We seem to be fortunate to have experiences we would not have dreamed possible back in Bedfordshire and one was our recent trip to Glencoe with a fellow local author Hamish Brown.
Hamish was visiting a group of women climbers to give a talk on his latest book and had an opportunity to stay at the Ladies Scottish Climbing Cottage, The Blackrock Cottage ~ the most photographed cottage in Glencoe. He asked us if we would like to join him for a couple of nights.
We set off excited, albeit nervous as to what we might find, having heard of the primitive nature of bothies in the wilds of Scotland. We need not have worried. Blackrock Cottage has six parts, one just for the lady climbers, the next room – the kitchen – which had a microwave, cooker and all the utensils needed to provide healthy suppers, although no running water. A barrel had to be filled up from the washing facility room, which in turn had a shower, toilet, sink, heating and even a drying room at the far end. The other downstairs room was the living room with a long bench-like table, some assorted cushioned chairs and a welcome open fireplace. I have fond memories of sharing our suppers in the evening and listening to Hamish telling stories of his life whilst sitting around the fire, which my husband so enjoyed getting alight.
At night time we climbed a ladder to adequate bench beds on which we placed our sleeping bags, blankets and pillows. Climbing down the ladder at night to relieve myself was problematic, creeping so as not a wake Hamish whose bed was underneath the ladder, gingerly opening the stable-like door to a wonderful world of frosty grass and a myriad of twinkling stars. I had to pause, on my way back of course, and just stand and stare. It was such an unforgettable experience which will live with me always.
During the day Hamish guided us on drives following the narrow road along Glen Orchy to see the waterfalls and down to Loch Awe, visiting St Conan’s Church along the way, which wasn’t quite what it seemed. We stopped at Glen Coe and Hamish was pleased to see them selling one of his books and then we paused a while at the new Glencoe Centre. As we gazed over a 3 D map of the mountains I asked Hamish, ‘How do you decide which way to take when climbing up a Munroe (Hamish has climbed them all at least seven times!) Not realising I was talking to the octogenarian at my side one of the Trust workers piped up, ‘You look at the contours and decide whether you want to go the easiest way or one with more of a challenge.’ Hamish listened with a wry smile just passing his lips.
Blackrock Cottage held 100 years of recent history having been restored for the use of women climbers back in 1908 when the Scottish Ladies Climbing Club was first established, although its walls spoke of earlier times and the harsh lives of local crofters.