Sunday, 23 November 2014

And remembers her trip beyond the sun....

Made you look!

Actually it was almost true. A couple of weekends ago, on a gloriously sunny afternoon, MrS and I went for "a wee drive", and as I'm always keen to stretch a day trip to its limits we needed to fill up with petrol. In fact MrS was getting a bit twitchy that we may have gone beyond the point where miles to next fill up exceeded miles left in tank. Twitchy was heading towards tetchy when my confident ( but with fingers crossed) assertion that " I'm sure there's a garage here....." manifested as reality. It was chilly getting out of the car and I remarked on that to the cashier "....Oh yes, we won't get the sun here now until March...". It was just past midday.

Tank full we could continue along a road that has intrigued me many times. If we'd ever managed so far north on childhood trips my curiosity might have been satisfied sooner; back in the '70s before the Ballachulish bridge opened, travellers either crossed Loch Leven by ferry or took the long way round via the head of the loch and Kinlochleven. Now the A82 emerges blinking from Glencoe and speeds north across the bridge to Fort William and Inverness, signs pleading for a detour ignored until now.

Once after a swish past, I must have looked it up. Kinlochleven. What I learned made me desperate to go there. Even its own website calls it "The hidden village in the highlands". I imagine it's mostly seen the back of the sun until the spring and its time in the sun was decades ago. On our visit it was laced with mist.

Kinlochleven is a manufactured community, before the early 1900s it was just two small crofting settlements on either side of the river Leven. Then a huge industrial plant was built, an aluminium smelter and a hydro scheme to provide power. Homes had to be built for the management and workers and so a town which wouldn't look out of place on the outskirts of London grew up in a valley in the highlands of Scotland. I have a bit of a thing for planned settlements so it wasn't unattractive to me, plus it's also post industrial (the smelter closed in 1996) and has an abandoned hotel high up in the hills overlooking it.

View towards old industrial buildings
Luckily the town hasn't been abandoned, it's the penultimate stop on the West Highland Way so gets lots of (tired)footfall from that
Dogstarke on the West Highland Way.
One of the old industrial buildings now houses The Ice Factor, a huge indoor ice climbing wall and another a micro brewery. It's also popular with mountain bikers. Neither activities I take part in, but as Miss Brodie said of the Guides...................* There was a biking event on the day we were there; its bright pennants and pumping music added to the slightly surreal air. I couldn't help thinking of the recent TV programme "Les Revenants", there's a dam high above this town too, with stories told about the lives lived and lost building it.




The story of the town is told in an exhibition within the Post Office building but it was closed when we visited. So we'll need to go back. But perhaps when the sun does.



* {"For those who like that sort of thing" said Miss Brodie in her best Edinburgh voice, "that is the kind of thing they like" } "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" Dame Muriel Spark (1961)








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