Today we set off for Glen Coe, passing through Tyndrum where the railroad splits into two lines, one to Oban and the other to Fort William. We drove past the famous Green Wellie shop which was a family business, the owners paid a lot of money to have it rebranded and all that changed was eyes that were put on the wellie and the ‘h’ in shop changed to ’t’ to read stop at a cost of £35,000.00!
We passed a lot of hikers walking the 95 mile West Highland Way trail on ROUTE through Glen Mohr and the Bridge of Orchry. Some of the glens were wide and open and others wooded with forests. Near Glen Coe, the mountains veiled in the Scots misty rain with their dark brooding crags menaced in the narrow valley, with paths of scree running down the mountainsides. These dramatic landscapes are ideal for adventure stories and were used as sets for the filming of Brave Heart, the story of William Wallace. Other films made in this area were ‘Rob Roy McGregor’ (Leam Nielson), ‘First Night’ –( Sean Connery), the TV series ‘Rock Face’. RS Stevenson used Glen Coe and Rannoch Moor as the setting for ‘Kidnapped’ in the 18th Century. On the way to Rannoch Moor we saw the area where the James Bond movie “Sky Fall”, was filmed with the pyramid mountain in the background. The mountain cutting going down into Glen Coe, was used in the Harry Potter films as well. I stopped to take a photo at the lookout spot at the head of Mohr Glen, the Black Mont still had a bit of snow on it, this year (2015) there was 183% more rain than usual and the worst summer for 30 years. The main business in Glen Coe is the slate quarries.
A famous period in Scottish history was the massacres of Glen Coe in 1692. The King insisted on the massacre, it was not a clan feud as is generally supposed. In 1689 there was a change of Monarchy James VII was replaced by William of Orange, he wanted them to sign the Treaty of Allegiance, but they did not want to. The Protestant Secretary of State, John Dalrymple was asked to sort it out, and called for a Campbell to negotiate the Oath of Allegiance with the rebel McDonalds whom he hated, who lived in the area. The Allegiance to James VII who was in France had to be annulled but when the Campbell turned up at Fort William to sign, he could not find a magistrate to legalise it, so the McDonalds signed. Dalrymple crossed their names off to make an example of them. Campbell was dependent on army pay so he was given orders to murder them. The code of conduct in those days was hospitality, so the McDonalds stayed a fortnight with the Campbell’s who were then given orders to murder them, and nobody was allowed to escape. Forty-eight people were killed; the rest ran for their lives, about 70 people all together. No one was punished for it. How it was done was the problem, but not why it was done. Captain Campbell drank himself to death after a verdict of unlawful killing. The rebellions went on as people were so upset about the abuse of the hospitality
system. The people were forced to learn English, and not allowed to wear kilts or play the bagpipes as they were classified as a weapon of war! A very bitter and sad period in the history of Scotland followed.
We continued down to Loch Leven. The burial ground of the McDonalds is in the middle of St Mundo’s Isle. The bridge across Loch Leven was opened in 1971 – there is a monument to R L Stevenson’s ‘James Stewart of the Glens’. The story ‘Kidnapped’ is based on this historical incident. The Crown Factor dispersed
the rebels ‘ruled by fear’ (usually out of anger), James Stewart of Callen was framed. He stood trial at a Campbell Kangaroo court and was convicted as an accomplice and hung as an example. The monument was at the site of the gallows where he was
hung and was left for a long time as a warning to all those who sailed up and down the river. Another was a book written about him “Grass will never grow on my Grave”, by Mary MacGrigor. We stopped at the Loch Leven hotel for scones and tea, enjoying the very pretty view across the Loch.
Another interesting character was Kenneth Adair, a prophetic seer circa 1650, who used a divining stone to prophesy. His mistress burned him over a barrel of tar! These things happened only six years after Culloden. He prophesied the world wars, rebellions and that a bridge over the Caledonian Canal would be built and then fall down, therefore through superstition, engineers did not finally complete the bridge, and they left off a nut and bolt so it would never be complete! There is a book called “The Prophesies of Braham Seer”.
Seagulls sat on the rocks of Loch Linne with wind ruffling their feathers. A strong tang of sea and seagrass filled the air. Loch Linne exits by the Isle of Mull. We past Castle Stalker, a fortress of the Stewarts, built on Cormorant Rock at the head of Loch Laich. Lots of little fishing boats were moored in the loch. Highland coos grazed in the fields as we went past St Columba’s Bay, Bandleloch and the Sound of Mull, but we could not see the Isle of Mull for all the mist. When the tide goes in and out ‘The Falls of Lorn’ are seen under the Connell Bridge with the turbulence as the two waters meet.
We arrived in Oban, a fishing village and harbour for the island hopping ferries servicing the Hebrides. It became a popular destination after Queen Victoria visited. I found Oban a very dreary place with its overcast weather and intermittent rain. I headed for the only cheerful looking building with a red roof I saw on the other side of the harbour which brightened the ominous sky. I had a toasted sandwich and then meandered back to the waiting coach via the usual high street shops; one of which was called The Wide Mouthed Frog!
We left Oban to its mizzle and went past Tennel, an old iron smelting works with a hot blast furnace, which made the ironworks and cannon balls for Nelson’s Navy, from 1787 -1853. We passed fields with brown and cream highland coos grazing peacefully and then past the Loch Awe Holiday Park where there is an underground hydro- electric station. The unique Loch Awe Church was built by Walter Douglas Campbell for his mother from local rock, as the carriage trip from their mansion on Innischonan to the church in Dalmally was too tiring for her. We then went through Dalmally, following the old railway line and river, with a stretch of forest above the line. We drove back through Tyndrum to our hotel after an interesting day’s narration with our coach driver Eddie.