A meeting with Vera on the Bonny, Bonny banks of Loch Lomond

Mrs Slaw and the pooches set off for their morning constitutional from the Ben Nevis Campsite. They happened upon an open gate right at the bottom of the site. Ever the opportunist, Mrs Slaw quickly snuck through, furtively looking over her shoulder. The other side of the gate was a bit of a workman’s site; skipping past the machinery she found a little path that ran right along the river Lochy. It had been a frosty night (this is Mrs Slaw’s summer holiday for goodness sake! Wistful memories of that lovely new bikini for St Tropez fleetingly passed by) Mrs Slaw dug her hands deep down in the pockets of her Rab down jacket and wished she’d put her gloves on. It was all worth it though as she looked out over the river through the rising mist, at the heady heights of Ben Nevis broodingly towering over her.

Ben Nevis brooding over the misty Lochy

The holiday is coming to end. The Slaw’s Scotland Road Trip taking in the NC500 is now heading south. However, this morning has a western detour. It was a quick ‘off’ as there is a train to catch! The Jacobite Steam Train runs twice daily from Fort William to Mallaig and crosses the very picturesque Glenfinnan viaduct. A location used in the 1969 film Ring of bright water, but more recently, and famously, for the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter movies. Mrs Slaw did her research and contacted the train operator to find out the times the Jacobite crosses the viaduct.

Helga arrived in plenty of time at the Glenfinnan visitor centre and a good job too! By 9.45am the car park was full. Slaw had made his plans to fly the drone over the viaduct to film the steam train. However, Mrs Slaw spotted the sign; ‘No drones’ 😢 Under the sign was another one though, that said ‘Permissions ring Alistair’ and a phone number. The call was made and a meeting arranged. Slaw was sweating a bit now as time was ticking by. Alistair arrived in his cow-muck green Landrover, dressed like a Scottish Laird in checked flannel shirt, green jumper and plaid knee breeches. Licence shown, insurance checked and questions from the drone code of conduct correctly answered. £10 admin fee duly paid and Alistair directed Slaw up the Glenfinnan Estate road to a large field from where to fly his drone. Whether Alistair is the Laird or the game keeper, someone is onto a good racket!

There were hoards of people climbed high up the hillside overlooking the viaduct for that ‘perfect’ shot. Looking backwards to the viewpoint from the visitor centre it was also packed. No pressure Slaw then to get that ‘perfect’ shot! The train was heard in the distance chugging as only steam trains can and a melancholy whistle sounded, echoing down the Glen. All around, the air was electric. The anticipation palpable. The Jacobite came into view from the right hand side; beautiful, shiny black engine and sleek red carriages. Snow white plumes of steam billowing from the engine perfectly suspended parallel to the carriages. It was majestic and stunningly framed in the nook of the Glen.

Jacobite steam train on the Glenfinnan viaduct

The Glenfinnan monument is on the Loch side of the road. An imposing structure at the head of Loch Shiel to commemorate Bonnie Prince Charlie. ‘Speed bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing…’ (as we sung in school) On this site he raised his standard to recover the throne for his exiled Stuart ancestors in an arduous and unfortunate enterprise that ended at Culloden.

The Glenfinnan monument

Prince William had obviously had a veritable feast while mummy was taking photos. As Helga was travelling along the shores of Loch Linnhe, the Cottingham Cowgirl started crying. Mrs Slaw looked behind to the dog shelf, where the pooches travel in style in their harnesses and usually on a velvet blankie (currently travelling on a yellow and pink beach towel as Prince William puked on the velvet blankie 🤦🏻‍♀️) Prince William was looking very sorry for himself with something green and slimy hanging from his beard 🤮 The Cottingham Cowgirl had had enough and had jumped down away from her disgusting big brother (technically 1st cousin once removed 😜) Mrs Slaw set forth whilst Helga was still travelling. Her years as a coach hostess came into play as she held her own walking down the aisle looking for baby wipes, while Slaw looked for a suitable place to park. Mrs Slaw dealt with the offending item on the bench seat that Prince William had feasted upon. Some sort of tree nut? When will he learn? Mrs Slaw spends a fortune on grain free dog food with 65% animal ingredients for his delicate little tummy and he delights in filling his boots with cr*p then deposits it all over Helga 🤦🏻‍♀️

The incident dealt with, Helga continued on her route south. The drive through Glen Coe was stunning; reminiscent of the Slaw’s USA road trip through the canyons.

Glen Coe heading south.

The destination was reached; the Ardlui Resort at the head of Loch Lomond. Helga missed the entrance to the touring site and pulled into the hotel car park to be greeted by her predecessor! Our Vera! Would you believe it? These blogs have mentioned the Slaw’s beads and barefoot days many times and they regularly fondly reminisce about ‘our Vera’. She was reluctantly sold six years ago for a bigger van. She served the Slaw’s well. Taking them to France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Italy. Visiting the F1 GP in Spa and twice to Monza. Mrs Slaw was practically in tears! So emotional. What was even better was that the current owners love her just as much.

Our Vera

Helga parked up in her Loch side pitch. The most expensive pitch of the holiday. £35 per night, but the views of Loch Lomond are to die for!

Ardlui Loch side pitch

A few aperitifs in the hotel were consumed. Mrs Slaw was still quite emotional after reconnecting with V. The rosè was flowing! The conservatory was the second choice of seating as the recommended decking with views over the Loch was sodden from the lashing down rain. Not forecast on Mrs Slaw’s app 😡 The conservatory was cold with a through draught. So Slaw asked for our table this evening to be in the bar area. As expected the carpet was a tartan check. What was confusing though was the eclectic mix of decor. Quite fitting was a wall of taxidermy. A fox, an eagle, a large fish, and a stag. There was a wall of local history with old photos of the hotel. Then, seemingly out of sync two walls of Art Deco esque with striped wallpaper and mirror plaques with leaded flowers. Make your mind up Ardlui!

Mrs Slaw perused the menu. Mussels in a white wine, cream and garlic sauce. Ooh! Her favourite ❤️ But, after last night’s debacle with Mussel-gate in Banavie, Slaw was very happy when Mrs Slaw chose the Cullen Skink. Mrs Slaw was happy. Slaw was happy. When ordering, there was a wobble though. Mrs Slaw ordered the lamb and asked for it pink. The waiter said, he hasn’t got that option. It’s either medium, medium rare or rare. Mrs Slaw tried to explain those are steak options. She wants the lamb ‘pink’. In previous establishments she’s asked for it pink and the chef has sent it crozzled because those who ask for it pink send it back when it’s pink because it’s got blood in it 🤦🏻‍♀️ Mrs Slaw quite happily eats steak tartare so when she asks for rare or pink she means it! The main course arrived. It looked good and was beautifully pink. Sadly the meat was cold though. Mrs Slaw dare not sent it back for fear of it coming back crozzled. Very strangely it was served with onion rings, field mushrooms and a tomato. Not what Mrs Slaw is used to!