Today is our last day in Scotland. Tomorrow we hit the road south for more technology and engineering and the natural environment in the UK. Scotland has been amazing. Everyday has brought a dozen ‘Oh Wow’ moments. Scotland has kept me striving for the biscuit tin photograph.
Today was a bit special in 2 ways. We were revisiting a favourite spot from 3 years ago - Glenfinnan. (I repeatedly and mistakenly and deliberately called it after a Scotch Whiskey I once heard of). And we were to get out to a little fishing village that had intrigued me for just as long.
Another insane long drive to both. (I promise I will get to the tale of why we based ourselves so far from what we want to do). Then off to the two final Scottish activities.
Hundreds of other visitors wanting to see the same. On this random Thursday afternoon in September: the carpark, the road, the overflow carpark, the verge of the road, every dot of space for hundreds of meters (sorry yards), blocked. Traffic could not move at all. It was like driving through the centre of any major city in the world.
In these circumstances I am quick to give up and reschedule my day. I was more interested in the viaduct than the train. We can come back later when the train has done its thing. So on to Mallaig.
This pretty little fishing village is right on the west coast of the mainland. The road stops here. It is the place to catch a ferry to many Scottish isles near and far.
We arrived and the place was abuzz. Every carpark was full. Every footpath clogged. Every coffee shop teeming.
It was here I had a most unusual feeling fall all across me. Especially after my rant yesterday about the oil rig tourist opportunities. I felt a massive sense of guilt. I wanted to get out of the place as quickly as possible. Leave them all to it. Drag all the other oglers along with me. I was an interloper in their life. There is a problem of congestion in Mallaig and I was not part of the solution. As long as I remained, I was the problem. It is a lovely little village as the few pictures I took testify. But it is a working village and I was in the way.
I am sure they love the tourist Dollar, Yen and Euro.
Sure the raft of international young baristas love the opportunity to work here.
But I felt bad, an intruder, out of place.
Mallaig is the destination for the Harry Potter train. Everywhere we walked the travellers were keen to be at the station for the arrival of the train. Mustn’t miss it!
I was saddened by the whole spectacle. Worse, these were not families with young Harry Potter fans leading the parade. Most of them were just like me. Retired grandparents. Tonight, they will FaceTime their children’s children to tell them about the Harry Potter train.
It was sad. I felt guilty. I needed to contribute to the economy somehow. A double espresso in a crowded coffee shop allowed that. (yeh OK I needed it)
In front of me, the coffee shop emptied as the time approached 1215.
We grabbed Siri to get us out of Mallaig, and not see the train.
Upside! The train is not due to head back for over 2 hours.
We will have the viaduct to ourselves.
We found a park in the overflow carpark. It was still full to capacity. I just can’t believe this part of Scotland can be so so busy on a normal day at the end of the season.
The viaduct is spectacular. I can see why it was a star in the Harry Potter movie. It is just the right kind of spectacle to build a scene around. Getting to it through the approaching rain was a wonder of Scotland. You can’t claim to visit Scotland till you are wet and cold and loving it.
I was. I still am as I write tonight. I was soaked. Along with the hundreds of others clambering through the, hmmm, bog!
I was not brave enough to get to the summit in the soggy rain over the boggy track. So we slipped and slid back to the car.
By now it was approaching 2.30. Only 45 minutes till the Harry would grace Glenfinnan with his steam driven presence.
We had other plans. Exit stage east!
The traffic jam faded into my rear view mirror. What an amazing day. I learned something about me today. Not too sure what it was but it will be important.
I have had that feeling once before. The feeling of being an intruder in someone else’s important life. Being somewhere I ought not to be. I felt it visiting Tiffanies in New York. It seemed filled with tourists in shorts and sandals. It was crowded with gawkers. Worst of all I am sure almost none of them knew about a Stirling Silver Telephone Dialler. (£81 on eBay today)
I think some things deserve a reverence. Tiffanies is the most expensive jewellery real estate in the world. I felt it deserved more reverence from its visitors. I know, no one in Tiffanies complained.
It is just me.
Today I wanted the little town of Mallaig to have some mmm… privacy from us… the tourist. Does not even make sense to me. Many of the locals don't mindl I am sure. But sometimes you feel something you don't understand at all.
I’ll go back to the majesty of the viaduct. That I understand.