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Monday, October 26, 2015

Scotland - Cannich and preparing for the Affric Kintail Way

The little bus rumbled along rural road, with the driver chatting happily away to me as we made our way through the magnificent countryside.  This region of the highlands that is just west of Loch Ness looks remarkably like the region I live in, in Western Washington State. Two college girls clad in shorts and flipflops were the only other passengers on this van-sized bus. They were heading out from Inverness for a day walk around Loch Affric and were at the back of the vehicle, chatting amongst themselves, while I sat up front to listen to the driver and his wealth of stories.

This is something I've made mental note on many times. When one travels with someone else, one tends to do so in a bit of a bubble. You have a
built-in conversation partner, with no real need to reach outside of that sphere. If you are travelling solo, however, you must reach out,  converse with strangers,  get out of your comfort zone and talk with the folks you meet. This was no exception, and I learned a lot from the driver about this little community-supported bus, about his own travels abroad, and about renewable energy sources in the Highlands, just to name a few topics.

Because passengers were few and the schedule secure, the driver took me right to the office door of the campsite in Cannich.  This is a splendid place, nestled beneath the red-barked Caledonian pines at the gateway to Glen Affric, and the campsite is at a quiet and comfortable distance from the main road.  The campsite is also home to a very pleasing little restaurant, the Bog Cotton Cafe. Light, airy, of rustic construction, and carrying items by local crafters in their gift shop, this place immediately struck me as one that would be right at home in British Columbia, it had that kind of atmosphere.  The food is also good and the service is very friendly.

River views from walks along the main road
As soon as the tent was pitched and lunch was had, I set out walking to familiarize myself with this place and also with the location of the trailhead for the Affric-Kintail Way, as that long walk would be begun upon leaving here.  Walks around this community immediately put you at a slower, more relaxed pace, as that is the rhythm here.  The river tumbles along its stony course through the middle of the valley, forests line lush green meadows, and on this day the sunlight sparkled.   Soft rosy red is a dominant and signature color here - you'll see it in the bark of the Caledonian pines, in the fur of the pine marten and red deer, and in the plumage of crossbills and bullfinches.

I took an extra day here, just to take in the nature and the serenity. It truly is beautiful.  On the night before my long walk though, I hiked out to The Slaters Arms for a large protein-heavy meal and a pint. A spaniel welcoming crew are waiting at the door here to greet you upon your arrival, and the establishment has a wonderful and very traditional atmosphere. This was the first time I ever experienced mutton stew, which was just sublime. I would happily return here again, if given the chance.

Primary school in Cannich
Glen Affric has a wealth of nature and beauty to take in, and is the ancestral home of Clan Chisholm.  Glen Affric and all its splendid walks, is also an easy drive from Cannich.  I would recommend this quiet little community as a base, if one wishes to take day-trips into the glen to explore.  I certainly enjoyed my restful stay here.

I love the letterboxes to be found throughout
the rural highlands!

Our Lady Catholic church in Cannich

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