Wednesday 5 July 2023

Kinlochleven and the Commando Memorial

Nido's parked up at a wild camping spot a little way off the A87 near Bun Loyne. We have mountain views and can just about here the occasional car passing on the road.  Our original plan was to stop over at a nearby cafe then go in for breakfast tomorrow, but they're not open so this was a Plan B. We've eaten and are chilling out, looking out over the views.

We left New Lanark yesterday morning and stopped in the town to buy some food and fill up with diesel.  I had in mind a stop over at the Glencoe Mountain Resort, mainly because the views looked great and it also had a black waste dump and fresh water.  After the usual frenetic motorway drive past Glasgow, we skirted along the western side of Loch Lomond before reaching the Highlands and pulling into the Resort.  It was fairly busy with quite a few vans and cars parked up, some making use of the chairlift running up the mountain.  After a quick look around, we decided it was too early to stop for the day. We had lunch with great views over the mountains and I took a look at the apps for somewhere else to stay for the night.

We decided on Kinlochleven, a small village at the eastern head of Loch Leven.  The village community have built an 8-pitch aire next to the toilets and the Ice Factory, an indoor ice climbing arena. Unfortunately it appears the aire is still subject to some planning issues and has been for several years. But the community are happy for vans to park up in the adjacent Ice Factory car park for a donation, which we were happy to make.  From there we took a walk along part of the West Highland Way, walking up into the glens to reach a small reservoir and dam.  Kinlochleven have made the most of the hills and water and have a large hydro-electric plant which used to supply the now closed aluminium making factory.  Having expected a cold, cloudy day according to the forecast, instead we walked in hot sunshine and were glad of the dappled shade provided by the trees.  Salty enjoyed the many cold mountain streams cascading down the mountains.  Back at the van Cathy cooked a delicious vegetable risotto and I walked into the village to get some cash to pay the park up donation.  We enjoyed the sound of the many seagulls nesting on the tops and sides of the Ice Factory building and later a number of swifts came screaming in, flying acrobatically over our heads - I love them!

This morning was hot and sunny in Kinlochleven and I enjoyed my morning walk with Salty as Cathy made breakfast.  First task of the day was to service the van and there are quite a few service points in this area.  One on our route was at the Kilmallie Community Centre in Corpach. They've built an excellent service point that is far better than many we've used in France and all they ask is a £5 donation, which we gladly gave.  Without these forward-thinking communities, we'd probably have to book into a campsite and it helps keep their services going - well done Kilmallie!

Not much further on was a place I've wanted to visit for a long, long time - the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge.  It's dedicated to the men of the original Commando Forces during World War 2 and it overlooks the Commando Training Depot established in 1942 in Achnacarry Castle.  It's an evocative monument with three commandos looking out over the Nevis range, with Ben Nevis clearly showing a couple of snow pockets near the summit. Alongside it is a garden of remembrance.  This has many plaques, wreaths and epitaphs to the many Commandos who have made the ultimate sacrifice in so many wars and conflicts.  As a Falklands War veteran, it was humbling to see the names of some of the Royal Marines who died in that conflict.  But perhaps even sadder were the many epitaphs to those killed in Afghanistan this century, many of them just in their early 20s.  I stood a while and shed a tear.  

Per Mare, Per Terram.  Lest we forget....

Lunch was taken at the top of Loch Lochy at the Great Glen Way, after a walk along part of the Caledonian canal.  We watched a couple of yachts pass through Laggan lock, coming from Loch Lochy into the canal and towards Loch Oich and no doubt eventually Loch Ness.  It was while we were parked up having lunch that I found the cafe wouldn't be open tomorrow, so we ended up in this spot.  Salty's been out for a short walk but it's raining heavily now, so he'll get one final walk before we turn in for the night.

Glencoe Mountain Resort

Sculpture by the river at Kinlochleven

Reservoir at a turnaround point on our Western Highland Way walk

Coming off the dam at the reservoir

It'll be a great aire once the legal wranglings are sorted

View from the Kinlochleven park-up

Kilmallie Community Centre

Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge

Even in death, this young Royal Marine's zest for life shines through. Stop and take a wee dram.

Laggan Lock

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