This chapter of my wild camping LEJOG challenge takes me along the Great Glen Way, from Fort William to Inverness. A food crisis developed, and I had a panic at one stage when the sign told me the path was closed and I had to get a bus around the canal works! Surely not after all this distance?
Day 54: Wednesday 10th April 2019
So yesterday I was on top of Ben Nevis in a T-shirt, and this morning I woke at 5.30am to the inside of my fly sheet sparkling with frost. I made one of my dehydrated breakfast meals (Adventure Foods – Knusper Muesli) and a coffee, and watched the sun rise. It was gorgeous, if you like that sort of thing. I was a bit cold so watched it laid in my sleeping bag. At least it was clear why I had woken up cold in the night, and had put my down vest over my sleeping bag and wore my balaclava.
I was packed up and away by about 6.45am along an OK walk following the canal track. There were amazing early-morning views with snow-capped mountains and mist hanging over the water. It was then a stunning walk around the southern edge of Loch Lochy, which I had walked before on the TGO Challenge. It felt funny to be back!
From here, it was an uninteresting walk along the loch on a forestry track, just far enough away to block out the view of the water for most of the time. At the end of the loch, it was back to the canal and a lovely walk through old woodland past Laggan. The route returned to forest track again, but worse this time as it followed an old railway line, making it dead straight. However, I did get much better views of Loch Oich all the way to Bridge of Oich.
I followed the canal side path all the way into Fort Augustus. My legs were really aching by this point – the high mileage was starting to bite now. There also had been no reason to stop before Fort Augustus. The Barge Inn was closed (being painted) and I just couldn’t be bothered to walk 400m down the road to check out a hotel signposted off the path.
I did pass two camping spots today, both in lovely spots by the lochs. They each had composting toilets, and I passed one of them 10 minutes after digging my own hole. It was a bit annoying as I didn’t know they were there – perhaps I should have read up on this walk as well!
I was happily following the canal when I got to a sign that said path closed – we will bus you around the work on the canal. This sent be into a blind panic. I couldn’t believe it, having walked all this way up the country! I then found a hand-written sign stating that the path was open. What a relief.
At Kytra Loch, I found some very heavy machinery working and some serious fencing, but the workmen happily waved me through, all saying hello. The canal from here to Fort Augustus was completely empty. It was quite an impressive job and a strange sight.
I couldn’t believe that I made it to Fort Augustus, and by 5.30pm too. I could hardly walk though! The town was very quiet and everything was shut, so I worried that the pub would be too. The Bothy was open, though, and so I got a meal and two pints. I was working in the principle that it would save me needing a food shop, as I had enough in my pack to get me to Inverness (just). The news was on the TV, and it was amusing to realise that nothing had changed with Brexit since I left home in February.
I left Fort Augustus on the Great Glen Way with a stiff climb, but a lovely path through the woods. However, I really struggled to find a place to camp and I was totally worn out. It was about 8pm when I got to a sign that said high route or low route. The high route had views but was longer and harder – what a decision to have to make right now! I phoned my wife, but she was no help (sorry! Emma) so I took the high route. Remember I had had two pints in the Bothy…
Luckily I found a spot to camp by the path fairly quickly, so i felt good about my decision to take the high level route. I was worried I would regret it in the morning, though.
I’d got the tent up, coffee on and in my sleeping bag by 9pm just as it was getting dark. The longer days were so helpful. I was pretty sure no one else would walk past me so I undressed and had a proper wash. Luckily I was decent again when a chap on a bike with a child on his back whizzed past! It was worth it though – my feet feel much better in clean socks. The Teko socks were a bit thin and bobbly inside, so I decided to throw them out to save the weight.
Day 55: Thursday 11th April 2019
It had been a cold night with no wind, meaning I woke up to a wet tent again.
The high level route was really good but hard work. The views were amazing, and the cloud first thing in the morning was really interesting. There was a part inversion at one end of the loch, and overcast at the other end, creating all sorts of views and images with the mist and sun.
A moment of trail magic happened today. The cafe in Invermoriston was a surprise, as it was also a shop that I didn’t know about. This was a lovely, family-run cafe and the value for money was brilliant. It was great to support such friendly, hard-working locals. It felt very strange to post all my A4 maps home here. I’ve just got 3 left in my map case to take me all the way to John O’Groats. Maybe I am truly getting close now…
I climbed straight away after Invermoriston and on to another Great Glen Way high route . This one was slightly shorter but harder, with more ascent. I met a lady walking with her son, and one of the first questions she asked me was, ‘Do you mind me asking what your base weight is?’ I told her that was the perfect question if you’re a keen walker! Weight is everything on a walk like this – I was impressed. At 12 noon I stopped by the bridge to dry my tent and gear in the sunshine, to swap my socks and wash the others.
I had a lovely afternoon’s walk from here to Drumnadrochit, where I bought take away chips with garlic sauce. Then I climbed into the woods again to camp by the river, with a view of Loch Ness through a gap in the trees.
Day 56: Friday 12th April 2019
I woke to a cloudy but warm morning (8 degrees or so). I passed a few shops yesterday but didn’t pick any food up, and I was now looking despondently into my food bag. 6 coffees – just OK – one pack of Tuc biscuits, one breakfast meal that I was then eating, one curry meal, two pieces of fruit bread and a few chocolate bars to get all the way to Inverness. I knew I would be looking for a three course meal in the city, if I didn’t starve getting there. What an idiot – buy food!!
Earlier in the day I had met a chap coming the other way with a big pack. It turned out he (Tom Davies) was walking from John O’Groats to Land’s End. I enjoyed a half hour chat with him and would have happily talked for longer but we had places to be. It was nice to be able to advise him on the Pennine Way which he would be using. He told me about the John O’Groats Trail, which he’s just done. I got worried as it sounded a lot tougher than I was expecting, he missed some sections of the path out and had taken to the road instead. This was a concern as I was now on a time schedule to meet my wife at John O’Groats by 21st April at the latest. This meant doing 20+ miles per day, which I would struggle to do on the terrain he described.
Initially, today’s walk was a nice path through the woods with an occasional glimpse of the loch, then the path left the water to follow tracks and quiet roads to Inverness. I passed about 8 people and a few tents camped in the woods – they had lit a fire last night to sit around, and were also heading to Inverness on the Great Glen Way. I also met a Slovenian lady over on holiday for 10 days walking the Great Glen Way in the opposite direction; she had an interesting book on all the plants in Scotland.
The path suddenly gave me views over Inverness, and the walk along the river through Ness Islands was a great way to arrive in the city. The people were lovely and friendly right from the start, and the city had a nice, open feel.
Having lived off Tuc biscuits all morning, I stopped at 1.45pm at a lovely old pub for lunch – The Castle Tavern. It was a relief not to have to pay tourist-hiked prices. I was amused to listen to the bar man tell a chap who had just walked into the pub, that the risotto was off, and the chap answer, that wasn’t a problem I don’t even know what that is. I had delicious haddock and chips which went down very well. Highly recommended pub.
You can read the next stage of my adventure here.
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