Loch Ness and a Sh*t Show at McDonald’s Aviemore

So I decided to spend an extra day in Inverness so that I could do a tour around Loch Ness.  I would be catching the train to Aviemore at the end of the day for the quick 25 minute ride south.  And what a sh*t show that turned into, but more about that later.

The Loch Ness Hunter
North end of Loch Ness
North end of Loch Ness

Anyway, we left Inverness about ten minutes late because two stragglers decided to be inconsiderate and hold us all up, but fortunately Seana (Shawna) made up some time and we were close to back on schedule as we approached our first stop in Dores, at the southern most point of Loch Ness.  Now the crazy thing about Dores is there is a guy who has taken up residence in a trailer on the edge of Loch Ness who has spent the better part of 30 years hunting Nessie.  Seana said he is quite sane, but for the love of God … 30 years.  He makes and sells little Nessie statutes, but beyond that, I have no idea how he survives, because he clearly has not cashed in on the Nat Geo 1 million pound prize for a picture of Nessie.

Falls of Foyers
View to Loch Ness through the trees
Hike to the Falls of Foyers

So we spent about 20 minutes in Dores before we headed south (with Loch Ness on our right hand side) to the Falls of Foyers, a “sometimes” giant waterfall in the forest beside Loch Ness.  Now I say sometimes because the flow of the waterfall is dependent upon the power plant nearby.  Unfortunately, for us the power plant was using a lot of water today as the falls were not much more than a trickle, which made the massive hike back up to the road entirely not worth it.  (Even Seana apologized for putting us through the paces only to see a mere spigot of water.)

On the road to Fort Augustus
The mountains near Loch Ness

So after the falls, we continued on the very narrow, windy road listening to stories about Loch Ness and its monster, fairies (yes the Scots love their fairies and believe they live in the woodlands … seriously), and various battles between the Red Coats (the British Government) and the Pics (the Scots).  The scenery was lovely as we passed by forests and rolling hills, and before we knew it,  we were pulling into Fort Augustus at the far southwest end of Loch Ness for lunch.

Now at one time Fort Augustus played an important role in the 1700s Jacobite (Scottish) uprising and over the years, the fort has served as an abbey, a school, and now a playground for wealthy folk in the area.  As a result, the fort is nothing more than name only.  Instead, today Fort Augustus is better known for the role it plays in the Caledonian Canal system, (I saw part of this system in Neptune’s Staircase in Fort William), and for its tourism industry including boat tours of Loch Ness.

The canals in Fort Augustus
Loch Ness views in Fort Augustus
Old church in Fort Augustus
View to Loch Ness in Fort Augustus

We ended up spending about an hour and half in the little town, which was probably about an hour too long in my opinion.  Beside the views of Loch Ness and the canal system, there was not an awful lot to do.  I ended up sitting outside a café, had some lunch  and then spent the remainder of the time watching the tourists pass by.

We left the For Augustus about ten minutes late because the inconsiderate two didn’t show up on time again.  I told them that was two strikes and asked if they know what happens on the third strike … the entire bus laughed, but I don’t think these clueless two got it.

Summer House
New Stone Bridge and Invermoreston Falls
Invermoreston Falls
Old stone bridge

Anyway, the trip from Fort Augustus took us north beside Loch Ness to our first stop of the afternoon at Invermoreston Falls where we hiked to see the Summer House, which dates to Victorian times and then doubled back to the see the falls, which are actually a series of water falls best viewed from the old stone Telford bridge, which dates to 1813 as well as the new stone bridge.  It was gorgeous as were the views of the water falls.

Traveller caves
New stone bridge

One of the little hidden aspects of the old stone bridge was that little rest areas that were built into the bridge so that travellers could stop and grab a few winks before continuing on with their journey.  The rest areas were little more than tiny caves open at both ends, but I guess it’s the thought that counts.

St. Columba’s Well

Now the other “tourist site” at the Invermoreston stop was St. Columba’s well.  It is said that the well water was considered poisonous, but when St. Columba visited he drove the evil spirits away and the well water became pure.  It is also said that the well may be the water source for Loch Ness.  I thought it just looked like a big whole in the ground, but that’s just me.

So our final stop of the day was a boat tour of Loch Ness south to Urquart Castle and back.  The trip was going to take about one hour.  Now I figured the boat trip would be a bit hokey, playing up on the Loch Ness monster and all, but I really wanted to see the views of the castle from the water … so when in Rome.

Boat tour on Loch Ness
In front of Urquart Castle
Loch Ness
Sailing on Loch Ness
Urquart Castle

Anyway, I was right.  The trip was hokey, but the views of the castle were quite nice and the weather was warm so I did not need a heavy jacket.  It probably would have been a lot better if it had been sunny, but it still turned out to be a nice ride on Loch Ness … and no, I did not spot the monster!  Although I heard a hilarious story about a tourist who was certain she had seen the monster and even had a video of the monster swimming in Loch Ness … turned out to be a cow out for a little swim in the Loch.  Classic!

After the boat ride, it was a quick 20 minute trip back to Inverness where I collected my bags, walked across the street and waited for the 5:25 p.m. train to Aviermore.  By 6:00 I was dragging my bags up the hill and down the street to the McDonald’s Highland Hotel (one of the four McDonald’s hotels in the area) in very high winds.  Once at the hotel, I had to pull my bags up two flights of stairs to the entrance where I was met by a very unfriendly desk person.  The woman asked my name and then proceeded to tell me there was no reservation for me.  I quickly pulled out my confirmation and then she changed her story and said I was booked at another McDonald’s hotel down the road.  Great.  I asked for directions and then she said my reservation had been cancelled.  Huh?  Try to get your story straight!  Then she said my reservation had never been paid for.  Uh wanna see my receipt?  Then she changed her story again and asked me to take a seat while they worked on the issue.

At this point, it was very clear the hotel was overbooked because I quickly learned there was about 20 other people sitting around waiting for booking issues to be resolved.  Fortunately, I had an emergency phone number for the company who booked my train trip, and one call later the brilliant Daisy was on it.  Unfortunately, the hotel was run by Mickey Mouse and no matter how many times Daisy advised them that she had payment and room confirmation, the hotel continued to do nothing about finding me a room.

Now I was quickly losing my patience and told the manager that he was skating on pretty thin ice.  I pointed out that a there was a woman with an autistic child in tears, another woman crying hysterically that her vacation was ruined and an entire family sitting on the floor.  What was he going to do to make it right?  This chicken sh*t manager said he was working on it only to disappear and never be seen again.  Now I was seething.  In the mean time, Daisy continued to keep me informed every 15 minutes or so.  The problem was there was not a room to be had in Aviemore, but she promised to find me something.

The Boat Country Inn

After two hours waiting for the jackasses to find me a room and for the manager to reappear, Daisy called me back and advised me that she had booked me into the Boat County Inn in the little town of Boat of Garten about 15 minutes away.  There was simply no other rooms in Aviemore.  Fortunately, the company was going to cover all my cab fares, but what a royal pain.

Anyway, I was soon in a cab more than happy to be out of that sh*t show and just about 15 minutes later, I was hauling my luggage up two flights of stairs in the lovely little Inn, to the only room left in the area.  Now the room was about the size of my walk-in closet, but beggars can’t be choosy.  And, I was being refunded 200 pounds for my troubles so there is that!  What an end to a long day!