It was a cold, clear November day in the Highlands. I woke up that morning in a hotel in Ballachulish, delighted to see that snow had fallen on the hilltops overnight. I didn't know what I wanted to do that day. I considered climbing Ben Nevis, as this was the first clear day I had seen in weeks. My lazy start to the morning however, paired with the fact that weather could move in quickly and more snow was in the forecast, curbed that plan. So I set my sights on Glenfinnan, to see the Viaduct and the Highlander monument on the shores of Loch Shiel where Prince Charles Edward Stuart first raised his standard.
On my way out of Ballachulish, just over the bridge, I stopped for gas and the friendly attendant suggested I take the Corran ferry across the narrows of Loch Linnhe and connect with the A861 instead of driving all the way to Fort William and around. "You'll get views of Ben Nevis across the loch that way," he said, remarking on the rare fortune I had of seeing the full mountain. (Even on the seemingly clearest of days, Ben Nevis can find a cloud to moodily shroud itself in.) In true small town fashion, his precision directions to the ferry included "you can't miss it," and "its just around a corner," and "its not too far." Luckily I speak small town directions fluently and set off to find the wee ferry. Well, wee it truly was! It was boarding as I pulled into the line behind a small truck with a trailer attached. I assumed I would need to wait for the next ferry. "Oh ye of little faith," the ferry man clearly thought as he gestured for me to drive aboard. If you've never driven on a ferry before, here's the key - watch the ferryman's finger. You won't believe you can possibly go any closer, your foot will stomp the breaks prematurely a couple times, you'll look up to check that the man still looks to be in possession of his senses, you'll follow that impatient finger again and then in a flash, his hand will go up when you are a hair's breadth away from the next vehicle. Trust the ferryman. This was my third ferry ride in Scotland, the first two being large, enclosed, multilevel Cal-Mac ferries to and from the Outer Hebrides. This tiny little ferry was open air and quick - it was under 10 minutes from boarding to deboarding. After the mini voyage is under way, they collect your toll (£7 I believe it was) and before you know it you're driving off the other side to the village of Ardgour. (Side note - this is one of the reasons it is always good to have some cash on you. Cards are accepted most everywhere but you never know when something might pop up.)
The day was so crisp. The air was so clean. As had been the theme of that first visit to Scotland, I felt incredibly free. As I drove off the ferry, I didn't notice the little beach at first, but I had pulled over next to it to find a snack in the car. As I ate I took in the muted orange of the hills around me, displaying their full autumn glory. I surveyed the road ahead for my next move. My eyes found the beach in front of me and I was surprised to see a piece of sea glass. So I found myself walking along the narrow rocky beach, eyes peeled for more. Really it is loch glass, to be technical....But the same weathering principle applies - discarded bits of glass, tumbling around in the water for decades, becoming beautiful, frosted treasures with an inner glow that calls to collectors like me.