We started the day with a not so hearty breakfast. If anyone ever wants to run a bed and breakfast in Scotland, make sure you serve porridge as well as cereals! With our stomachs full but not quite satisfied, we plodded off with a cold air swirling around us as we left Drummadrochit. It wasn’t long before the contours were beginning to hug each other signifying we would be going uphill for a while. The forestry path swerved up the hill backtracking on itself several times – it certainly was very similar to previous days!
However, it wasn’t long until the mounds of gaping trees became more and more sparse. We began to venture through open moorland similar to Rannoch Moor than the train chugged through so many days ago!
Eventually, we reached the road where a sign brought us to an abrupt halt: ‘Cafe – 1km.’ We consequently raced along a gravel path with signs tempting us every 100m or so: “tea, coffee, soup, cocoa, fresh tea, real coffee,” the signs called out to us. Soon, we arrived at the cafe – if it could be called that. It was a ragged field with loose hens, 2 pigs and barking dogs. A dishevelled looking women ran out and was very pleased to see us. She quickly ushered us into a ramshackled lean-to where she brought us cups of tea. Bearing in mind, this was in the middle of nowhere and we were the only people there.
After paying, we rustled out through the overgrown path where we reached a road that we would be on for a long time. It soon began to rain meaning that it was time for Simon’s fluorescent green poncho to be revealed. It was horrendous and flapped about it the wind like a bright green parachute. Simon called it ‘poncho-tastic’ however myself and Chris thoroughly disagreed! (See photo!)
Thankfully, the rain didn’t last long and the poncho was soon removed. A path lead us into yet another forest but this time the path descended. With every twist and turn, Inverness became clearer and clearer until we reached the end of the wood when a sign told us that Inverness was still 4 miles away.
The path swerved through parks, housing estates and leisure centre car parks that were alien to us after days of being stranded in the Great Glen. After crossing over the swing bridge, we had a long traipse alongside the canal and the River Ness before the mighty Inverness Castle came into sight. Our end point. We had finished after 80 miles!
Our journey at times has been a sad one. At regular intervals, we have witnessed at the worst, mass murder; or at the saddest, mass suicide. The first stiffened body of a vole/shrew/mouse was early on in the walk. It’s body laying across our path. Within a mile, be it canal-side, mountain track or woodland trail, a constant offering of quite fresh corpses were there to be stepped over. Occasionally, there were flies laying eggs and sometimes an obvious part of the unfortunate creature had been devoured.
Was there a killer walkIng before us or had a lemming-like aberration taken hold of the rodent population. Avon ‘Skin-so-Soft’ was only supposed to deter midges not make voles/shrews/mice throw themselves on their swords.
From the dining room, we watch the bird feeder hanging on a long line from a tree, just outside the window and above a small retaining wall. Great tits and blue tits were visiting to feast on the caged peanuts. Next, the birds scattered. A red squirrel hopped from the wall and clasped hold of the feeder to similarly feast. The birds would then return once the squirrel had scampered.
Then the vegetation behind the wall rustled. Something else was making it’s way to breakfast. Halfway up the plant, a rotund mouse appeared: he folded a couple of leaves and the launched himself towards the peanuts. With his mistimed leap and windmilling legs, he fell short of the nuts and descended below the far side of the wall. The plants vibrated again and the mouse appeared on another plant slightly higher. From his folded platform and as the nut cage swung towards him in the wind, he sprang into action. This time, he caught a claw of one limb in the wire mesh and got his reward.
A great tit startled him into falling and the process began again. Then his brother joined in the acrobatics. Sometimes successfully and more often than not, flailing in mid-air. What performances they delivered, so funny!
With a slightly lighter and more refined breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, we left Invermorriston aware that it would be a long climb up to start with. We were right – the path swerved through the wood, backtracking on itself several times. Soon, the path levelled marginally to open up great panoramic views across the whole of Loch Ness and beyond – at one point the misty haze of Ben Nevis poked through the sky.
By the time it was lunch the sun was beating down on us so we found a shaded spot and delved into our sandwiches. Chris and myself were then infested by midges so were lashed ourselves in the world renowned anti-midge cream – Avon Skin So Soft – which is even used by the army! With this, we had a bit more of a leisurely lunch!
Along another winding path, we decided to repeat one of yesterday’s game with slightly different rules: we were now at a zoo observing 26 different animals, each with different letters. It became rather difficult at ‘u’ – we came up with ‘udderless cow’ but please make a comment if you can do any better!
Soon, a small tea shop approached and we raced in to slurp up large mugs of tea. Feeling refreshed, we rattled on towards Drumnadrochit – a metropolis compared to the tiny dwellings of Invergarry and Invermorriston.
For years now, Simon has raved about haggis and onion pizza from Drumnadrochit and was desperate try it. So much so, that he had to beg the owner of the dilapidated cafe to serve it for him. Chris and myself were rather cynical before but admittedly, it was quite nice!
Tomorrow is our last and final day, however it is a difficult one: 19 miles but up and down all the way!
Rule one: whenever we set off on a walk, the wisdom of mummy bear, “Peter,” she would cry, “Make sure that when you walk on a road that your dad is in front of you, because if a car comes toward you will be safe!”
But Peter, became more of a rebel on every outing: he is more often than not spending time out in front, as he is younger, fitter and more energetic. When we get to road this sprinter mentality takes over and he continues to lead us forward. He forgets mother’s warning!
So there we are on a plateau above Loch Ness, walking towards the Drumnadrochit, having ascended for what seemed an age. We divert to a cafe as we have plenty of time. A welcome pot of tea each and outdoor seats with soft cushions – a great delight and comfort! Paying and re-hoisting our rucksacks, we start off down the singe track, tarmac road and round the first bend with Peter out front. He suddenly dodges left, then right and spins around, eyes agog. “Car”, he screams as a big four by four nudges forward. We casually move to the side of the lane as Peter remembers the wise words of his mother “Make sure when you walk on a road that your dad is in front of you, because if a car comes toward you, you will be safe!”
Within a couple of miles, young Peter was then seen to lead the walk into and along a road side ditch, for similar safety reasons – thinking it was a specially made path for walkers. No, it was a ditch but safe from cars.
Irony – even in the wilds of the Scottish Highlands! There we are, slogging up forest tracks and we reach the latest summit. As we progress downwards, we meet some cyclists struggling up their torturous route. The pedallers are attired in full black spandex with a high visibility jackets blaring out in a landscape of pastel colours and verdant greenery. The cyclist is not on a modern mountain bike which would eat the Highland trails for breakfast. No no! This seasoned city wheeler is on a road bike – a Tour de France style bike. He is riding a proper town bicycle with thin tyres and lights that are flashing on and off to warn walkers and wandering deer of his presence on the mountain. As he passes on his bone shaking travels, as the surface is not the most smooth you could ride upon, he utters an expletive or two and prays, dreams, demands tarmac. We just shake our head and walk on as he judders on his not so merry way.
Our day started the same as the day before with a hearty breakfast to spur us on our 18 mile day. We had been pre-warned that the first part snaked up and around the forest above Invergarry. It still seemed an age until we reached the summit and were able to descend towards the canal. The elegant Bridge of Oich signalled our arrival at the road.
We soon popped onto the canal and were chilled by a bitter wind so we ladened ourselves with jumpers only to remove them very quickly. To pass the time on this part of the walk, we decided to play some games: Firstly, one person says a country and the other has to say a country who’s name begins with the last letter of the previous country – this became rather difficult as the only country beginning with ‘a’ and ending with a different letter is Afghanistan! With that failure, we moved onto a memory game about buying different items and having to recite each item in alphabetical order – I could still name every single item but I fear it may be tiresome!
With our brain teasers, the walk seemed to fly by and it seemed no time at all till we reached Fort Augustus where a line of boats were waiting patiently to go through the eight locks. They formed our entertainment whilst munching upon fish and chips. After Simon’s customary doze, we marched off only stopping briefly for a bite of chocolate each. We were now halfway through our day and halfway through our great expedition.
The next part of the walk took us up through yet more forestry tracks which gave amazing views out onto Loch Ness. Upon seeing a group of canoeists from earlier on in the day, Simon went into reminiscent mode, droning on about his adventures on Loch Ness. However the views easily provided alternative entertainment! After a good hour of twisting through forest tracks, we descended into Invermorriston where a warming shower waited in anticipation.
There is a certain feeling I get on the third day of a long distance walk: When the alarm goes off there is no pain at all – just a feeling of calm. But then of course you have to move. Will any limb answer the call? A good night’s sleep seems to have smoothed out the ache and the stiffness in all but the core of my ankles and the bulk of my shoulders.
Another result of our exertions is that my temperature seems to be raised slightly. When we usually begin walking, we are all ‘layered up’ and then lose the outer clothing as we warm up over the first mile or so. It is true that it was a warm night but at breakfast, I feel as if the walking has begun for the day.
After a hearty breakfast we were driven to Gairlochy where we finished yesterday. We arrived at 9:30 to find that the swing bridge was to delay our start to our 18 mile day, however, we were only marginally delayed due to the boat sailing through at a brisk pace. From Gairlochy, we had a short climb through a winding forestry path until crossed over the road towards the lochside path. The views of Loch Lochy and over towards the cloud-topped peaks was really quite spectacular. Unfortunately, these views where rather short lived due to forestry works in the area that had desolated the forest into a wasteland. As a result, we had to guess which path to take and ended up traipsing all the way to the tiny settlement of Clunes.
The next part of the walk was my personal favourite – a wide uneven path that hugged lines of trees whilst undulating up and down – perfect for walking! The views regularly greeted us when we weaved out towards the shoreline. Meanwhile, Simon’s favourite part was the cooling mist that had began to creep its way across the loch – we thought that we would get wet but our quick pace stopped us from reaching this fate. After a while, the trees became more and more isolated signifying our entrance into Kilfinnan. A few rocks served as a picnic table where we had pasties and Eccles cakes – a lunch totalling around 1000 calories! In response to Kennneth’s qualms about our eating habits: there is no bad food for walking as we burn everything off with our exertions.
We soon descended towards Loch Lochy the site of the Eagle Inn – regarded as the UK’s only floating pub! No time for a pint – only a quick cup of tea on the quay before plodding on. Our next path was yet again lined with trees but around 100 feet from the canal itself hence shielding the view of the water. Thankfully, the next swing bridge wasn’t blocking our path so we raced across. A steep uphill section followed to take us up above the road to Invergarry however we soon scrambled back down to reach the village. Our bed and breakfast soon approached where a warm shower and a cup of tea awaited.
Tonight for dinner – freshly caught salmon at the B&B along with a dessert – sounds very promising after our hearty breakfast!
Thankfully, today’s jaunt was quite easy going on the legs: mainly pavement to the canal and then a winding towpath all the way to our endpoint – Gairlochy. Prior to starting our adventure, we sneaked into McDonalds for a quick burger and chips for energy! The first part of walk was actually quite annoying due to the route torturing us by twisting through the hamlets of Caol, Corpach and Banavie. The sight of Neptune’s Staircase (a series of 8 towering locks built in 1822) was a relief as it signified the end of pavements. Awaiting us was a series of boats waiting to go through the swing bridge and henceforth the locks. We sat for a good 20 minutes admiring the true feat of engineering that canals would have been in 1822.
After our canal spotting became somewhat tedious, we sauntered along the towpath, winding through the valley with a new view greeting us around every corner. The canal was quite busy with people taking advantage of the good weather. Cyclists seemed to appear out of nowhere with a brisk tingle of their almost inaudible bells. It didn’t seem too long until we reached finish-point for the day of Gairlochy where we waited for our taxi to the B&B where I write this now.
We have just come back from a very tasty meal at the village hotel – the only eatery available to us in a walkable radius. Two of us gorged upon a meaty venison while Chris grazed on the vegetarian option – wild mushroom strudel. Obviously puddings were in order and we had lime and passionfruit cheesecake and Simon had a banofee pie. Full of energy for tomorrow’s 18 mile hike.
A slow train journey, over four hours, to reach Fort William. But what a journey!
From the built up areas of the city along the Clyde,we look across to Port Glasgow and the mouth of the Clyde and look towards last year’s expedition to Arran.
From a stop at Garelochhead, we gradually climb up alongside the loch. The view is spectacular as the single track tunnels through the forest. The greenery of the surrounding mountain-sides is coloured with occasional rhododendrons and rowan trees as we move toward the Glen head. Then that glimpse of the wooded hillside towards the far bank of Loch Lomond and the route of the West Highland Way – our mammoth walk two years ago.
The clouds are closing in as we move further north and the hills are topped with mist. We wait at Crianlarich as the carriages separate. At Tyndrum one set of carriages take a left and move off to Oban, whereas we head to the Bridge of Orchy and east around the vast expanse of Rannoch Moor. There is little blue sky as the atmosphere is hot, sticky, thunderous and promises rain. There is another two hours before we are released.
Next we come to Rannoch Moor, a wilderness that the railway builders skirted: open and quite desolate other than the odd sheep. We leave the road and civilisation behind with the West Highland Way heading north around the western flanks of Ben Nevis. Meanwhile, we take a wide loop east, stopping at Rannoch Station. Rannoch Station is really in the middle of nowhere: no road access, yet a regular direct link to London – something that Huddersfield lacks! An hour left of lazy transport.
So, as we pull into Fort William, will the miles of preparation pay off? The weather promises set fair for the first couple of days. We will walk away from Ben Nevis and Fort William, although the mountain will remain in sight for a couple of days. We are more than ready, as long as the baggage transfer company meets us at the station as planned.
Good afternoon and welcome to this blog covering our trek up the Great Glen. Writing this blog, we (Simon, Chris and myself, Peter) are sat on the train chugging up through Scotland through the sides of great fells. For those only wishing to track the progress of our walk – check back tomorrow as ahead of us is a night in Glasgow with friend Gordon before traipsing up to Fort William by lunchtime.
We hopped on our first train at Huddersfield to Manchester and were greeted by a couple who were talking about their 24 mile trek around the three peaks in the Yorkshire Dales – we could beat that with our 80 mile trek. Our boastful nature was somewhat dashed when another person exclaimed that they were part way through completing the John O’ Groats to Land’s End route. At least our next train neighbours were hen party-goers who had only clocked up a couple of miles slouching through the streets of Manchester from one club to another!
Please do carry on following our progress throughout the trip on this website when Wi-Fi signal permits us.
On Sunday 22nd June, Rev’d Canon Simon Moor and Peter Moor, along with Chris Ownsworth, will be going to Scotland to complete yet another long distance walk: The Great Glen Way – all 80 miles of it over a period of 4 and half days from Fort William to Inverness. You can track their progress throughout the walk by looking at their blog on this page. The walk is in aid of the North Wall Project and the Bell Clappers Fund and those wishing to sponsor them can either sign the notice at the back of church of ring the parish office for more information. They have already been practising by walking to everyone who is listed on the electoral roll.