All posts by Keyman

Cardiff, Wales – Impressions

In late January 2020, I headed across to Cardiff for a concert and decided to stay for a couple of days to explore the city. As it’s winter, and Southern Wales, I was expecting rain, and I was not disappointed. But I’m waterproof, and a bit of drizzle wasn’t going to stop me enjoying my stay.

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Cardiff (Caerdydd in Welsh) is the largest city in Wales, but only the 11th largest in the UK. And, as it’s only a 2-hour train ride from London, it’s not that much of a trip. The first thing I noticed when arriving in the Welsh Capital is the number of covered arcades and malls. It’s a great way to explore the city without going out in the rain too often.

Motorpoint Arena
The point of coming to Cardiff was for a concert. Motorpoint Arena was first opened by Shirley Bassey in 1993. But my concert wasn’t as sedate, I was there to see Megadeth and Five Finger Death Punch. Metal, raw and loud. The venue was large, holding 5,500 on the floor. After a very long wait out in the icy conditions to get in the door, I eventually warmed up and enjoyed the concert. The venue, like most in the UK, is heavily sprinkled with alcohol sales points, although the crowds in London feel a little more raucous.

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Principality Stadium
Also known as Millennium Stadium, it is the home of the Welsh Rugby team and was built in 1999 to host the Rugby World Cup. The stadium in it’s latest form was constructed over another park which has a more sentimental note for me. When I was very young, I would sometimes get up at stupid times in the morning with my father to watch the All Blacks play at Cardiff Arms Park. The Six Nations Rugby was just beginning on the day I came back to London.

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Cardiff Castle
You can’t come to Cardiff and not visit Cardiff Castle, and the best was to see it is on a self-guided audio tour. Beneath the entrance and front wall is a small museum called Firing Line, showing the lives of Welsh Soldiers going all the way back to the Bronze Age. Next to the museum is a long bronze wall depicting scenes from Roman times opposite the actual remains of the Roman wall.

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Beneath the other walls are tunnels used during World War 2 as bomb shelters. They are long, dim-lit and eerie. On the far side of the grassy courtyard is the Norman keep surrounded by a moat. Climbing up to it, and then up its main tower gives excellent views across Cardiff.

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Then along one side of the castle grounds are the Castle Apartments and Clock Tower. The self-tour allows access to some of the rooms in this building to see their lavish designs.

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Roath Street Art
While Bristol is home to Banksy, Cardiff is also a hub of street art. With limited time, I chose to walk out to the suburb of Roath to check out the local street art. 2014 was apparently the big year in the suburb for street art. There are many pieces still evident on walls around the area (although some buildings have since been demolished and the artwork lost).

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But while walking the streets of Roath, I discovered hidden back alleys absolutely filled with the less creative street art. By less creative, I refer to large words in different fonts. Sure, it’s art, but is it that creative?

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The Animal Wall
Just along from Cardiff Castle and near the entrance to Bute park are a series of 15 stone animals ‘peering’ over a wall that has come to be known as the Animal Wall. They were based on drawings from the 1300s, were carved in London, and built into the wall in 1887.

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Bute Park
Once the grounds of Cardiff Castle, Bute Park is 130 acres of landscaped gardens and parkland. It runs from the castle at one end, along to Gabalfa Woods at the other. Scattered throughout the park are various sculptures, many made from tree trunks left just for that purpose. There’s also a rock circle just past the castle, the Gorsedd Stones which were placed for the National Eisteddfod (a bardic arts festival) in 1978.

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Welsh National War Memorial
Completed in 1928, the memorial stands in Alexandra Gardens and commemorates the servicemen who died in the First World War. A plaque was added in 1949 to commemorate those who died in World War 2 also. The memorial houses four bronze statues. The three around the base of the main plinth relate the three services, airforce, navy and army, while the figure on the plinth represents Victory.

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City Hall
To avoid the rain, I popped into the City Hall near the War Memorial and stayed to have a look around. I found my way up to the first-floor landing, which is known as the ‘Marble Hall’. Beyond the marble columns, there are nearly two dozen marble statues around the walls. Only one stands in the centre, the figure of Saint David. There are also various paintings around the halls, while most are landscapes, there is one of Prince Charles and another of Princess Diana.

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Cardiff Story Museum
Situated in the middle of the city centre in the old library building, the small museum tells the story of Cardiff. The museum contains more than 3000 donated objects relating to the life and times of Cardiff from its inception to current times. There’s much interesting information on the layout of the city over the years and a look into the lives of people who live there. While it’s small, it’s an excellent way to get to know the city on a rainy day, and it’s entirely free.

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National Museum and Art Gallery
Next to City Hall is the much larger National Museum and Art Gallery. Like the Cardiff Story Museum, it’s free and is something to do when it’s raining. With many large open halls, and several passageways between, there is plenty to see. The gallery holds many paintings by Claude Monet, along with several from Rodin, Van Gogh and several Welsh artists. The museum has an exhibition on the fossil swamps of over 300 million years ago. There are also photography exhibits from several different artists and a detailed history of the universe from the Big Bang to how Cardiff was formed. I managed to lose about three hours wandering around the halls, but at least I stayed dry.

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Cardiff Bay
With a couple hours to spare before my train back to London, I wound my way down to Cardiff Bay for lunch and a quick look around. Thankfully, today I was treated to the sun, a nice farewell for the trip. The bay area houses Mermaid Quay with its plentiful restaurants and cafes, along with the Millennium centre, The Senedd and the Red Dragon Centre, a movie theatre complex.

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Overall impressions
Cardiff is a great small city with just enough of a vibe to make it an enjoyable stay. There is plenty to do for a couple of days in summer or winter. There was more I could have investigated, but due to time and the rain, I didn’t get the chance.

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Next, I’m off to explore Liverpool at Easter,

The World Wanderer

Dublin, Ireland – Impressions

Taking a long weekend in November, I decided to explore the Republic of Ireland’s capital. And, Dublin put on a happy welcome for me with mostly blue skies and sun, although it was still rather cold.

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Dubhlind in Classical Irish means Black Pool, although I didn’t see any black water while I was there. I did, however, come across one rather hungry tree near King’s Inns.

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The city of Dublin officially came into existence in 988 AD, although the Vikings first settled the area 150 years earlier. In the late 1700s it became the second-largest city in the British Empire, but for only a brief period.

The Spire of Dublin
Also known as the Monument of Light, the spire is hard to miss as it stands 120 metres tall at the centre of the city. It sits on the spot of the former Nelson’s Pillar, which was destroyed in an IRA bombing in 1966. It is clearly visible across the city, especially at night, when the top 10 metres light up. This is handy, considering it gets dark at about 4.45pm in November.

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Temple Bar
On the south side of the river, is the cultural quarter of Dublin known as Temple Bar. Originally named after the Temple family, it is now a diverse and popular area, with many bars and restaurants. It was always busy there during my visit, day and night, with plenty of lights and the occasional Leprechaun. There is a great Boxty restaurant about midway down serving the classic Irish boxty dish, well worth trying.

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The River Liffey, By Day and By Night
Dublin is split by the River Liffey which heads out into the Irish Sea across to Anglesea in Northern Wales. The river is crossed by several notable and fanciful bridges – this one is the Samuel Beckett Bridge, beside the glowing blue Convention Centre.

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At night the entire city centre lights up the river in wondrous colours.

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Dublin Discovery Trails
For one of my days in Dublin, I followed 2 of Dublin’s Discovery Trails, from an app of the same name. There are nine different trails to follow, each with up to 15 locations and averaging about 2 hours. Adding to the experience, the app has audio to go along with each location. This allowed me to see more of Dublin than had I come up with my own Itinerary, and I learned more than I would have just by going to the locations. I highly recommend it.

Parnell Square and Remembrance Garden
The Remembrance Garden is in Parnell Square, an arty part of town with the Writer’s Museum and the Modern Art gallery in the vicinity. The garden is shaped like a cross with a sculpture at its head (behind me). It is dedicated to the memory of those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom during more than 7 different uprisings since 1798. Including the Easter Rising and the War of Independence.

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Trinity College
Officially College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin, it contains the largest research library in Ireland and is home to the infamous Book of Kells. Some famous people who have studied at the campus were Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker of Dracula fame, Johnathan Swift of Gulliver’s Travels fame, just to name a few.

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Guinness Storehouse
While I wasn’t a big fan of Guinness beer before, I was told that it tastes better in Dublin, and that was indeed what I found. They say it has something to do with the water, but who knows. And of course, Dublin is home to the main brewery, and it would be silly not to take a tour. I learned a lot during my visit, of now only how they brewed the beer, but how they prepared the components to how they made the barrels by hand in the old days. The tour climbs several floors around a circular chamber known as the largest pint glass in the world. It includes a tasting and a free pint at the bar on the 7th floor with panoramic views of the city.

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King’s Inns
King’s Inns is a society renown for being Ireland’s oldest professional and education institute, training barristers-at-law. They built the building below at the top of Henrietta Street in 1800. Henrietta Street is the earliest Georgian sweet in Dublin – Georgian meaning it was built during the reigns of the four King Georges.

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Black Church
Located in the north of the central city, the gothic style church gets its name from the local calp sandstone it was built from. When wet, as is visible on parts of the lower sections, the entire church turns black. While it is no longer consecrated, it was said that if you run around it three times at midnight, you would summon the devil.

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Blessington Street Basin

Known as Dublin’s Secret Garden, it was opened in 1820 as a reservoir and was private property. In 1891 was opened to the public where residents of the area could come and relax, and watch the local wildlife. The swan and duck island in the middle was expended due to the ever-growing population of birds.

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Oscar Wilde & Constance Lloyd

Dublin has numerous statues and sculptures around its streets. But, on the corner of Merrion Square, a large green park on the South East of the city, is a sculpture of the great writer, Oscar Wilde, sitting on a rock. The statue of the naked pregnant woman is his wife, Constance. Across the road from the sculptures, is the house where the pair once lived.

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Christ Church Cathedral & Dublina
The Christ Church was founded around the mid-1000s and has stood to this day, although it did go through a series of renovations 200 years ago. Beneath the Cathedral is an extensive crypt, which now serves as a small museum and shop.

Across the road, and now connected by a foot bridge, is Dublina, the Dublin Museum of Viking and Medieval life. It is rated as the best museum in Dublin, and it was an interesting couple of hours spent getting to know the Viking life and the medieval era that followed. I would recommend it.

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Overall
While I spent three days wandering Dublin checking out different parts, there was so much I missed. It was definitely an interesting city to spend a few days, and somewhat…

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Next time, Cardiff in Southern Wales.

The World Wanderer

Bristol, England – Impressions

For the second day of my weekend in the South West of England, I explored the city of Bristol.

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Bristol is a busy little city and has been rated as one of the UK’s most popular tourist destinations. It was also the port from where the first European since the Vikings to land on North American soil. But, was also the starting point of the Bristol slave trade which took an estimated half a million people from Africa to slavery in the Americas.

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Bristol’s Floating Harbour
Situated on an arm of the River Avon, the Floating Harbour has been sectioned off with water locks to make the water level constant. This has changed the harbour a great deal, it is no longer the great port it once was – that has moved to another location along the River Avon – but is now home to many smaller vessels. On the sides of the port, the warehouses have all been converted to various other uses, such as museums, food halls and bars. There is now also a regular harbour ferry service.

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Bristol Cathedral
Built as an Abbey in the 12th century, it wasn’t converted to a cathedral until Henry VIII’s rein in 1542. The inside of the building was built in the gothic style with a grand choir section in the centre and long Nave to the East. Unfortunately, you cannot climb the towers, as you can in Bath, but the architecture of the insides are far superior to that other cathedral.

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Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
Like many of the cultural locations in Bristol, the museum and art gallery is free to the public. It is larger than I expected, and as I was a little short on time, I was forced to rush through many of the exhibits. Over four floors, there was so much on offer: From ancient Egypt to Assyria, dinosaurs, geology, minerals, gemstones, and much more. All this along with art from French painters, a history of silver objects, ceramics and eastern art. Well worth a visit, but give yourself plenty of time.

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Cabot Tower
The tower was constructed, on Brandon Hill, in the 1890s to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s voyage from Bristol to set foot on the land that would eventually become Canada. The tower is free to the public, offers great 360º views across the city, but can be very busy on the thin sets of stairs.

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M Shed – A Museum of Bristol
Along the banks of the floating harbour, one of the transit sheds on the dock has been converted into a museum dedicated to Bristol. It holds more than 3000 artefacts exploring life and work in the city over the years. It has three main galleries devoted to Bristol Life, Bristol People and Bristol Places. It includes tributes to the likes of Massive Attack, Wallace and Grommit, and other local artists. Like many other cultural areas in Bristol, it’s free.

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Brunel’s SS Great Britain
The SS Great Britain was the largest ship afloat when it launched in 1843. She was the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic two years later, it took her 14 days. For 30 years she carried thousands of immigrants to Australia until she was retired to the Falkland Islands to be used as a warehouse and coal hulk. She was scuttled after almost 100 years of service only to be raised in 1970, repaired and towed back to Bristol where she was built. She’s now a museum piece.

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Bristol Street Art
Like many cities around the world, Bristol has its fair share of street art, and not just walls littered with graffiti. Of course, with Banksy as a local street artist, the others have a lot to live up to. I’m not the greatest Banksy fan, but if I had time, I might have taken some of the handful of self-guided tours around the city looking at the remnants of his work. I liked this one, although it’s not one of his.

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Bristol was an interesting and very busy place. I wish I had more time to explore.

Next month, my first trip into Ireland for a long weekend in Dublin.

The World Wanderer.

Bath, England – Impressions

In my ongoing exploration of the UK, I spent a day in the small city of Bath in the county of Somerset in South Western England.

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It was officially made a spa city in 60 AD by the Romans who built the baths and a temple in the river valley. Bath is a pretty city noted for its architecture, but also the golden colour of the stone from which everything is built. The stone, called Bath stone, is a type of limestone found in the region.

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I had initially planned to take the Bath Hop-on Hop-off bus around the city on both routes to get the best views and see the most sites, but due to the rain from Hurricane Lorenzo crossing the region, I made a short, self-directed walking tour instead.

Gregorian Architecture
This is the prominent architectural style in central Bath with many elegant buildings being constructed in this style around the city.

Bath Circus
Circus in Latin means circle, and the Bath Circle is three lines of curved buildings set in a circle around a central circular grassy space. It was apparently inspired by the Colosseum in Rome.

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Royal Crescent
Built about the same time as the circus – circa 1770 it is in a semi-circle with a large park from one side.

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Pulteney Bridge
This bridge is a local landmark crossing the River Avon to join the city of Bath with the Pulteney family lands on the far side. Unlike simple bridges, the Pulteney Bridge was designed with shops across its length on both sides of the street. The bridge stood for 25 years before a flood-damaged the north side which had to be rebuilt.

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Bath Abbey
Built in the 7th century as a medieval abbey church, it is one of the largest pieces of gothic architecture in the West of England. It was rebuilt into a Cathedral in the mid 12th century but was stripped of being a cathedral in the mid-1500s returning again to the status of Abbey. It was reformed once more in the 19th century to its current form.

I took the opportunity to take an abbey tour, including climbing the 200+ steps to the roof. The group stopped off to learn about the bell ringers along with the various mechanisms used to automate them, as monks of the time were rather lazy.

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The Roman Baths
The baths were built over a series of hot springs by the Romans around 60 AD. The hot springs bubble up from deep in the earth at a steady temperature of 46ºC. The baths fell into disrepair when the Romans pulled out of Britain 300 years later. The baths were thought destroyed in the 6th century AD. It was rebuilt in 1200 AD and then entirely redesigned in the 18th century into its current state.

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The baths have a Pump Room beside it as a conference hall and restaurant, while the baths themselves go underground in several large rooms. Tours are expensive, and I chose not to take one, but they take visitors underground to all of the rooms, although people are no longer allowed to bathe in the baths. While I did not take a tour, I did get an up high picture from the top of the cathedral during my tour of that structure.

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The next day I headed up to Bristol for more exploration.

The World Wanderer

Arran Coastal Way, Scotland – Part 3

In late June 2019, I undertook a 6-day coastal hike around the Isle of Arran, my namesake island. This 65 mile / 105 km hike is a circuit of the island starting from the northernmost village and heading inland on several occasions. The weather was scheduled to be amazing with little rain.

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Back to Part 2

Day 5 – Brodick to Corrie – 7 mi / 11.5 km

While today is the shortest day distance-wise, I will be climbing Goatfell with my pack, so it will be one of the more difficult days of the walk. Although as it is just under 900 metres, it should not take too much of the day. After my first full Scottish breakfast for this trip, I set out from the bunkhouse and through Brodick. As I walked, more people came out and began the long slow walk to the Fell.

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The path led around the beach with some sand walking as I went. The Brodick castle standing prominent in the trees off to one side.

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The trail around the bay and up into the trees with a mix of short steep areas and slow gliding climbs. With my march on, I passed several slower climbers. While the trees offered respite from the sun, it also stopped the breeze, so the sweat came heavy. When I finally broke out of the tree line, the cool breeze in itself was worth the climb. I looked back for a view of Brodick.

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As people took breaks, I climbed on as the trail grew rockier and steeper. I crossed a wooden bridge and through a deer gate. I pushed on up the mountain, stopping for the occasional 10-second break before pushing on again. 10 seconds is enough to get the breath back before continuing on. I finally took a longer break where the trail reached a ridge that offered great views back the way I’d come, into the valley beyond and up the final 250 metres to the summit.

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After 10 min I pushed on up the very steep trail with more 10 second breaks, one every 20m until I reached the summit in the glorious sunshine. The views in every direction were amazing and all who had reached the top relaxed and enjoyed the sun.

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After about 30 minutes, I packed up and began the climb down. It didn’t take long to get to the junction, and I continued down the Corrie route. The way down was rockier, but I continued my charge down onto the plateau and across a stream.

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At the edge of the valley, it descended again on rocky steps eventually to a forest…

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…along a dirt track…

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…to a road and down steeply to the main road. I found the first seat I could,  got off my feet and out of my boots. After 10 minutes I headed a further few minutes to the local pub for a cider or three in the sun. I then headed on to Sannox where I would be staying the night, or so I thought. The hotel there was closed, and there were no other food options. I decided to walk the 2km back to Corrie for another cider and to wait for the hotel’s kitchen to open for dinner. After dinner, I headed along to the town hall and pitched my tent, where I had seen a bunch of people doing days earlier. It turns out I couldn’t camp there, so I headed back towards Sannox to a large boulder beside the road where I pitched a wild camp.

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Day 6 – Corrie to Lochranza – 10 mi / 16.5 km

After my night of wild camping, I packed up and headed back to Corrie for breakfast. Today was the shortest day with little to see, but it is expected to be the hottest day of the year also. This is Scotland, so we’re talking 24ºC. I headed out of Corrie and back along the road to Sannox, past the site of my wild camp and on to the beach. I then walked at the top of the beach, along a trail of sand and then dry earth.

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I walked on as the heat increased along with the wind, through a wooded area until I came to the Sannox Burn flowing out to sea. I didn’t see the point of walking a 400m inland and a 300m back when I could just cross on stepping stones. On the other side, I followed a sandy trail past some cliffs.

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On the other side, I followed two women for more than 2km along a rocky trail until it reached a place called quite descriptively “fallen rocks”. Giant rocks had fallen from the ridge a few years back.

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I passed the girls as the trail became more defined, and for the next 3 km, I followed it until it came to Laggan cottage where I popped inside to have a brief look around.

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The trail became more rocky and rugged for much of the rest of the trail except for a 500m stretch of beach called Fairy Dell. It passed a rock formation known as the Cock of Arran. It, apparently, once looked like a male chicken until its head fell off a year or two ago. Now it’s just a rock.

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After a short time, I came around the coast, and Lochranza appeared. Then it was only 30 minutes across the tarmac road around the bay to the ruins of the Lochranza Castle and then on to the Sandwich Shack where I began the walk.

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Overall

The Arran Coastal Way was a great six-day walk. Each day had its special elements all different from previous days. It worked out well for the weather, which likely added to the enjoyment.

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I would definitely recommend this walk, while fairly easy, is still enjoyable.

The Lone Trail Wanderer.

Arran Coastal Way, Scotland – Part 2

In late June 2019, I undertook a 6-day coastal hike around the Isle of Arran, my namesake island. This 65 miles/ 105 km hike is a circuit of the island starting from the northernmost village and heading inland on several occasions. The weather was scheduled to be amazing with little rain.

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Back to Part 1

Day 3 – Pien via Blackwaterfoot to Kildonan – 14.5 mi / 23.5 km

I set out from my campsite and walked the 3.5 km back to Blackwaterfoot, where I stopped for a coffee and a breakfast cheeseburger with haggis. When in Scotland… I headed out along the beach on a mixed track of pebble beach dirt running through long grass. Scotland is tick central, so I made sure to stop every few minutes to check my legs. I still walk on shorts, it’s too hot otherwise, so it’s best to monitor my legs. Nettle sting goes away, so I tend to ignore it, but I’m vigilant with checking for ticks.

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For the next 8 km, I followed the trail around with more of the same. The weather, while supposedly cloudy all day became more sunny and warm along with a nice breeze.

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The trail then split, the easy route heading up to the road while the alternative continued along a more difficult beach track. I, of course, took the more difficult route as it hasn’t really been that strenuous so far. The trail was harder, to find that is, and I found myself crossing a farm and chatting to some quite vocal cows on the way.

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After a while, I came to a driveway that led me up off the beach to the main road. I followed this road for 4 km to Lagg, where I stopped at the cafe for lunch, a coffee, then next door to the hotel for a cider. Then on down to the beach past a 5000-year-old burial mound.

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My next target was Bennan Head, which I had to pass before high tide else I would be stuck. I had monitored the tide times and had aimed to get there with at least an hour to spare. As I came along the beach, it turned into rock hopping, with the seas slowly closing in.

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On the way, Pladda Isle appeared with its lighthouse as did the more distant Ailsa Craig, a volcanic plug poking out from the ocean.

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It was almost two kilometres of rock hopping, but about midway, I came to Bennan Head and Black cave, the largest cave on Arran. With time running out, I decided to climb up the back of the cave to see where it went. Out through the gap and around to a viewpoint. I didn’t stay long, climbing down again and getting on with the walk.

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I rock hopped around the head to the beach before working my way along the beach to Kildonan, my stop for the night where I enjoyed a sunny view from a pub out past the lighthouse to the volcanic island. And, of course, a cider.

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Day 4 – Kildonan to Brodick – 16.5 mi / 27.5 km

Today will be the longest day if the hike. The day started cloudy, and the wind from the night before was still there. This kept the morning cool and more importantly, the midges away. I packed up and headed out of the caravan park along the beach. My first goal today was to get around Dippin head. As I walked, I passed the Kildonan Castle, although it was technically only a watchtower.

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Thankfully the tide was on the way out, but with the boulder field twice as long as Bennan Head yesterday, I soon got fed up with rock hopping. Finally, I came out the other side onto a thistle packed, nettle studded tall grassy trail and headed along the beach to Largybeg.

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Not long after I arrived at Whiting Bay and found a cafe for coffee and brunch. I ran into two ladies who had camped near me overnight and chatted to them about my next leg as they’d come a different way. The view on the way into Whiting Bay with the Holy Island at the end (the mountains to the right).

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I then headed out up into the hills on a steep set of roads that turned into a dirt trail through the woods. I followed this through a section of felled trees to Glenashdale Falls and around to a viewing platform.

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The sky cleared almost completely and stayed that way for the rest of the day. I followed the road first up to a high point with amazing views.

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The road continued on for another 4 km, but I enjoyed the few times when trees offered shade, and I got some respite from the sun. I eventually arrived at the bottom of the road and decided to push on into Lamlash for a cider and a break from the heat. I found a bar and sat out the front with my drink looking out to Holy Island in the bay.

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After the drink, I headed on to Clauchlands Point, 2.5 km from Lamlash and the easternmost tip of the island.

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I rounded the point to be presented with 2 options, the standard trail along the coast all the way to Brodick or the alternative ‘high’ route. Of course, I took the high route. At the top of the first climb, I saw the trail meandered up over the cliff tops working its way higher and higher. This, of course, gave amazing views in all directions.

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I eventually headed downhill come out at a road the would lead me down into Brodick. It would have been another three km to the wild camping spot, and after my long walk and climbs in the sun, I found a bunkhouse and booked. My first bed in 4 days.

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Next days 5 and 6 of the Arran Coastal Way.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Arran Coastal Way, Scotland – Part 1

In late June 2019, I undertook a 6-day coastal hike around the Isle of Arran, my namesake island. This 65 mile / 105 km hike is a circuit of the island starting from the northernmost village and heading inland on several occasions. The weather was scheduled to be amazing with little rain.

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Day 1 – Lochranza to Imachar – 11 mi / 18.2 km

The first day of the walk is not scheduled to be a long one, but there is s sidewalk added for a bit of variety. Lochranza is the northernmost village on the island and even has a ruined castle on the bay.

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I walked out of the hostel and along to the Sandwich Shack for breakfast and a coffee. Then I headed up the hill on a steep farmers driveway past the ruins of the island’s oldest house.

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While I was only 60 metres or so above sea level, the views were still enjoyable out across to the Mull of Kintyre, reminding me of the old song of the same name.

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I rounded the hill with the trail descending a little before it ran behind the long row of houses at Catacol. I climbed down to the road and onto the pebble beach where I picked my way along for the next 4.5km.

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About two-thirds of the way through the day is the side trail, which climbs up the hill to Coire Fhionn Lochan, a small lake nestled in the bowl beneath small peaks. The climb was pretty straightforward to 340m, and I passed several families on my way up. When I got to the small lake, I dropped my pack for a rest and chatted to some other climbers.

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The wind was blustery but not cold. I was told the lake can be a mirror but for the wind, a shame but a good view anyway. After my break, I climbed back down, passing a family that had still not made it to the top. The view back the other way was wonderful.

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When I got back to the road, I continued on along the beach. I arrived at Pirnmill with enough time for a light lunch at the restaurant before they closed until dinner. I hung out in the sunshine and topped up supplies at the shop next door before setting off again along the beach.

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For the next 3.5 km, I picked my way along the beach until I eventually arrived at where my map said was Imacher. But instead of what I thought might be a village, was absolutely nothing. The road went up over the hill, so I took a walk up it and found a small handful of houses, most of them abandoned and overgrown. But when I rounded the corner on one abandoned house, I ran into this male peacock showing his stuff.

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There was an ostentation of peacocks, with several males (peafowl), 3 females and some chicks
. After the show, I headed down to a wild camping spot I’d walked past, pitched my tent and settled in for the rest of the day.

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Day 2 – Inachar to Pien via Blackwaterfoot – 11 mi / 18 km

It had rained overnight but and I had no wild visitors overnight. I had a breakfast of oat biscuits before breaking camp. The sky was dark, and the wind gusty as I set out onto the road.

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Today, walking along the beach was not such an option. It would have been possible but I was racing to avoid the forecasted rain, so I took the quicker alternative along the road. Today is the only day forecast for rain, let’s hope the sun stays for the rest of the week. My first port of call is Cafe Thyme 5km along from my wild camp. The walk was fairly straightforward, and along the way, I even spied seals chilling on some rocks.

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When I arrived at the cafe, they were just opening. They did not serve breakfast, but the waitress organised some scrambled eggs for me anyway. We chatted about life in general and getting out of London, which she had done 10 months earlier. After coffee, I set off and noted a standing stone in a paddock. So, I crossed to get a better look.

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Two kilometres on and I came past Dunedin (the name of a house) to the Machrie Bay Golf Club tea rooms where I bought some water. Then another kilometre further on to car park for the Machrie Moors Standing Stones. I walked the mile to the moors and the several groups of standing stones there…

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…not to mention rock
circles.

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Then, as I made my way back to the road, it began to rain. A mile further along and I came to the Torr Righ Beag, a small wooded National Park. I walked around the outskirts looking back along the coast to where I had started the day (at the furthermost edge of the coast).

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I continued around the path to the coast and before heading down a steep trail to the beach. I walked past the King’s cave, which is caged off, and a pair of natural arches.

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I then set my sights on the Doon Fort, a rock formation where an iron aged fort had once stood.

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I walked around the back and up to the top, getting great views across the bay. After a look around I climbed down the Tor to a golf club where I walked to the beach and along to Blackwaterfoot. I found a bar to wait for the restaurant to open, allowing me to have cider and get my feet out of my sodden boots.

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After dinner a walked the 3 km along roads to the campground where I would encounter plentiful midges but a hot shower!

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Next, days 3 and 4 of the Arran Coastal Way.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

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.

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 2

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

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