I like lying in bed while camping, all snuggled up listening to rain pattering on roofs and canvas. There’s just something about it.
The day dawns overcast and with a drizzle in the air. We’re in no rush today, a day without moving or driving as we’ve decided to stay another night. It’s just a lovely campsite, clean, tidy and spacious. We fancy a train trip and with the railway station about five minutes away, we have worked out the train times to Crianlarich, a small community north of Loch Lomond some 60 miles away, purely as we know there’s a lovely cafe on the station platform there. Trains in this part of the world are few and far between (about 4 a day) so the options are extremely limited, but have figured that if we caught the 12.02 from Roy Bridge, that would give us about an hour in Crianlarich for lunch before catching the 14.35 back again. Perfect.
So we lazed in bed, The Dog snuggling up to us (this doesn’t happen very often, so we make the most of it) having our usual cuppa. The rain keeps easing off, teasing us and then returning as a downpour. We organised the Van, put our wet weather stuff on and wandered down the lane to the railway station. We stopped to chat to the owner, a lovely lady, who asked us if we’ve got everything we need and just to give her a yell if we haven’t. So friendly and eager to help. We’ll come back to this place. So feeling happy we make our way to the railway station.
It’s a single track railway line with a single platform adorned with the corporate station furniture and colours of Scotrail. All things metal, either bare grey or painted with a special shade of blue that only monolithic companies seem to like. A standard template for all stations regardless of their location. Another of my bugbears.
It had an electronic information board scrolling times and safety notices. Paying a little more attention to it, we realised our 12.02 was delayed by about 15 minutes due to flooding elsewhere. That was a bit annoying, cutting our stay down to about 45 minutes, but it was still viable. The train from Glasgow, itself some 15 minutes late, pulled in from the other direction, The Dog barking at it furiously. (She does this with trains and then happily gets on them – weird dog). This is a good sign, we thought, our train will be next, but the overhead board changed again and our train wasn’t expected til 12:41! Oh really? We did the maths – we would have about 20 minutes at Crianlarich now, maybe more if the return train was delayed too, but let’s still run with it. Not wanting to hang around at the station in the rain for half a hour and having exhausted playing with the interactive Caledonian Sleeper noticeboard in the shelter, we headed off onto the Main Street of Roy Bridge to see what that had to offer. Not a lot but we discovered another pub and a quick Google told us that it was dog friendly. Perfect – train trip and then pub!
We also found the cafe our friendly site owner had mentioned. We weren’t ready for a coffee just yet, so wandered back to the railway station and waited for our train, checking the train app on our phones for more information as well as killing time. With some dismay, with minutes of arrival, the time was pushed back again to 12:48 reducing our time at Crianlarich down to 10 minutes. That was cutting it a bit fine. Do we go and risk missing that return train, stranded in Cairnlarich until the next train at 8pm? How would we get back if we didn’t want to wait 6 hours – it was 60 miles away and there is no bus service.
We stood there in a lather – we so wanted to go, but it was turning to be rather stressful. We tried to work out other options – getting off at Tyndrum instead, but that still didn’t really work. The weather was foul now, the clouds dropping low so the fantastic views over Rannoch Moor would be covered in mist and cloud and anyway train windows are always grubby and would be steamed up in that weather. With the train due any minute, we made our final decision. Knock it on the head and go and find something else to do. To console ourselves, we walked down to the cafe for lunch only to discover that they didn’t let dogs in. The day wasn’t going well. We looked at our maps, trying to work out where we could go. Didn’t fancy Fort William – a big town and we weren’t ready to hit crowds, shops and bustle. Spean Bridge was a tiny village. A walk in the rain didn’t appeal at all. Bus ride? The next bus was two hours away. With shoulders sagging we trudged back to the Van.
This was the last thing we wanted to do. Sit in the Van in the rain, feeling cooped up. The only thing it made us do,was to make getting an awning our Van a top priority. Since getting the Van late last year, we had been gradually adding bits and pieces as we used it more, but this trip confirmed that an awning was essential – we could of, at least, sat outside under it now as it was quite warm (15 degrees despite the rain) rather than huddled on top of each other. Our provisions would make a pathetic lunch too, so annoyingly we got the Van ready to drive somewhere – the last thing we had planned.
We drove east along the A86, looking and hoping for a cafe or similar. There were no villages at all along this road, which hugged a reservoir and Loch Lagan. Finally after many miles, Laggan Wolftrax, a mountain bike hub in the forests loomed up and it had a cafe. Yes! We instinctively pulled in. The cafe was open and let dogs in (hurrah). It was very rudimentary but had a couple of good items on its menu. Hubby had eggy bread with bacon and maple syrup and I went for the veggie chilli nachos with coffee to follow. A family of Americans sat in the corner being served the nachos and boy, did it look good. So imagine my utter disappointment, when I went to order and found out there was no more nachos left. Really? Quickly I scanned the menu board and chose the Parmesan egg mayo sandwich only to be told that it was off the menu too – they had actually run out of veggie options. Oh for Pete’s sake. They offered me the bacon, Brie and cranberry sandwich sans the bacon, which didn’t quite float my boat, but it was food. I didn’t have much choice. It just wasn’t our day today in many ways. So we sat down at a table – I then noticed that apart from the Americans, four forest workers were also devouring a bowl of nachos each. They were an obvious favourite dish here and I had arrived just too late.
So we ate our fare, the food was really nice and The Dog scrounged titbits from under the table. Suitably nourished and with nothing better to do, we drove back to Spean Bridge and their little Spar shop for vital provisions – beans, crisps and chocolate biscuits before heading back to the site and being quiet, while the rain tapped gently and steadily on our roof. It hadn’t stopped raining all day. Wisps of low cloud wheedled their way between the hills and mountains, like scrawny fingers, the summits completely shrouded in mist. It was very atmospheric and beautiful despite the awful weather. Scotland can do this – look wonderful in all weathers.
We checked that our proposed pub let canines in (yes, they do – the day is looking up at long last) and decided to make the bed up so we could collapse in it straightaway when we got back. At 6:30, we waddled down to the pub, the rain gently falling in stair rods. The pub was open already (yippee) and we walked in, the bar at one end and down both sides, dining tables and chairs, some with a reserved sign on them. Looks like it’s going to be busy, but we were the first in. We sat down and looked at the menu – it was pricey for what it was, but we had no other option. We plumped for the curry and watched the huge telly suspended in the corner. The food arrived, heaps of rice and curry and as a bonus, a large spoonful of tinned vegetables. The Dog got a treat and settled down. The food was nice, but ambitiously priced. We got chatting to the owners and watched Emmerdale. Hubby had another pint. Nobody else came in – so much for the locals supporting their local hostelry – but the owners said they had been ram-packed on Monday and Tuesday with visitors. So fickle was the hospitality industry.
With bellies full, we said goodbye to our hosts and walked back down the lane, the tunnel of trees making it incredibly dark when we turned the torch off. We jumped into bed – it was still quite warm (we left the side door open but the rain kept coming in) – watched the other half of the Star Wars film we had started to watch last night and fallen asleep halfway through. This time we made it to the end. We snuggled down – not the sort of day we had envisaged, full of slight disappointments and lots of rain, but we had made a day of it.
The weather is ridiculous at the moment. The start of October and it’s 15 degrees!!! Almost t-shirt weather! We have been incredibly lucky – 10 days of decent temperatures, missing the rain and a good dose of sunshine. Scotland isn’t usually so kind this late in the year. So we can’t complain about one day of persistent precipitation – it could of been 10 days of constant wetness and we would of been well and truly going stir crazy. We fell asleep content with the world.