. R. picked it up in her arms, murmuring many endearments, and fed it with some bread.
By this time it was so late that we asked if we might stay the night. They seemed to expect us to do so! Mrs. R. showed us our room. Came down and went with Mr. Hendy to see the sights. Hens, chicks, ducks, turkeys by the score. Rabbits, pigs squealing their heads off, and the crowning glory of the farm – Freddie the Fox! Bitten alive by midges.
Went with Sally (Mrs. Taylor) to fetch the milk. Came back and had a cup of tea. Enter Belle and Donald (the milk people) at 12.30 p.m. for supper and chat! Mrs. Cameron: “No one ever goes to bed in this house.” Bay and Shiela did eventually wander off to bed, which we made ourselves. Bournvita in bed, by the spoonful!
Fort William to Laggan Hotel: 26 miles
Breakfast in bed about 11 a.m. brought up in relays by F.F.F., alias Mary. Tea definitely made of kipper water, otherwise passable – fish for B, bacon and eggs for S. Visited by Sally. She told us we were in the room in which Prince Charlie spent a night. Discover we are living in midst of evacuated mental home from Eastbourne! Knew there was something fishy about the place.
Dressed and went down to loch for cigs. Watched two Norwegian boats going through locks. Nice looking lads. They certainly had their fill of us! Wonderful shop. Bought pickles, lime juice, soup etc. and nearly had Ryvita – except that after Shiela had it, Bay politely suggested that perhaps coupons were necessary and it was a pity we hadn’t any. Honest as the day is long is our Bay.
Lunch – Mrs. Cornish (Margaret) at top of her form! Way back in the good old days, she declared, whisky and gin were 2d. a glass, “but in my estimation a good cup of tea is not to be despised.” Entrance of blind man. Gently led away again. Mrs. Cameron quite chatty; Callum very charming. Sat in the garden wondering how to get away. Tea, with Dougally making a nuisance of himself. Bit the lighted end of Bay’s cigarette and was quite wild for a little. The homicidal giant walked down the roadway, leading a white billy goat by a long string. What next??
Eventually we made our exit. Saw monument of the Well of the Seven Heads. Had picnic by Loch Oich. Lit fire and had Primus going for the first time. Felt much better. Arrived at Fort Augustus and couldn’t get in anywhere. Kind boy directed us. Nasty old B… at boarding-house but husband nicer. Went on to Invermoriston, another six miles up Loch Ness. Lovely hotel and kindly host. Gentle housekeeper. “Aussie” and girl-friend. We couldn’t make them out quite! Ate pickles, bread and meat on bed with swigs of lime juice to wash it down.
Laggan Hotel to Invermoriston: 13 miles
Marvellous breakfast – porridge, real cream, toast, marmalade, bacon and eggs. Licked the platter clean in Bay’s words! Went to shop over road to get postcards. Lo and behold our amazement when we caught sight of headline in newspaper which told us of Mussolini’s resignation ?!?!
Cloudy this morning and raining. Set off for Inverness. Lovely road by the loch. Rain overtook us. Donned cycling capes and hats and “die, I nearly laughed”. We rocked about in the roadway. Reached Drumnadrochit. Had a drink and sandwiches at the hotel. Nice old man. Gaelic for whisky – ooshpui – “the water of life”. [uisge beatha?] Danish R.A.F. lad. Two kind middle-aged men wanted to treat us. All very friendly and we spent a pleasant hour chatting and hearing stories about the district.
On our way again. Picnic lunch on banks of Loch Ness. On we go. Amazing road with loch on one side and river on the other. Felt like King Canute when he told the waves to go back. Got quite a shock when we suddenly found ourselves on the outskirts of Inverness.
Quaint old town, narrow cobbled streets, which made our bikes rattle like a couple of crocks. Mishap on High Street. Shiela primly walking along wheeling bike, trying not to look conspicuous in shorts, suddenly heard exclamations from Bay and looking round saw our loaf of bread lying in roadway. The bag had burst! Collapse of both of us.
Tea in Carlton Restaurant – not enough! Had a sherry and nearly died of shock at the charge – five shillings!
Search for rooms. Y.W.C.A. first, but only for forces. Three other places: struck lucky at third. Bed-settee in dining-room! Went to flicks – Star Spangled Rhythm. Bought chips and got tea, bread and butter in digs. Phoned Mummy Roper. Sat talking in the dark for ages… then to bed and slept soundly.
Invermoriston to Inverness: 28 miles
Breakfast at 9 a.m. Grand eats! Bacon and eggs, toast, rolls, bread, marmalade, and raspberry jam. Went to the G.P.O. and collected letters – no parcel so went for coffee. Then wandered around town – then Criterion snack lunch in small place opposite Carlton. Sausage – at least they called it that!
Set off finally about 3 p.m. What a road, climbing all the way. We must have walked about 10 miles that day. Had a lovely rest and sunbathe in the heather. Stiffish wind facing us all the time. Small boy showed us how to climb hill. Found tiny bunny which must have wandered from its burrow. Put it back again.
Reached Freeburn Hotel about eight. They couldn’t take us in and we felt rather worried. Tried to phone Meg, but no phone. Didn’t like the female at all. She wouldn’t even give us a meal. Went into the bar and met two C.M.P.s who were really kind and took us to a cottage they knew. The lady wouldn’t take us in but suggested a farm. One of the C.M.P.s, Jack, knew the farm lady and came with us. She was awfully kind and took us in right away. Shiela trod in cowpat waving goodbye to the said Jack!
Had a long chat with the farmer and wife, son and friend over supper. They told us that Urquhart Castle, which we passed on the shores of Loch Ness, dated from 1296. Told us quite a lot about the historical significance of the place. The Hendersons (the farm folk) had lived in the Falkland Islands for many years before they started farming…
And so to bed.
Inverness to Henderson’s Farm: 10 miles
Lovely breakfast again. Our hosts were kind to us and invited us back any time we were in the neighbourhood. Went up to the shop for cigs. Bought sausages and sausage rolls. Sent packet of cigs to Mrs. Henderson. Met Jack and Jock and chatted for a little. Then “once more into the breach, dear friend.”
Stiff climb for the first four miles. Then lovely run into Carrbridge. Bay took photograph of Shiela under the old bridge. It was a slippery job climbing out over those stones into mid-stream. Went into hotel; Morag (the barmaid) quite a character. Very highland in speech. Told us about two French Canadians, who she said were bad lot, and remarked how nice the Newfoundland boys were.
On again. Cooked sausages in a wood. Flies simply awful. Sun just wouldn’t come through. Started off again. Stopped for a drink of water with dire consequences, for when we reached Aviemore we discovered Shiela had left her rucksack where we had stopped! Longing for a cup of tea… Got some in station canteen. Sent boy back to look for rucksack but he came back without it. In despair then. Spoke to an old dear who would give us her daughter’s life story. Finally made up our minds to go back and look for ourselves. Four miles back when – joy of joys – there it was in the spot where we (or rather S.) had left it. So thankful that we celebrated by sitting down and having a cigarette.
Got a lift in Aviemore by nice Newfoundland boy, driving a lorry. Called at post office by still no parcel. Set off again. Stopped at tea shop but either the old dear didn’t like the look of us or she just wasn’t having any, for we had to go on our way, minus refreshment. Called at Lynwilg Hotel and had a shandy. There we met some Newfoundlanders but didn’t like them much. However, they were most pressing and we spent rather an amusing hour trying to understand them.
The proprietress was most chatty, also a British officer tendered advice on which hotel to choose in Kingussie, which we were determined to reach that evening. Finally got rid of the pests and gaily set forth. Lovely run in cool of the evening. Just outside Kingussie to our “amized gize” we saw two figures sitting by the roadside. Behold the Newfoundlanders from the Lynwilg! Felt rather scared and we shall never know how they got there. Refused to stay and speak to them and continued on our way. Met the policeman in the main street and asked him for his help as regards a room. He took us to a place and waited to see if they would take us or not, and we were thankful that she did. Had quite a decent supper and so then to bed…
Henderson’s Farm to Kingussie: 28 miles
Breakfast at 9 a.m. Bay was wide awake this morning for a change! Left the digs and explored the village. Bought lovely rolls and tomatoes and had coffee. Ran into Dorothy Simpson and Jean S… (friends of Shiela’s) also on a cycling tour. Passed through Newtonmore and directed soldier driving a lorry to Inverness. Think he really wanted a chat for he was going all the way to Wick (17 miles from John O’Groats and 150 miles from where we were) poor lad!
Terrific convoys passed us all the morning. All very hale and hearty and friendly. Good fun exchanging wisecracks. Even the officers unbended especially the MAJOR! Stopped for a cup of tea at Spey Bridge and were well and truly stung. Soldiers presented us with packets of biscuits with strict orders not to eat them if we had false teeth! Gentlemen were on the way to Bangor, all the way from Lossiemouth.
Quite a climb to Dalwhinnie, though we made it in good time. Really lovely day with quite a cool wind and yet warm sun. Leaving Dalwhinnie silly blithering idiot of a lorry driver cut close in to us throwing Shiela into Bay and we both collapsed into road. Lucky to escape so lightly. Lay on common for a little to recover.
On again, and reached Dalnaspidal, the summit of our climb 1,500 ft. above sea level. Now in county of Perth. Stopped just below Wade Bridge and had a meal. Soup, mealy puddings, three rolls each with tomatoes, tea and biscuits. Whoopie! What a meal! Spoke to an old man who remarked that he had seen us there all afternoon and we wondered just how much he had seen! Got a terrific amount more sunburn this afternoon and both looked as though we were running a temperature.
Set off again about 7 p.m. Marvellous freewheel for over ten miles, singing all the way at the tops of our voices. Stopped by pillbox to admire the beautiful view of the Garry tumbling over great white rocks with steep sloping tree-covered banks on either side.
Went on to Struan and along to the “Salmon Leap”. Bay loved this, but unfortunately the salmon weren’t leaping this evening, although foxy-faced soldier said they had been jumping regularly all week. Came back to main road and stopped by gate leading to Falls of Bruar.
Getting rather worried by this time about the sleeping question. Met a sweet old lady at the gate and asked if she knew of any place around. She immediately offered to put us up and here we are in the loveliest little old cottage and a perfectly wonderful garden, having had a sumptuous meal – omelette, cheese, girdle scones, lashings of fresh butter and home-made blackcurrant jam. Everything is so clean and dainty and we hear them conversing with each other in Gaelic.
Kingussie to Bruar Falls: 38 miles
Our good intentions of rising with the dawn or thereabouts fell through when we awoke about 8.45 a.m. Dressed hurriedly and found breakfast on the table. Tried to go to the “aunt” and had to brave the presence of two Canadian officers standing just outside said place, gossiping with Mr. Stewart (the old lady’s husband). Put a brave face on it and marched past saying, “Good Morning.” Ate a “rill mill” and then a few gooseberries in the garden. Set off to climb the falls. Italian prisoners clearing the trees away. Finally left Struan at 11.30 a.m. Stopped at top of Killiecrankie and climbed around trying to get a decent snap of the “Soldier’s Leap”.
On our way and Pitlochry for lunch overtaking an automobile on the road! Some speed. Wonderful lunch, and offer of ride to Perth in luxurious limousine with “luscious lump of lordliness” at our table. Declined. Went in hotel at Ballinluig and chatted with barman and old twerp in green trilby who greeted Shiela, being Scottish, as the “Lass O’Ballochmyle” (song).
“Once more unto the breach…” Overtaken by nasty self-satisfied young idiot, who was determined to accompany us to Dunkeld. So Bay decided to stop for a call of nature, leaving T.T. in most conspicuous place to the great gratification of passing motorist. Thankfully the young blood had now departed.
Finally reached Dunkeld after long uphill climb. Thank goodness the weather was cooler. Lovely freewheel into the town. Tea in garden tea-room, where we were entertained by chaffies and robin helping themselves from the tables.
Left Dunkeld at 6 p.m. via Brinam. Now terrifically hot and we had to shed our top layer of clothing. After the first stiff climb the road flattened out and it was much easier going. Saw two greenfinches and Bay practised her flower spotting. Put in a terrific spurt for the next 8 or 9 miles as time was getting short and when we were within 4 miles of Perth we decided to stop for a rest and a cigarette. Saw a weasel dash across the road – or rather, Shiela did.
Were just setting off when a lorry drew up and offered us a lift and we were quite glad to take it. Sat in the back with our bikes and various sorts of tins and boxes – in fact Shiela was actually in a box. Reached Perth just in time to catch our train, and realised that Providence had taken a hand to the last: no seats free, so we were in luggage van to Dundee. Arrived tired, hot and dirty and feeling very sorry that our long planned tour had at last ended. Here’s to the next time – Slanghe voher!*
Bruar Falls to Perth: 34 miles
Approximate sum total of cycle tour: 274 miles
Train journeys: 40 miles