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Review: Unmissable Scotland

Specialist Holiday - Walking

United Kingdom

A Highland Fling in Glen Coe

  • By SilverTraveller STLondon

    8 reviews

  • Aug 2011
  • Husband

58 people found this review helpful

We aren’t regular walkers, but we’d been on a couple of trips with walking holiday specialist HF Holidays and had a fabulous time. Now, we felt, it was time to try something a little more exhilarating than the rolling hills of Tuscany. Scotland, of course, has a reputation as the place for keen walkers and my husband Chris harboured a not-so-secret desire to scale the dizzy heights of Ben Nevis. So off we went to Glen Coe, with HF’s gorgeous country house hotel, Alltshellach, as our base.

Alltshellach – formerly a bishop’s house – stands amid lawned and wooded grounds sweeping down to the shores of Loch Leven, with its superb backdrop of mountains rising to more than 3,000ft above Glen Coe. We couldn’t believe the view from our bedroom window – lush green lawns sloping down to the lochside.

Now, this was no ordinary HF walking holiday. Under the banner “Unmissable Scotland”, a wide range of active, adventurous or more relaxed activities was available to showcase the best the area had to offer. These included white water rafting, sea kayaking and ice climbing, in addition to half or full day walks and visits to islands such as Lismore, Mull, Iona and Skye. For me, an absolute “must” was the journey on the West Highland Railway, which runs 42 miles from Fort William to Mallaig, following the route taken by Harry Potter to the wizard school of Hogwarts.

As a result, our good intentions to do the longest, most difficult walk each and every day were soon overtaken by an enthusiasm for exploring somewhere we’d never been to the full. Oh, and the constant downpour on Day One didn’t help much either. But we can’t expect HF Holidays to fix the Scottish weather, can we!

The Ben Nevis ascent was scheduled for Day Five and we could see the HF Leaders looking at us somewhat dubiously as we put our names up. Who can blame them – we’d probably spent more time on coaches and ferries than we had walking during the first few days. We assured them that we’d be fine, with a tad more confidence than we actually felt.

Well, we made it to the summit – and back down again! The conditions weren’t exactly pleasant, with the top third of the mountain blanketed in cloud (could hardly see our sandwiches when we reached the top) and a howling wind constantly threatening to tip us into the valley below. The ascent took us 3 hours and 40 minutes, which we were told was pretty good (though maybe they were being polite). But coming back down was much more difficult than we’d anticipated, with wet scree, rocks and boulders that were pretty slippery. I found myself flat on my back a couple of times, but it could have been much worse. What an achievement, though.

Another highlight of the week was an evening spent Scottish Country Dancing, under the tutelage of the HF Leaders. Anyone who hasn’t experienced this pursuit before really must have a go. I laughed so hard that I cried. And take it from me, it isn’t easy trying to “Strip The Willow” with tears rolling down your cheeks!

What else can I tell you about? Ah, the food. How could I forget. Superb breakfasts, with a great choice of Scottish specialities in addition to the more usual breakfast items. Evening meals were excellent too, and very sociable, as we sat at tables of eight and shared stories of our daily adventures. On our last evening, we came downstairs to the sound of bagpipes and watched as the piper piped in the haggis. A great touch of local colour to end a memorable week.

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This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 4 Comment(s)

  • discerning-traveller
    about 5 years ago
    I'm on the point of booking a rail holiday but I suspect that I'd want to get off and explore! I have the HF brochure so will check it out. Thanks. Sore knee at the moment but I'm tempted!
  • STLondon
    almost 7 years ago
    Yes, I have to say I'd think hard before deciding to climb it again. Only the promise of beautiful sunshine and clear visibility would lure me up there!
  • Vicky11
    almost 7 years ago
    Congratulation from me too. I did go up to the summit of Ben Navis once but that was in my younger day. It took me a long time to get up there.
  • ESW
    about 7 years ago
    This sounds a marvellous holiday. It is interesting to know that they offer a range of other activities as well as walking. What a shame the weather let you down on the day you did Ben Nevis - and congratulations on making it to the summit.