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Great Glen Way - First long distance walk, May 2017

Great Glen Way - First long distance walk, May 2017

Postby MichelleE » Tue Jun 06, 2017 8:19 pm

Route description: Great Glen Way

Date walked: 13/05/2017

Time taken: 5 days

Distance: 117 km

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The Great Glen Way in 5 days

Day one - Fort William to Gairlochy - 12 miles

Walking the Great Glen Way over five days in May was my first long distance walk. The Walkhighlands website describes the walk as a good introduction to long distance walking, as most of the route is relatively low. This is true, but there are sections from stage two onwards of the walk that are steep and relatively tough – whilst providing amazing views. Make the most of the first stage – which is the shortest and flattest! By the third day of the walk, my feet were sore and blistered. I was suffering when walking on both flat, concrete canal path surfaces and on steeper, stony ground!

Luckily, I was accompanied by two friends who are seasoned long distance walkers. They kept me motivated and spurred me on when I felt like giving up during the final days of the walk.

We started day one of the walk from the official marker in Fort William, near to Morrisons supermarket. Although parts of this first stage feel a bit uninspiring – as you walk around the housing estates surrounding Fort William - we had great views of Ben Nevis, saw Shinty matches being played, and the ruins of Inverlochy Castle. At Caol by Loch Linnhe you will see a private boat – look but don’t touch! (Keep oooot!)
Stage 1 - Private Yacht at Caol.jpg
Private boat - Keep ooot!

The majority of the walk on day one is on the Caledonian Canal towpath. A key highlight is walking past Neptune’s Staircase.
Stage1 - Neptune's Staircase.jpg
Stage 1 - Neptune's Staircase

We stayed in bed and breakfast accommodation at Spean Bridge. Most guest house owners are happy to come and pick you up at the end of your walk stage, if needed.

Day two - Gairlochy to Laggan Locks and onto Great Glen Water Park - 14 miles

This stage of the walk is very scenic with lovely views of Loch Lochy, said to be the home to Nessie’s sister, Lizzie!
Stage 2 - Loch Lochy.jpg
Loch Lochy - said to be home of Loch Lizzie Monster!

We were lucky to have a really sunny day. In the early stages, the forestry path takes you past some impressive, large homes, which benefit from having a view right onto the loch. A place I’d be happy to live if I had the cash!

The forestry path does begin to climb after this point, but if you’re beginning to find it a bit hard going, spare a thought for the team of elite commando forces operating during the second world war who trained in the region. Their training regime was physically demanding and a sign on the path says some even died during this training. Along the shores of the loch you can see the remains of a WW2 landing craft and a sign that gives more background about it.

As the path becomes steeper, we were hoping to be able to stop and have lunch with good views of Loch Lochy. We held out till we got out of the trees – my bum-bag full of sweets kept my going! It was worth the wait, as here is a great view at the top, looking across Loch Lochy. We found a large fallen tree trunk to clamber up onto to have our packed lunch with a view (no mean feat getting onto when you are 5ft 3). Some of our fellow walkers looked quite impressed by our makeshift seat!

When we reached Laggan, we were grateful to be able to rest our weary feet and enjoy some cider in the sun on the floating canal boat pub. A short additional walk through the trees led us to the entrance of the Great Glen Waterpark where we were kindly picked up by the owner of the B&B we were staying at.

Day 3 - Laggan Locks to Fort Augustus then on to Invermoriston - 18 miles

On the third day of our walk, we combined two stages – from Laggan Locks to Fort Augustus then onto Invermoriston via the high route. We set off in drizzly rain, but luckily it brightened up for the high section from Fort Augustus to Invermoriston. We were fortunate with the weather for the majority of the whole walk - this was the only day we had a little bit of rain.

Walking along the concrete canal path into Fort Augustus my feet really began to hurt and I had to apply extra blister plasters when we stopped for a pub lunch at Fort Augustus.
Stage 3 - canal path to Fort Augustus.jpg
Canal path to Fort Augustus

After refuelling, we took the high route from Fort Augustus. This is well worth the extra climb, as the views are amazing. From the top, you can see Loch Ness and look right back from where you have walked on previous days.

The wind picked up at the top and we didn’t want to stop for lunch in the open, so we were really pleased to see a large cairn at the top, with a wooden bench where we ate our lunch protected from the wind.
Stage 3 - Cairn at top of high route.jpg
Cairn at top of high route - Fort Augustus to Invermoriston

The descent into Invermoriston was very steep and put pressure on our knees and feet. Two German men who we had met on the previous day passed with hellos. On the next few days we would start to see familiar faces of various walkers we had met on previous stages of the walk.

My two friends stayed in Invermoriston whilst I caught the bus to Glenmoriston where I stayed at Briar Bank B&B, overlooking the loch. The owner greeted me in his kilt and claymore, and dinner was accompanied by Scottish songs. Signs from Invermoriston let you know you can stop here to buy teas and coffees on route to Drumnadrochit.
Stage 3 - Briar Bank at Invermoriston.jpg
At Briar Bank, Glenmoriston with claymore by Loch Ness

My feet were really throbbing that evening, so I was really glad to have packed some plastic foot soothing socks with moisturising cream that I had bought from my local chemist. I wondered at that stage if I would be able to continue the walk, but they really helped take away the pain! In the morning, the owner dropped me back at Invermoriston to re-join my friends and start the walk from there to Drumnadrochit.

Day 4 - Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit - 14 miles

We decided upon the low-level option today, as the high route gets as steep as a low munro. We were glad we had made this choice, as the low option was still very steep in places and has a long descent at the end into Drumnadrochit – or Drum as it is known locally.

On this stage of the walk we met an older but spritely woman who had walked the West Highland Way and was walking the Great Glen Way straight afterwards to raise money for charity. Her efforts certainly made me feel silly for grumbling about my sore feet!

In the early stages the track climbs through pine forestry and there are more good views over Loch Ness. Luckily it was another clear day, so we didn’t have to take shelter in the stone cave on the track - but we checked out the seating in any case!
Stage 5 - cave.jpg
Cave on walk from Invermoriston to Drum

Just past the pottery place at Grotaig I bought a nice flapjack from an ‘honesty box’ wooden food shelter on the road.
Food and Drink - honesty box.jpg
Food and drink stall with honesty box

We continued on the off-road path by the side of the road, heading to Drum. My feet really began to ache again and the road seemed to wind round and round steeply down into Drumnadrochit for what seemed to me like a lifetime. It was frustrating that you could see Drum for ages, but well away in the distance! I swore a lot to myself as we approached Drum. When I eventually hobbled into Drum another moisturising foot pack and a pub meal helped ease the pain!

Day 5 – Drumnadrochit to Inverness - 20 miles

My friends weren’t convinced I was going to be able to make the final 20 miles from Drum to Inverness but I woke up with a renewed vigour and determination to complete the walk. I strapped my blistered feet thoroughly with plasters and bandages and set off at a faster pace than I had managed during the previous two days.

After heading out of Drum you get a good view across the water over to Urquhart Castle. A sign here tells you this stretch of water is where John Cobb attempted to set a new speed record in 1952 in his speedboat, Crusader. He was the first person to travel over water at over 200 miles an hour, but died tragically when the attempt ended in an accident.

Heading uphill into woodland you get more good views of Urquhart Castle. The first uphill stretch is quite steep and I was amazed to see some cyclists we had seen on previous days ride past us at one of the steepest bits.
Further on we stopped at the Abriachan Forest Eco café, which is an interesting and very different place to stop for refreshment. It’s in a remote spot on the route and there are a number of signs along the narrow path telling you about the refreshments available.

At the café, we were greeted by hens.
Eco Cafe.jpg
Eco Cafe

A pig, who had just been fed, was snoozing somewhere close by. Several walkers we had met on route were already sitting there and showed us photos they had taken meeting the pig. The friendly staff and unusual facilities seemed to put everyone in a good mood!

The toilet at the Eco Café is a dry compost toilet in a wooden shack in the trees which you fill with sawdust after using. I didn’t mind as for a woman, this is a better option than peeing outdoors! On all the previous days I had managed not to need the toilet till we either finished the walk or there was a place to stop. I must have had too much coffee at the Eco Café, as I later needed to go in the trees. There was no sign of anyone else, but I made use of a big poncho I had in my rucksack to pee undercover!

Finally, we made it to Inverness and as we approached the last stage, that’s when I really struggled the most and it was an effort to keep moving. It was such a relief and sense of achievement to reach the Great Glen Way finish marker opposite Inverness Castle.
Great Glen Way - Final marker at Inverness.jpg
Great Glen Way - final marker at Inverness

We were joined here by the lady who was walking for charity and we all cheered our efforts together. To celebrate we had dinner and drinks together in pub opposite the finish and raised a glass to a great walk! Despite a purple toe-nail and blistered feet I would really recommend walking the Great Glen Way.

And finally.. my toe is purple - over two weeks later!
My toe.jpg
Purple toe
Posts: 1
Joined: May 12, 2017

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