We left Fort William after our day on the steam train in high spirits. We were excited to drive through Glen Coe, which we’ve heard is one of the most mysterious and beautiful paces in Scotland. Then, on to Rannoch Moor and then south toward Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.
Everything started out fine. We motored out of sunny Fort William, waved goodbye to the steam train at the station, and headed back toward Ballachulish. We were at the start of Glen Coe in no time, and very excited. Shortly after beginning our drive into this most famous of Glens, I thought “they might be right, this might in fact, be the most beautiful glen in Scotland!”. The scenery is magnificent. And we had a sunny, gorgeous day, with late-afternoon light. Especially breathtaking were our views of the majestic Three Sisters. My jaw hung open for a good long while as we gawked at this sight from the roadside viewpoint.
After all the magnificent sweeping vistas, bright green hillsides, craggy mountain peaks, and impossibly steep slopes, Rannoch Moor began in extreme contrast. It was suddenly flat, marshy, heather-covered brown moorland with a few lichen-covered rocks here and there. Complete desolation after such wondrous majestic beauty. How strange. It was eerie, even in bright sunshine. BUT….what made it even more eerie and unsettling was the fact that were were suspecting with increasing dread that Heidi was having a major engine problem.
The climb up Glen Coe was quite long and steep, and by the time we reached the top Heidi started to smell hot. The exhaust leak that had been with us for almost two weeks had changed alarmingly as well — it was both louder and now had a expensive-sounding clatter to it. We gave her plenty of chances to rest and let her cool off on some long downhill stretches, but she didn’t sound or smell any better. When we got to Bridge of Orchy, which was really the only place with human civilization for many many miles around, we stopped and called AA. We knew we weren’t going anywhere else that night, and since we didn’t know what Heidi’s fate would be, we didn’t want to be camping in her overnight. Luckily, there was a very nice roadside hotel catering to mountain walkers there at Bridge of Orchy. Brad booked us a (very expensive) room for the night and we started getting ourselves settled while Brad dealt with the phone calls to Heidi’s owner and with the mechanics.
The kids enjoyed a nice bath in the hotel room and we ordered some food that we could eat in our room for dinner. It was DELICIOUS! And the kids fell asleep fairly quickly in their sleeping bags on the hotel room floor. Then, at 9:30pm, the mechanic arrived and immediately pronounced Heidi undrivable. She needed a tow….all the way back to the Scottish Borders. Here’s where things got a little messy. I’ll let Brad tell the tale in the next installment.