The Great Glen Way, Scottish Highlands, Scotland – Part 3

In June 2019, I decided to walk the 6-day Great Glen Way, a 79 mile / 126 km walk from one side of Scotland to the other along The Great Glen fault which separates Scotland roughly in two.

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By Ayack – fr:Ayack – Own work :Topography: NASA Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM3 v.2) data (public domain);Reference used for confirmation for the additional data: ViaMichelin;Locator map: File:Saint Kilda archipelago topographic map-fr.SVG (modified) created by Sting., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8860318

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Day 5 – Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit – 13.5 miles / 23.5 km
This morning I left behind the father and son walkers I’d run into on most days so far. The father’s foot had packed it in, and they were finishing the walk there. It had rained overnight, again, and I packed a wet tent as I had several times before. I walked out of the camping ground back up to the low route. I walked the mile back to the junction I’d come down off the moors on yesterday. I continued walking, the rain taking a break and I came down to the bridge across to Invermoriston. I took a quick photo down the river…

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I walked 100m down the road to the cafe and a full Scottish Breakfast and coffee. After breakfast, I headed out and up several hairpins on an old country road to the top of the ridge and then higher along a trail beside a fence.

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For the next few kilometres, the trail followed the fence or dipped down into the forest only to return again. The rain came and went, but it was not heavy. During the hours I spend atop the ridge line, I saw no one else. I was hidden away from Loch Ness for much of it but came past the ViewRanger, a piece of art built on the side of the hill. 

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I continued across the moors for several more kilometres, clouds hanging low at times.

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Then I came to the Troll Bridge and crossed it furtively but without assault, into the forest again where I continued.

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On several occasions, I came to parts where there should have been a view, but the clouds were too low over Loch Ness. Then, as if it knew I wanted to see the loch, the clouds lifted slightly and finally…

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At the end of the 11km, I headed across some fields on a trail to a farm road as it again began to pour with rain. I found a little shelter someone had put out with things for sale for walkers.

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I put on the pace along the sealed road averaging about a km every 10 min along the 4km stretch of road.

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The road dove steeply downhill, and Drumnadrochit came into view. The trail them cut through a forest as it headed down towards the river before coming out onto the camping ground I’d be staying in for that night.

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After pitching my tent, showering and washing my clothes, the sun came out, and I headed across to the local pub for dinner and a well-deserved cider.

Day 6 – Drumnadrochit to Inverness – 18 miles / 28.8 km
It didn’t rain overnight and when I woke there was s thin mist over the camping ground. And, by the time I had packed the sky was blue and the sun was out. After 5 days in the rain, the final longest day was to be spent in the sun. But I was not so lucky that my tent wasn’t wet, the dew and mist had ensured I would still be packing a wet tent.

Once packed, I headed to a cafe for a big Scottish breakfast but was disappointed there was no haggis, I’ve become quite fond of it on this trip. After breakfast, I headed out through Drumnadrochit along the main highway past Drambuie farm and up a hill that gave good views back across Loch Ness…

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…and the ruins of Urquhart castle.

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I continued on along the trail and into the forest with continuing good views.

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The trail climbed for the next 2km, sometimes steeply until it eventually came out into the moors only to cut into the forest again shortly after. After the hard climb up the ridge, the trail flattened out and remained that way for much the rest of the day.

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I passed a farm and stopped to tend to blister forming when I noted the farmer struggling to get a trolley onto a trailer. So I put my boot back on and gave him a hand. After my good deed for the day, I set out again along the farm road, across a highway and onto a thin track. Along the side of the track, I started to see signs of an eco cafe, so stopped off for an expensive coffee and cake in the middle of nowhere. After the break, I arrived at another road…

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…and quick marched the 4 km until it merged with a dirt trail. Dark clouds seemed to come, but no rain eventuated.

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The dirt trail ran for a mile before diving into a forest and on a slow descent over 5km until I saw Beauty Firth, a stretch of sea off the coast of Inverness.
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Then I rounded a hill and Inverness itself came into view. I followed a fairly steep hill down towards it.

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I crossed near a golf course to the canal where I walked for 3 km, crossing the Ness Islands and eventually ending the trail at Inverness Castle, near the centre of the city.

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I discovered my hostel 50 metres from the castle and checked in for a well-deserved shower. Once clean and in fresh clothes I located a Wetherspoons for dinner and, of course, a cider or three.

Day A – Inverness

I found it cheaper to stay in Inverness the night on Saturday before flying out on Sunday. I wandered around the town a little but decided against doing the tourist thing. Instead, I rested my feet and body after the hike. Saturday night, however, there was a music festival in town, so all of the pubs and restaurants were very busy. I hung out about the hostel and read a lot relaxing and watching a movie with a few people in the common room.

Overall
The Great Glen Way is a good hike, but not a great hike. The first three days a spent on the flat walking beside the canal or lake. But it is the last three days where the real hiking begins. While the climbs were not high, it gave plenty of views when they were available.

The major issue with the hike was the amount of rain, but it is Scotland in June, so you just have to go with it. It was nice to have the sun on the final day. The other issue is the general lack of food options along the way, which is likely something I should have planned better for. I survived and enjoyed my time.

In a couple of weeks, I head back up to Scotland for another six-day hike, The Isle of Arran.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

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The Great Glen Way, Scottish Highlands, Scotland – Part 2

In June 2019, I decided to walk the 6-day Great Glen Way, a 79 mile / 126 km walk from one side of Scotland to the other along The Great Glen fault which separates Scotland roughly in two.

534px-great_glen_way_map-en.svg-2019-06-10-14-02.png
By Ayack – fr:Ayack – Own work :Topography: NASA Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM3 v.2) data (public domain);Reference used for confirmation for the additional data: ViaMichelin;Locator map: File:Saint Kilda archipelago topographic map-fr.svg (modified) created by Sting., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8860318

Back to Part 1

Day 3 – Laggan to Fort Augustus – 15 miles / 24 km
After a night in the softest bed ever, a great relief after 2 days of hiking, I set out from the hostel and ran into the two ladies I’d been chatting to most of the night before. We then walked to a local cafe a few hundred metres off the trail for breakfast and coffee. On the way, we stopped to take a photo of Loch Oich as we crossed on a swing bridge.

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After eating, we headed back to the trail and began climbing the hill. As we walked and chatted we all but reached the top without noticing the climb, heading around a curve of the hill and heading back down. At the base of the path, the pair continued north while I split off to the east where I ran into the group of older walkers from the day before. I chatted with them as we crossed into Invergarry, where I stopped to look for lunch options. I didn’t find anything suitable after a quarter of an hour, so continued on.

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I climbed the path, a set of hairpin lanes that led up the to a forest road which I followed as it curved around above the loch. It wound its way through forest trails for some time as it slowly descended back towards loch level before climbing again into the forest. It was here I ran into the groups of older walkers and chatted to one of the group leaders until the path was wide enough for me to pass.

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I came down to the A82 highway and followed it around to the swing bridge across the canal. Off to my left was the Oich bridge, an old now-closed bridge. On the swing bridge, I noted a sign for a cafe half a mile off along the A82. It was off the trail, but I was hungry, so I made the walk up the hill. After passing several signs over the 15-minute walk, I arrived to find it was closed Tuesday – Thursday. So I walked back to the swing bridge and took a break without eating. It was here I noticed a couple of what I thought were ticks on my leg. With tweezers, I removed them even though they had not dug in; I didn’t see any other the entire hike.

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After the break, I marched on alongside Loch Oich as the skies began to clear. It was six kilometres to Fort Augustus. As I walked, I noticed I was on a path between the Caledonia Canal and the River Oich. They came very close on several occasions, and I even crossed a weir that allowed water to run off from the Canal into the river if it was too high.

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After an hours march, I arrived in Fort Augustus and located my camping ground. I set up my tent beside the father and son walkers I’d met on the first day and once done headed into town with them to a pub for dinner and a cider or three.

Day 4 – Fort Augustus to Invermoriston high route – 8.5 miles / 13.5km
After enjoying five ciders last night, I slept very well, somehow managing about 10 hours. But when I did wake in the night, it was raining, heavily at times. It continued into the morning. Today is the shortest leg of the six days; I held out until it stopped raining for as long as I could before packing up and heading out into town for breakfast. At the locks, I looked down the canal towards Loch Ness.
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After breakfast, I headed out through town along a stretch of road still under construction until I found the trail and followed it up a hill into the forest.

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The climb was short and one of the first real climbs of the hike. I came out into a new forest road and followed this for about a kilometre until the high route began. The trail cut up the hill with switchbacks and steep climbs. It finally felt like I was hiking after so much loch and canal-side walking. After about five hundred metres, I came out of the forest and onto open ground. While the rain had stopped, the clouds hung low over the moors.

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After about a kilometre the trail disappeared into the low clouds, and I came across the older walking group again. I stopped for a brief chat before pushing on. The low hanging clouds over the loch and the moors gave only the occasional view.

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The trail continued for another 4 kilometres through open ground before dropping down into the forest again. After several switchbacks, the trail descended very steeply. With shaking legs under the weight, I contemplated taking out my walking poles. This was, after all, why I’d brought them, but I decided to suck it up and just did it.

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At the bottom, the trail met with the lower route, but instead of following it to Invermoriston I headed the other way, back towards Fort Augustus. I walked along the low route for two kilometres as it again started to rain. The low route is simply a fairly flat forest road with no views and is very boring. It would be good for cyclists, but hikers would find little of interest here.

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I soon found the side trail leading down to the camping site where I arranged to hand my tent in the drying room. While I waited for the rain to stop and my tent to dry, I showered. When I pitched my tent, I noted across the grassy camping area, the father and son walkers I’d met several times through the walk. With little in the way of food options nearby, I bought some noodles and a can of peaches from the camping ground shop and nestled into the tent with my Kindle to read for the evening.

Next, days 5 and 6 of The Great Glen Way.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

The Great Glen Way, Scottish Highlands, Scotland – Part 1

In June 2019, I decided to walk the 6-day Great Glen Way, a 79 mile / 126 km walk from one side of Scotland to the other along The Great Glen fault which separates Scotland roughly in two.

534px-great_glen_way_map-en.svg-2019-06-10-13-40.png
By Ayack – fr:Ayack – Own work :Topography: NASA Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM3 v.2) data (public domain);Reference used for confirmation for the additional data: ViaMichelin;Locator map: File:Saint Kilda archipelago topographic map-fr.svg (modified) created by Sting., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8860318

Day 0 – London to Fort William

To get to the beginning of the hike, I took a 75-minute EasyJet flight to Glasgow and a 4-hour Scot Train to Fort William. It was an easy and relaxing journey with great views across the western side of Scotland including a leg through Loch Lommonds & The Trossachs National Park.

Fort William is a small township nestled beneath Ben Nevis, UK’s largest mountain. It’s a friendly place with several stores focused on adventures and hiking, along with several whisky stores. I also managed to stay at the Fort William Hostel on its 10th anniversary weekend, so got a free dinner and several beers.

Day 1 – Fort William to Gairlochy – 10 miles / 16 km
I headed out from the hostel in the rain and down to get some last supplies and have some lunch before beginning the walk. From the centre of town, I followed the trail past an underwater centre and along a canal, crossing at a train bridge.

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The path followed the bay around, through Inverlochy, Lochyside and Caol. If these are suburbs or villages absorbed into the larger town, I’m not sure. I looked back across the harbour back at Fort William with the cloud covered Ben Nevis to one side.

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I rounded a football field and came to the beginning of the Caledonian Canal, the canal that connected the three lochs across Scotland, allowing boat travel from one side to the other. I passed Neptune’s staircase, a series of nine locks climbing up the canal. The trail followed beside the canal for 11 kilometres. It was rainy and a little boring, so I just put my head down and just marched. There were pretty points along the canal, very green because of the regular rains.

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Towards the end, I stopped for a chat with a couple of guys – father and son – who were wild camping near the canal. I then headed a kilometre and a half along a road to my campsite, where I pitched my tent next to a couple of ladies. In the UK, when hiking, I’ve usually ‘glamped’ – staying in hostels, BNBs, pubs or hotels. This time I decided to pull out my tent and camp four nights of this 6-day hike. This meant I was carrying a full pack at 20 kg, including drinking water. I’ve carried heavier many times, so it wasn’t a problem. As I walked, I passed Meall Bhanbhaidh, a peak that was easier to walk past than to pronounce…

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On most other UK hikes there is a pub every 5km, so I figured I’d pick up food along the trail. I soon discovered the error in this. After leaving Fort William, there were no shops, cafes or restaurants. I got to my campsite with only a packet of breakfast biscuits. Thankfully, I’d found a restaurant a mile further along the road, so after showering, I began the walk. It turned out to be fairly expensive, but I had to eat. No doubt this would not be the last food issue I’d have. On the way back, 100m from the campsite it poured with rain. Yay, Scotland!

Day 2 – Gairlochy to Laggan – 13 miles / 21 km
It rained for much of the night and continued for most of the morning. Thankfully, it stopped long enough for me to take down my sopping tent. I walked the mile back to the loch, crossed to the other side and followed the logical route alongside only to walk a couple of hundred metres to a dead end where a sign conveniently told me as much. I headed back to the bridge and continued up a road. The rain came, and I knuckled down with my waterproof jacket’s hood up. The trail headed off the road and up through a light Conifer forest for a while before again crossing the road and headed down near Loch Lochy.

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After a long walk through the forest, the trail came back to the road and continued for some time. I passed the small villages of Achnacarry, Bunarkaig and eventually Clunes, but there were no shops in any of these locales. For breakfast, all I’d eaten was three breakfast biscuits and no coffee. At Clunes, with no other options, I ate the last 2 breakfast biscuits before heading up onto a dirt forest road. On the long walk alongside the loch I passed the carving of a falcon on a wooden stump.

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For more than 10 km, the dirt road continued just above the loch covered with dark clouds. I finally stopped for a break near the end of the dirt road, and as I sat on my pack, a group of old walkers came past.

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After the break I marched on, easily passing the older walkers before heading onto a road and around to the Laggan Locks. I followed a trail on the other side for a mile to the road, then back 300m to the Great Glen Hostel, where I ran into the two ladies I’d camped beside at Gairlochy. Since we were 2 hours early for the hostel, we sat in the common room and chatted, something that went on well into the night.

Next, Days 3 and 4 of The Great Glen Way.

The Lone Trail Wanderer