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Unlucky by the Lochs

Lochaber, Cairngorms & Inverness - Highlands

semi-overcast 16 °C
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As we continued towards Fort William, our next base, we kept a keen eye on the developing crack. After stopping just outside Spean Bridge we realised the crack was worsening, and with another 3 days and 200 miles still to drive, this problem needed fixing. But with no Internet we had little choice but to continue on our 3 hour journey to Fort William.

Once we arrived we discussed our options, and realised our only option was to swap the car, but with no Avis base in Fort William, all we could do was drive back to Inverness Airport which was 2 hours away. En route we tried to call them to check this was possible, but being on hold with a dodgy signal meant this was not very successful.

Eventually, at around 4pm we arrived back at the airport, where we would be in just a few days time. Thankfully we were able to swap the car but it was now another two hours back to Fort William. Trying to create some sort of silver lining we decided that we would shuffle around our schedule and today would be the Loch Ness day.

Loch Ness

Loch Ness

We stopped en route a few times for views of Loch Ness, as well as grabbing some souvenirs. Loch Ness really is huge, and most of the detour to Inverness had meant driving along side it. So much so, that by the end we weren't even interested in it anymore!

As it was a very long day, after eventually getting some dinner we decided tomorrow needed to be much more restful, and so we scrapped our planned visit to Tobermory.

No longer needing to make a ferry, we had a lay in and leisurely made our way over to the Glenfinnan Viaduct. This viaduct was made famous in the Harry Potter films and has great vantage points from the nearby hills.

Glenfinnan Viaduct

Glenfinnan Viaduct

As we were walking towards the viaduct itself, we were treated to the sight of a local train crossing it. Although sadly we were a few minutes too late to see it from the better vantage point.

Walking underneath, and then climbing up the hill beside the viaduct, we got a beautiful vantage point of the embankment and the adjacent valley whilst getting attacked by midges. I walked a little bit further along for a view of the nearby loch, before we turned back and walked down to the loch itself.

Loch Shiel

Loch Shiel

Beside Loch Shiel is a monument commemorating the location of the beginning of the Jacobite rising, from where Bonnie Prince Charlie attempted to regain the British crown.

We then popped into the giftshop to get a few souvenirs when we heard a sound... I ran outside and saw a steam rain making its way around the hill side. Sadly we had missed seeing it in all it's glory crossing the viaduct, but at least we had seen this.

A few minutes up the road from here was the station itself, where there is a small museum detailing the extension of the railway line to the coast. We took a look inside before continuing further west to Loch Eilt, which is the setting for the island of Dumbledore's Grave in the Harry Potter Films.

Loch Eilt

Loch Eilt

From here, we would have continued on a long winding road down to Kilochan Port, but after yesterday's drama this was the furthest we were now going. So instead, we turned back and headed to the Neptune's Staircase, made up of eight adjacent lochs - the longest staircase loch in Britain.

Neptune's Staircase

Neptune's Staircase

From here it was only a 5 minute drive to the hotel and being almost check in time we decided to head straight there. This was the nicest room we had had so far, and we had a view overlooking The Parade - a lovely garden in the centre of town.

As it was still only mid afternoon, we then headed out towards Glen Coe, where we had initially planned to visit the previous afternoon. Although we had seen hundreds of valleys by now, this did live up the hype and was certainly one of the most beautiful. Even despite the miserable weather.

Glen Coe

Glen Coe

It had been a long day by now and so we wouldn't venture too far for the rest of today. We went back to the hotel, dropped our stuff and then went for a quick wander around the town.

There wasn't much to see, but we did stop at the site of old Fort that gave the town it's name, which sits imposingly beside Loch Linnhe.

Fort William Old Fort

Fort William Old Fort

After grabbing dinner at McDonalds, where I went full Scot by ordering an Irn Bru, we settled in for the night. The following morning we had a Full Scottish breakfast (the same thing, just with Haggis and a tattie scone) before checking out and visiting the final sight in this area - Ben Nevis.

We weren't climbing it, but we did get a decent viewpoint at it's base in Glen Nevis, where we managed to upset the local sheep who quickly scarpered as soon as we got out the car.

Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis

Having already seen Loch Ness on our unintended diversion back via Inverness, a few days ago we decided to head north on a different route, cutting across the country and stopping in the Cairngorms.

The Cairngorms weren't vastly different from the Highlands, just perhaps with more trees. We drove to Aviemore, and had a wander around the woods outside the town, before driving through it. It really felt like nowhere else in the UK - the town is haven for Winter sports, and felt an alpine village in that aspect, despite being in northern Scotland.

Snow in June

Snow in June

From here it wasn't far to Inverness, where we checked into our final hotel of the trip before driving into the city centre for a quick look around.
After missing the entrance to the car park the first time, we eventually parked and ended up in the middle of the shopping centre.

Inverness wasn't particularly big, and after we walked down the high street for five minutes we arrived at the castle, where there were impressive views from the hill over the river.

Inverness Castle

Inverness Castle

After seeing what the town had to offer, we headed for dinner before chilling for the rest of the evening.

The following morning we checked out of the hotel and headed back to Inverness Airport. Parking up after driving exactly 1000 miles, we saw that our previous hire car hadn't moved from where we'd left it, but the crack had grown even further - a good job we had dropped it back off when we did!

The Crack!

The Crack!

As there was a BA flight back to London around half an hour before ours, the tiny airport was overwhelmed and it took ages to get through security. But there was no real rush, there was little to do in the departure lounge and we had plenty of time.

The flight back home was less comfortable than our outgoing flight, as there were a lot more people on it. We were surrounded by others, and despite wearing face masks we didn't feel overly safe knowing that no one here needed to take any kind of tests to spend over an hour non-socially distanced.

When we landed back in Luton it was like arriving in the Med in summer. Although it hadn't been cold in Inverness, it was around 8C warmer down south and came as a shock to the system after a week in Scotland!

Despite the car drama and the less-than-great weather, it had been a enjoyable trip. Not only as an excuse to get out the house after 15 months of Covid, but also as the scenery was incredible. A hire car is definitely the way to go on a Highland trip!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 14:12 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged lakes snow fort airport island valley castle Comments (0)

Through the Tunnel of Death

Central Asia - Sugd

sunny 21 °C
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After many days in the flat desert of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, we were now entering the Tian Shan covering Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Today consisted of a drive through the mountains from the capital to Khujand, the second city, located in the Fergana Valley.

Disabled Donkey

Disabled Donkey

We began the day by tucking into breakfast in the Sheraton - which priced at $45 meant it worked out at $15 a yoghurt! before we headed to the Museum of Antiquities. The museum wasn't the best in the world, but did have a fair amount to see, including a disabled looking donkey's head and a large Buddha located on the first floor.

Buddha

Buddha

After having another drive through the city, missing out on the souvenir shop which was closed, we then left the Monday city mid on Monday morning, and headed north through some beautiful mountains.

Entering the Tian Shan

Entering the Tian Shan


Outside the Tunnel

Outside the Tunnel

The further we got, the more beautiful they were and eventually we reached the day's unique attraction - the Tunnel of Death. Stopping outside the tunnel for views over the scenic snow capped mountains, we found a local film crew. Before we knew it, our tour guide James was being interviewed, and we were invited to be filmed!

Film Crew

Film Crew


Entering the Tunnel

Entering the Tunnel

After an interesting experience we then made our way through the Anzob Tunnel. It was originally built as a strategic link between Tajikistan's two biggest cities, that had previously meant in the long winter months the only land route was via Uzbekistan, adding hours to the journey. However the Iranians only bored the tunnel itself leaving the cash strapped Tajiks to furnish it. Due to the importance of the tunnel, it was used without furnishing until 2014 - which despite being 5km included no ventilation or lighting.

Inside the Tunnel

Inside the Tunnel

Even today, the tunnel is still not up to Western standards - with the road being dusty, dark, bumpy and full of stopped cars and others trying to overtake. What with this being a single carriageway road, with just enough space for once car each way, this was a pretty terrifying experience!

Making it to the other side alive, we then started to descend the mountains and stopped off just outside Takfon for lunch in a stilt built restaurant on the riverside at the bottom of a valley.

Valley

Valley

After refreshing ourselves, we then continued northwards and eventually made it into Khujand just after sunset. Our hotel here was located just outside of the city centre, but consisted of just enough rooms for the 16 of us on the trip, each with its own kitchen, lounge as well as a massage shower.

Living Room Luxury

Living Room Luxury

After dinner we then settled down for the night and our last in Tajikistan.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Tajikistan Tagged mountain valley tunnel centralasia Comments (0)

"What happens in Vegas...goes on the Internet"

RTW - Las Vegas & Arizona

sunny 30 °C
View Round The World Trip on kmmk17's travel map.


After catching my pre-booked 7 hour coach ride to Las Vegas, costing me £1 with free WiFi and power sockets, and driving past Death Valley, I had eventually arrived in Las Vegas.

Welcome to Las Vegas

Welcome to Las Vegas

As I had done a lot of research before travelling, I had found that hotels in Las Vegas vary considerably in price depending on the day of the week. By making my trip solely in the week I was able, even on my travelling budget, to still stay in one of the resort hotels relatively cheaply - getting my own 4 bed (6 Kevin-sized) room all to myself for around £35.

Stratosphere

Stratosphere

After arriving at the Stratosphere Hotel, the first thing I did in the city was to go up the tower to get a night view over the city.

New York, New York

New York, New York

The following day was spent exploring the city in full - starting at the welcome to Vegas sign and then walking up The Strip, going in and out of the elaborate hotels, with their replicas of Jungles, Ancient Egypt & Rome, Paris, New York and my favourite - Venice (if only because it looked so much like the original, only cleaner).

Inside the Venetian

Inside the Venetian

All of these hotels had their own amenities - pools, shops, casinos and even McDonald's and Starbucks. In many ways this place was like Dubai, not just because of the huge fountains, but the theme-park idea of building anything you want in the desert.

The following day, I had pre-booked myself an excursion to the Grand Canyon - however because of the ridiculous Government Shutdown, the whole excursion was threatened with cancellation - but luckily Arizona State was paying to keep the National Park open for the week.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

The day was very long, taking around 7 hours one way to get to the canyon (what better to do 2 days after after a 7 hour coach journey, than take another one!), and once we had finally arrived there wasn't even that much to do. Although at least we got to see Route 66 and the Hoover Dam on the way.

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

As with Sydney Harbour, it's nice to see, but there's only so many pictures you can take of the same thing - however saying this, I wouldn't regret going there.

Taking a long lie in the following day I took a little flutter on the roulette in the Casino, winning and coming away with a $10 profit after continuing to play for a while after my win.

The Venetian

The Venetian

I then went up the Stratosphere tower again (free as I was a guest of the hotel), however this time in the day, viewing the extreme rides at the very top of the tower, before going for a walk to see the Drive through Wedding chapels, and avoiding the gun shops on my way back. I then finished off the day by heading down to the strip for the night time shows outside the hotels - pirate ships, fountains and volcanic eruptions!

Volcano!

Volcano!

This is one of the few places in the world where even after 3 days, I could go back and still be entertained. The following day I explored the Downtown area, before taking a coach back to Los Angeles.

Drive Through Wedding Chapel

Drive Through Wedding Chapel

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in USA Tagged canyon lake city valley rural rtw entertainment Comments (0)

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