I am trying to get the most out of my Three Days in Five bus pass, and I am off from Perth to Inverness, the country's fastest growing city. On the way I ask the driver to stop for a few seconds in the main street of Newtonmore where my old friend Lyn and her son David run the popular cafe The Tuck Shop. Lyn makes me a packed lunch which Dave delivers to the door of the bus and I hand him a large and heavy bottle of wine and some spare clothes. It all takes 10 seconds.
We haven't met for 32 years but will catch up properly on my return south later in the week. Lyn's homemade Dundee cake is out of this world. Inverness is humming with great pubs, cafes, shops and a music scene. I enjoyed the Victorian Market and the Tourist Office is very helpful with ferry timetables. It was a 6th Century Pict settlement and now home of Inverness Caledonian Thistle, who were to win away at Morton FC later in the day, and hopefully get back into the SPL top division. I am off to Loch Ness and sit next to a Chinese student and tell her some tall tales about The Loch Ness Monster and the monster myths.
Many years ago I spent the night in the loch side hostel with the waters lapping below my bedroom windows. After a couple of beers with the warden and other guests at a pub down the road, I could imagine just about anything looking at the dark peaty waters, waves and shadows. It's 233 meters deep and contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined. Actually at this time of the year I think Nessie is probably on vacation in the warm Mediterranean, close to the the Glasgow bad guys that have bought houses on their ill-gotten gains down Benidorm and Malaga way.
We stop at Urqhart Castle, on a headland, and a great Nessie look out, and then over the Caledonian Canal. The loch and The Great Glen splits Scotland in two from the Moray Forth to Ft. William where I am heading. The town lies in the shadow of Ben Nevis the biggest mountain in Britain and at the pier you can go out into Loch Linnhe to look at the wildlife, or sample malts at the Ben Nevis Distillery. Ft William has a team in The Highland League but they are not doing too well right now and have trouble competing for talent with Shinty, which is very popular in the highlands. Ft. William promotes itself as the outdoor capital of Britain. www.discover-fortwilliam.com.
Recently owner Paul McDonald, who has a media company, PMAC Tonight, is going to start a TV series called From Worst to First, featuring the team and coach Callum Maclean at their Claggan Park Stadium. Last year they finished in 15th place-a long climb is ahead for The Fort's. www.fortwilliamfc.co.uk