Waking up with a different view each morning is one of the best parts of tour guiding – and I like to use the dawn light to find new walks to share with the guests. In Fort Augustus, I borrowed my host’s dog, Bobby, a young black Labrador, who seemed intent on dislocating my shoulder. We set off as the sun rose over Beinn a’Bhacaidh; Loch Ness shimmered in the cool light.
We crossed the bascule bridge over the Caledonian Canal. A staircase of water locks stretched away to our right – boats waited at the top and bottom for the locks to open. Bobby’s ears perked up, his nose started sniffing like a chef sensing the soufflés were singeing. He hurtled along the canal path dragging me with him.
We ran to the top of the locks where Bobby stopped. Beside us was the morning traffic. Put put pleasure boats jostled with grand tall yachts for pole position. Something was moving on an orange and green Dutch long-boat. Bobby whined as a furry face poked out from the hold. The scruffy terrier panted a couple of times, eyed Bobby, then disappeared below deck. Once the lock man woke up, these boats would travel on to Inverness and then out to the North Sea.
We headed back onto the pavement and walked past the monastery. Bobby span round my legs as a touring motorbike hummed by, then barked when it had turned the corner. An old stone bridge arched over river Tarff in front of us, to our left a path left the pavement. Bobby looked to me for confirmation, then headed down.
A forest of mature oaks stood over a carpet of bluebells. The sun was up now; it evaporated the forest floor dew, warmed the wild garlic and white flowers. I could hear the baaing of waking sheep. We walked on till a meadow opened out before us – dozens of ewes and lambs lay in the grass. A farmer in his pick-up truck drove around the field checking his flock. Music was playing in the truck, and it floated over the air, slightly too quiet to recognise.
Bobby and I headed back into town. I dropped him off then went to meet the guests. The meadow path had certainly made it onto my recommendations for clients – Bobby had been a good companion. That being said, my shoulder was a bit raw.
McKinlay Kidd offer a number of small group guided rail tours, including ‘Loch Ness, The Jacobite & Skye’, with departure dates in both 2019 or 2020. Reserve your place today, or call our team on 0141 260 9260 for more information.