Friday, November 14, 2014

Day 12: The End of the Great Glen Way

It's looking to shape up as a gorgeous sunrise!
Sept 19: I woke up to an absolutely beautiful sunrise--a nice way for the trail to tell me goodbye. I was only about seven miles from the end of the trail so it seemed likely I'd finish today. It would have been difficult not finish today!

I also had the mildly interesting question running through my head.... what country was I now in? =) The vote for independence was yesterday, but camped out in the woods, I had heard nothing about the results. Obviously, if they voted to become a separate country, it wouldn't have happened overnight, but I was a little amused at the thought of arriving in the United Kingdom then leaving the country of Scotland without ever crossing any international boundaries. =)

The walk into Inverness wasn't particularly noteworthy. At one point, I saw a sign pointing to a picnic area and xylophones--xylophones?! Although it was off trail, I was curious enough to follow the sign. I found the picnic area which even included a rope swing that I swinged around on (does that make me a swinger?!), but I never did find any xylophones. They probably just put that sign up to suck curious people like me into looking for them. =)

The last few miles headed through the city of Inverness and its suburbs. The trail reconnected with the Caledonian Canal, which the trail had left by Loch Ness, but it only reconnected for a few minutes before crossing the canal on a bridge and leaving it again to follow the shores of the River Ness. The Ness Islands I found interesting because it was filled with "unusual" benches, but I had trouble getting decent photos of them since they were invariably in thick trees and not well lit. The cloudy skies didn't help matters either.

The trail ends at Inverness Castle, which I found easily enough, but I spent the better part of 10 minutes walking around the castle looking for a marker marking the end of the trail. Surely there was a marker somewhere. The castle didn't appear to be open to tourists--it's now a courthouse and county hall. Eventually I found the marker at the bottom of the hill with the castle, right where I walked in. In fact, I had read the marker, which explained the history of the castle including the fact that it had been attacked over the years by: Edward I of England and Robert the Bruce during the Scottish Wars of Independence in the late 13th and early 14th centuries; Donald, Lord of the Isles (1411); Mary, Queen of Scots (1562) and Charles Edward Stuart, "Bonnie Prince Charlie" (1746).

The sun finally makes an appearance!

I had failed to note, however, the plaque detailing the Great Glen Way and its terminus was on the other side of the monument. Ooops. =)

Once I got that figured out, I walked over to the train station where I learned I had just missed the next train to Glasgow by a few minutes. The next one would leave about two hours later at 12:53 in the afternoon.

To kill time, I first headed over to the library where I got online and emailed Amanda about my arrival in Inverness and that I expected to be on the 12:53 train. I'd have to switch trains in Perth, then--if all goes well--arrive in Glasgow (Queen Street Station--no sense having her wait at the wrong train station!) at 4:45 that afternoon.

Then I walked over to a Marks and Spencer where I bought a cheap lunch and took photos of all of the newspapers on the rack celebrating the decisive no votes that voted down independence. It wasn't even close--nowhere as close as polls had been predicting. I had little doubt that there were a lot of people who were severely disappointed at the outcome, though, and were probably getting drunk at a bar somewhere to wash away their sorrows.

Now that my hike was done, I searched the Coke bottles for one with Amanda's name. I had seen two already but only saved the wrapper since I wasn't going to carry a full bottle of Coke a hundred miles for her! Well, I would if there was a good reason for it, but for a bottle of Coke? That's not really a good reason in my book! But I wasn't hiking anymore and by golly, I'd love to present her with a full bottle with her name on it! =) (In hindsight, I should have kept an empty bottle, then filled it up with Coke when I reached Inverness and how would she know otherwise?)

The sun, however, didn't make an appearance for long before hiding behind the clouds again.

So I searched the grocery store shelves for Amanda's name, and after eating lunch at the train station, searched another store selling bottles of Coke. But alas, I couldn't find Amanda's name anywhere. Figures... just when you want one, they disappear!

The train finally arrived and we boarded. I sat down at a table with three other people and apologized in advance if I smelled--I had been hiking for the last 11 days and my last shower was back in Glasgow! They assured me that I didn't smell, but I'm not sure I really believed them....

The entertainment for the train ride was a group of four girls, one of whom was about to get married. Amanda told me it was called a "hen party," but it's just a bachelorette party.

"But on a train?"

"Mmm... Maybe they were on their way to the hen party."

Yeah, that might make sense. In any case, they were quite entertaining to watch and eavesdrop on. The bride-to-be wore a silky green dress with a bra on top made of candy. And they started making up her hair and putting on her makeup, and not in a "you'll look great" kind of way, but more of a "we think this would be funny" kind of way. They also seemed to go through multiple bottles of champagne (or some sort of alcoholic drink) which seemed to lift their moods as well.

It all came to an end, however, when the train arrived about an hour later in Perth and I had to leave. The girls stayed on--presumably on their way to Edinburgh. A few minutes later, I boarded the train to Glasgow which was crowded thick with people and had standing room only. An announcement was made that there was another train to Glasgow that would arrive in about 10 minutes and likely would be a lot emptier for anyone who cared to wait the extra 10 minutes. I'd have done it in a heartbeat except... I already emailed Amanda that I'd be on the train that was scheduled to arrive at 4:45. I didn't want to take the chance of missing her by catching the next train, so I endured the standing room only.

But as bad as that was, it was probably worse for everyone else who had to stand because they had the pleasure of standing next to a guy who hadn't showered in 11 days and hiked over 200 miles during that time. =)

The train eventually pulled into the Glasgow Queen Street station, a minute or two late, where I found Amanda and Barry waiting for me. I wasn't entirely sure if Amanda would be there since I hadn't gotten a reply to my email before I logged off and Barry I wasn't expecting at all. (Barry is a local that Amanda knows and has known since he was just a wee little boy. Before Amanda and I started hiking, we stayed at his parents place outside of Glasgow.) So although I wasn't expecting Barry at all, I wasn't surprised to see him either.

Barry had to leave due to some prior commitments, though, and Amanda and I headed back to her hotel so I could take a much needed shower. Then we went out for dinner and to walk around Glasgow before retiring the night.

The next morning, I was flying back home... my time in Scotland was at an end!

Long time readers are probably not surprised, but for those of you who'd like to do your own virtual walk across Scotland, I've added the Scottish Highlands Way as the newest route to Walking 4 Fun. Take your own 201.5-mile walk from Glasgow to Inverness! (And you'll even be able to shower every day!)

I was as surprised as anyone to find this sign for xylophones. Even though it was pointing off trail, I did follow it around on a loop, but I never did find any xylophones. *shrug*
The picnic area was here, though!
Complete with a rope swing! (I would have taken photos of myself swinging on it, but it's hard to take photos of yourself on a rope swing. Trust me, it just doesn't work very well.... *shaking head*)
This sign amused me since the road had been gated off from traffic in both directions. Look both ways... for what, exactly? =)
This monument describes the Great Glen House--the headquarters office of Scottish Natural Heritage and the Deer Commission for Scotland. It's also one of the greenest buildings in Scotland, at least when it was built a few years ago.
Great Glen House
Not the clearest day, but at least it never rained! It didn't rain at all on me between Glasgow and Inverness! (One person told me that when it doesn't rain for more than 10 minutes, it's considered a severe drought.)
Tunnel art!
That Nessie, always LOL'ing.... =)
Amanda would love this playground at Whin Park!
I gotta admit, though, I kind of liked it myself. =)
The River Ness
One of the many strange benches on the Ness Islands. (The Ness Islands are islands in the River Ness.) Each bench was strange and wonderful and completely unique, but all of my other photos didn't turn out as clear as this one so this is the only one you get to see. You'll have to go to Inverness and see the rest for yourself!

Hey! Just because I wore a skirt one day doesn't make this a ladies walk!

This monument marks the end of the Great Glen Way at the foot of Inverness Castle, but it took me about 10 minutes to figure that out because from this side, the plaque only describes the history of the castle. It's the back side of this monument where you'll find the plaque describing the Great Glen Way and the fact that this is the terminus.
Inverness Castle, not open to the public despite being a public building!
View from Inverness Castle
Oh, yeah... there was that whole election thing about Scottish Independence that happened yesterday. How did that turn out?
They voted it down. Scotland, for now, will stay in the United Kingdom. I didn't wake up in a new country after all!
The window is full of wonderful stuff like Pop Tarts and Lucky Charms. I'm a little surprised they think so highly of American candy if that's what they consider to be American candy!
A distant cousin of T.J. Maxx?
My train ticket back to Glasgow! The train would whisk me from Inverness to Glasgow in less than 4 hours. It took me 12 days of walking to cover that same distance!
Waiting for the train in Inverness.
Hen party on a train!
In Glasgow, Amanda wanted to stop for dinner at this bar.
I voted to stop for dinner at this coffee shop. (Instead, we settled on a restaurant with Italian food.)
Now it's your turn to hike the Scottish Highlands Way! Virtually, at least.... You'll also see a lot more photos that didn't make the cut for this blog! =)

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