Passports at the ready as we cross the border and go monster hunting.
Friday 12th July
Friday morning and we were crossing the border into that foreign land they call Scotland.
A couple of stops for fuel and food (plus beer) and we skirted the south of Edinburgh and then across the Forth Road Bridge, onto the M90 and north towards Perth where the road became the A9 and took us all the way to Inverness. We skirted Inverness and joined the B862 which took us back south to our destination at Foyers, right beside Loch Ness.
We had booked four nights at the brand new Camping & Caravan Club site, Loch Ness Shores (GPS 57°15’16.03”N 4°29’51.34”W), which, as the name suggests is right on the banks of the loch. Access is down a long stretch of mainly single track road on the south east side of the loch which has been kept undeveloped, all the tourist attractions have been purposely kept to the northern side until now.
We knew it was a new site but we didn’t know just how new; this was their very first day open. In the rush to get as much of the tourist season as possible the site was largely unfinished and as we drove in it appeared to be a bit of a building site. However we were given a warm welcome and were told we could pitch wherever we wanted. We were also invited to a Ceilidh which they had organised for that evening to celebrate the opening.
After a quick supper we went to the very stylish reception building to join in the fun and were immediately handed glasses of ‘fizz’. Music was supplied by a fellow playing an accordion and some of the more adventurous danced the Gay Gordons etc. while we chatted to some of the locals who had also been invited.
The site is owned and run as a franchise and the owners family have farmed the land as tenants for four generations. They recently purchased the farm and decided that the plot of land by the loch would make a good campsite and so went about trying to get planning permission. For years the policy has been not to develop that bank of the loch but since the Scottish Nationalists came to power the policies have been softened as they see the future wealth of Scotland to come from oil and tourism. After a long haul they obtained their permission and then just had to persuade the bank to loan them the money needed. With everything in place the race began to get everything built and landscaped in time for the holiday season.
The site is on two levels but when we arrived only the lower level, nearest the banks of the loch, was ready. Well, just about ready. The hard standings and site roads had only just been laid a day or two before, using an aggregate of almost white stone and fine dusty, cement like material that will set hard after it has weathered. With the dry weather and strong breeze it was creating a bit of a dust bowl effect across the site. There was also lots of bare soil waiting to be seeded with grass so it all looked a little ‘industrial’. Still, the site was busy and the small part that was open was close to being full every night when we were there. Once all the work is finished and the upper area is open it will be a lovely spot and no doubt very well used.
We had been for one or two short strolls around the site and down to the shore but Kate was unable to manage much more than that so on Monday morning I took myself off for a longer walk to look around. Right by the shore, partly hidden by the trees, is a disused aluminum smelting plant in a very elegant stone building. It was bombed by the German’s during the last war because it was producing aluminum for aircraft. On beyond the aluminum works and I reached Foyers Pier. Tourism chiefs are not known for underselling the attractions of their area but just how you can call an ancient and tatty concrete wharf a pier I don’t know. Tied up alongside was a colourful converted barge carrying walkers and cyclists to explore some of the wilder areas while living on-board. Past the ‘pier’ and a little further along the road was a large building that I realised was a hydro-electric power station so an about turn and onto a steep footpath up through the woods and heading towards Upper Foyers. Across a road and onto another path that got steeper and narrower, much more of this and I would need ropes and crampons. Eventually, with much puffing and blowing, I reached another gravel road and followed it uphill until I came to a sign with a footpath map. This showed circular walks through the woods taking one to see the Falls of Foyers and on a red squirrel walk. Once again I followed the path uphill, this time with well constructed steps to help make life easier. The path went into the pine trees and the whole area opened out with trails going in all directions, but following the main path, I soon reached Upper Foyers and the village shop and café. There were more information boards explaining the wildlife and red squirrels, the aluminum works and power station and how they were driven by water from the loch in the hills above and about the falls themselves.
After all the climbing it was a relief to start desending and once again the path was well engineered with steps…..lot and lots of steps. The Falls of Foyers are in two stages, both equally impressive as the brown, peaty water pours through a narrow cut in the sheer rock and cascades into a dark and rather forbidding pool below. The poet Robert Burns was impressed enough to get out his pad and pencil and sit beside the falls and describe them beautifully;
“Still thro’ the gap the struggling river toils,
And still, below, the horrid caldron boils”
I spent some time taking photos and recording short segments of video on my phone to take back and show Kate as I knew she would have loved the falls and the surroundings but, such a short time after her hip op, she would never have been able to walk there. Back up the steps for some way and then I rejoined the main path that would take me back down to the shore and lunch. Although I only intended to take a short stroll I had been walking/mountaineering for nearly two hours and was glad to see the motorhome, a sit down and a welcome coffee.