13th May – Evanton to Tain

20190513 Typical section of road walking near Tain
The sheer joy of road walking again

Today I crossed the Easter Ross peninsula, which entailed 19 miles of almost entirely road walking.

I left Evanton at 8.00 with a blister on one foot and a hot spot on the other.  This was totally down to my own stupidity in leaving my boot inner soles at Braemar.  I had replaced them in Inverness but obviously something was not right.

20190513 Rich agricultural land above Alness
Rich agricultural land above Alness

The best thing seemed to be to get the day completed as soon as possible.  The 7k to Alness disappeared in 95 minutes, so I had a short break.  More road walking took me to Newmore which had some beautiful gardens.

20190513 Beautiful flowers at Newmore
Beautiful floral displays at Newmore

Finally after 13k of roads, I moved onto a forest track and stopped for another rest.  I decided that some music would help pass the time.  Quick look at the guide map.  Follow the path to a road, turn left, get to a T junction, turn right, take the second road on the left.  Right, off we go.

20190513 Back in the forest
Back in the forest

An hour later I suddenly thought, “This left turn is taking a long time to appear.”  A closer inspection of the guide revealed that it was not a road, but the entrance to a farm that I had passed about a mile back.  As the trail only ran parallel with the road I was on, I chose to continue.

Around 1.15, I was less than 3 miles from Tain, when Stuart, my son, rang me.  When we had finished, and as I had stopped, I had lunch by the side of the road – getting some strange looks from the locals.

Entering Tain I paused at a very impressive building, to discover that it had been the Easter Ross Poorhouse.  Closer examination of the information board revealed that the large building was in fact the warden’s house, and what seemed to be a barn was the women’s quarters.

20190513 Easter Ross Workhouse
Easter Ross Poorhouse

I arrived at my accommodation in Tain at 2.45, after a day with little memorable about it.

Tain seems an interesting town, and I am planning to visit the museum before heading off to Dornoch.  I only have 14k to cover tomorrow, so for the first time I will indulge in some sight-seeing.

12th May – Inverness to Evanton

 

20190512 Kessock Bridge over the Beauly Firth at Inverness
Kessock Bridge over the Beauly Firth at Inverness

After spending last week with friends it seemed a little strange to be on my own again.

I left Inverness at 8.15, walking along the River Ness through the industrial part of the city.  The trail passed a clock tower, built during Cromwell’s time, and then went over the Kessock Bridge.  I inadvertently managed to use a path on the bridge which was supposed to be closed, and was delighted when the workmen were happy to let me pass rather then making me return and use the other side.

20190512 Cromwell's clock tower
Cromwell’s clock tower

On entering the Black Isle, I climbed up into the first of many woods and crossed a ridge, before dropping down to Munlochy Bay.

20190512 Munlochy bay
Munlochy Bay

From there it was back into the woods on another ridge leading to the Clootie Well. The trees here were hung with all sorts of things including Teddy Bears, socks, shoes, pieces of cloth and other detritus.  Apparently the well has healing powers and seems very popular.  Unfortunately I failed to take a photo.

20190512 Looking north from the ridge above Culbokie
Looking north from the ridge above Culbokie

From the well more woodland tracks and minor roads led to Culbokie overlooking the Cromarty Firth.  The Culbokie Inn beckoned me to stop for a reviving cup of tea, and made a fine lunch stop.

20190512 Approaching the Cromarty Bridge
Approaching the Cromarty Bridge

Walking down to join the A9, I then crossed the Cromarty Bridge, which was a real pleasure with cars and lorries hurtling by a couple of feet away.  Luckily, just after the bridge I could escape up a track to join a minor road, which led to Evanton where I arrived at 4.00.

20190512 The Cromarty Bridge
The Cromarty Bridge

Not the most inspiring of days, but I had sunshine most of the day so should not complain too much.  I have two more days of road and tracks through woods to look forward to, before things improve and the trail moves to the coast.

20190512 The long straight road
The long straight roads…

4th-11th May – Braemar Interlude

20190510 The valley of the Lairig Ghru from Carn a Mhaim
The valley of the Lairig Ghru from Carn a Mhaim

My week at Braemar with my friends from MAC (Mountain Activities Club) was most enjoyable as always.  I had a fairly relaxed week and although I got out every day I only had three real mountain days.

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“The snow made things interesting at the beginning of the week…”

The high spot was on Sunday when Tricky completed his Corbetts, (the 221 mountains over 2500ft), having already climbed the 282 Munros.

20190505 Tricky's last Corbett
Tricky’s last Corbett

My tally for the week was 1 Corbett and 3 Munros, and I was put to shame by Karen, John, Stuart and Jack who all achieved far more.

20190507 On the summit of Beinn a Chaorainn
On the summit of Beinn a Chaorainn (1083m)

The snow made things interesting at the beginning of the week, but we were blessed with fine weather on Thursday and Friday.

20190509 Carn a Mahaim from Glen Luibeg
Carn a Mahaim from Glen Luibeg

3rd May – Drumnadrochit to Inverness

20190503 Urquhart Castle
Urquhart Castle

Wyn and I left Drumnadrochit at 7.15, anticipating a long day before reaching Inverness.

Initially the route follows the A82, before turning into the Abriachan Forest and ascending up to 380m.   Around 9.00 we stopped for a break and had just restarted when the snow began to fall.   For the next few hours we were treated to bouts of snow and hail.

20190503 Wyn battling through the snow
Wyn battling through the snow

We reached the eco-campsite near Abriachan, and stopped for bacon rolls, coffee, tea and cakes.  The food was excellent – but be warned, it is not cheap, and you might want to check on prices before ordering anything.

20190503 Five Star Cafe at the Eco Campsite
Five Star cafe at the Eco-campsite

Suitably replete and having been joined by Ove, a German friend we had met on the trail and whose partner had decided to stop at the cafe, we set off along a minor road with increasing views as the weather improved.

20190503 Five star breakfast stop
Improving weather as we leave the Eco campsite

After an hour or so of road walking, it was back into the forest before receiving our final dose of hail.

20190503 Wyn in the forest
Final dose of hail…

Descending Dunain Hill, Inverness can be seen but the final 6k has still to be completed.

20190503 Storm clouds over Inverness
Just 6 more kilometres to go…

The trail links areas of greenery in a clever way eventually leading to the Caledonian Canal and along the banks of the River Ness.

20190503 Crossing the River Ness
Crossing the River Ness

We passed Inverness Cathedral on the opposite bank of the river.

20190503 Inverness Cathedral
Inverness Cathedral

Then with a short sharp climb the trail ends at Inverness Castle.  We arrived at 4.30.

20190503 Inverness Castle
Inverness Castle

It was great that Wyn was able to join me for The Great Glen Way, and we are looking forward to completing the Offa’s Dyke Trail later in the summer.

20190503 Wyn at the end of the Great Glen Way
Wyn at the end of the Great Glen Way

Tomorrow I am going to Braemar for a week with my friends from MAC (Mountain Activities Club).   I will resume blogging again next Sunday.

2nd May – Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit

20190502 Wyn in a fairy glen
Fine weather for walking through the fairy glen

Wyn and I had had a superb meal at the Glenmoriston Arms last night and were pleased that breakfast was not until 8.00.  It was 9.00 before we set off in fine weather but with a poor forecast for the rest of the day.

The day started with the mandatory ascent from the glen up into the forests.  The route took us through some charming woods which had a “fairy glen” feel about them, with thick moss covering the base of the trees and any exposed boulders.  A short detour to the Stone Seat promised extensive views of Loch Ness, which failed to materialise due to the height of the surrounding trees.

20190502 Loch Ness from the Stone Seat
Loch Ness from the Stone Seat

More interesting, and as it turned out useful, was the Stone Cave.  This was apparently constructed to offer shelter to a washerwoman on her frequent journeys from Allsigh and Invermoriston.  We stopped for a short break, and the promised rain began in earnest.  We took advantage of the cave to don our wet-weather gear, which was needed for the rest of the day.

20190502 Sheltering in the Stone Cave
Welcome shelter in the stone cave

A gentle descent down to Allsigh was followed by a long climb up to the day’s high point in Ruskich Woods.  Any possible views of Loch Ness and surrounding area were lost in the cloud and murk.

20190502 Up in the clouds in the conifer plantation
Up in the clouds

The most important question on our minds was, “Would the teashop at the Loch Ness Pottery at Grotaig by open?”  Thankfully the answer was yes.  Not only was it open, but it was crowded with more walkers than we had seen in days.

20190502 Loch Ness Pottery Teashop - A port in the storm
Loch Ness Pottery and Teashop – a welcome port in a storm

After coffee, tea and cake, we departed for the last 5 miles to Drumnadrochit.  Most of this was along a minor road, with a short detour into woodland, before emerging onto the A82 for the final section to our accommodation.  We arrived just after 4.00.

20190502 Wyn on the path down to Drumnadrochit
Bleak walking down to Drumnadrochit

As we had not stopped for lunch, we booked an early dinner at the Fiddlers Restaurant, which we would both recommend.

Our plan for tomorrow is to leave at 7.30 at the latest, as we have a 20-mile day, and the weather forecast is not great.

1st May – Fort Augustus to Invermoriston

20190501 Looking north along Loch Ness
The view along Loch Ness

Last night in the pub there was a closure notice for today’s route due to Scottish Water working in the area.  The diversion added 7k to the distance we would have to walk.  Wyn was sensible enough to check their website, and we were relieved to find that they had finished the work early and the normal route was open.

20190501 Wyn on a typical section of the trail to Invermoriston
The trail to Invermoriston

After a less than spectacular meal last night, the cold buffet for breakfast was fine, and we left Fort Augustus at 8.30 hoping to beat the rain to Invermoriston.  After a steep climb up to a forest track the route meandered, gently rising and falling, in and out of conifer plantations.  Loch Ness was mainly obscured by the trees but occasional glimpses could be seen where felling had taken place.

20190501 Across Loch Ness
Loch Ness

Near to Fort Augustus it was just possible to get sight of Cherry Island, the only island on Loch Ness. The island is in fact a Crannog, or man made island.

20190501 Thick moss carpeting the pine forest
Thick moss carpets the pine forest

The morning passed pleasantly watching the occasional boat moving on the loch and looking out for the water company employees who were finishing off their improvements.

20190501 Telford's bridge at Invermoriston
Thomas Telford’s bridge

Around 12.15 we dropped down and entered Invermoriston. Thomas Telford’s Bridge and the Falls of Moriston were striking and would be very impressive when the river is in flood.

20190501 Falls of Moriston
The falls of Moriston

Our B&B for the night did not open until 3.00pm so we were forced to take refuge in the Glenmoriston Arms.

Tomorrow will be a longer day so Wyn and I are glad to be able to relax this afternoon.

20190501 Snack stop
Snack stop!

30th April – Laggan Locks to Fort Augustus

20190430 Halfway to Inverness
Halfway to Inverness – we’re getting there…

After a hearty breakfast Wyn and I left Forest Lodge at 8.35.  Laura and Lorraine could not have been better hosts.

Initially we made our way warily along the A82 to get back to Laggan Locks.  Once there, the path followed the canal amongst woodland, until it crossed the A82 and joined an old railway line at Invergarry station.  The railway opened in 1903, joining Invergarry and Fort Augustus.  It was designed to be the first section of a line linking Fort William with Inverness.  Unfortunately the timing was wrong, none of the other sections were built, and the line closed in 1946.

20190430 Loch Oich
Loch Oich

The railway goes through Leitirfearn Forest Nature Reserve, running parallel to the shore of Loch Oich, with occasional views across to the far shore.  Evidence of General Wade’s military road can be seen below the railway.

20190430 Aberchalder Swing Bridge
Aberchalder swing bridge

At Aberchalder Swing Bridge we crossed the A82 and followed the canal to Cullochy Loch. We were looking forward to coffee at the teashop by the bridge – but naturally it was closed.

20190430 Yacht in Cullochy Lock
At Cullochy lock

From Cullochy, the trail follows the canal to Fort Augustus.  This section lacked interest, except at Kytra Lock where we stopped for an early lunch.  A boat was coming through the loch, and I was surprised it was called the “Orlik”, the surname of my brother-in-law.

20190430 Orlik in Kytra Lock
The ‘Orlik’ in Kytra lock

At 1.30 we arrived at Fort Augustus, walking into the town alongside the flight of five locks which form the entrance to the canal for boats leaving Loch Ness.  Our hotel was very near, so we treated ourselves to a reviving beer before settling into our room.

20190430 Approaching Fort Augustus
Approaching Fort Augustus

Fort Augustus is obviously a tourist centre, with crowds flocking to the locks and the souvenir shops.  After the solitude of the path, it is quite a contrast.  We have been surprised how quiet the Great Glen Way has been, compared with the West Highland Way.

20190430 Fort Augustus Lock
Fort Augustus Lock

29th April – Spean Bridge to Laggan Locks

20190429 Looking back on Loch Lochy and Ben Nevis
Ben Nevis with Loch Lochy in the foreground

After breakfast I investigated the Commando Exhibition that is in the Spean Bridge Hotel.  The Commandos were based at Achnacarry House, 7 miles from Spean Bridge.  They trained in all weathers in the surrounding countryside, and there are numerous Information Boards giving an insight into their preparations.  The exhibition at the hotel is well worth a visit and gives some idea of what they achieved, albeit at great human cost.  There is a copy of Hitler’s order to the German Army instructing them to “annihilate any Commandos who were captured”.  My generation has been truly blessed not to have had to fight any wars.

20190429 Looking up Loch Lochy
The view up Loch Lochy

Al’s Taxi delivered us back to Gairlochy at 9.05.  After a short walk on a road the trail descended into beautiful woods near to Loch Lochy.  The sun was shining, the spring flowers were making an appearance, the birds were singing and all was well in our world.  Someone had even taken the trouble to carve an eagle on a tree stump.

20190429 Eagle woodcarving
Eagle woodcarving

Around Bunarkaig and Clunes there was much evidence of the activity of the Commandos, including a concrete landing craft which they used for training before taking to the real thing on Loch Lochy.

20190429 Concrete Landing Craft used for practice by Commandos
Concrete landing craft

After Clunes the trail passes through a large plantation, the highlight of which is the Giant Redwoods (sequoia).   Although very tall, these are really just babies.

20190429 Wyn at the base of a giant redwood near Clunes
Wyn beside a giant redwood near Clunes

The Great Glen Way continues through the forest, gently rising and falling.

20190429 Beautiful spring colours
Beautiful spring colours

There is an exquisite wild campsite at Glas-Dhoire where we stopped for lunch, complete with its own beach.

20190429 Glas-Dhoire campsite
Glas-Dhoire campsite

Passing on, enjoying good views through the trees of Loch Lochy and some beautiful properties on the opposite shore, we left the woods at Kilfinnan dropped down to Laggan Locks.

20190429 Looking down on Laggan Locks
Looking down on Laggan Locks

We arrived at 3.15, and Laura from Forest Lodge came to pick us up so we avoided a walk along the A82.  As we were booking in Laura volunteered to drive me to a local garage to buy some beer, which was a very kind gesture and much appreciated.

28th April – Fort William to Spean Bridge

 

20190428 Looking back at Fort William
Looking back at Fort William

Yesterday was a quiet day catching up on things in Fort William.  A very helpful laundromat sorted out my washing and I managed to get a haircut.  Wyn arrived soon after 4.00pm and we both enjoyed our meal at the Alexandra Hotel.

Breakfast with several coach tours was a bit of a scrum but we managed to escape to the quiet of the bistro.  As the hotel lift only took two people, and as the people on the tours all seem to have two huge cases each, we took to the stairs and departed at 8.45.

The path through the housing estates of Fort William, Inverlochy and Caol was fairly uninteresting. The original Fort William and Inverlochy Castle are on the route but little remains of either.

20190428 Corpach Sea Loch - entrance to the Caledonian Canal
Corpach Sea Loch – the entrance to the Caledonian Canal

At Corpach we reached the Caledonian Canal near the sea lock and walked up to Neptune’s Staircase, a series of eight locks. We had a brief stop at the top and then set off towards Gairlochy.

20190428 Wyn resting at the top of Neptune Staircase
Wyn at the top of Neptune’s Staircase

There were almost no boats using the canal and it was therefore very exciting when a large yacht appeared. The walk was easy and as the day progressed and the low cloud lifted the north face of Ben Nevis started to appear.

20190428 Yacht on the Calendonian Canal
Exciting yacht

At Moy there is a very attractive swing bridge. This was installed so that the farmer can access his riverside meadows. It has its own keeper as only one side of the bridge can be opened manually at a time. The keeper uses a small boat to cross the canal and open the other half.

20190428 Moy swing bridge
Moy swing bridge

Just after 1.00 we arrived at Gairlochy Locks and stopped for lunch. Our accommodation for the night was at Spean Bridge which involved another 6k of road walking.

20190428 Carn Mor Dearg with Ben Nevis in the distance
Carn Mor Dearg with Ben Nevis in the distance

This took us past the famous Commando War Memorial at Spean Bridge which was justifiably very busy with tourists.  We reached the Spean Bridge Hotel at 3.15 and have a comfortable cabin for the night.  As we are getting old we have sorted out a taxi for tomorrow morning, rather than reverse the walk back to the canal.

20190428 Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge
Commando memorial at Spean Bridge

26th April – Kinlochleven to Fort William

20190426 Blackwater Backpackers' Hostel
Blackwater Backpackers’ Hostel

After the challenges of staying at the Kingshouse, it was a pleasure to be in the well-run Blackwater hostel.  As the forecast was poor, I had an early breakfast and left at 7.45.

20190426 Loch Leven
Loch Leven

The initial climb out of Kinlochleven is 250m-820ft up to the old military road which is then followed to near Fort William.  Despite the light showers there were good views of Loch Leven and the Pap of Glencoe.

20190426 The Pap of Glencoe
The Pap of Glencoe

Once on the military road the trail undulates gently and rises gradually to the Lairigmor Pass in the middle of some wild country. The old farmhouses at Tigh-na-sleubhaich  are now derelict and it is difficult to understand how anyone could have made a living in such an inhospitable place.

20190426 Tigh-na-sleubhaich derelict cottages
Tigh-na-sleubhaich derelict cottages

Despite the forecast the weather gradually improved and the Aonach Eagach Ridge, above Glencoe, made an appearance through the clouds.

20190426 The Aonach Eagach - Eagles Ridge
Aonach Eagach – the Eagle’s Ridge

After passing another ruined farm at Lairigmor the trail turns NW and begins to descend towards Glen Nevis.  There is an interesting information board regarding the Battle of Inverlochy after which Clan Donald pursued the Cambells over the Lairigmor, before abandoning the chase.  A cairn marks where they stopped.

20190426 Looking up the trail from the Lairigmor - Big Pass
Looking up the trail from the Lairig Mor (‘Big Pass’)

The next few miles were through clear-felled forest and seemed quite tough. The consolidation is that Ben Nevis came into view, initially capped with thick cloud but gradually becoming more visible as I neared Glen Nevis.

20190426 First sight of Ben Nevis
First sight of Ben Nevis

The final descent to sea level at Fort William is through forest which is being clear-felled, so was not very inspiring.

20190426 Forestry work near Fort William
Clear felling near Fort William

I reached the town at 2.15 and was disappointed that the hostel didn’t open until 5.00.  Tea and cake at Nevisport and some food shopping filled in the time, and I even managed to get to the accommodation before the long-forecast rain finally descended from the heavens.

20190426 Glen Nevis
Glen Nevis

This completes the West Highland Way, and tomorrow is a rest day.

Most of the through walkers on the way were European, Dutch, German, Swiss or Italians and it was good to see lots of young people taking up the challenge.  It would be true to say that both my fellow walkers and I have enjoyed the last week, but it would be a very different walk in bad weather.

Leaving the crowds on the West Highland Way behind, I suspect that Wyn and I will have plenty of company on the equally popular Great Glen Way when we start on Sunday.

20190426 The Tourist Route up Ben Nevis
The tourist route up Ben Nevis