392: Fort William

OS Explorer Map 392, Ben Nevis & Fort William: The Mamores & The Grey Corries, Kinlochleven & Spean Bridge – I do not own this map, but have visited it before starting this blog. Visited for this post 2nd January 2018.

So, in the last two posts (1 2) I was with my parents on the Isle of Harris as we stayed in our holiday cottage there for a few days. On this day, we departed to start our way home, getting the 7:30am ferry from Tarbert to Uig on Skye. Breakfast was had on the ferry and I wrote a few postcards. When writing them I got very confused with the date, as I found out only a couple of minutes ago when looking at my photos of them (I photograph or scan every postcard and letter I write so that I can keep a copy) – I wrote the date as 02/02/2017 or, in one case, 02/02/2012, instead of 02/01/2018. Apprently I am confused by the new year… I will have to contact the cards’ recipients and tell them, alas. The fellow who looks after our cottage when we’re not there was also present on the ferry, and Father Dearest talked to him about grand business ideas for Harris while Mother Dearest played with his toddler son.

We arrived on Skye and started to drive, stopping at Portree for petrol. This was a day of abandoned plans, because for one, we had intended to go out of our way to Glenelg to look at the brochs there, but we decided to abandon this plan, partly because of the weather, and partly just because it meant that we could reduce our driving for the day from eight hours down to seven. (We finished driving today at a B&B in Cumbria, from which I’m writing this entry, and about which the entry after next will be!) We had also by this point already abandoned a plan to meet Geochunderer, a school friend, in Glasgow, although this was because his plans had changed and he wasn’t coming back to work from his parents’ house until a few days later than he had initially thought.

Anyway, we drove from Uig to Fort William, with both Mother Dearest and I both having a sleep on the way. There, we stopped, to have lunch and do some shopping.

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Eating lunch

We had lunch in a pub that looked rather dingy from the outside, and indeed the inside, but where the food then proved to be really very nice. After this we went to an outdoorsy shop, with the purpose of getting me a replacement pair of walking boots. Now, I have only ever owned one pair of walking boots, and I’ve had them now for over six years. They were bought back in the distant days of Lower Sixth for my Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, since when they have been used on many many occasions. They’ve been looking a little the worse for wear for a while, and recently developed a hole. I discovered a few days ago that the left boot is no longer waterproof, and the hole was getting bigger, so it really was time for a new pair. (In Iceland two summers ago, these boots’s “seasoned” condition led an American fellow tourist to think that I was the mountain guide on our hiking excursion.)

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The old boots in question

I tried on about seven pairs with the assistance of a long-haired, bobble-hat-wearing shop assistant, and eventually settled on a pair; they were duly bought. Father Dearest was scandalised that the shop assistant, despite working in Scotland (he seemed English), didn’t know that the 2nd of January is a bank holiday up here. At first the new pair seemed too loose, but I then tried putting in the original insoles as well as my orthotic inserts (which I have for flat-footedness), and then they felt appropriate.

We then stopped only to post my postcards and buy some deodorant before getting back in the car and resuming our way south!

Previous visits

I’ve been to Fort William rather a lot of times before, as it is a convenient stopping place when going to a lot of the Highlands. I can be confident, however, that the first time was in 2003, when I went on what I think was my first ever holiday without my parents, as I went to the Highlands with Lovely Uncle, a then two-year-old Fashionable Cousin, Guacamole and their family. We stayed on the Black Isle somewhere, but one day we drove down the Great Glen to Fort William. Lovely Uncle claims this was becuase we wanted to get the ferry to the Isle of Skye, but I’m doubtful about this – it seems unlikely that ferries to Skye ever went from Fort William; it’d be an odd place for them to start, certainly, and is there even a ferry port there? I suppose we were probably intending to drive further to Mallaig? In any case, we got no ferry; according to Lovely Uncle this was because we missed it.


The above picture is of eight-year-old me in a cable car somewhere in the Highlands. As I assume there aren’t all that many of those, I’m guessing this took place in this map area, being probably this cable car. The rest of the pictures I have of me from that trip are probably from outside this area. (I could probably find out more by watching through the video from that trip; I do have it on my computer, but it’s an hour long and I don’t want to do that right now. Maybe next time I revisit a map I first went to back then!)

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Father Dearest, a cousin and I in a boat

I then also went in 2013, on a road trip around Scotland with my parents and a cousin (I think technically we’re third cousins or something, but we know them well enough). We stayed in a hotel near Fort William, and above you see us in a boat on a little lake out the back of the hotel.

I also went in December 2015, when Mother Dearest and I stayed the night there on our trip bringing furniture up when we’d first bought the Harris cottage, and this very summer, coming down from Harris with my school friends Cabbage and Joystick, when we stopped at Morrisons I believe. (On both of these trips see my post about South Harris.) However on neither of these trips did I take pictures in Fort William itself.

Somewhat better recorded is the time I came in September 2016. This was on the Holy Island Trek, when my Cambridge friends (at Fort William only Vesper and Millicent) and I travelled from Lindisfarne to Iona, walking about a third of the way. This trip is recorded in the annal we kept, described in my first ever post. We came to Fort William on the way back from the end of the trip, on a very dramatic day that featured really very extreme weather and great difficulties finding accommodation. Having left Iona early due to the scary weather forecast after looking around the abbey, we took the Fishnish-Lochaline ferry off Mull rather than the Oban one due, again, to weather, and drove to Fort William, having not really eaten lunch due to having no food in the car other than cheese fig rolls.

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Millicent, Vesper and I one day previously, looking across at Iona from Mull

The relevant part of that day’s annal entry (this one written by me), reads:

Eventually we arrived in Fort William, turned into a not-yet-existent supermarket, then got stuck in traffic before arriving at Morrisons at about 5pm. We there ate dinner and bought breakfast, and Amrit finally managed to go to his necessity on the third try.

“Going to one’s necessity” is an in-joke way of saying going to the toilet, based on Ælfric’s Bata’s medieval Latin classroom colloques, in which monks ask each other to accompany them to their necessity, which we, of course, interpreted suggestively. [1] My success only on the third try was not due to any kind of constipation or urinal hestancy, do not worry, but instead because the toilet was first very busy, and later being cleaned. Once we left Fort William that day continued in its drama as we failed to fined any open campsites (due to the storm) and ended up driving nearly all the way to Glasgow and sleeping in a Travelodge, where the fellow behind the counter both forgot to take our money and so had to ask later, and also failed to accept that the three of us could want a room with three beds and did not secretly want to sleep together.


[1] Since I’m writing my MPhil dissertation on classroom colloquies, I’d better say the other facts that spring to mind – it seems to be elder monks that are being accompanied by novices, and I remember reading something that says that this practice is in direct contravention of the Benedictine Rule since there is something in there about novices only interacting with the novice master except in set circumstances or something like that. This isn’t particularly surprising since Ælfric Bata, unlike his master Ælfric, loves to depict all kinds of naughtiness and iniquity, such as students calling each other poo-based nicknames, or getting each other drunk.

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