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Rest day in Fort Augustus

We chose to take a rest day in Fort Augustus for several reasons:

  1. It’s halfway along the route, giving us three days of walking on either side.
  2. The travel guide informed us that Fort Augustus is “the biggest town between Fort William and Inverness”.
  3. The travel group that arranged the walk for us suggested Fort Augustus as an excellent place to take an extra day. Now I don’t remember everything they said (the website has changed a bit since we booked our travel), but I believe they called it “bustling” and, mentioned things like cruises, castles, and quaint shops.

All good reasons to stop there, right?

Well. When we arrived on Thursday we stopped by the visitor center as we passed (very nice little place), and then looked through a couple of shops. We had lunch in one of the local restaurants, then headed to the B&B (by way of the gas station, of course) for an early night.

At this point we had seen 90% of the interesting sights in Fort Augustus. What remained was the glass shop (which never opened), the Clansman Center (which took 5 minutes of looking–plus 10 minutes of swinger B&B talk–as we didn’t want to pay the fee to see the “museum” portion; it looked dumb through the window), the boat ride (which we could have arranged just as easily from another town), and the rare breeds park (which was pretty awesome, but could have been visited on our way out of town, since the next leg of the walk is only 8 miles).

In other words, if I were to do it again, I’d spend my rest day elsewhere. (Specifically, in Drumnadrochit. But more on that later.)

So, early risers that we are, we slept in until about 8:00 on Friday, and then wandered down to town to see what there was to see. (This was before we realized that we’d seen almost everything when we walked through town on Friday.)

Only nothing opened for another couple of hours, so we found a cafe with mediocre coffee and sat and looked at our guidebooks for an hour. This is where we met two other walkers–our first of the trip–who were not taking a rest day in Fort Augustus. Smart ladies that they were, they’d realized in advance that they could see everything they wanted to see in the morning, and still have plenty of time to make the trek to Invermoriston.

Of course, my job was to be relentlessly cheerful, so I was determined to find everything delightful.

And guess what? The Rare Breeds Park really was delightful.

This little park was really a mini, self-guided tour, and we didn’t see anyone else while we were there–not even park caretakers. We honorably placed our entrance fees in the box, then wandered around looking at all the interesting animals.

At the Rare Breeds Park: highland cattle, donkeys, shetland ponies, turkeys (yikes!), and various other animals that I couldn’t readily name.

Notes to self: real shetland ponies are way stockier than the versions I’ve seen in the US. Which admittedly are few, and many years back. Also, that that turkey was SPOOKY cool, and highland cattle are as cool in person as they are in the omnipresent postcards.

Next up: the boat ride. There were two options, a standard covered boat and a rib boat. The standard covered boat takes a short trip down and around Loch Ness and has radar so you can Nessie-hunt. The rib boat goes twice as far down the loch, all the way to Urquhart Castle. It doesn’t have a radar (or a roof), but it does include more wildlife viewing and lets you see the castle. We wanted to see the castle, so we chose the rib boat.

The rib boat. We bounced, we jounced, we froze a bit. Grand fun!

We had to wait around a while for this one, because they only run the tour when they have sufficient people to weigh down the boat. While waiting, we saw everything else we could possibly see in town (including several meanders past the glass shop, which remained closed).

When the time came, we suited up.

Honestly, in this picture we’re trying to look as wide as possible. I’m purposefully holding my arm away from my side.

So a general word about this boat trip: it would be way more enjoyable in warmer weather. I think I might have gotten frostbite on my nose. But at least I saw some cool stuff!

A Benedictine abbey that has been converted into luxury flats. We only saw this from the boat.

Loch Ness from the rib boat.

Oh, the duck! This dude just cracked me up. I took about 3 dozen pictures of him.

And that was the end of our rest day in Fort Augustus!