8 October 2005 Mr M and I were married on the Isle of Skye. I was wondering how we should celebrate this year’s anniversary when fate just seemed to take over. My son was coming to stay for a few days before starting a new chapter in his life. On Monday (being our anniversary) he needed to get on the West Highland train. Mmm I wondered. After last week’s adventure in Glen Lyon, Mr M had said he thought he would be taking a break from walking with me! However, I could now see the possibility of a train journey up North to accompany my son on part of his journey, sneak in a walk and stay overnight in a hotel with Mr M to celebrate 13 years of married bliss. A bit of research on the internet and I calculated that it would be possible for us to all get the train from Croy. My son could sit back and relax and enjoy a long train journey whilst me and Mr M could jump off the train at Tyndrum. We could then walk roughly 6 miles on the West Highland Way up to Bridge of Orchy, stay in the hotel there overnight, relax over long leisurely breakfast and get the train back just after lunch.
A Perfect Plan
Now to convince Mr M that he wanted to walk part of the West Highland Way on his anniversary. “I thought we could have a night in a hotel to celebrate our anniversary My Sweet”, I said. Enough detail for now I decided. The rest of the information could be released at appropriate intervals.
So with Mr M on board with my plan, I phoned the hotel and was very pleasantly surprised that I managed to get a dog friendly room booked for us so we could take Beatrix with us. Not only did I manage to book a room, but got a deal on a separate cottage next to the hotel. Perfect. There would be nobody to walk past the hotel room causing Beatrix to bark to protect us. What could possibly go wrong this week? I did have a bit of a giggle with the manager on the phone when he asked me if I wanted the room setting out with two single beds or a double bed. “Well it is our anniversary,” I laughed.
“Have you seen the weather forecast for Monday and Tuesday?” asked Mr M. “It is going to be teaming it down both days”. Now we all know that Mr M’s idea of bad weather and my idea of bad weather are poles apart. “It will be ok. We are only walking on the West Highland way and the guide books tell us we don’t even need a map or a compass”. Mr M raised an eye brow at me. “Oh, we are walking are we?” Smiling sweetly I discussed the plans for the two days and advised Mr M that he just needed to travel light as he would be walking for 6 miles carrying everything for the overnight stay along with his picnic.
Yellow Weather Warning!
Everything was planned. Sunday came and the tearoom was closed and cleaned for our weekend. A quick check on social media at on the Sunday evening and I noticed a message from a friend, “Have you seen the weather for the West Coast. You must be mad”. I could ignore Mr M’s warnings of bad weather, but when a friend mentions the weather…. I logged onto the weather on the internet and there it was, yellow warning for torrential rain covering Crianlarich, Tyndrum, Bridge of Orchy and beyond. Now I have never walked any of the West Highland Way so have no idea what the terrain is really like, only what I have read in guide books. I read the section from Tyndrum to Bridge Orchy and the words that were suddenly jumping out of the book at me were “flood plains”. Oops. Perhaps a change of plan was needed. Ok, we would get the train all the way to Bridge of Orchy then go for a walk once we were there.
Second adjustment of plans needed. All ferries up North were cancelled for Monday. My son now needed accommodation for Monday night. Should I book him into the hotel with us? On our anniversary? So, accommodation sorted for him on his journey right by the ferry terminal ready for the re-commencement of the ferries.
An Early Start
Monday morning at some ridiculous hour, the alarms went off and we all nibbled at our breakfast and pretended that we did not mind being up so early. After a short 10 minute train journey we were in Glasgow Queen Street. We had an hour to kill before the next train but Beatrix kept the whole of the station amused going from one person to the next getting cuddles, strokes and, of course, there was always the possibility of a biscuit or too if she did the puppy dog eyes.
8.20 and we were settled on the next train. We had just short of 3 hours on the train (though my son had about 6!). How long should we hold off before we had our picnic? Realistically we could probably last until we got off the train then have our packed lunch on the walk. Just outside Helensburgh the train came to a standstill. “Ladies and gentlemen, there will be short delay”. The track on this line is single track in several places so a delay with a train from the opposite direction can cause delays for all other trains. We waited patiently, we chatted, we looked at the views (ha, ha), I did some crochet and some reading. Then, by 9.30 ish our picnics had started to creep out of our rucksacks and you know what happens once you start. It was not long before I had to tell everyone they would have to stop eating their snacks as we all had a long day ahead of us – some longer than others. Beatrix had certainly had enough – every time I looked at her my son seemed to be giving her some treat or another.
Eventually, the delayed Caledonian Sleeper train came down the track and we were once again on our way. Once beyond Arrochar and Tarbet, the views should have been amazing but imagination was needed as the rain moved in. We trundled along past Ardlui and up the long incline passing the Falls of Falloch on route to Crianlarich. Of course today any little waterfalls were now raging torrents. Next stop was Upper Tyndrum, leading to our final stop at Bridge of Orchy. So, hugs and kisses given to my son, we left the train for the very short 5 minute walk to the hotel.
The Bridge of Orchy Hotel
By the time we got to the hotel we were like drowned rats as the weather was so bad. In my opinion though, that’s what good waterproofs are for. We checked in at reception only to find that the lovely annex cottage we had been promised was now flooded due to the inclement weather so we had been moved to a different room. Did we mind? Not at all, especially as the lovely hotel manager removed the additional charge for Beatrix and even gave us a further discount for the inconvenience. Ok, time for a walk. Mr M was on his best behaviour and was, in his words, quite happy to do what I wanted as it was my anniversary treat. “Let’s walk up the West Highland Way towards Inveroran” says I. My already favourite hotel manager gave us a map and told us about a round trip we could undertake in about 3 hours or so to go the top of Màm Carraigh, drop down to the Inveroran Hotel and back to the Bridge of Orchy hotel. I think the manager’s words to us were something like “you’re mad”.
Within the first 5 minutes of the walk we had hit the mud, the flood water and the comments of “this is just too wet to go any further” started. Watching two other people go in front of us, I pointed out to Mr M that they had not come to any harm so we would be fine. It was difficult to see at this point whether it was the rain on Mr M’s face or if there were actually some tears as he reluctantly agreed to follow me. Thankfully we were soon through the mud and the path started to climb steadily to become just a stream to walk in rather than a mud bath. Before long we were passing the forest and I noticed a nice spot for lunch – sheltered from the rain and with a few logs to act as a table. What better place to have lunch on your anniversary. I also knew that the thought of warm tea and food would cheer up Mr M. Ok, so it was not quite so sheltered from the rain and all the fallen trees were way too wet and slippy to use as a table, but we had a lovely lunch and I even managed to get a cheeky anniversary kiss.
We continued on our way, with the rain getting heavier and the wind getting stronger. We did get a few glimpses of the hills around us and decided that we would go to the top of the Màm Carraigh and decide what to do from there. Lo and behold we could see the Inveroran Hotel in the distance so we knew we could make it to there and then a gentle 3 mile stroll back on the single track road to the hotel. Before long, we arrived back at the hotel, very wet and with an equally very wet dog shaking herself in reception. I confessed to the manager that I had forgotten to pack a towel for Beatrix and asked if he had an old towel I could use. This was not good enough for him though and he very kindly gave us a lovely fluffy bath sheet to use. Did I tell you how great I think this manager is?
We finally got to our room only to find that the fabulous manager had remembered our joke on the phone a few days earlier and there were chocolate covered strawberries in our room with a lovely hand written anniversary note. Hot showers and dry clothes (and chocolate covered strawberries) and the wet walk was quickly forgotten. If you are ever looking for a cosy, friendly hotel in the middle of nowhere, then the Bridge of Orchy Hotel is just perfect. We had a lovely meal in the restaurant, sitting next to the log burner, chatting to the staff and the other guests. Beatrix, of course, was the star attraction again.
Out in the Wind and Rain Again
All was going well until 4 am in the morning when, as the saying goes, Beatrix was as sick as a dog. The accumulation of treats stretching from Glasgow Queen Street, the train journey to Bridge of Orchy, the lunch in the rain and who knows what else on the fells, was too much for Beatrix and she very kindly returned them all. Yes, on the hotel room floor before we had chance to get dressed and get her outside. Fortunately the floor was not carpeted so whilst Mr M was once again outside in the wind and rain, I was on my hands and knees cleaning the hotel floor! Then, as all dog owners will understand, 10 minutes later Beatrix was back to her usual self and now snuggled up on her lovely bath sheet acting as though nothing had happened.
Happy Anniversary Mr M x
Oh, the song for this week? Under the moon of love by Showaddywaddy.