Sunday, 2 August 2009

Day 21 - Scotland West Coast - Spean Bridge - Scottish summers! And warm people...

From Kinlochleven deep in the mountains, just south of Ben Nevis, I took a day's drive around the area to the west of Fort William, towards Mallaig. The scenery is the same - monotonously beautiful. After a while, you're so inured to it that you have to remind yourself that this is some of the most atmospheric landscape in Britain.

But you don't have to drive this route...rather take the steam train Jacobite, which was voted as one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. It takes you from Fort William to Mallaig on the west coast, and back again. It's about a two hour ride either direction.

And certainly the summer rain adds to the moodiness of things. It's been a bad spell of weather the last few days. If it’s not rainy, the mist smothers the mountain tops. But I think I’ve just been unlucky, because I have come across other visitors who say that they’ve had glorious weather elsewhere in the Highlands. But do be prepared for rain during a Scottish summer. As one weather presenter commented on BBC Scotland, when giving the dire forecast for the week ahead: “This is Scotland, ya know!” Check out the BBC's weather forecast for Scotland, and you'll get an idea.

But, so what if it was raining?! It's part of the deal. And the Scots are famous for their warm hospitality - I've found that they've been wonderful, and I met one of the most welcoming and warm Scottish people at Corriegour Lodge Hotel, just a few miles north of Fort William and Spean Bridge, and only about 50 metres from Loch Lochy. Owner Christian Drew - a true blue Scottish lady - is crazily enthusiastic about her Scottish heritage, and it’ll rub off on you to the extent that you’re ready to don a kilt and eat haggis for the rest of your life.

Corriegour used to be an old hunting lodge, now a laidback-luxury, family-run spot, locally renowned for its owners’ passion and award-winning food. It’s perfectly suited to keeping warm and cosy. There’s a smooth, silent feel inside Corriegour, except for the crackling fireplace in the lounge which warms up the hands and spirits of the most rain-drenched tourist.

I dumped my things, because Christian (her name is a mixture of her parents, Ian and Christa), wanted me to hurry up and head off to the gathering of the Cameron clan, just down the road in Achnacarry. (More on that in the next post...)

Before I left to see this uniquely Scottish occasion, she sat me down in the dining room, which has the best views in the building. The Lodge is elevated on a hill, and looks through a few trees, across the road and onto a wonderland of water, heather and mountains (and a fair bit of mist too!)

Christian’s son Ian is the expert chef (and co-owner), and the meals are certainly reason enough to stay at Corriegour. All ingredients are sourced locally. Along with my stay at Castle Cottage in Harlech, the food at Corriegour was the best I’ve had. Check out one of the sample menus...

Room at Corriegour Lodge Hotel...


Video of the comfiest lounge in Scotland...imagine getting warm here in the middle of winter, while looking over a loch and drinking whisky.

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