To the Highlands!

I’m upstairs in a bakery-cafe in the town of Fort William, the second largest settlement in the Highlands (after the city of Inverness, about 90 minutes away by car). Our yurt doesn’t have electricity or internet, so I wasn’t going to go online while we were here, but honestly — after two days of hikes in mud and rain, I’m sunburned, grubby, and tired, and happy to be in a place with wifi and power and plenty of cake. And have I got pictures to share! I’ll post some today and schedule another post for tomorrow, and after that I’ll see how I feel.

Getting to Fort William

We took a train from Edinburgh to Glasgow (about 1 hour), and again from Glasgow to Fort William (about 4 hours). The train ride was gorgeous, but a bit warm, and since we hadn’t reserved seats in advance we only got little fold-down tray tables that I couldn’t use for writing (boo).

Inside the train{as always, mouseover for description, and click to enlarge}

However, we were well fed (and bought more snacks on the train) and I wrote and read when I wasn’t looking out the window at our first glimpses of the Highlands. Though my cramped body was glad to see Fort William station, it was probably among the shortest four hours I’ve spent.

Food trolley on the train

Lake (loch) viewed from the train

Cows

Loch

Green valley

Mountains

Pointy mountain

Green hills

Stream running through the grass

Loch I think

The yurts

From the Fort William train station,  we rented a car (“hired” they would say here) to get us to the yurts (about 4 miles). The short drive was rather harrowing for us both, with Erik learning-by-doing to drive on the left side of the road, and me navigating using Google Maps directions I’d written down in Edinburgh. But we arrived safely!

The yurt camp is actually quite close to a major road and right off a minor one, but it feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere — probably because there is so much pasture around it, and we’re underneath these glorious mountains.

Three yurts in a field and the center one has smoke rising from the chimney pipe

Sheep pasture

Horses

After briefly getting settled, we ventured out to the town for dinner. The yurt people had recommended a seafood restaurant on the edge of town, overlooking Loch Linnhe; we went there because it was the first place we spotted, and we found free parking nearby.

Loch Linnhe

Crannog restaurant on Loch Linnhe

Oh my, the food was so good. Pretty much all the seafood we’ve eaten in Scotland has been incredible, but this was very, very well done. I had seared salmon with haddock-potato scones on a bed of creamed spinach, leeks, and samphire (which I’ve since learned is an edible coastal plant). I liked the samphire a lot. It was salty and kind of crunchy.

Small fried flat round cakes on top of a filet of salmon on top of a bed of vegetables, in a light cream sauce.

We were going to check out the town some more after dinner, maybe buy some groceries, but it started raining, and after a couple of dead-ends and confusing roundabouts, we just went home. So I sat in the communal yurt kitchen/dining room and wrote.

Communal open-air kitchen

Lit candles on the dining table

As the sun began to set, a cow wandered into the yurt camp and stayed there all night, munching, and sometimes mooing. One of our fellow guests called the yurt managers, but when Erik got up the next morning the cow had been joined by three more! (When I woke up a bit later, though, they were all gone.) It happened again the next night so I’m guessing it’s a regular occurrence — though the horses didn’t seem to like it. I must say it’s a really unnerving experience to try to cross a field after dark, on my way to the toilets, knowing there is a cow somewhere around me.

Cow in the yurt camp

Horses

I didn’t sleep especially well that first night; I kept having to get up to go to the bathroom (I think I panicked because I knew it would be a walk in the dark to get there); but the yurt is a restful place. It’s so beautifully round and the daylight peeks in through the circular opening in the ceiling. After dark we lit candle lanterns (I checked underneath: IKEA!).

Yurt ceiling

Lanterns and a mug of water.

Bed

The second night I slept well and woke this morning at 5, feeling refreshed… to the sound of mooing.

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