“Did you realize you are heading straight into Mordor?!” the Scottish guy sitting next to me on the Inverness-Fort William bus exclaimed. He had just asked me where I was going, and I had told him the name of my destination: Kinlochleven.
“It’s the darkest place in the UK. They get the least annual sunshine in all of Britain!”
I still don’t know if what he said was true, but it certainly struck a sense of awe and anticipation in me. In fact, it wasn’t hard to imagine that I was heading into a scene from the Lord of the Rings. The towering mountains, the lochs, and the sweeping slopes whizzing by outside the window all seemed to come straight out of Middle Earth.
The road to Kinlochleven took me deeper and deeper into the mountains. Indeed, I felt like I might be approaching Mordor….but in a good way. Perhaps this is a more colorful and happier Mordor. Perhaps this is Mordor after Frodo destroyed the ring.
The next day, a hike up into Kinlochleven’s surrounding mountains gave me a sweeping view of the town and the entire area. After studying my map, I realized that Ben Nevis (aka Mount Doom?), the UK’s highest mountain, wasn’t far away. The autumn foliage painted the landscape all around me in yellow, green, brown, and orange hues. The air was crisp but not too cold. I had definitely come at the right time of year. In summer, Kinlochleven is as a popular stop for backpackers walking one of Scotland’s famous long-distance routes, the Western Highland Way. It’s also the time of year when the Scottish highlands become a haven for almost-invisible biting insects called midges. Thankfully, seeing that it was mid-October, I was completely alone on the trail and there were no annoying midges to be found!
As I headed back down towards town, I imagined myself as part of the Fellowship of the Ring. Jumping over rocks and scrambling over streams, I hummed the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. Lost in my daydream, I wasn’t paying attention to the path. Consequently, I stumbled knee-deep into a bog. With soaking shoes, socks and pants, I straggled back into town. But I was happy. I felt myself still flying in the clouds at the tops of the mountains.
My afternoon was spent exploring the sleepy backwater of Kinlochleven. If I squinted hard enough, some of the buildings looked indeed a bit like hobbit houses. OK, I had to squint pretty hard. But still.
No day in Britain’s Mordor would have been complete without a trip to the pub. After all, I had trudged through the mountains and quite possibly saved Middle Earth, all in one day. I deserved a pint. Well, actually I don’t like beer. But the cozy atmosphere of the pub, and the crackling of the fireplace was relaxing and a perfect end to the day. Cheers, Frodo!
Have you ever visited a place that seems to come straight out of a scene from a movie or book?