It’s taken a while, but Beanie & Biggles have finally realized that their fabric campervan crates are magical. Every time our pups tumble out of them, they find themselves in a completely different place to where they started out. Only last week they climbed into them from our drive at home and emerged in Fort William.
To be honest, Fort William didn’t have much going for it; the weather was hot and sunny, but there were no ice-cream wrappers on the pavements, and no half-eaten sandwiches under the public benches. The pups did get a bit of ear fondling from passers by while they were waiting for their Mum to emerge from the local supermarket, but let’s face it, you can’t eat an ear fondle. As an aside, all of the fondlers were people who had previously owned a Beagle, and that got me wondering again why so many of the people we meet “once had a Beagle”. Why only once? It’s as if the experience of owning a pesky, relentlessly destructive, food-obsessed, furry little suicide-machine on legs somehow makes the Beagle breed less attractive second time around for some people. Honestly, I just don’t get it.
Anyway, once they’d established that Fort William was a dead loss food-wise, Beanie & Biggles climbed back into their magical crates and found themselves in Glencoe, about to embark on a very early morning walk up up a mountain that was sort-of named in their honor: Buachaille Etive Beag(le).
This walk was every bit as magical as the campervan crates; on the way up we passed through a cloud inversion, and saw the crescent moon hovering over a nearby peak (click to see larger version).
We made it to the summit in plenty of time for sunrise, where I spent a bit too long trying to capture the sun as it spilled light onto the ridge. I know this because Biggles not only had time to chomp through all his chews and biccies, but got so bored that he had to embark on a digging project. In the end I had to time my shots carefully to avoid motion blur as a certain energetic white bottom reversed into the tripod legs.
Things got a lot more interesting on the return journey. There may not be any sheep on the Glencoe mountains we’ve visited, but there can be deer, and I think his lordship’s sniffer caught scent of one..
The invisible but smelly deer was the least of our problems on the way back down the mountain. Instead of using strips of Duck Tape to prevent Beanie Houdini-ing her lead off the harness attachment point, we’d used a short canicross “neckline” to make a second, fail-safe link between the lead and her collar. This was without doubt a safer option, but it quickly became annoying; about every minute or so she’d get one or both of her front legs caught in the line and I’d have to assist.
Beanie’s canicross neckline is visible in this shot. This was captured on one of the rare occasions she didn’t have a leg caught in it.
By the time we’d got back to our starting point I’d trained Beanie to stop and hold up her paw in response to the words “You’ve done it AGAIN”. Still, I’d rather that than watch her disappearing after a deer.
After breakfast the crates worked their magic again, transporting the Beagles to Neist Point on the Isle of Skye. If you’ve flicked through popular landscape images you’ve probably seen photos of the huge crag with the lighthouse just beyond, but I can tell you nothing comes close to seeing it through your own eyes.
You can walk right to the top of the cliff pretty easily, in fact I’d recommend it for two reasons:
- it’s one of the very few spots at Neist point that doesn’t have sheep, and
- all dogs who go up there but don’t pull their attached humie over the edge in pursuit of a seagull, get a Pedigree Mini-Jumbone each
It should be noted that point #2 above is based on a sample of only two Beagles called Beanie & Biggles, on a single visit. It should also be noted that the Mini-Jumbones are awarded even if death-by-seagull-pursuit is attempted, but unsuccessful.
Our next destination was a car park at the summit of the Applecross pass, and truthfully I’d have been happy to get there by means of a magic crate myself. The pass – or Bealach na Ba as it’s known – is not the easiest of drives. It’s a steep and narrow single track road with hairpin bends and fatal drops guarded only by thin, heavily dented crash barriers. The entry to the pass has a large sign warning that it is not for inexperienced drivers, large vehicles and caravans. No shit, Sherlock! Having travelled from Skye, our first taste of the pass came in the dead of night. To be honest that’s the best time to tackle it: there’s little chance of meeting anyone going in the opposite direction, and you can’t see the drops. It’s almost fun, because you get to play a round of “where the hell did the road go?” every time you get to a bend.
Once at the summit Beanie & Biggles were finally able to discover where the Magical Mystery Crates had deposited them, and the grass around the car park got a thorough watering. This was to be our home for the night, and in the morning I was due to walk up a nearby hill called Sgurr a Chaorachain. All we had to do now was get some sleep – something that had previously proved difficult in the van due to the bed only being built to accommodate two Beagles, not two Beagles plus their owners. We were so tired by this point that we didn’t even bother pulling out the bed; we just tossed some bedding on the floor of the van and settled down. Faced with the option of staying put in their comfy chairs (Beanie in the driver’s seat, Biggles in the rotating passenger seat), or joining us on the floor, our pups chose the former, and I got the best few hours’ campervan sleep I’d had to that point. What’s more this one night set a precedent; for the rest of the tour Beanie & Biggles were content to sleep on their seats.
In the morning I set out on my walk, leaving Susan and the Beagles tucked up safely in the van. The hill I climbed was only 1200ft above the car park, but given that the car park itself was more than 2000ft above sea level the views were not to be sniffed at, especially since I didn’t have the professional sniffers with me.
Applecross lies in a region called Wester Ross and like its fictional almost-namesake, it became the focus for a “game of thrones”. The throne in this case wasn’t forged from a thousand swords, but from rigid white plastic, and had the words “Porta Potti Qube” written neatly on the front.
While I was heading back from my hillwalk, Susan was readying our portable chemical toilet for its most important duty. Beanie & Biggles were apparently sleeping on their chairs, the curtains were drawn, all was ready for that most private of bodily functions. Susan carefully positioned herself on the plastic throne, blissfully unware that fate was about deal a terrible blow (if only she’d seen the GoT episode where Tywin Lannister died, she’d have realized that bad things can happen when you’re on on the crapper). Anyway, just as her first deposit hit the bowl something strong and determined began levering her off the seat. She was ill-prepared to resist, lost her balance, and toppled bum-first to the floor. Looking round desperately to identify what had dethroned her, she saw Beanie dipping her snout into the bowl and retrieving the freshly laid prize.
The good news is that on my return, Susan told me what had happened before Beanie had chance to give me a “welcome back” kiss. The bad news is that I was due to brush her and Biggles’ chewing gear later that same day.