You may have noticed over there on the left that I've been reading "Glencoe" by John Prebble. This was not just for fun - it was research. You see, I had a trip to Glencoe planned, and being the immense nerd that I am I was finding out about the famous massacre at Glencoe before visiting the place itself.
This was yet another hiking weekend - the Scottish Highlands are a beautiful place to walk, full of gorgeous valleys and high hills. And the leader of the weekend had chosen Glencoe, the most famous of the Highland valleys. Not only stunning gorgeous but with an interesting (and bloody) history.
The story of the massacre is one of politics and betrayal and well worth reading but instead of telling you about it I am simply going to rabbit on about the gorgeous hiking we did, with gorgeous sunny (very un-Scottish) weather and pints at the pub.
We started off early on Friday morning, catching the ferry from Larne to Troon and driving up to Arrochar. We stopped there for our first walk - up Ben Arthur, also known as The Cobbler. The walk starts with steep switchbacks, a shock to the legs after a morning of travelling. The path eventually flattens out somewhat, giving you a chance to catch your breath and enjoy the view back down Loch Long and up towards the three summits of The Cobbler. The final ascent is steep and long, and we had amazing views from the summit. Some were even brave enough to tackle the famous Eye and reach the true summit.
Then it was back down to the cars for the final leg of the journey to our hostel Kinlochlevin.
We arrived for a quick unpack and shower before heading out for a pint. Most had dinner at the hostel, but a few of us headed to the local Tailrace inn for our meal. A delicious steak and ale pie and a pint of local beer hit the spot before meeting up with the others for a few pints at the hostel bar.
The plan for Saturday was to climb Bidean Nam Bian, the highest mountain in Argyll and Glencoe at 3773ft. This was a hard walk, but immensely rewarding. Steep uphill climbs, almost vertical scree slopes, over 9 hours long, completely and utterly breathtaking views, and an incredible sense of satisfaction. Again starting with immediate uphill, the track eventually flattened out in The Lost Valley - unseen from below, this was the place where the clansmen of Glencoe hid rustled cattle from their rightful owners. After the respite of The Lost Valley, it was a steep climb and scramble to the top. No point rushing - take plenty of time to turn around and enjoy the views spreading out below as you ascend. The day was hot and we took our lunch at the saddle before tackling the final climb along a ridge to the summit of Bidean Nam Bian. Then down and around, scrambling desperately down an almost vertical scree slope, some on their feet and some on their bottoms before rejoining the well-defined path. Constant descent, most of it excruciatingly steep, reminded us how far we'd climbed.
We didn't get back to the hostel until quite late. Once showered we ordered dinner. I couldn't resist - haggis, neeps and tatties with whisky cream sauce. Surprisingly delicious!
Then, after a few pints, we headed to a pub to check out a local band and have a few more drinks.
We'd booked the ferry back to Belfast for late on Sunday, which meant we had all day to amuse ourselves. Rather than go for another walk we decided on a leisurely day out: visiting the Scottish National Trust information centre at Glencoe where they have an excellent exhibition on the history of the area, and popping in to little towns to check out the local sights.
It was a fantastic weekend, and I'm already itching to return.