Thursday 14 September 2023

Fort William Sojourn (3)

On The Way : Bits fbb Missed Out

Google Maps reckons the fbb's run from Seaton to Fort William should have taken a tad under ten hours; presumably chauffeured by Lewis Hamilton and with no stops for fuel, PNBs, snacks, congestion and driver's hours regulations.

The route made use of FOUR stops, THREE at delightful motorway service areas, ONE at a delightful Dumfriesshire town.

The "pick-up" driver conveyed his delighted passengers as far as Michaelwood; which, as we all know, is in South Gloucestershire not far from Thonbury. (map. top right).
Named, not after a village but after Michael Wood on the borders of which it sits.
It seems an unwritten law (possibly even a written one) that coach passengers are treated like demented sheep at service areas. At Michaelwood parking was round the back not quite with the bins but nearly so.
Very much the back door but, fortuitously next to the toilets. One problem, of course, is that most of these service areas were designed when coaches were small; as below with an earlier Lochs and Glens motor.
There are often marked spaces about 6 feet short of the new coach length.
The coaches are BIG!

And So To Charnock Richard.
It's near Chorley. fbb was so overjoyed with the tatty atmosphere and the utter yuk on offer that he forgot to take any pictures until the coach was, thankfully, backing out.
Again, coach passengers had a death defying trek to get from vehicle to entry. The gents was well hidden to compound fbb's ecstatic enjoyment. After Charnock Richard, Moffat was a relief in more ways than one.

Mystery At Moffat Mill
At least it is named after a place some people have heard of.
Like almost every settlement north of Gretna Green, Moffat has a Woollen Mill. None of them appear to make woolllien goods but Moffat does make something of its long-lost history. There are a couple of looms ...
... and a meaningful information board.
But actually it is just a huge shop.
The yellow brick road takes you, sadly not to the Emerald City, but about three miles away to the "conveniences" which are far from convenient.
There is a goodly oodle of coach parking as it is coaches that bring the vast majority of the shops' revenue. The small building with a small car park is the Co-op ...
... tiny by comparison!

The last stop was Stirling Services, close to the site of the Battle of Bannockburn (Scots slaughtering English making a pleasant change from Culloden) ...
... and this set-down was very much  round the back by the the bins.
It is fortunate that, as far as fbb could tell, Lochs and Glens coaches can bend in the middle. That was the only way you could get in.
Niall (pronounced Neil) could not get out going forrards, and thus had to reverse up a hill, round a corner and along a bit to escape via the lorry park. fbb would have struggled with the family limo!!

The services themselves were uninspiring. The fbbs walked through to the loo and quickly returned to the coach.
Are the fbbs getting old (YES!) and do these service areas seem to be getting more revolting? (YES!)

See, for example, the display of Krispy Kreme donuts (doughnuts) that, as well as being covered in dayglo pink or yellow icing, are not crispy nor do they contain cream.

Saving The Best Till Last
Glencoe is always spectacular; but, by the time the fbbs and their late-running coach were descending towards the coast and their destination, the light, and thus the views, were beginning to fade. Instead came a gorgeous sunset ...
... a fitting welcome after a hard day.

A Technological P.S.
In his piece on the Caledonian Canal (yesterday) fbb forgot to include the replacement for the man-worked capstans which opened and closed the massive lock gates.
Today's lock keeper just moves a little lever.
Hydraulic magic does the hard bit!

On The Way We Saw A Train
Or part of one. As we zoomed northwards on the M6, M74 and A74M we overtook a wide load.

First the warning van ...
... then the back of the carriage ...
... then the rest of the carriage ...
...and finally at the front ...
... the "rig".

fbb has yet to find out where it was going but is guessing the Strathspey Railway which runs from Aviemore. The tour coach will be going there today, so an answer might be forthcoming.

A Window Seat?
On last year's excursion to the wilds of Caledonia, the fbbs were able to book seats 1 and 2 right at the front with the whole expanse of the front windscreen to gaze through. It was superb.

Sadly, this time, those seats were already taken. What would be the alternative? Easy peasy; fbb chose the two seats immediately behind the emergency exit and rope ladder down to the on-board toilet.
So what, you may ask?

Here you get TWO full sized side windows with just a dribble of curtain between the two. Panoramic pulchritude was presented permanently whilst on board.
The coach was far from full, so the seats opposite were empty and a quick sidle across helped with nearside views as in the railway carriage pictures.

And Yesterday's Hinted Rarity?
On 320 days of the year the summit of Ben Nevis is shrouded in cloud.  On the other 36 you can see the summit. One evening view on Tuesday was not well photographed but still clear.
But the mountain loomed very effectively. But Tuesday was a bright sunny day. So, earlier, Ben was beauteously clear and unsullied by any accumulation of water vapour.
Somehow it doesn't actually look as impressive in the sunshine! Gorgeous, but not impressive!

Next we combine coach, closed railway and a boat cruise. And we wonder at the disappearance of Maisie MacSporran.

 Next Fort William blog : Friday 15rh September 


  1. A delayed response to Monday's post- you won't be going via Corran Ferry as the vehicle ferry is currently'broken' (yes, yet another Scottish ferry failure) and only a pssemger boat is in operation. This is all causing great inconvenience to the inhabitants of Ardgour, Morvern. See et

  2. Always puzzles and annoys me why toilets at motorway services are deliberately put as far as away as possible, requiring a walk past all the retail and food outlets. It's not as if anyone who needs the toilet is going to postpone the visit and stop off for a bit of grub instead.

    1. ...but on the way back, perhaps?

  3. I suspect that your suspicion about the Strathspey Railway is correct. I say this because the same low-loader appeared at the Keith & Dufftown Railway with a rather sad class 107 DMU coach on board, with another to follow ? Did the vehicle unload the maroon coach and load the DMU car at Aviemore? Seems a reasonable guess.