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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

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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

The Inn Way to the Lake District, England – Part 4

Day 4 – Buttermere to Boot – 12 miles (19.3km) – 8 hours

It rained overnight, and that left me expecting the worst from the weather today. But thankfully, the sun came out and decided it liked the day, so stayed. There were plentiful clouds, which kept the temperatures down but with little wind. Overall, an awesome day to hike in the Lake District.

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I left the hostel and walked down through the village towards Lake Buttermere. Ahead I could see several groups of people and hoped not to get stuck behind any of them.

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I quickly passed a group of six teenage girls that were taking off their clothes on the side of the trail. If only this were a regular thing on hikes! Alas, they were a group of schoolgirls doing a group exercise? They had overdressed for the day and were removing excess clothing. I continued on along beside the lake.

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At the end of the lake, the trail cut steeply into Buttermere Fell. I took a shortcut, and when I rejoined the main path ran into another group of teenage girls, these were sweaty from having climbed the steep trail. I wished them well and continued climbing.

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Today is the fourth day of this hike, and my body is so used to the effort it just does what I need it to do. While my legs are still a little sore, they just seem to power up the hill without too much effort.  I stopped about a third of the way up for a shot back along the Lake Buttermere.

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Before I knew it, I was through Scarth Gap and crossing the pass towards the other side. For the most part of the hike today the trail had been rocky or covered in slate.

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I came down the other side of the pass and headed down into the next valley River Liza running strong along it amidst Ennerdale Forest. I followed a fence on a path made from large cobblestones, and stopped for a for a break, taking my boots off.

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After a few minutes, I continued down into the valley. I note on my map a hut along the way, and as I got closer, I noticed it was occupied. When I arrived at it, I discovered it was a YHA, the most remote YHA in the UK. I stopped for a coffee and ate my lunch. Ahead, I guessed my trail led me up beside the stream called Sail Beck, in the middle of the photo.

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It was taller than the previous climb, and the trail was less obvious, but after 30 minutes I was at the top and looking down wondering how I’d got there so effortlessly. The path was at times boggy, and sometimes I had to scramble up some rock, but nothing too strenuous. At the top, I looked down at the trail on the other side, which was made mostly of stone steps.

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I climbed down into the valley, passing several hikers, and stopped to chat to the leader of the two groups of girls who were waiting for them. The sun came out again, and I looked down along Mosedale to Yewbarrow in all of its rocky glory.

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At the end of the valley, the village of Wasdale Head and a low pass over Sca Fell, where I would be climbing out of the valley. I stopped at the Inn for a cider and took my boots off again. Pro tip: regularly dry off the feet, socks and boots by taking them off. This helps to prevent blisters, especially on hot days.

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After my drink, I packed up and headed off again for about two kilometres before heading up the Sca Fell. While I was crossing the fell known as Sca Fell, I did not climb the main peak, which is the tallest mountain in England. After a while, I looked down on Wast Water, the deepest lake in the Lake District at 79 metres.

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When I reached my highest point of the fell, the ground was a lot boggier, and I had to dig my boots out of the bog several times, but after a mile or so I came to Burnmoor Tarn. At the tarn, I realised that my hostel for the night was more than a mile from Boot, my planned destination. So, I chose another trail that would take me closer.

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This, however, led me across a lot more boggy ground and a footbridge…

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…towards Eel Tarn and a lot more boggy ground.

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Eventually, I got close to the tarn and ran into a man who looked rather lost. I showed him the map and sent him on his way, then skirted the tarn and headed onto a more rocky trail. This led me down to eventually come out at the Woodpack Inn, just down the road from my hostel.

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A long day climbing may hills, but with my body in a good state, I’m looking forward to the next three days.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

The Inn Way to the Lake District, England – Part 2

Day 2 – Rosthwaite to Braithwaite – 12 miles (19.3km) – 7 hours

After the full day of rain yesterday, the weather was supposed to clear up for the rest of the week; ‘was supposed to’, being the operative statement here. When I awoke at the hostel, it was raining and would continue to do so for most of the first part of the day. What’s a hiking man to do but strap on his pack and get out there.

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I walked out from the hostel during a pause in the rain hoping it had stopped for the day, but alas, ten minutes down the road, the rain began again. While it wasn’t heavy, only a gusty drizzle, it was annoying. I followed the River Derwent for a while before it headed up Tongue Gill. I was somewhat thankful for the cool weather as makes it easy to climb. Not far up the valley I stopped and looked back on Rosthwaite and in the distance, the valley I had come out of the day before.

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The gill ahead looked arduous, a steady climb all the way, including the wall at the end. What made it more difficult was that for every 10 minutes I walked, I spent 5 minutes hovering either behind an old slate wall, in the opening of a mine or a cave, waiting for the gusts and drizzle to subside. Along the way, to help out the climb, there are many slate steps. Towards the top, there are more broken down buildings and mine shafts. I ignored them as it is never a good idea to explore old mines.

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Once at the top of the steep, wet, slate steps, I pulled out the hiking poles, this time to stabilise myself at the top in the somewhat extreme gusts of wind. The plateau at the top is boggy, and I sloshed across it, my boots filled by water already, only an hour into the day. I climbed over Miners Crag and Red Crag on my way up High Spy, the wind and rain continuing to pelt at me. Eventually, I arrived at a large cairn marking the top point of my climb.

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From here there was a long walk across the top of High Spy and Maiden Moor in the relative peace and solitude. It is difficult to take photos with the persistent rain, but I was able to see down into the next valley during clear moments.

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Towards the end of Moor I began to see people coming out of the mist, then when I came over Bull Crag, I looked down towards Derwent Water. Ahead more people climbed towards me and many more standing on Cat Bells, the small peak at the end of the chain. I would not be going that far along as my trail headed down to the left before it.

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After a series of muddy descents, I followed a trail down and away from the mass of day climbers. Ahead you can just make out people on the top of Cat Bels.

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My descent took me down into the valley I had seen from High Spy.

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I eventually came down to a path and the sun fought its way out of the clouds to welcome me. I followed the trail to Little Town, which is only a village, where I stopped for a coffee break in some tea rooms.

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After my break, I set out again around the valley, following the base of the Cats Bells. Instead of climbing and being beaten by the wind and rain, I got a pleasant walk across some paddocks, avoiding sheep and cow dung, before heading out along some country lanes.

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But as I crossed the valley, my next climb loomed, climbing the valley alongside Stonycroft Gill between the Barrow on the right and Causey Pike on the left.

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With sore legs after the past two days, the long slow climb was quite a slog.

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I turned the bend and headed up the valley, slowly. The sun decided to show its face finally, and things began to warm up. On sore legs, I pushed on.

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Darks clouds amazed behind me as I looked back along the trail to the valley.

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I pushed on along the rocky path, always climbing. I passed a steep climb to the top of the pass and chose to continue on towards where the trail doubled back to a flatter trail. I finally arrived at the Barrow Door, between The Barrow and Stile End, where I looked down upon Braithwaite below me.

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For the last 20 or so minutes I quick marched down into Braithwaite. On arrival at my hotel, I checked in, got an upgrade to a double room and got set up for the evening, including a well deserved hot bath to ease my aching legs. Tomorrow is the shortest day of this hike with only one major climb.

The Inn Way to the Lake District, England – Part 6

Day 7 – Coniston to Ambleside – 15 miles (24km) – 8 hours

Today is to be the longest day and has the highest climb of the hike, while it is 200m short of Snowdon, I have two further climbs today, plus a lot of road walking. But it is the final day of the hike, and I will be pushing it at the end.

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I set out from the hostel climbing a fairly steady road until it merged with a dirt one. This rose steadily into the mountains, past an old copper mine to where the YHA Coniston Coppermines. A remote hostel for those wanting to be out in nature. Beyond it, the next stage of my climb.

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I cut up the hill on a vague trail which didn’t seem to match my OS map and GPS locator. But it eventually caught up, and I climbed steeply up the hill until I came to a prominent trail. It was about here that it decided to try to rain. I stopped and put on my pack cover, but the rain didn’t make it past a light drizzle and eventually stopped.

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I made it to the Levers Water reservoir to find a group of female hikers studying a map. I joined in a discussion on the various crags around the basin. They were doing a circuit of the basin, while I was climbing to the top.

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I pushed on past the reservoir and into boggy ground. The top of the valley was ahead of me, and I presumed it would be the top of my climb, boy was I wrong.

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At the top of the valley, there is a large cairn. But this is not the top, the trail cuts steeply up the rocky face of Swirl How. To add to the fun, the mist had rolled in, and the drizzle continued. Thankful I had worn my long sleeve hiking shirt today, I turned down the sleeves and began the long climb up the mountain.
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Each time I thought I had arrived at the top, the mountain continued higher, until I eventually could see the cairn at the top in the mist. I climbed on, but as it was cold and I couldn’t see much at the top, I didn’t hang around.

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The trail cut around to the north, dipping and climbing past the Great Carrs, Little Carrs, Hell Gill Pike and several crags as it slowly made its way down over the course of three kilometres.

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Once I could see the bottom point of the mountain – where the cars are – I realised that my next climb was right across the road. It was a little chilly, and the wind had a slight bite to it. But I found a sheltered rock and sat to eat my lunch.

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The climb up to Red Tarn was easy, although I am not sure where the name came from. Perhaps the mist and rain hid some redness?

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While the climb up to Red Tarn was easy, the climb down the other side was not so fun. For a start, it was wet and rocky, but it seemed to go on forever. Descending is hard on the knees, and by the time I got to the bottom, I was hurting quite a lot.

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By the time I reached the valley, the mist had moved enough to take a good photo. For the next 3 kilometres, I walked along a flat valley on a stone road. The road continued for some time through the middle of the valley until eventually coming to a farmstead where it met a real road.

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I followed the trail to the left and over a bridge. It led into a paddock along the river where I walked for a kilometre to a pub where I took the opportunity to stop for a cider. The trail then merged with the Cumbria Way and made its way up the hill a little. I paused and looked back down to the Inn in a valley with the mountains behind it.

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I then followed a quiet road behind many of the farms and quarries for several miles through the forest. This area was quiet, and I only passed one couple as I walked.

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Eventually, I made it to a major road and then on through the town of Elterwater and up to another major highway on the other side. I then crossed several fields and walkways until I came around the back of Loughrigg Tarn to a caravan site and beyond.

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Finally, I climbed beneath Ivy Crag, my last climb of the hike and the final Fell. The trail led only 500 metres across until it came down onto farm roads.

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From there, I got a good view down into Ambleside.

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For the next 2 kilometres, I walked down farm roads onto more distinct roads and finally into the town itself. Then it was the last kilometre from Ambleside to the YHA I had left 7 days earlier.

Overall, the 7-day, 90-mile loop that is the Innway of the English Lake District has been by one of the better hikes I have walked in the UK. Finally, I found the right balance of nature and civilisation. There is much beauty in the region, days where I just looked back, and all I could see was nature.

Next time I push further north and into Scotland to find some true wild country in these Isles, but that won’t be until the next hiking season, next year.

Until then,

The Lone Trail Wanderer.

The Inn Way to the Lake District, England – Part 3

Day 3 – Braithwaite to Buttermere – 11 miles (17.7km) – 5 hours

The good news today is that it didn’t rain. It did think about it a couple of times, but the waterworks never eventuated. I was thankful, as my boots had struggled to fully dry during both of the previous nights, even in the hostel’s dry rooms. And, on another positive note, today will be the shortest and easiest day of this hike.

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My overnight hotel had a late check-out, but I still managed to get away at 10. I walked though the village and found a place to buy a sandwich for lunch. Then, 100m out of the town I found the trail and headed out along it. At a suitable point, not far along the path, I stopped and looked back to Braithwaite.

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The trail was thin with brambles and thorn bushes on either side, but I came away unscratched. After some time the thin path met a road that followed the valley around to the right following Coledale Beck.

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One part of hiking I enjoy is the mystery of what I find along the way and as I followed the road around I was met with Force Crag at the end of the valley. The thought that crossed my mind was, ‘I have to climb that?’

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Things at a distance always look worse than they really are and as I got closer to the valley’s end, I could see the trail leading up the hill beside it. It still looked rather thin and precarious, but again, things appear worse from a distance.

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To follow the trail, I had to cross the river on stepping-stones, before climbing the hill, which I found easier than I had expected. While it had looked thin from a distance, you could have driven a 4×4 vehicle up the rocky trail. At the top, I looked back along the valley.

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And once at the top, the trail continues up the hill beyond, zigzagging to the top of the pass between Sand Hill and Crag Hill.

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A series of people came over the top as I climbed, and one guy told me it was very windy at the top. I took heed and near the top put my jacket on. I wear my coat backwards unless it’s raining heavily. This is to mainly protect against the wind and keep me warm, while not adding to the sweat running down my back. And, should I get too warm, I can pull my arms out without losing the wind protection at the front.

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When I got to the top, it was indeed very windy. I looked down the other side and could see Liza Beck as it made its way along Gasgale Gill. I followed the trail down, fighting against the wind as I went.

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The trail was not an easy walk, at many places was covered in slate, and with parts that had slipped away. While I was not very high above the stream, at many places I was still forced to hang on to whatever I could just to get past.

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Two-thirds of the way down Loweswater and the peak beyond came into view. Finally, I exited the valley and came out on green paddocks. I crossed a major road and followed a trail through a small wood. I came out at a carpark at the other end and followed the road for a short distance to Loweswater village, where there’s an inn.

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The sky decided it might be a good time to rain, so I stopped for a break and a cider. By the time I’d finished, the sun was out again, so I wasted little time heading off again. Across the valley, I could see the Gill I had come from beginning to look menaced by clouds.

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Ahead of me, Crummock Water came into view as I came over a small hill. The trail cut along the base of a ridge line, although the path itself was straightforward to follow and not particularly difficult.

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Towards the end, I passed the Low Long Crag that jutted out into the lake, a mini peninsula with a beach on each side.

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Not long after I arrived at Buttermere village and spent some time wandering around trying to find the YHA. When I got there, I found I could not check in until 5, so I headed back down into the village for a cider.

The Lone Trail Wanderer