ness suddenly runs out to be replaced by that sort of twisty, randomly variable width but
effectively one-and-a-half-lane carriageway which is great fun to drive if there's nothing
slower in front of you, and exquisitely frustrating if there is.
The A86 has mostly been brilliantly upgraded over the years, but there are still some
stretches where you basically need somebody's cooperation if you are going to overtake
them. Still; great views of Loch Laggan, Creag Meagaidh and, at Kinloch Laggan, Bri-
tain's largest inland beach. I've always found this to be a slightly surreal sight, just be-
cause it's so far inland and - at 250 metres - more than a little above sea level. That sur-
reality only comes from knowing where you are, though; we'd been passing that freshwa-
ter beach for years before a flippant remark of mine that the tide was out again revealed
the fact that Ann had always assumed this was a sea loch, and there was nothing remotely
unusual about all that sand. Oh well.
A few hundred metres after the slightly surreal beach there's a wee gatehouse by the
river that seems to be everybody's favourite example of Scottish Baronial in Miniature,
itself just round the corner from the modestly proportioned but highly snap-worthy falls
where the river Pattack performs a one-eighty between Inverpattack Lodge and Feagour.
It's all exceptionally photogenic round here. And filmic. This particular bit we're
passing is where they do the outdoor stuff for Monarch of the Glen , and back in Glenfin-
nan Les and Aileen sat and watched them shoot bits of the original Highlander film right
outside their window many years ago. There's been a lot of film and TV stuff since - my
friend Brad's Rockface series for example, and the film of my book Complicity to name
but one not-quite-straight-to-video British film of the last few years - plus, recently, quite
a few locals have been taking part in the filming of the second and third Harry Potter
Last year and this, a hundred-plus children from Lochaber High School were HP ex-
tras, mainly for the Hogwarts Express scenes (that viaduct again), and Eilidh was one of
them - wizard's cloak and all. Les and Aileen also got to be part of the fun, as two of the
legally necessary chaperones a film company needs when employing that many children.
The only real problem the third HP film caused locally was really due to the exception-
ally dry winter; the steam train playing the part of the Hogwarts Express locomotive set
fire to the hill behind the viaduct. This usually only happens in the summer, when the
sporadic clattering of the helicopter scooping water from Loch Shiel to drop on the gaily
burning heather, bracken and sun-dried grass on the hillside becomes all just part of the
primordial Highland scene.
Eilidh was and is a serious fan of Harry Potter and I felt really happy for her getting
to be part of the films but I was secretly deeply miffed that I'd finally been out-extraed.
Until now I'd been the only one of our group of friends (plus, now, their children) who'd
been in a cool film; Monty Python and the Holy Grail .