A Hike Up The Ben

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A rare view of the summit of Ben Nevis from the water. 

After our hike of Snowdon last year we started to think of the tallest mountain in the UK, Ben Nevis. Peter found out from colleagues at work that you can take this train called the Caledonian Sleeper out of Euston station on Friday night. Sleep overnight on the train. Arrive in Fort William Saturday morning just before 10 am, hike the Ben, sleep at a hotel on Saturday night and come back into London overnight Sunday in time for work Monday morning…hummmm this had been in the back of my head for almost a year.

Last May Peter and I sat down, picked a weekend we could do this hike and booked our ticket on the Caledonian. You see, driving to Scotland and getting to the big cities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow is easy enough (about 7 hours) but driving up to the Highlands is another thing and takes another 5 hours. The train is the way to go! The train ride itself was 12 hours and 47 minutes.

Caledonian sleeper

Friday night we boarded the train just before its departure at 9:15 pm. We grabbed a drink, settled in our “berth” and slowly drifted off to sleep and towards the Highlands. Saturday morning we woke up around 7 am and our attendant brought us our coffee and green tea. He also informed us there was still room in the first class lounge if we wanted to sit on a sofa and have our breakfast. Sweet! We got dressed and headed for the sofas and watched the magnificent Scottish countryside while having our breakfast.

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When we finally reached Fort William Peter and I walked to our Hotel, dropped off our bags, packed some sandwiches for our hike and grabbed a taxi to drive us to Ben Nevis visitor center in order to start our ascension.

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Hotel where we stayed.

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We started the hike by crossing the river by the visitor center and taking the path to the right of this sheep. There’s always sheep when hiking in England. They seem to follow us halfway up the mountain then stop when the weather changes. I sometimes think us human should follow their lead but no, the silly human has to climb and see what is on top!

The first third of The Ben (that’s how the local call the mountain) is somewhat steep with large rocks to walk around.

After climbing some big rocky stairs the trail sort of plateaus near a lake at the Red Burn. From this moment on, the mountain track just goes up steadily till you reach the five-finger gully.

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When we reached the five-finger gully I had to put down the camera and pay attention to where I stepped. Lots of rock, gravel and visibility got dodgy in some areas. It was raining and temperature was dropping fast and the rain was turning into wet snow. We saw a couple of snow patches along the way (Peter has the photos on his Iphone) but didn’t linger. The goal was to reach the summit, look around a little and come back down.

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This is the shelter where my crazy Canadian husband went behind to change his shirt. A cold wet snow was coming down and I can guarantee you we exchanged dry and wet shirt very quickly. Apparently Peter felt like a new man once he had a drier shirt on! Okay, can we get down now? My hands (I finally put gloves on) are freezing! I took a couple of pictures of crazy people standing there and then we started our descent.

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I can confirm that once we got down the mountain, had HOT showers, changed and got to our restaurant, these went down Nicely!

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Ben Nevis whiskey, elderflower water with a dash of sour apple liquor. (Peter had two, I switched to wine after mine).

Sunday morning we slept in. Had breakfast. Did some shopping and after lunch and more Ben Nevis whiskey sours we took a cruise on Loch Linnhe.

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Little side note here: Peter’s maternal grand-mother is half Macleod. Everywhere we went I tried to get some Macleod memorobilia. The Macleod name was always empty. No mug, no shot glass, no whiskey glass, no coaster etc…..I finally asked a shop attendant, “Why is it I can never get any Macleod merchandise in any of the shops?” her answer “I won’t say anything wrong about that name….(pause), let’s just say they are a popular bunch!” She hinted they like to have fun. Humm food for thought next time I meet the Smiths and other Coopers, sure explains a lot.

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Aboard the Souter Lass on Loch Linnhe

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It was a great afternoon. Calm waters and some sun. Just beautiful.

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Salmon farm on the Linnhe. In Scotland, fish farms account for 7000 jobs and £650 million of revenues. 

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A mussel farm.

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At the moment you can find approximately 30 seals who have taken residence in the Linnhe. Here some are sunbathing.

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At the end of the day we had to get back to Fort William. Pick up our bags that had been left for safekeeping at the hotel. And grab a quick bite to eat at the pub before making our way to the train station to board the Caledonian.

The train left promptly at 7 pm and we arrived at London Euston station at 7:45 am. Peter and I took the tube home. We arrived around 8:10 am, he showered and got ready for work and I started to unpack the bags. Peter was leaving for work at 9:30 am. Later than usual but still not bad. All in all, a good way to spend a lovely weekend in the Highlands.

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