Saturday, November 21, 2015

Scotland: Part 2 - In search of my roots

Images from the road from Glencoe to Kinloch Rannoch

After a wonderful five days in Ballachulish, our next destination was Kinloch Rannoch - a tiny village nestled against mountains on the shores of Loch Rannoch. I'd included it in our itinerary because I wanted to visit the place my great great great great grandfather, Donald McIntosh, lived before he emigrated to Canada.

As it turned out, the village wasn't an easy place to reach. It's only about 20km from Glencoe as the crow flies but there's no road connecting the two directly so we had to drive 150kms around the moor and approach it from the east. Given that the roads were so narrow and winding - particularly for the last 40kms or so, the trip took several hours!  Fortunately, it was another perfect day and the scenery was gorgeous so we enjoyed the journey.

Leaving Glencoe behind

Serendipitously, our route took us past Castle Menzies, the ancestral home of the Menzies Clan, to which a dear friend belongs, so we stopped long enough to take a few photos for her before making our way to Kinloch Rannoch.

Castle Menzies

We don't know much about Donald McIntosh, other than that he settled in New Annan, Nova Scotia, around 1825 and beget a large family of McIntoshes (now known as MacIntoshes), who still call that part of the world "home". We didn't intend to do any serious geneological research while we were in Kinloch Rannoch - just wander around the village imagining what it might have been like in the early 1820s before Donald left for Canada.

The village of Kinloch Rannoch

Kinloch Rannock, the community from whence came my McIntosh ancestor

It was another mild, sunny day so we ate our picnic lunch sitting on a bench in the village square. After lunch, we wandered across the river and happened on a fairly large graveyard, where we searched the headstones for some evidence that McIntoshes had lived in the area. At first, it seemed our efforts would be in vain since we couldn't find any grave markers with that name but, as I circled around the chapel to check the older stones in the far corner of graveyard, I spotted a small marker that read simply:
In memory of Donald McIntosh who died the 7th of June 1854 aged 54 years.
A stone in memory of Donald McIntosh

As far as we know, "our" Donald never returned to Scotland so it seems unlikely the stone marks his grave. On the other hand, how likely is it there were two Donald McIntoshes of about the same age living in the Kinloch Rannoch at the same time - particularly, given there are no other McIntosh stones? The position of the marker too - tucked away in a corner - made me I wonder if someone who remained behind when my ancestor left for Canada erected the stone in his memory when he died.

Another shot of the stone in Kinloch Rannoch cemetery

We noticed other stones commemorating people who'd died overseas so it's a plausible explanation but I don't suppose we'll ever know for sure. Still, it's nice to think that three decades after he emigrated Donald may have been remembered fondly by someone in Kinloch Rannoch.

Once we'd had our fill of Kinloch Rannoch, we climbed back in the car and headed up the road to Rannoch Station, where we intended to spend the night at the Moor of Rannoch Hotel. The hotel was a bit of a splurge for us since we were travelling on a budget, but I'd read marvelous things about it and we thought we ought to have one night in a romantic inn given that we'd made the trip to Scotland to mark our 25th wedding anniversary.

Moor of Rannoch Hotel - a fabulous spot at the end of a single track road. I recommend taking the train there.

We weren't disappointed. Though the road to from Kinloch Rannoch to Rannoch Station was single track and somewhat nerve-wracking at times, the Hotel made the journey totally worthwhile. It's operated by a wonderful young couple, Scott and Steph, who obviously know a thing or two about hospitality. Everything was perfect - from the comfortable decor in the common rooms and Steph's delicious meals, to the roaring fires, cheese and whisky hour (with whisky appreciation lessons by Scott) before bedtime, the resident deer herd, and a perfectly appointed room, complete with an antique tub for two! And did I mention there was no radio, TV, or Wifi?  Heaven for someone who appreciates peace and tranquility as much as we do!

Our room at the Moor of Rannoch Hotel

Rannoch Station views

The deer herd of Rannoch Station

Though we arrived too late in the day for a proper hike on the moor, we still had time for a short meander to Loch Laidon, where we spent a  pleasant hour relaxing on the beach, drinking in views before returning to the Hotel to sample a couple of local brews before supper.

Loch Laidon

Luke enjoying a fall evening beside Loch Laidon, a short walk from the hotel

If and when we return to Scotland, Rannoch Station will certainly be on our itinerary once again, though of course we'll plan to stay longer. There's something magical about the moor, and the Hotel would be a wonderful base from which to explore it.

Rannoch Station views

For more photos from our time in Kinloch Rannoch and Rannoch Station, follow this link to my Flickr album.

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