By “The Photographer’s Assistant
After a day’s driving, we are at one of the greatest places for outdoor sports in the world. We have arrived at Glen Coe. It is a climber’s and walker’s paradise and these days, a cyclist’s too. The terrain will challenge and frighten you in equal measure and if you don’t think there is a master of the universe somewhere, this will convince you.
The hills and mountains are enormous and today, they are fearsome, shrouded in cloud with persistent changes and shifts of weather. If you were up there today, you’d be highly experienced or in insane or possibly both.
The car has come to a halt at a hallowed spot. We have arrived at the Clagaich Inn. This is simply the best place to stay if you are into outdoor sport. It is renowned for it’s atmosphere and lives up to its reputation. We start to unload the car. We have two branded climber’s bags and reputable walking boots, plus the Photographer has two cameras and a distant look. This should give us the correct entry ticket. We are given a professional welcome, and handed our keys at reception, which also boasts a printed and detailed description of the day’s weather forecast for the mountains, displayed so that no one can miss it. This detailed description will appear every day. There is no doubt that this is not a place to think that you are superior to the weather as it might even kill you!
Our room is basic, but it is clean and has all you need. You can have a proper shower, where the dirt and sweat will literally be blasted off you. Your bed is made. Biscuits and tea and coffee are generously supplied and the telly works, although the signal sways with the weather! Actually, the bed is superb and the towels are even large enough for you to dry your whole body. There are no frills.This is a male environment, girlies should be tough! The Photographer’s Assistant is silent and slightly giggly, trying not to make a twit of herself. She spends the next three days trying to be good, which is really difficult.
Having arrived in the evening, the Photographer having gone potty taking large scale photographs all the way, trying to kill his awe and take a proper photo, we decide that this is the moment for a pint. Like all walkers and climbers, and even cyclists, we eschew the comfy lounge bar, the Assistant realising sadly that this is not even an option. We make our way to the Boots Bar. To do this you have to go outside in the pouring rain and blasted wind, and walk around the building. (Remember we are just up the road from Macbeth’s Rannoch Moor) The Boots Bar is a proper pub bar and is outside so that if you want to keep your boots on, you can. It is a huge bar, basic, but with great atmosphere. The food is quick, hot and superb. It has a snooker table for those horrid wet nights and an eclectic selection of music. The bar staff are great and usually outdoor types themselves. We are mid week so it is quiet and clear that even today, if you are a guy, the seasons colours are grey hair and black T shirts, maybe, even a pair of shorts (so as to get cold to show how matcho you are ).
There are a couple of very nice gay men, who are obviously serious walkers, have pleasant manners, and are more matcho than the straight guys. They go shunned, but unchallenged for the whole time that we are there. They were very nice to the Assistant, but clearly regarded the snooker players as not serious enthusiasts.
Meanwhile on the snooker table an Aberdonian fireman and a Canadian bar owner, both of whom having sampled all the considerable range of cask ales are now working their way through the single malts, discuss the relative size of Scottish or Canadian balls (snooker apparently) while trying to fit a pound coin into the slot swaying before their eyes.
Breakfast dawned. The grey hair black T shirt brigade were clearly on the steep path to decline. Who wears their pyjama shorts to breakfast in a hotel? One of them nearly trod on the Assistant in his effort to avoid female contact. The female took this as a compliment as she had put her fleece on the wrong way round but was still seen as a woman!
Having had a deeply serious breakfast, the Photographer studied the weather board and informed the Assistant that walking would be foolish, the Assistant, who was very tired after a recent hazardous ten mile hike was secretly delighted, being on safe ground she joined in with the deep regrets, whilst quietly delighted. The black T shirt brigade were thrown, but not so the Photographer, who decided to drive and follow his nose. The weather was appalling, it was throwing water and wind at everything, but occasionally, it took a breath and the Photographer took full advantage, producing some incredible shots of fast moving, boiling water. He took us down Glen Etive, a single track and quite hazardous road, where the water was furious and very fast flowing. We later discovered that this had been the place that the latest James Bond film had been made, presumably because of its wild nature.
The Assistant and the Photographer have, for years thought that golden eagles were just something that it was impossible to see, but we saw one. We have no proof because the Assistant got in a muddle with the binoculars and the Photographer had put his camera out of reach. We were both beside ourselves, so you will just have to believe us.
The Photographer spent the evening in a dark area of the Boots bar, totally silent amidst whisky fumes, and he wore grey hair and a black T shirt.