Fill in the blanks: April 2014
A summer schedule filled with training for me and a looming PhD deadline for Deirdre prompted a few days break during Spring before we both had to knuckle down. Despite a slight throat infection I loaded the car and we hopped on the ferry to Troon for a camping tour of the West Highlands and Oban. April is a great time of year for Scotland as there are few midges and the weather tends to be mixed…meaning you get at least some good days.
A reasonably early start on day 1 saw us lunching in Paisley before skirting Loch Lommond in the rain. We headed up the scenic A82 over Rannoch Mor and through Glen Coe to park under the imposing skyline of the Three Sisters. The plan was to camp up in the lost valley. After hiking into the dank dusk and crossing a calf-high river we located the hanging valley in the last of the day’s light.
It proved difficult to find a suitable pitch for our luxurious 3-person dome tent, and proved more than difficult to raise it in the high winds. The tent was not designed for those conditions so we abandoned the idea and readied our headtorches for the hike back down. Initially we cursed our decision to leave the bivvy bags in the car, but as we crossed back over the now raging thigh-high river, were happy that we would avoid any nastier surprises in the morning (indeed, a fully kitted mountaineer turned back the next morning as the torrent had become impassable).
A lull in the rain helped us extract our night gear into the car and discard the wet items in the boot. Although breaking a bylaw to sleep in the lay-by, we weren’t going anywhere else at 10pm and thought the chance of anyone being out to check on a lashing wet night was very slim. We started the car for a bit of heater and radio to accompany a late dinner of peanut butter on wheaten bread, then tucked into our sleeping bags and slumbered until the dawn light woke us through misty windows.
The weather front had passed and a fair day beckoned. We popped into Glencoe village for some food then returned to the mountains to trek around Lairig Eilde and Lairig Gartain: a lovely sunny jaunt through bronzed hillsides and snow-capped peaks. Come late afternoon we drove down the Glen Etive track to set up camp beside the Loch. A more splendid spot could not have been hoped for and once the pasta was ready it truly was worth uncorking a bottle of red… it’s a waste to go car camping and not use the space to bring at least some luxuries!
After disrupting the mirror flat lake with a quick splash and the obligatory bowl of porridge, day 3 saw us work our way down to Oban via the smallest roads possible. There are quite a few old castles and ruins to check out and a very pleasant beach near Benderloch. We had brought our wetsuits as yet more car camping luxuries and this was the perfect opportunity to go for a dip. It was colder than Portaferry in March I can tell you! There are few opportunities to wild camp along this stretch, so we had to give in and stay at a campsite just South of Oban.
We awoke before the birds on day 4 and sped out towards Easdale hoping to squeeze onto the Corryvreckan Whirlpool boat tour. We were unable to phone through the previous afternoon and were crossing our fingers that the tour was running and that there would be spaces. Unfortunately, we arrived to find the tour was sold out. Still, we had a jump on the day so decided to blaze a long route back to the ferry via Lochgilphead, lunch in Inveraray, Arrochar, then along Loch Long to Helensburgh and Dumbarton. We had a peek at a hydro electric power station, some open gardens in the middle of nowhere, and the nuclear protest camp at Faslane.
It was a long day driving and my throat infection, which had been defying antibiotics by getting worse all holiday, was really kicking in with a fever. Great times were had, but it surely was time to go home on this occasion.