Foyers to Dunkeld: Wednesday 7 October

img_8380Woke up and tumble-dried. (Well, that’s what it says in the notes so it must be true.) Swiftly preparing for campsite departure, we trundled off-site with our trusty rods already rigged in the van, while our rapidly decomposing herring-bait (defrosted overnight) was justifiably confined to a sealed Ziploc bag in the luggage compartment for reasons which became olfactorily obvious once we arrived back at Foyers Pier. Manoeuvring the van to allow for views-with-porridge, we again fished our little hearts out until a motorboat pulled up at the jetty and conversation with the hiring couple ensued as we realised that most of these houseboats we’d seen cruising the length of the Loch had been hired from Inverness and were clearly capable of navigating the entire length of the Great Glen. The Intrepid Sailing Couple disembarked and headed inland in search of Foyer’s Falls – which they reported to be worth a visit.

Disappointed by our lack of anything remotely piscatorial, we decided to follow suit, packed up the gear and trundled away from Loch Ness’s fine shores up to a tiny village (café, general store and car-park) where, wrapping up against the still uncertain dampness, we hiked down a well-trodden path to find a spectacular waterfall gushing forcefully through a narrow gap and then cascading in brown foamy fashion into a deep dark pool below our viewing position. We were surprised by the volume of water pounding down, as this was in total contrast to the languid, almost stagnant river we’d skirted around on the Loch shore the day before.

Satisfied by our intrepid excursion we returned to the van and set off down the edge of the Loch towards Fort Augustus as the rain continued to fall – a short drop, given the low height of clouds which lay above us but below the mountain-tops. The rain hadn’t dampened the bustling liveliness we found at Fort Augustus – a busy little village made more so by the flight of locks and swing-bridge which proved an entertaining attraction. The lowest lock was full of gently bobbing hire boats, all crewed and captained by anxious looking couples, none of whom obviously wanted to fall foul of the technicalities of Loch-Lock passage in front of an audience.

With the rain gradually letting up we mooched about around the locks and the Loch, eventually whisking round a well-stocked convenience store to replenish supplies, then set off again for the first time in the trip retracing part of our outward journey as we headed back through Invergarry and Spean Bridge, again passing the Commando Memorial as we went – but continuing to enjoy the scenery as we were now viewing it from the other direction.

A roadside stop for a sandwich lunch – in-van, of course – then onwards along the A86 turning south at Laggan and enjoying the sight of yachts and boats cruising the Great Glen, glimpsed both through roadside trees and at swing bridges where traffic was held up to allow waterborne passage. Onwards through Dalwhinnie noting the distillery (done one, done ‘em all?) and onto the A9 south, diverting through Pitlochry just for the hell of it and thence onwards to Dunkeld (on the strength of the recommendation, so not too sure what we’d find there).

The sun was beginning to win through a little as we arrived in the large village/small town (or indeed, tiny city, seeing as it boasted its own cathedral) which proved delightfully charming and, at last, fulfilled our expectations more so than any other urban town we had come across so far on our trip.

We parked up and ambled around Dunkeld, discovering a remarkable walk through towering woodland – forming part of the cathedral grounds – the cathedral itself being part-church and part-ruin – and each magnificent tree labelled and sponsored by the Hilton Dunkeld Hotel which lay, to our surprise at the furthest point of our walk. Slow on the uptake, it took a short while for us to register that the magnificently stately river on whose banks we were walking was, in fact, the Tay, famous for its salmon-fishing. Little pieces of a mental jigsaw began to click into place as we realised we were just 12 miles from Blairgowrie, our originally intended destination which had been subsequently aborted when we became aware that Jane Harris – who lived in a house called “Taybank” (get it?) – was away at a conference in Edinburgh.

We continued to explore and enjoy the scenery and the compact little town, especially as it seemed to have nurtured several decent looking pubs – another pleasant surprise as we nosed through windows and peered at dinner menus displayed at entrances. Discovering a much more scenic car-park than the one we currently occupied, we moved the van to a picturesque location right on the banks of the river and in view of the magnificent stone arch bridge to our right. To our distant left, a lone angler, waist-deep in the fast flowing current was gamely spey-casting with the lowering late-afternoon sunlight catching the impossibly large loops of his line to create a cinematic effect worthy of “ A River Runs Through It”.

Settling on the Royal Dunkeld Hotel as a suitable recipient of our patronage, we enjoyed beer and partial World Cup rugby on the TV; a bit of chatter with the barman, followed by Cullen Skink and a highly-recommended hot game pie before enquiring with the landlord about salmon fishing, as we had presumed, from our experience at Migford Loch, that the season would have ended, but not a bot if it! Ghillies were therefore recommended, although we recognised this wouldn’t be a cheap option so rather dismissed the idea, and wandered back to make the van cosy; discovered that the TV would tune in to allow us to accidentally watch Nadia winning Bake Off and with a tot of whisky in our hands and the roar of the Tay in our ears, we settled down for a satisfied night’s sleep.

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