This was a brief weekend break for us to do some winter walking in one of our favourite parts of Scotland. A quick reasonably priced flight from London Heathrow to Inverness and then a two hour drive (85m) to our pretty boutique hotel in Fort William. Ardhu House has panoramic sea views, comfortable rooms and a restaurant. We stayed in the French Room – note the private bathroom is across the corridor! We were shocked to find that the cost of accommodation in Scotland seems to have risen steeply and this was no exception. As we landed late we had dinner in a curry house in Fort William which was very good. We had intended to be up for a very early to start our walk however, breakfast is only served at 9am. They do not do cooked breakfasts but the food was plentiful and included pancakes, boiled eggs, toast and fruit. You also have to pre-order your dinner in the morning before you leave so that it is ready for you in the evening. I was particularly excited about the pear crumble as there is nothing better after a day of hard walking!
There was a bit of drizzle when we parked at the car park but we are well prepared for all types of weather and set off on the well marked track. The Scottish Highlands has a wonderful wild beauty. By the time we set off it was already 10.30am.
As we were heading off we saw a helicopter swooping in to the direction that we we were heading.
The walk is 11Kms and should take 7-9 hours. We encountered our first hitch – the river was flowing so fast that we could not cross at the point indicated on the route map. Several people were turning back. We continues to climb higher until we found a less treacherous path. We soon found ourselves in the hidden valley – spectacular. We stopped to enjoy our sandwiches and tomato soup before heading off to start our ascent.
We continued our walk and the terrain became very rocky with sections of steep scree where we were scrambling. We then reached the snow line and it was super slippery. We did a time check and it was already 3pm … reluctantly we turned back as the summit would have taken another hour plus the return and the dangerous river crossing would not be ideal after dark. Turns out this was a good decision because we later found out that the helicopter was recovering the body of a man who had slipped and fell exactly where we were intending to climb. People very often underestimate the danger of these mountains and how quickly the weather can turn.
We were disappointed as first time we have ever not summitted but it was still a wonderful walk.
We got back to the hotel and had a nice hot shower and went down for an aperitif and scrabble next to the fire. Unfortunately our dinner order which we had given at 9am had not been passed on and I was told that there was no pear crumble left as it had already all been ordered! A minor point, but at an establishment which charges 5* prices and trades on ‘luxury service’ and when you are the first to place an order it does not hit the mark … how about the last person to order the crumble is told that there is not enough rather than the first?! Grrrr. NOT happy. The fish dish was however good.
We left after breakfast the next morning and decided to do a tamer walk around the shores of Loch Ness after a scenic drive through the Glen Ways.
A chap called Steve Feltham has a shack on Loch Ness where he has kept vigil since 1991 in the hope that he will catch a glimpse of the famous Nessie Monster!
We finished off with a nice lunch and some Sheepshaggers Gold before heading back for our flight home with our souls lifted by the wilds of the Highlands.