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Sunday, 29 May 2011

The 2011 Challenge, Prologue: getting to the start (7)

I ought, perhaps, to explain why it was that I decided to start this year from Acharacle, and why I was travelling to Glenfinnan on the Tuesday when the Challenge did not actually start until the Friday.

Starting at Acharacle in 2011 was important to me because it was almost exactly a quarter of a century since I had fallen in love with the Highlands of Scotland, and this happened at Acharacle. At Easter 1986, during my last holiday before I sat my A level examinations, my parents and I had gone touring in Scotland, and we spent several days staying in the hotal at Acharacle. I was simply overawaed by everything I saw (as so many people are, on first encountering the majestic Highland landscape) and have returned to Scotland practically every year since. I was anxious, therefore, to mark this significant anniversary by starting at Acharacle, from that very same hotel where I first learned to love this place.

Acharacle is at the South-West end of Loch Shiel, and is difficult to access by public transport. Glenfinnan is at the North-East end of Loch Shiel, and is easily accessed by public transport as it has a railway station. And every Wednesday, a boat sails the entire length of the loch, landing at Acharacle for passengers to take lunch. The return fare is £25; and a one-way ticket can be had for £16. So this is how I decided to travel to Acharacle. But although the boat cruises on the loch on other days, it is only on a Wednesday that it runs the full length of the loch.

The boat which provides this service is the Sileas (pictured at her moorings). She is a former Admiralty HL(D) - which stands for Harbour Launch (Diesel), a hardy and versatile breed of vessel which were built in large numbers during the Second World War to service the needs of the fleet at anchor, and subsequently sold into civilian service where they have found many and varied uses. She is a delightful vessel, and I am glad I travelled aboard her.

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