Ho-Ro, Ho-Ro ... (part 2)
Updated: Oct 24, 2018
Scotland, 23 September – 02 October.
Adventure day today. Stroll up a hill named Ben Nevis. I’d read the various guides. Just finished walking the Camino. Fairly fit. This should be easy, right? Wrong!
One of my hardest walks ever. Not helped by an overweight pack (caused by an overconfident underestimation of the degree of difficulty). Certainly not helped by the zero-degree temperate at the top.
One wrong step in the mist, and it's goodbyeeeeeeee ..........
But very glad we did it all the same. Quite an achievement.
Exploring the district. First stop Glenfinnan to see the fabled “Harry Potter” train and aqueduct. Stood in the wind and rain and mud and slush and cold for 45 minutes waiting for the train to steam on by. Headed back down to the visitor centre only to see the sign that the train wasn’t running today. Should have looked there first.
Ah well. Off to the very stately Glenfinnan House nearby, on the shores of Loch Shiel for a warming cup of tea. (But I did get to see the Royal Scotsman parked on the aqueduct an hour or so later.)
A Loch Ness boat cruise organised by Natalie came next. A bit of fun. And I learnt a bit too about just how deep that lake is, and how maybe, just maybe, it does have some hidden secrets.
Our hosts at Lothlorien were lovely. Their “working cocker spaniel” was arguably even lovelier.
Our lodgings at Lothlorien were only a few minutes drive from Glencoe, site of the 1692 massacre which has pitted the Campbell against the MacDonalds (and a number of other clans) ever since. Like Culloden, the history is fascinating. The simplistic view (Campbells are traitors and not to be trusted) masks a far deeper and more complex reality. And like Culloden I certainly don’t pretend to be an expert.
A cruisy day down the lochs followed, stopping off at the very beautiful Loch Awe to visit the haunting, ruined Kilchurn Castle, followed by a coffee on the banks of the Loch as the Loch Awe Hotel.
Our stop for the night was Quarrier’s Village, near Bridge of Weir. Village of the Damned I called it.
We split up again today. The girls walked into town, (a couple of miles along beautiful Scottish backroads) and I headed off to chase a little bit of family history. Not so much chase the history per se, but just get a bit of a feel of the area from which my Campbell ancestors had come.
The little village of Lochwinnoch was the first stop. That’s where great, great grandfather Matthew was born, and several generations before him.
I was delighted to make a connection with the local historian, Mr Adrian Tharme. Since my return Adrian and I have swapped a couple of emails, and I was pleased to be able to provide him with a bit of information of Matthew, his father James, a "cottonspinner", and indeed his father also Matthew, born in Lochwinnoch in 1760. Since my return I also unearthed a fascinating obituary for Dr William Campbell, born 1806, James's brother (and therefore mt great-uncle, four times). The obituary, from the Paisley & Renfrewshire Gazette of April 22, 1882, in the language of the time, states:
The Doctor belonged to one of the old Lochwinnoch families - not of the Aborigines, however. The Campbells appear in the parish as early as the year 1567. The "Revoche”, in the “ancient divisions", belonged to the Barony of "Auchinbothie, Langmure" and is said to have been at the time possessed by a James Campbell.
Fascinating stuff. A few shots follow. I imagine Matthew walking these streets.
Some Campbells are buried here in the grounds of St John's Kirk (affectionately known as "Auld Simon", for reasons which are not clear to me), although the graves have mostly fallen into disrepair, and so little is recognisable.
The main street
The old cotton mills. Did James work here?
One of the three "public houses" in town.
Then a drive across to the much larger regional town of Greenock, a shipping services town on the banks of the Clyde.
And of course when one is in Scotland one must visit a distillery. Auchentoshen beckoned us.
And then I took the girls back to Lochwinnoch for a drink in the local pub.
More Campbell stuff. A drive west and then a ferry ride over to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, and an explore of the Rothesay Castle. Rothesay is a charming mid-sized town.
A post box from Queen Victoria's time.
Which sort of brought us to an end. A farewell dinner with Nat, as she was catching a plane from Edinburgh back home and to work. We were pressing on south for a few days. More of that in the English edition!
Farewell at the airport.
Day 10 will then morph into England Day 1. Stand by.
Some closing thoughts ...
Scotland was quite lovely. The people are mostly very polite and friendly. I enjoyed my time there. But surprisingly (to me) it didn't reach out and grab me as I had expected (hoped?) it would. Perhaps the build up in my mind was just too great.
It was fun. But the anticipated emotional attachment didn't really materialise. Shame.