main road - usually because Ann wants to snooze, and can't do that on the twisty roads
- I notice the scenery around the A9, maybe just because there's a particularly flattering
light, or because there's some moody-looking mist wrapping the forests and hills, or be-
cause it's time for the seasonal drama of autumn leaf colours, and I realise that actually it
goes through some very impressive landscapes, that if I lived in Holland or East Anglia or
even London or the Midlands, I'd regard this scenery as something close to breathtaking.
I've just got too used to it, too accustomed to regarding the A9 as an honorary motorway;
a conveyor belt that takes you to where the interesting roads and the real driving begins,
but pretty much without merit on its own.
Well, I'm spoiled. I know this. My commute consists of walking downstairs of a
morning and aside from shopping trips almost all of the driving I do is for fun, because I
enjoy it. I love pootling round the local roads of Fife and beyond on my motorbike, but
my greatest loves are the Highland roads, and, as a rule, I tend to feel that the further west
and north you go the better the roads get, even allowing for the single-track bits.
The drive from Glenfinnan up to Dornie, near Kyle of Lochalsh, where we used to
have friends (and a share in a pub - another long story we'll come to later), was and is
one of my favourite routes, especially beyond Invergarry. I'd better point out that this In-
vergarry lies in a Glen Garry that is no relation to the Glen Garry mentioned earlier -
Scotland is full of places with the same name that are nowhere near each other.
Scotland: land of contrasts (not) .
Scotland is not really that big, but it is quite rugged, especially in the west, where sheer
geological happenstance and millions of years of exposure to the Atlantic waves have
combined to produce a coastline of extreme tatteredness. This historically made travel
- except by sea and loch, as already mentioned - quite difficult. You can imagine that
people didn't get out of their own glen very much. And that is the only excuse I can think
of for the repetition of Scottish place names, if we aren't to accept that it isn't all down to
basic Caledonian laziness and lack of imagination.
I've just looked up a gazetteer of Scotland and the third and fourth entries in the main
section are two mountains rejoicing in the name of A'Bhuidheanach. These are not even
very far away from each other! (The fifth entry is A'Bhuidheanach Bheag; guess what?
Also a mountain.)
Off the top of my head I can think of two Comries, twin Kincardines, a brace of Crath-
ies, a pair of Clovas, a number of Niggs, more Clachans than you can shake a claymore
at and five or six Tarbets/Tarberts in Argyll alone. A lot of the time it's because these
are simple descriptive names; Clachan means stone house (whoa - imagine the standard
of living that made that worth pointing out), while Tarbet/Tarbert means portage point; a
place where by dragging your boats across a narrow neck of land you could save yourself