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Great Glen Way, Fort William to Drumnadrochit
by LaurenAlexandra » Fri Sep 21, 2012 12:33 pm
Route description: Great Glen Way
Date walked: 21/09/2012
Time taken: 5 days
Distance: 88 km5 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
14 September 2012
Fort William to Gairlochy
Distance: 10.5 miles
Weather: Windy with periods sun and rain, clearing at 1pm
I checked out of my hostel in Fort William this morning, had a big breakfast in town, and then made my way to the old fort and the beginning of the GGW.
The first part of today's walk took me through the outer reaches of Fort William along Loch Linnhe and the River Lochy. Fort William reminds me to Waimanalo, Hawaii for some reason, possibly the proximity of the high mountains to the shore, with the town nestled between. It was mostly cloudy, with patches of blue sky visible. Ben Nevis was hidden by low cloud, quelle surprise.
After walking through Caol and skirting around Banavie (where I took a short water break), I joined the Caledonian Canal towpath at Neptune's Staircase. From here on out it was simply a matter of following the east bank of the canal all the way to Gairlochy. Two other walking parties (a couple and a group of three) kept crossing my path, and the group of three will probably continue to do so over the coming days, since they have an itinerary similar to mine. I stopped for lunch with them about midway between the Sheangain and Loy Aqueducts, and again for water at the Moy Swing Bridge. Then I hobbled into Gairlochy (that last mile and a half was the hardest), where someone from my B&B picked me up and drove me to Spean Bridge.
I'm footsore, and my left ankle and the back of my right knee started doing some odd things during the last stretch from Moy Bridge. My pecs also hurt where the backpack straps dug into my armpits. They didn't do that this morning, so I'm not sure what the deal was with that. Maybe the weight in the pack shifted around when I put it down. Tomorrow is going to be the real test: Can I walk 12 miles in a day, having just walked 10.5 miles the previous day? I guess we'll see.
Lots of rainbows and heather today. After the weather cleared, it was most serene.
15 September 2012
Gairlochy to Laggan
Distance: 13 miles
Weather: Cloudy but dry, with patchy sunlight
I woke up this morning feeling great. I went to bed at 8pm last night and slept almost without interruption until 7:30 this morning. When I woke up, my legs were sore but not unmanageably painful, and my feet were fine, much to my surprise. My shoulders were the most sore part of me. I had a hearty breakfast at the B&B, got a ride back to Gairlochy, and set off toward Laggan.
Loch Lochy was on my right-hand side for almost the entire day. The way took me to Clunes (my first rest stop of the day), where it joined up with a Forestry Commission track. This was charming at first. Trees all around me, a loch nearby, and a well-packed gravel and dirt track underfoot. This was my kind of walking!
But then it got wearisome. Devoid of landmarks, it was difficult to tell where I was or how far I had traveled. Plus there was some kind of bicycle race on today, so I spent the better part of the day dodging cyclists. At least they were all coming toward me, so I could see them. Though, while stopping to talk to the couple I met yesterday, I swatted a bee and very narrowly missed smacking a passing cyclist!
I was extremely grateful to get out of the forest at least, near the north end of Loch Lochy. But as with yesterday, the final push (which I reckon was about 2.5 miles today) was the hardest, not least because I was bursting for the loo by the time I got to Laggan Locks and was bitterly disappointed to find the toilet locked. So I trudged the last mile along the canal towpath desperately needing to pee, and almost wept with frustration when I encountered TREES again. Seriously, whose idea was it to forest the canal towpath between Loch Lochy and Loch Oich? Because after something like a 6-7 mile walk in the woods, the last thing I wanted to see was more woods.
After despairing of ever getting to my destination for the day, I finally saw the sign for the Great Glen Hostel. Getting there required me walk about 300 meters along the A82, back the way I had come, and when I got there, reception was still an hour away from being open. Grr. But the bathroom was unlocked, thank goodness.
I am checked in and showered. I have a twin room to myself (because there were no female dorm beds available when I booked), which is nice. I'm nursing a blood blister on my left big toe and a smaller blister on my left pinkie toe, both of which are causing some comical walking. Why only my left foot, I wonder?
16 September 2012
Laggan to Fort Augustus
Distance: 10 miles
Weather: Rainy in the morning, sunny in the afternoon
Today was harder than I thought it would be. I think I was thinking "Oh, today's the short day, this will be easy."
I walked back along the A82 to rejoin the GGW, which shortly crossed the A82 again to the Great Glen Waterpark. The track climbed up into the forest to join the abandoned Invergarry Railway Line along Loch Oich. Then it was more forestry tracks until I got to the north end of Loch Oich, which was the halfway point and also my first rest break of the day. There were several trees down on the railway path, which required some interesting maneuvering around.
I began seeing blue sky near the end of Loch Oich, and it was properly sunny by the time I got to the swing bridge at the beginning of the canal. The rest of the day was canal walking, similar to the first day. I find I prefer this to the forest tracks, because i can actually see where I'm going. Unfortunately I think I saw the last of that today.
I caught up with the trio from the first day (whose names I have since learned - Mim, Helen, and Phil) at Kytra Lock, and had a break there. Then I shambled onward to Fort Augustus, and was passed by a group of kayakers along the way. How embarrassing. My heels pained me quite a lot today. Maybe I was landing on them harder in an effort to spare my blistered toes. Anyway, they bloody HURT. So when I finally reached Fort Augustus, around 3pm, I was immensely happy. Then I had to walk through pretty much the whole town to get to my hostel. Rawr. But, guess who I'm sharing a hostel room with? Mim, Helen, and Phil!
I'm nervous about the next 3 days. I really am. I'm considering trying to book an extra night in Lewiston, to give myself a rest day. Four new blisters on my right(!) foot today. I guess it figures it needs to catch up!
17 September 2012
Fort Augustus to Alltsigh
Distance: 11.5 miles
Weather: Sunny with occasional drizzle in the morning, rainy in the afternoon
I started this day with good intentions. I met a man on my way into Fort Augustus yesterday, and we exchanged the usual "Where are you going? Where have you been?" details. I complained about my feet hurting. And he said "Yes, but are you having FUN?" I've definitely lost sight of that aspect of this trip. It's meant to be a journey, and it's meant to be fun. It's not meant to be a painful slog into wherever I'm spending the night.
So I made a conscious effort to enjoy this day. In the morning, it was easy. The sun was out, I had my first proper views of Loch Ness, and the forestry track was broad. I shortened my stride today - a necessary measure for my blistered feet, along with 400mg of Ibuprofen - so I made slow but steady progress. I even had a bit of a sing to myself ("No Man's Land" by Billy Joel).
I stopped for a nice, lengthy meal in Invermoriston, which was an excellent idea. It gave my feet a nice rest and gave me a second wind for the last 4.5 miles to Alltsigh. The first section of the walk after Invermoriston was a steep climb, and it was a piece of cake (although this was the first time on this walk that I had to stop and catch my breath). Interestingly, uphill climbs were the easiest part of the walk today. I adopted a sort of modified lunge while doing them, which got me weight off my heels and onto the balls of my feet, which felt much better and made for quicker progress.
After passing the Stone Cave, it started raining and my mood went to pot. I was wet. I was cold. My feet hurt. The forestry track had closed back in and there was **** to see but trees and mud. And I just wanted to get out of the rain and into my hostel, where I could put my feet up.
Finally, I saw the sign for the hostel. Now, this hostel (the Loch Ness SYHA hostel) advertises itself as being directly on the GGW. I'm pretty sure the profile says something to the effect of, "The GGW passes by our front door." LIES. You have to go through a gate, pass a couple of B&Bs, cross the ****** A82, and walk a short way up said bloody dangerous highway to get to the hostel. Cue me stalking up to the reception desk, dripping from head to toe, with an absolutely thunderous expression on my face.
They gave me a single room.
Was passed by 3 parties relatively early in the day - 2 going my way and 1 going the other way - but didn't see a soul after Invermoriston.
18 September 2012
Alltsigh to Lewiston
Distance: 10 miles
Weather: Mostly sunny, with rain at the very end
Oy. Where to begin? I trudged out of the hostel and back onto the GGW at 9:45 this morning, and the GGW quickly climbed up into the forest via a couple of switchbacks. The morning light hit Loch Ness very prettily, and I stopped to admire the view more than once.
But then, as ever, the trees closed in and the walking just got dull. Thankfully, the trail eventually climbed out of the trees and gave way to a significant portion of road-walking. This was okay, and actually slipped back into my modified lunge and made good time, until one my blisters burst. Ow.
Then it was off the road and onto a pony track which took its sweet time wending its way down to Lewiston. This means I had a tantalizing view of the place, ages before I got there. Plus, I suppose whatever mechanism it was that made uphill walking the easiest part of the day for my feet, made downhill walking the hardest part. I was in absolute agony by the time I got to the hostel.
I have made a decision: Tomorrow, I am going to walk into Drumnadrochit and take a bus to Inverness. I've had enough. And I'm physically not going to be able to handle this last day. 19 miles is a long way to walk in a day, and it's a REALLY long way to walk on feet as abused as mine. 55 miles in 5 days is an accomplishment, and I'm going to take it and go.
I must interject that my mood improved significantly after that last journal entry, when a mate from Edinburgh unexpectedly turned up at the hostel and took me out for a curry.
So, I walked all but the last stage from Drumnadrochit to Inverness. When I have a free weekend, I would kind of like to go back and do those last 18 miles, so I can say I've done the entire GGW, but I don't really regret concluding the journey at Drumnadrochit. As I said, I figure 55 miles for my first long-distance walk isn't too shabby.
For reference, I did this walk carrying a backpack with all my supplies (no baggage transfer service, in other words), which did not feel overly heavy or cause me any discomfort at any point, other than toward the end of the first day when it felt like the straps were digging into my armpits. No walking poles. Merrell boots with Vibram soles, purchased in the US almost two years ago, over thick wool socks. I think my issues probably lay in my footwear. I've suspected for a while that the soles are beginning to wear out, and this trip seemed to confirm that suspicion. Unfortunately I don't really have the money to spare for a new pair of boots right now.
In conclusion, my advice to anyone who hasn't done a long-distance route before would be, make sure you've got good footwear! They're your tyres for this trip, after all!
by westcoasthiker » Fri Sep 21, 2012 6:41 pm
by nigheandonn » Sat Sep 22, 2012 10:11 am
My first long distance walk was St Cuthbert's Way - days 2 and 3 weren't as bad as I thought they might be, but I sat down and cried on the way into Jedburgh at the end of day 4! Didn't stop me doing a longer one (Hadrian's Wall) a few months later, though
55 miles isn't bad at all!
by LaurenAlexandra » Sat Sep 22, 2012 11:09 am
nigheandonn wrote:Trees do have the one advantage of being very go-behind-able if you're bursting for the loo
Oh, it was close, believe me!
by Circles » Mon Feb 04, 2013 7:24 pm
Otherwise I find a thin sock inside a thick sock also helps avoid blisters
I've been planning to do this trip but interestingly it sound slike there are others that may be more enjoyable...
by Jide » Thu Feb 07, 2013 4:59 pm
I walked the Great Glen Way in 2002, as a resting walk after the West Highland Way. Yeah, I know, I'm a crazy backpacker loving long routes
I did the West Highland Way in 6 days and then the Great Glen way in 4 days, with everything in my backpack, no transfert service, alone. (I already told you, I'm a crazy backpacker loving long routes )
It's sad you had to stopp at Drumnadrochit. My best memories are in that last stage from Drumnadrochit to Inverness with a gorgeous view over a foggy Loch Ness.
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by Gordie12 » Thu Feb 07, 2013 10:31 pm
Long distance walks and blisters seem to go hand in hand, I just prey that they are in areas which don't cause a problem (toes I can cope with, heels can be a bloomin nightmare!!).
I hope you get the last section done some day.
by Circles » Thu Feb 14, 2013 4:57 pm
by LaurenAlexandra » Wed Mar 13, 2013 5:57 am
I have relocated to my native North Carolina since writing this report, so getting the Drumnadrochit - Inverness stretch done remains on the long-term to-do list, along with Ben Lomond. Someday! *shakes fist*
by Buggiba » Wed Mar 13, 2013 11:34 am
When we walked the 18-mile last day to Inverness we were on a time limit with a bus to catch so there was no hanging around. The highest point of the walk is not far out of Drumnadrochit and a good climb it is too. The walk thereafter isn't bad until you arrive outside Inverness to be greeted by a sign announcing that Inverness Castle is still 4 ******** miles away. You can almost see it but it's still close to 2 hours walk to the finish, and steeply downhill. Nevertheless, well worth doing.
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by LaurenAlexandraAgain » Thu Jul 04, 2019 2:26 pm
Monday 27 May 2019
Drumnadrochit to Inverness: "Unfinished Business"
Distance: 18 miles
Weather: Alternating sun and rain
I've chickened out on this final day of the Great Glen Way twice, but I was determined to do it on this trip. Armed with a daypack and my walking poles, I took a morning bus from Inverness to Drumnadrochit and got underway!
The first bit of this day follows the footway of the A82 out of Drumnadrochit - not an inspiring start. But things rapidly improved as the trail turned left and began climbing away from the road. The climb up to Abriachan is lengthy, but once you get to the top and the path levels out, this final day of the Great Glen Way is a DELIGHT.
Looking toward Urquhart Castle:
The Great Glen Way suffers a bit from Green Tunnel Syndrome and an unchanging view for the first 55 miles, but on this day it moves away from Loch Ness and strikes out cross-country. I was enjoying the novelty and the sunshine, but dark clouds loomed to the north. I had brought my raincoat but not my waterproof overtrousers, so OF COURSE the sky opened and the coldest, heaviest rain I've had all trip fell, soaking through my scrub trousers in short order. There was nothing for it except to keep moving and hope the rain would stop, and it did in due course. By the time I got to Abriachan Campsite and Cafe, the sun had come back out and my clothes were drying. I stopped at the cafe for some soup, tea, and an absolutely massive slice of lemon sponge. Very friendly people, but their prices are a little steep, so if you plan to stop here be prepared.
Leaving the cafe, it was time for a lengthy section of moorland walking, first along a minor road and then on a path through the heather.
This was probably my favorite part of the day. The views around me were great, and I knew I was more than halfway through the day. I got more confident that I would actually be able to finish this day! Even when I got into a section of forest, and my knees started to protest the length of the day, my spirits remained high.
Abruptly I got to a clearing and a fantastic view of Inverness down below, which meant it was time to start descending.
As I began coming down, I started to see local people out for walks, so I knew I was getting close. The the (in)famous sign: Inverness Castle, 4 miles. Go, go, go! I made my way through Inverness's outskirts, and when I popped out onto the Caledonian Canal towpath I knew I really was getting close. I passed more people out on late afternoon walks, including a woman completely absorbed with her phone, apparently oblivious to both me and her dog, who was luxuriantly rolling in funk several dozen meters behind her.
I crossed the bridge over the canal and swung around to follow the River Ness, crossing over the very pretty Ness islands. Then up the east bank of the river, and heaving myself up one final hill to Inverness Castle. I touched the marker at the official terminus exactly nine hours after beginning my day's walk in Drumnadrochit, and six years, eight months, and thirteen days after starting this, my first ever long-distance walk, from Fort William. I am so proud and happy that I finished it!
Song of the day: "Prelude/Angry Young Man" by Billy Joel
by Buggiba » Sat Jul 06, 2019 8:24 pm
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