10 August 2012
We woke to another dull day, but at least it was a little milder. The cunning plan was to get up and dressed and try one of the cafes en-route to Kyle of Lochalsh for breakfast. None of them were open. Eh? It wasn’t that early! It was after 9! IN tourist season! Instead of eating out in Kyle yet again, we decided to go over the road bridge to Skye and eat there.
Good plan! We ate at Saucy Mary’s, Kyleakin. Well, the cafe attached to it. The food was good, the staff were great with the minxes, the minxes were hungry. How more perfect do you need? Suitably refuelled, we looked at our large-scale map of the island. ‘Map’? It was a tourist picture pull-out from a magazine. Like someone had drawn it with a Mars Bar rather than a fine-nibbed pen. So we figured that we weren’t seeing much detail… Meh, where are the good topos when you need them?! The Boss and I agreed to just amble along and make decisions as and when. Although Plockton had been interesting to walk around the day before, we also agreed that the minxes really needed a day to run around properly, preferably on a nice beach.
We drove down the east of the island and discovered that our tourist map’s idea of a sandy beach was in reality a muddy, tidal inlet. Picturesque and interesting, but not what we were looking for. So we stuck with our original loose plan and kept driving south to Armadale. We pitched up at the ferry terminal immediately into the arms of a man with a clipboard.
“You’ve not booked?” Em, nooooo…. “Ah. Well, you never know, we might be able to squeeze you on: one of the buses hasn’t shown up yet. But I’m not promising, mind!”
Ten minutes later, he waved us on to the ferry, the last ones to board. Hooray! And as luck would have it, as we boarded, the sun came out!
The minxes were beside themselves in glee as they raced out of the car to climb the steps so they could see the sea. It was only a year ago that we went on the ferry to Orkney so they were quite blase about being on a boat. I’m glad I spent 10 minutes wrestling with the car’s manual before we boarded: as soon as the ferry left the harbour and hit a tiny little wave, most of the cars let out their alarms’ howls of indignation. But not ours 🙂
It was only a short wee trip to Mallaig, just over half an hour. Enough time to get cold in the wind on deck and buy some fudge from the little shop. We were one of the first off the ferry so could look around in bewilderment as we got off and went for the main road east. A lot of it paralleled the rail track. Unfortunately Boss the Bozo had had a mad 5 minutes and tidied up the car before we left. And binned my copies of where off the beaten track would be nice to visit. And how to get there. And all my painstakingly copied notes of when the steam trains arrived and departed Mallaig and Glenfinnan. So we couldn’t even decide whether to loiter in hope of catching a big rush of steam.
As we drove, we spotted some white sandy beaches. The car decided to indicate and manoeuvre right, onto the coastal path towards Arisaig. We stopped pretty quickly, at a beach on the way. I can’t say which one it was, except that it was probably the largest, and closest, to the road. Now, I’m saying “white
sandy beach”. I lie – it was silver glitter. Proper silver sparkles! And more seashells than I have ever seen on one beach before. The minxes were so exited that all 3 had to poo within the first 20 minutes of getting there. The Boss got busy with spades and nappy sacks and generally went in a total grump about it. I made some smart-arse remarks about him enjoying a little sliver of my day-to-day life. He really appreciated that, I can tell you.
I can see why the Arisaig campsites were fully booked – what a sight! Deeply turquoise, perfectly clear water, backed by plum- and slate-coloured hills over a sky so blue that it looked fake. Dot some purple heather and yellow flowers along the edge of the silver-white sand and the blue-green pines and you can maybe see why my eyes loved it! Maxi Minx immediately set to work building a sandcastle, so I went off in search of a few hundredweight of pink, white and blue shells to decorate it. Mini, meanwhile, enjoyed splashing in the sea, while Midi muttered about sand-angels. We spent maybe 2 hours playing on the beach and enjoying the warm sunshine before deciding that we really should go and get some lunch.
We thought we’d be ok grabbing something in Arisaig just after 2pm. Nope: everywhere had finished serving food or had shut. Fair enough, I suppose, so we did a provisions run at the local Co-op. I get even grumpier when I’m hungry, so piled in all kinds of party food to the basket: sausage rolls, pork pies, crisps… Midi developed a sudden love for chicken satay on a skewer after trying some 2 days previously in a quick Co-op late lunch stop in Inverness, so she had to have that. Maxi had to have Ribena. Mini had to have chocolate mini-rolls. The Boss gamely tried to feed us some healthy wholemeal bread he’d joined together with slices of ham, but the minxes are definitely my daughters; we mutinously munched our way through pastry and chicken.
Refuelled, we decided that as we wanted to stop off in Glenfinnan and it was already 4pm, we’d better start back on the long road to the campsite. The weather held, and the clear sky let us grown-ups get some fantastic views of the lochs and mountains. Maxi was too busy reading Anne of Green Gables to notice much, and her sisters wanted to nap their lunches down.
When we got to Glenfinnan, all the girls were sleeping. I cursed The Boss again for discarding my sheets with the notes of where to walk to get the nicest views. Instead, I nipped up some steps at the back of the tourist centre to see where they led to, anyway. The signs warned that the path was tricky and recommended strong walking boots; I made do with my old, bash, plastic purple crocs. The path zigzagged up to a little viewpoint, and reminded me a lot of the path up Gibraltar Rock, on which I spent many a scary weekend afternoon in 1995 (I get vertigo, and in those days I spent most weekends with a hangover. Well, the G&Ts at Happy Hour were 20p. And I was young and carefree…). The view over the viaduct was nice enough, but I much preferred the view over the monument to the last Jacobite Uprising. I waved to a newly-awoken Maxi and The Boss in the car park, could see that he’d got the coffee pot and gas burner out, so zoomed back down in time for an espresso. Maxi was impressed by the viaduct’s links to Harry Potter, so The Boss took her and Mini to see it a different way, while I spent a happy half-hour minding snoring Midi in the car, contentedly poring over some maps.
We soon set off again, and The Boss laughed at me not recognising the summit of Ben Nevis, out in front of us. “But it’s so distinctive!” he crowed. Aye, well, in 41 years I’ve never seen it; it’s always been shrouded in thick cloud any time I’ve swung past Fort William. As it was now pushing 6pm and an awake Midi needed to stretch her legs, we pulled off to go for a walk up Neptune’s Staircase. I’d tried to explain what it was and how canal locks worked, but the minxes looked at me like I was telling them that magic is real. Even seeing the
real thing didn’t help. They weren’t impressed at seeing the highest mountain in the UK, either, so I decided it was time to pull out the joker card and let them run loose in the playground. We all had a brilliant half hour until the midge levels picked up from zilch to getting-on-my-wick levels. To wails of “Noooooo! I want more swings!” we drove on to Spean Bridge for fish and chips and another leg stretch.
After eating, the minxes passed out, leaving the grown-ups to admire the sunset in the mountains.
We arrived back at the campsite long after the midges had gone to their beds – result!