To Glencoe

Jean Mark was adamant that I hike in the park along the southeast shore of Loch Lomond this morning.  I looked out the window.  The rain was still blowing in sheets across the field behind the stone cottage.  He brought the map for the park at the same time he brought the  second mushroom and cheese crepe.  The first crepe would’ve been enough.  It took up two-thirds of a plate.  But they were so unbelievably delicious I ate both of them while sipping french-press coffee and orange juice.  The second B in B&B has been beneficial on this little journey!

I didn’t tell Jean Mark that I wasn’t going for a hike at the park.  Instead, I drove up the western shore of Loch Lomond in the same blowing rain that I drove down it the evening before.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to hike.  I could really use a good hike right now after such a long haul in the car the day before.  I was just hoping for better weather someplace else.  About an hour into the drive, I came to a proverbial fork in the road.  Turn left and go to Oban.  Or turn right and go to Glencoe.  Oban is the coastal center for day-trips to the inner hebrides islands.  Glencoe is one of the most famous Highland mountain towns in Scotland.  It is also one of the origins of the MacDonald clan.  They’ve been in Glencoe since the 1300s.  There were a lot less of them after the massacre of the MacDonalds on Feb. 12th, 1692.  I pulled off to the side of the road and thought for a moment – Oban or Glencoe.  I’ve been working on the Donaldson family tree lately (Donaldson is essentially MacDonald, or from the Clan of Donald).  I chose Glencoe.

Glencoe is Scotland’s equivalent to our Glacier National Park – minus the grizzly bears.   I’ll let the photos show you what it looks like.  Other than sight-seeing, I spent too much time trying to secure a room.  There wasn’t a room to be had in the little village of Glencoe.  I later found out this was due to a triathlon being held in the valley this weekend. I went to the information center where they have a kiosk of B&Bs in the area and eventually found one a few miles out of town.  After checking in to the room and taking care of business, I went to the Glencoe educational center.  I wanted to learn as much as I could about this valley and the history of its MacDonalds.  I’ll save you the details.  If you want to read a little about it, click HERE for a link to their website.  I did work in a strenuous 1&1/2 hour hike near the educational center that achieved some respectable altitude before returning.

At the educational center, I discovered there was a monument dedicated to the memory of the MacDonalds who were massacred in 1692.  It is supposed to be located exactly on the spot where the massacre started.  I drove by twice before finding it – standing on a small, rocky, knoll down a dead-end, one-lane road.  It was erected in 1992 by the Clan of Donald Land Trust.   It looks forgotten.  There’s not even a place to park.  I have no idea if the Donaldson line (same as Clan of Donald, or MacDonald in the ancestry research sites) that I belong to has any connection with the Glencoe MacDonalds, but I tell you, that place gave me a real bad feeling.  I paid my respects and left.

At the end of the one-lane road, I turned the opposite way from the village and drove along what I thought was going to be a different way out to the main highway.  What great serendipitous luck!  I discovered the Clachaig Inn.  A real, authentic Scottish Highland Public House.  I stepped up to the bar and sampled a number of beers  before choosing a nice refreshing one.  I was hungry and asked to see the menu.  I was about to order the Arberdeen Beef burger when I read, “ask about the daily specials.”  So I asked.

“Haggis, neaps, and  tatties,” he said.  “Our traditional Scottish dish.”  I’ve heard of the dish but never really knew what it was.  Here is what wikipedia says about it:

Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered for approximately three hours. Most modern commercial haggis is prepared in a sausage casing rather than an actual stomach.

As the 2001 English edition of the Larousse Gastronomique puts it, “Although its description is not immediately appealing, haggis has an excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour”.[1]

The haggis is a traditional Scottish dish, considered the national dish of Scotland as a result of Robert Burns’ poem Address to a Haggis of 1787. Haggis is traditionally served with “neeps and tatties” (Scots: turnip and potato), boiled and mashed separately and a dram (a glass of Scotch whisky), especially as the main course of a Burns supper.

Well, I ordered it….and a glass of Jura Prophecy (a scotch recommended to me by Jamie Donaldson from my first night in Edinburgh) to go with it.  I gotta tell you…It was delicious!  The Haggis was pretty much as explained above.  The turnips and taters were gently mashed together (still some chunks) along with chopped onions.  All of this was topped with a rich brown gravy.  And the Jura Prophecy, splendid!  It was a wonderful Scottish dinner.

Back when ordering the pint of beer when I first came in, I was joined at the rail by three brothers from the borderlands (south of Edinburgh).  They were in Glencoe to provide food for the triathletes over the weekend.  They were great, fun-loving guys around my age.  They joined me at a table for dinner.  The three of them were always laughing and teasing each other.  It was fun to watch.  They strongly recommended going to Oban and catching the ferry to the Island of Mull, then go up the coast to the Island of Skye, then take another ferry from Skye to the Outer Hebrides.  I had written the Outer Hebrides off as being a bit too far out at sea to be reasonable.  But maybe…just maybe…That would be a wee bit adventurous.

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5 comments on “To Glencoe

  1. Gary, what was so bad about our forefathers that they were massacred a few times over in our ancestral history? And who knew we were kissing cousins back then?! Ha!!

    • Diane, I’m glad you are enjoying the blog. The highlands are very beautiful and there are great photo opportunities literally around every bend. After awhile, you just keep driving.

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