Thankfully at the time of said birthday, in early April, I wasn't able to get the time off work. This was particularly fortunate as the weather at that time was horrendous even in London, and I did not relish the prospect of trying to ascend Ben Nevis in snow and sub-zero temperatures.
Not that there was much danger of that happening this time around. Having heeded advice to go equipped with several layers of clothing and sundry waterproofs I ended up making the ascent shirtless, in what transpired to be 30-degree heat even at the top of the mountain.
It could have been different though. Having woken up at about 8.00 on an otherwise glorious Tuesday morning we were astounded to look out of the window only to see a heavy mist obscuring our view of more or less everything. Apparently this is quite normal in this part of the world, but had it lingered for half an hour longer than it did we would have been compelled to call off our mission.
As it happens I was surprised to make it to the summit. Although as a family we are quite good at planning events in the abstract, in practice we tend to leave everything to the last minute and travel unprepared. Even on this occasion we left half our water supplies back at the room and forgot to make good the deficit when we arrived at the store which is so conveniently located at the foot of the mountain.
But we did it, somehow, and I owe a big thank you to Caroline for persisting with this mad idea in the face of several unsuccessful attempts by myself to discourage it.
The climb itself occupied only one of four wonderful days in the Highlands. Having flown into Inverness on the first day we took a look around the city before heading off in our hired car to Ardgour (pronounced Ar-gower), which we reached with the aid of a car ferry some eight miles south of Fort William.
We stayed throughout at a marvellous little place called the Inn at Ardgour. I had feared that both the Inn and Ardgour itself would be too remote and unadventurous for our 16-year-old twins, but they loved it every bit as much as we did.
We were very fortunate to have had the weather we did, and I can imagine that Ardgour and indeed much of the region would be somewhat bleak when it is cold, and wet, and covered in snow. One minor disappointment was that I had been looking forward to undertaking my own personal "pub crawl" between the Inn and the Corran Inn, on the opposite side of the ferry crossing, but as fate had it the latter was closed for refurbishment.
All the same I would recommend the Inn at Ardgour to anybody for a nice break away from it all. The food is excellent, the bedrooms are clean and spacious and the hosts (English as it happens) are friendly and welcoming. The location is very much "away from it all", with scenery that is in places quite breathtaking. During our stay we took a pleasant boat cruise on Loch Linnhe, though I suspect the seals and porpoises which adorn their advertising material are as conspicuous by their absence as their monster.
And now, once more, into the breach.
|The Summit of the Ben|
|Joe, Caz and Rosie at the Summit|