Friday the 13th! Not an auspiscious day for travelling, and what should we see running in front of us as we departed The Jute Store? A black cat. Was this to be a sign of good luck or dire consequences for the day?
The plan was to make our way at a leisurely pace to Spean Bridge with a detour to Glencoe Wood beforehand to see if we could locate Alex's Highland Titles plot which entitles her to be officially known as Laird (or Lady).
The irony of this plan was that we actually had to drive through Spean Bridge on our way to Glencoe Wood, which is located roughly between Fort William and Oban.
Our plans then started to unwind when we decided we both needed a toilet stop. As we were approaching Fort William this seemed to be a good choice but Alex accidentally threw a left at the roundabout and this decided for us that Fort William was not to be our stopping point after all. Now came the discovery that between Fort William and Oban the public toilets are few and far between! Optimistically, we expected to find somewhere along the way to make a quick comfort stop that didn't include hedgerows and heather but that optimism quickly faded. We passed Glencoe Wood and in the end were obliged to drive all the way into Oban.
Oban has never been a favourite place of mine but at least today it wasn't raining. In fact, the sky was blue and the sun was shining brilliantly. On our first trip to Oban (in 2009) we were scheduled to take the ferry across to Mull but the weather was so bad that we had to cancel the trip and ended up having to quickly juggle our accommodation and add two nights to our Invermoriston stay; on our second trip in 2011 it simply poured with rain and when it wasn't actually raining it was gloomy and cold. Today, however, it was the turn of the sun to make an appearance which was partial compensation for the unplanned visit to a place I'm not particularly fond of!
As always the town was busy and parking was a nightmare. We finally found a place to park, paid a pound for the privilege, and had a pee (not in the car park mind you - we did make it to the public toilets ).
After a short stroll around the North Pier we took a couple of photos and departed, heading for our original destination of Glencoe Wood.
We finally found the right place to park and walked to the entrance to Glencoe Wood. This area contains a tract of land acquired by Highland Titles to enable ordinary folk to own their very own piece of Scotland by purchasing plots between 1 square meter and 100 sqare metres. Alex (and Shaun who has his own little 10 square metres of the highlands) both have plots in the "B" section. The only reference to enable the owner to find their plot is to use OS map grid co-ordinates. After converting the grid reference into co-ordinates for our GPS we started to follow the arrow, only to find it was sending us the middle of the sea many kilometres away from where we stood. A second attempt at conversion gave us a point some few hundred metres away which seemed more promising.
After blundering around in steep, inhospitable terrain we finally retraced our steps and tried another approach. We then went up hill and down dale, over streams and through mud to find the elusive plot. The GPS seemed to change its mind constantly and after some serious "bush-bashing" through very unfriendly terrain we arrived back beside the river and were forced to admit defeat. Disappointed, tired, hot, cranky and singularly unimpressed we retraced our steps and headed back for the car as it was, by now, almost 4pm. Rechecking the display board at the start of the wood we realised that the GPS had taken us into the Conservation Area and we were way off track for the "B" section we were looking for. Some advice to the owners of Highland Titles: make it a little easier for people to find their plot! I know they do not want to detract from the natural environment but how difficult would it be to discreetly mark the various colour-coded sections?
The only upside to the afternoon was that we walked a modest (but energetic) 3km and burned 335 calories in the process. Win!
We then headed for our final destination of Spean Bridge and to the lovely, and always welcoming, Spean Lodge.