Great Glen Way - The Walking Review

The kit has been done (scroll down if you missed it)...

Start at the start...

I'd been helping at the Children's Heart Federation Family weekend - Families taken around a farm zoo and then let loose on a driving range before a slap up Chinese buffet... Then on Sunday I was somehow on two Dragonboat teams - the NW's own group and a team led by a fellow CHF runner John.  Five dragonboat races later my arms were aching and the Avengers cam a creditable 4th behind some teams with suspiciously fit people in them...

From there it was the sleeper train, a life long ambition - fuelled by too many watchings of the 39 Steps... Alas I didn't end up handcuffed to a damsel in distress, but then again I didn't end up hanging off the hands of Big Ben...

I slept well, so a quick coffee and charge of the gadgets in Inverness and I was on my way.  From Flora MacDonald at Inverness Castle it was a gentle start - remembering how to hitch my backpack just so as I strode along the Canal... and then had to double back when the bridge was closed... But that did mean I met Louise from NZ, out training for a 40 mile walk I've looked at... a pleasant 5 km followed with me able to give some advice on kit (PROOF IT - you may not need to buy some new!) and she pointed out some of the quirks of day 1 of the route.  A fair trade.

Cutting through the suburbs of Inverness I started heading up towards the forestry land I'd be walking in for much of the next couple of days through the grounds of an old Victorian Mental Hospital - the guide book said it was progressive... still made me shudder!

The trails were good, and miles did fly - past the remains of drovers houses, and then through an area renown for its leks. Lunch was the first of my dehydrated meals - chicken curry... Bit of the vesta about it, but 600cals to the good and a lot better than many dehydrated ones:-)

A lengthy road section then beckoned, before returning to the forestry and a hidden gem!  Hope the link works... Friendly people, chickens around my feet, decent mug of tea! Made with a strainer!

The next section gave intermittent views of Loch Ness through the trees, and sight of Castle Urquhart... This meant supper was soon to follow - at Drumnadrochit - a slap up venison steak, pint and jug of water.  18 miles in the bag and still miles in my legs... So another 6 miles in the evening - My hope was to get most of the next days climb done so I could just walk on through... So on I plodded, more forests, more road sections... And with the sun setting on the scene I called it a day with a semi-wild camp near a car-park.   25 miles and 3000ft of climbing (according to my OS mapping software) - not a bad day:-)

Early start the next day, meant I had the whole stag in the mist on the path experience - ok it was probably first year of maturity and it was more startled than me so scarpered quickly. An up and down path through the woodland followed, with some short sharp climbs over and around on going forestry work.

Invermoriston for lunch - and then more of the same to finish off Loch Ness - Nessie wasn't spotted, though on the advice or more than 1 I had an early tea and Fish & Chips in Fort Augustus and refilled my water bottles - a tip I've given many walkers is get a British Waterways key c£7 - access to their showers, water, toilets... and nowdays wifi! 

It was a BW informal campsite that was my target for the night Kytra Lochs... a near perfect pitch on the banks of a canal. 19 Miles, 3300ft - so much for getting the climbs done!

A good sleep later, and off I went...

The canal paths are good, but hard walking, with a full pack on my back the miles did move but the going was warm... Loch Oich done it was through Laggan for an early lunch... I promised myself one proper meal a day... so Gammon & chips at 11:30 it was:-)

It was then on to the side of Loch Lochy... The sun was beating down and for the first time since I started it was time for a lengthy sit down on a convenient rock, take the boots off and change my socks... I wish to apologise to the walkers who saw and smelt my feet, but it worked for me.  The path along Loch Lochy was mentally tough - there were no obvious markers for distance, no distinctive navigation points.  Just the occasional blue marker stick, and glimpses of the Loch through the trees... Oh, and an Eagle:-D Fleetingly, but there isn't anything else that size!

The drop out of the forest was very welcome, through the stamping ground of the Commandos in WWII and then on through another forest... with a very strange collection of children's toys, gnomes and signs saying welcome to Fairyland... Which I confess in a gathering gloom, hail and cloud freaked me out!  A rapid exit from that weirdness left me on the edge of the next informal campsite - Gairlochy locks.  20 miles, 2000ft... and weirdness!

A view over the back of Ben Nevis meant I was getting close... So with a happy grin I dozed off, slept as well as man who has walked 63 miles in 3 days can do and woke knowing not much left.

The walk into Fort William is pancake flat, along canal paths through to Neptune's Staircase, with storms howling on the north face of Ben Nevis I was more than content to wrap myself in my waterproofs and trudge on.  A swing through Caol and Inverlochy and I'm at the Fort William that gives Fort William it's name... 10 and a bit miles, 345ft... I did say it was flat!

Lunch in Fort William, a stroll around and then out to the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel... and a room with a view

 
 
So job done... and a day spare to enjoy FW's delights... so a wildlife cruise, watching porpoises and knowing however tempting BN was, there was still over a metre and a half of snow on top...
 
 
 
 
The walking was good, navigation not a problem - the maps and book were needed, but the blue markers were intelligently done.  I'd also strongly suggest doing the walk my way - North to South... South to North would leave all of the hard days walking to the end, making them a lot less enjoyable.  Also I was using this as endurance and stamina training for the rest of the summer - the books say 5 - 6 days is normal, not the 3 and a bit I did it in...
 
TTFN
 
Paul
 
ps blister count - 0, midge bite count - 0 :-D
 

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