Friday, 13 December 2019

A frosty weekend

The car sliding to a stop at the traffic lights half a mile from home justified the decision to leave the bike at home and take the car on our December getaway.  The sky was blue and the sun was shining, but even at midday the temperatures were still on the wrong side of zero.  Our digs for this years pre silly season get away was the Moorings Hotel at Banavie overlooking Neptune's Staircase on the Caledonian canal, just north of Fort William.
The skies remained clear and bright as we drove north through Callander and along the side of Loch Lubnaig.  Surprisingly there was next to no snow on the hills surrounding the loch, and the hills remained snow free even at the summit of Glen Ogle before we swept back down towards Lix Toll.  Pulling into The Green Welly Stop we warmed ourselves up in front of the log fire before grabbing an excellent, if expensive, roast beef roll and a coffee.  After a quick look around the shops for some Christmas knick-knacks we were on the road again.  Climbing up to Rannoch Moor we stopped at the Loch Tulla viewpoint.  As expected the views back over the Loch towards the Black Mount were stunning, but the sun was now so low in the sky and directly in front of us that decent photography was impossible.  We drove further up the road to Rannoch Moor to Lochan na h-Achlaise in hope of better light.

The view over Lochan na h-Achlaise
Glen Coe was absolutely heaving with walkers and sightseers making the most of the stunning weather and the next place we could get stopped safely was the Meeting of the Three Waters.  The frost was still hard on the ground here, but the waterfall was all but dried up.

Hard frost at the Meeting of the Three Waters
As the road crossed Loch Leven at Ballachulish, I had the feeling we were cheating on our usual December digs at the Hollytree Hotel at Kentallen and wondered if we were doing the right thing going somewhere else.

Our room, upper left, at the Moorings Hotel
...and our view from the balcony
The Moorings turned out to be a good choice, the new rooms were warm and comfy with amazing views over the canal, the food in the bistro was good and the bar had a good selection of drinks.  The only downside was there is not much of a view from the bar area.  We solved this the next night by getting some drinks in and sitting looking over the locks towards Ben Nevis the following night.  It was freezing outside so we had a huge drinks cooler just outside the door!
After a comfy nights sleep and a good cooked breakfast we decided to drive down to Morar and have a look at the beach.  The drive down the road was amazing.  Not only was it a great drive, but the freezing fog the previous night had left the shaded areas a beautiful crisp white and the open areas bathed in atmospheric winter light.

On the road to Morar

On the road to Morar

On the road to Morar

On the road to Morar

On the road to Morar
As it was still -3 it was not surprising that we got Morar beach to ourselves!

Morar beach

Morar beach
After wandering around the beach for a wee while we headed back to Fort William to get the aforementioned drinks then putting them on the balcony to cool for later.  A light lunch in the hotel was followed by a walk along Caledonian canal before it got too dark.  The frosty banks and mirror flat waters looked so peaceful as the sun dropped lower in the sky and the shadows grew longer.

Walking on the banks of the Caledonian Canal
Neptune's Staircase on the Caledonian Canal
A steak dinner and a few drinks overlooking the canal and the lights of Fort William in the distance rounded out a great weekend.

I don't know what the rest of the rooms in the Moorings Hotel would be like, some of the older parts of the hotel look a wee bit tired, but the new rooms and bistro are well up to par with any other modern hotel.  I would come back here again, but I think I would always book a superior room.