Glens and Bens

After arriving safely back in Oban from Mull we planned to drive straight up towards Glencoe. We stopped off in the town quickly to pick up some more supplies as our food and gas stocks were running low. As soon as we started chatting to the locals and wandering around we both instantly felt really comfortable and welcomed and decided to stick around for the day. We had an amazing chippy lunch at Oban Fish and Chips, if you’re heading that way we really recommend it. We had the local catch of the day which was a hefty piece of hake, amazing chips and homemade tartar sauce. After a week of van meals, this was such a treat. Prue popped into the Oban Distillery to try some local whisky and we spent the rest of the afternoon pottering around in the sunshine, helping a lost dog get home safely and generally relaxing. Having lived in Brighton for eight years, it reminded us of a tiny piece of home (but way less busy, noisy and hectic) and we both said we will definitely come back for another visit here.

After a night of urban camping, it was time to press on. We made the most of the cheaper diesel at Tesco and headed off towards Glencoe.

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As we got closer, we could see the landscape changing before us. Soon we were driving through the glen with steep volcanic-looking mountains either side of us. The scenery was so dramatic and beautiful. We pretty much drove through Glencoe in silence, just completely in awe of the landscape. We headed to Glen Etive on a tip from a fellow van dweller who said it was the best place to see red deer. It didn’t take us long to spot them, we saw numerous groups in the glen chomping on grass and looking content. It made us so happy to see them like this, exactly where they should be. We pushed on to the end of the road there where there is a spot designated for wild camping, and we set up for the afternoon. It was supposed to be raining but we were treated to a dry afternoon so we popped out for a walk. We said hello to some local hens, fellow wild campers and had a nice evening in the glen.

The next morning we started early and drove back out towards Glencoe. We passed so many red deer just relaxing by the side of the road. We said hello to some stags in a neighbouring field and felt so happy we had gotten so close to these amazing animals while it still being on their terms. They wandered closer, intrigued by us and it was a lovely way to begin a new day here.

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From this point on the weather wasn’t so kind to us. For the next three days it rained almost constantly. We welcomed the chance for a cosy, snuggly movie day, as we were both exhausted. The second day we popped into the Hollytree Hotel and used their lovely warm swimming pool to kill an afternoon. With soft, fresh towels provided and amazing power showers, this was such a treat! The following rainy day we decided to head to Fort William and make the most of Weatherspoons coffee. Free refills before 2pm and more electricity points than we had devices, we spent the morning recharging.

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After a few days in civilisation, we really wanted to get stuck back in, so we headed towards Ben Nevis to find a spot to camp. We both really wanted to see Ben Nevis so we were really excited, and picked a spot right at the foot of the mountain range. We looked up and up and up trying desperately to see the top – something we wouldn’t even witness from ten miles away when we drove out of Fort William in a days time – but even so, it was the most impressive and beautifully interesting mountain range we had seen.

After a peaceful night’s sleep we were keen to get our boots on and get out for a walk. We visited the fantastic Ben Nevis visitor centre for some information about nearby routes with good views of “The Beinn”. Being responsible (and realistic!) we knew we weren’t kitted out to attempt summiting the mountain itself. Even in sunny weather at the base, the conditions are still very wintery at the top: temperatures of minus ten degrees and three feet of snow. It was really disappointing to see several groups of people at the visitor centre who had done no research and thought it’d be an easy day’s walk. In particular there was one member of staff who was incredibly knowledgeable about the different routes, talking to a pair of lads wearing jeans and trainers. One of them was clutching his iphone, insisting he’d downloaded a good walking route up the mountain from the internet. She asked them (much more calmly than I would have) how they intended to navigate themselves off the mountain in the dark at the end of their ten hour route, without a map, compass, or any mountaineering equipment.

We were advised to go for a route to Dun Deardail fort – a little stroll up alongside the Nevis range with good views across. It was an absolute treat to get out and enjoy this place in the sunshine. Across the glen we could see the path up Ben Nevis, and the queue of people trudging up it. After a decent walk, it was time for us to move on, so we set our sights on Skye and headed for the ferry port at Mallaig.

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