Getting away from it all

It’s summertime, and everybody’s on the move.  I seem to recall that in one of his lesser-known novels – Kangaroo maybe – D. H. Lawrence was extremely dismissive of the whole idea of being a tourist.  He loved the idea of travel but he thought of tourism as a kind of hallucination of travel, an indulgence of the well-to-do who would foray abroad and then return home to bore their friends with photographs of famous locations such as Venice or Florence.  But only this week a lady on the radio announced with great sadness that she was ending her love affair with Florence, simply because it is now crammed with tourists.  You might call it the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of Tourism: the tourists’ voyeurism disturbs the location.  Look at that extraordinary picture of the hundreds of tourist-climbers queuing to negotiate Hillary’s Step en route to knocking Everest off their bucket-list.  What would Sir Ed have made of it?  But you don’t need to go abroad to witness this phenomenon.  Last Tuesday I walked the seven hills of Edinburgh and three of them – Castle, Calton, and Arthur’s Seat, were mobbed.  I heard every language under the sun.  The Isle of Skye is overrun with visitors to the Fairy Pools, the Old Man of Storr, and the Quairang.  They’ve run out of parking lots and toilet facilities.  My mum was from Skye (actually the island of Soay); I’ve been going to Skye all my life, and for the most part it has been utterly deserted.  Then the extraordinary, Tolkienesque escarpments of Trotternish were discovered as a film location, and the hotels hiked their prices up to £400 a night.  Last time I was in Skye it was to attend a funeral, and I couldn’t get any accommodation on the island, so ended up staying on the mainland, near the Mallaig – Armadale ferry at the Station Hotel in Morar, where Sir Arnold Bax wintered to score his symphonies (the tourists don’t know that, and wouldn’t care anyway).  On the mainland, the far north has become another tourist trap.  A single track road has turned into the Indianapolis 500.  In Shetland (my friend the Viking tells me) enormous cruise liners are anchored off Sumburgh.

My own preference is to get off the beaten track.  But here I encounter a difficulty.  If I extol the virtues of unknown locations, will I thus contribute to the pollution of their pristine environment?  Well, not having 2.4 million followers (as far as I know), I’ll take a chance.  Proceed north-west out of Glasgow.  The Loch Lomond road will be jammed solid so at first it’s not very promising, but stick with it, and when you turn left at Tarbet the traffic will begin to thin.  You skirt the edge of Loch Long at Arrochar, pass the Cobbler on your right, and make the long ascent to the Rest and Be Thankful.  Down the other side, you might be on the way to Oban, but instead, turn left and head for Loch Fyne, and you will have the world to yourself.

Proceed further into this magical territory.  Pass through St Catherines on the way to Strachur.  Chopin stayed here, with Jane Stirling (the tourists don’t know that, and wouldn’t care anyway).  Now hang a right and skirt the loch before leaving it to take the long defile through Glendaruel.  You are heading for Colintraive but before you get there, turn right.  Now you are here.  The Cowal Peninsula.  Argyle’s secret coast.

Beguiling Argyll.

Shh!  Dinny tell ony buddy.                                    

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