Ah, Glen Albyn. Not the kind of famous that you instantly recognize the name, but once pointed out to you, you’ll never forget and may feel a little silly that you didn’t know already. Like those character actors who are in a hundred things but you never knew their name until maybe, one day, you learned; a Stephen Tobolowsky type. That said, Glen Albyn is bigger than that. MUCH bigger. Like 66 miles bigger. Har-dee-har-har, but forgive a guy some fun, please? Glen Albyn is also known as “the Great Glen” and is a gorgeous region where two tectonic plates are colliding, forming a tremendous valley largely composed of lakes. One of our friends had called it out as a must-see and they were absolutely right.
Back in 2012, when we plotted out our honeymoon (largely) in Ireland, we set ourselves up with a problem that we’ve tried to avoid ever since: we drove a lot. Like, a lot a lot. Each day would have us drive to a new town, seeing some sights along the way, then settling in to our lodging and finding a meal before bedding down so we could do it all again the next day. We certainly had a lot of good times, but we’ve got a strong preference for not spending all day in a car when we can avoid it. That said, this was a day for road tripping and since we don’t do it that much it wasn’t a hard pill to swallow. The itinerary was to pop up in the morning, scoot to the base of the Great Glen at Fort William and then drive along the north side of the lochs all the way up Inverness, where we’d find a nibble before heading back along the southern edge. Lisa had not slept amazingly well for a couple days so she begged off the drive to kick her heels up, read and relax, and (oh yeah) go to high tea in the Dunalastair (aka our digs). She is a sucker for a good high tea. 🙂
The region is just beautiful to meander through. It’s miles and miles of green, wide lakes connected by brief rivers like this one (or maybe it’s still consider part of a lake? Somebody feel free to chime in).
We even managed to find the Loch Ness Monster, although s/he wasn’t quite what I had been expecting.
Fort Augustus, located at the bottom of Loch Ness, was both over- and underwhelming. On the one hand, given the bucolic nature of much of non-Edinburgh Scotland, being anywhere focused on the tourist trade was a sudden and sharp change; it felt like there were tons of people and nowhere quiet. On the other hand, that “tons of people” were probably, maybe, a thousand people tops. There was one modest-size carpark that wasn’t even all full. And yeah, there was “Monster Fish & Chips Co.” and a sandwich joint called “DelightfulNESS”, and you could buy as many stuffed dinomonsters as you could possibly ever want, it was still no more than a city block or two of developed businesses, then back to normal. So, we stopped for sandwiches and ice cream and then got the heck out of dodge.
Inverness, while the landmark for turning ourselves around, did not have a lot to recommend it, if only because it’s a working town and for non-vacationers it was a weekday afternoon with all that entails. So commute traffic, plus the fact that the most promising opportunities to get out and look around were enveloped and scaffolding, works scurrying around like ants. We found ourselves a nice spot on a side street for a quiet if average dinner, then made for home. Does that seem odd, that we’d feed ourselves with no thought given for Lisa’s plans? Well.
Lisa is one of those people who likes taking tea. Not just a cuppa and a cookie, nope. She likes a full on, multi-level offering, TEA. Which the place we were staying offered. So she bid us farewell in the morning, puttered around a bit, and then happily took herself down to the main floor to enjoy.
And enjoy she did.
This was easily a tea enough for two who like to share as there were two different three-tiered stands, one savory, the other sweet. The savory tiers were made up of haggis “bon bons”, a trio of finger sandwiches (Scottish salmon and cream cheese, Isle of Mull Cheddar with red onion jam, and Roasted Ayrshire ham with chutney), and a miniature portion of a creamy vegetable soup. The sweet tiers were a scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam, cinnamon swirl cake, a lemon posset, and chocolate macarons. A pot of black tea rounded out the afternoon and everything was consumed over several hours of edible indulgence.
Once we reconvened as a group, there wasn’t much left to the day but to swap stories and settle in to the familiar pattern of quiet and recharging ourselves for the next day out.