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South Loch Ness Trail: Fort Augustus - Inverness over 2 days

South Loch Ness Trail: Fort Augustus - Inverness over 2 days

Postby gld73 » Thu Aug 29, 2019 8:10 pm

Route description: South Loch Ness Trail

Date walked: 22/08/2019

Time taken: 2 days

Distance: 60 km

Ascent: 1400m

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I'd fancied doing the South Loch Ness Trail (SLNT) since they opened the last leg last year - previously it had seemed a bit daft only having the route go as far as Loch Tarff rather than Fort Augustus. As I've done the Great Glen Way already, it would also mean completing the full circuit of Loch Ness (or the Loch Ness 360 as it now seems to be getting called as a specific long distance route). I'd been holding off to do it over 2 days when the weather wasn't so good for the mountains but still good enough for 2 days walking; up until 2 days before, I still thought I'd be heading up a hill somewhere, but then a better check of the forecasts on Wed 21st said there would be very strong wind and some rain on the mountains, so I had a last minute change of plan for 22nd and 23rd Aug to do the SLNT.

The next decision was whether to do it north to south, or vice-versa. I decided that with the winds forecast, it'd be nicer having them at my back than in my face, so south to north won. And then another last minute decision - with heavy rain forecast overnight inbetween the 2 days walking, I decided packing up and carrying a wet tent wouldn't be much fun, so settled on a way I could get home to my own bed for the night (a big benefit of living in Inverness!). So instead of doing Fort Augustus to Foyers on Day 1 and Foyers to Torbreck/Inverness on Day 2, I drove to Foyers, walked back to Inverness from there on day 1, then the next day got the Citylink bus to Fort Augustus and walked up to Foyers to collect my car. Same SLNT route, same distance, just less kit to carry :D

Parked in the public car park by the Waterfall Cafe in Foyers and, after sitting in the car for 10 minutes waiting for the heavy shower to pass, finally got out and set off back in the direction of Inverness. With all the recent rain it probably would have been worth detouring to the falls of Foyers, but I've seen them a few times, so just headed straight off on the South Loch Ness Trail instead.
Foyers start point

Something to note is that having a print out of the route description from the Walk Highlands website was very useful, particularly on the stretch north from Foyers to Dores. I thought the blue waymarker posts would be enough, but there were a few places where the posts were either obscured by vegetation, or just not present at some not-obvious paths to take, and following the instructions I had with me saved backtracking or puzzling over which junction to take. I also had the OS maps for the area with me, so could have found linking tracks or minor roads to rejoin the route, but I wanted to do the full official route on this occasion.

The description of an early path being "very rugged" shouldn't put people off, it's rugged compared to a surfaced path, but not challenging to anyone used to being up hills on stalkers paths or pathless less-popular, hills.
Despite recent rain, this is muddy as the trail got

At Inverfarigaig and near the top and bottom of the Corkscrew Rd, there are a few spots suitable for wild camping if anyone does the full route properly and doesn't wimp out to go home to their own bed on the middle night.

I thought I knew the area pretty well, with work and walking taking me off the main roads in the area, but I'd never been up the Corkscrew Road before. It's now good that I'm forewarned should I ever be sent up there on a job! This section of the walk coincided with the clouds disappearing for a bit and I was walking in sunshine at the top, in amongst the grazing sheep. There are several places on this trail where sheep or cattle are freely grazing around, so a route where dogs would have to be on leads quite a lot.
Looking back South, past Ballagan

The stunning thing about the stretch walking along this minor road by Ballagan was the number of birds of prey flying above - red kites I think. I counted at least 8 in the big group, but my camera wasn't up to taking any decent photos of them unfortunately.

A while later (3.2hrs after leaving Foyers), I reached the view point at Fair Haired Lad's Pass, which looks over to Urquhart Castle and the village of Drumnadrochit. Snapped a few shots and then headed off down the zig zag path. The faint grassy path to turn on to further down would have been completely missed if I wasn't reading the instructions, it's definitely a place that could do with a waymarker if that's the official route.
View over to Drumnadrochit from the Pass

Meall Fuar mhonaidh and Loch Ness from the Pass

Through forestry and then felled forestry, then on to the larger track at the bend, where there was a sign saying the route was closed due to machinery operating. I couldn't see or hear any though, so decided to continue down it and would turn back and find another route if necessary - but it wasn't required and I managed to just stay on the trail route.

Despite the proximity to Loch Ness, the 3 km or so walk to Dores once the main road is reached feels more functional than overly enjoyable, though I was relieved that it was on paths to the side of the road in the trees, rather than walking along the road itself (other than the last hundred metres or so). Looked pretty choppy on the loch, not the best day for a boat trip.
Waves on the choppy loch!

I did the obligatory detour to Dores beach to get the view down Loch Ness (a popular spot, one I always take visiting family and friends to if they come to Inverness). Looking down the loch towards Fort Augustus also tends to give a few minutes advanced warning of what weather is heading up in this direction. Right enough, the clouds obscuring the southern/western end of the loch were blowing their way north/east up the Great Glen.
View from Dores down Loch Ness

The weather on it's way up the loch, motivation to walk fast!

I continued on to the Dores-Torbreck section of the walk, and the upside of the frequently changing weather was getting to see a lovely low rainbow as I went on the path round the side of the primary school.
Rain behind me, but rainbows ahead :)

I briefly considered leaving the walking route and taking the quicker cycle route to Torbreck as I've already done both routes between Inverness and Dores a few times ... but as the aim of the 2 days was to do the full South Loch Ness Trail, I stuck with the original plan and headed up the steep hill. Turning off the minor road, it's then a walk in nice peaceful countryside for a bit (though I have been annoyed by quad bikes/motorbikes on 1 occasion here in the past).
No quad bikes today

Once in the Torbreck woods, the waymarkers are a hit obscured in the direction I was walking, but I think any of the routes would bring you out in more or less the right place as long as you head roughly in the same direction. I came out at the sign marking the start / finish of the SLNT. For doing the Loch Ness 360, the walk then continues on the minor road and then pavements to Inverness city centre, though I just did the first mile of this route, before detouring another 2 miles home (no photos of the route through Inverness housing estates included here!), then walked to the city centre the next morning to get the bus.
End (or start) of the South Loch Ness Trail at Torbreck

Couldn't believe how sore my feet were in the morning; I think it was the final 3 miles of yesterday's long walk that did it, walking on pavements back to my house. Still, the walk into town to catch the Citylink coach to Fort Augustus got my legs moving again, and it was a shorter walk on my Day 2 than yesterday, so no need to rush for the earlier bus.

I set off walking from the bus stop in central Fort Augustus, and joined the start of the SLNT, skirting round the very end of Loch Ness before heading up on the new section of the trail, a very well made path. Nicer than walking on the road, which would have been the way to do this section to Loch Tarff up until a few months ago.
I saw more sheep than people on the SNLT

View up Loch Ness from the trail leaving Fort Augustus

Not just sheep, cows like the SLNT too

Got a bit cooler and windier once I was up at Loch Tarff, but it stayed dry and the views were great. It felt quite remote walking up from Loch Tarff to Carn an t-Suidhe, and I was enjoying looking over to Beinn a Bhacaidh, one of the 2 sub2k's on the south side of Loch Ness I haven't done yet, and which looked like a good one to do soon - I'd only looked at it from the car in passing before, but this route gave me lots of time to look over in detail and daydream about routes to take.
Beinn a'Bhacaidh over Loch Tarff

Looking back down on Loch Tarff

From feeling like I was remote from everything, to suddenly 2 teenagers in jeans appearing on the path in front of me ..., followed by a few more family members ... bizarrely, these had been the first people I'd seen walking anywhere on the route so far. As I got over the crest, I saw that it was because there was a layby down below, and it was a nice easy walk up to get good views.

Heading down towards the lay-by full of cars I thought I must have missed the SLNT turn off, but it's actually just a few metres before reaching the road, with a stone partly painted blue to mark where to turn off. I was then back to solitude, and more views over to Beinn a'Bhacaidh and more routes to ponder given the tracks on the ground not shown on my OS map, due to the extensive forestry felling which had been done (though now completed, so the mention in the walk description of possibly having to do a detour no longer applies).

Heading back eastwards, there were more good views of other future walks, including Meall an Tarsaid, the other sub2K I haven't done in this area. Worst smell of the walk was near this point, when I passed a poor dead sheep who looked like it had got its wool caught in an upturned tree. I couldn't see a farm nearby to go and report it to, but it seemed surprising that it could have got stuck un-noticed for so long right beside this trail route in summer. Surely there must be others walking it too!!
View east to unclassified hills I've yet to explore

The walk description for the route shortly after this mentions a "long straight stretch" of minor road. It's a very accurate description! Took a while before I felt I'd made any progress along it, but got to the T-junction eventually!
the "long straight stretch"...

I've passed through Whitebridge on numerous occasions, but never stopped to have a few minutes wandering to see the old General Wade bridge, or to look on the map to see what the hill behind it is - I'd always assumed that was Meall an Tarsaid before I did this walk, but it's actually Beinn Sgurrach, a nice looking hill but not blessed with a title of marilyn or corbett or anything which would raise it's profile. Might have to head back there anyway and find a way up.
Beinn Sgurrach, above Whitebridge

Whitebridge's General Wade bridge

At Dell Farm there's an honesty shed with snacks for sale, but I wasn't far from Foyers now and knew I'd left stuff in my car to eat so decided to plough on. The burns were easy to cross even after the recent rain. I was intrigued by a fenced off "field within a field" on the other side of the old stone wall, wasn't sure if it was an actual crop of sorts or just wild flowers growing naturally, looked strange but pretty surrounded by the grazed fields.
Unusual flowery field?!

Following the grassy track beside old stone wall

Burns either had bridges or, like this one, stones, so no wet feet

Even if I didn't go to the lower falls, at least I saw the upper falls of Foyers as I passed over the bridge before heading back down into the village. My car had survived it's night in the Foyers car park and it was nice to jump in and be home not long afterwards.
Upper Falls of Foyers

As for the South Loch Ness Trail .... I'm glad I've got round to doing it. I probably won't do the full route again, but it's given me ideas for other walks in the area, always useful for when days are short and I don't want to drive too far from home, or weather isn't suitable for climbing up the munros. And it's certainly quieter than the Great Glen Way down the other side of the loch would be at this time of year (....though I did the GGW a couple of years ago, and seemed to have that route to myself too..! I did do it in February mind..... :lol: )

DAY 1 - Left Foyers 1020, Fair Haired Lad's Pass 1310, Dores Beach 1520, Torbreck 1733 (Home 1834)
27 miles Foyers to Inverness
(7.2 hrs, 697m ascent and 24 miles distance for Foyers to Torbreck)

DAY 2 - Left Fort Augustus 1225, arrived Foyers 1801 = 5.6hrs, 15.25 miles/24.5km, 663m ascent

[Total of 12.8hrs walking for Fort Augustus to Torbreck, 13.8hrs to Inverness centre]
Last edited by gld73 on Wed Jun 02, 2021 7:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Location: Inverness

Re: South Loch Ness Trail: Fort Augustus - Inverness over 2

Postby Coop » Fri Aug 30, 2019 9:51 pm

Well done :clap:
Was day 2 better for your feet
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Re: South Loch Ness Trail: Fort Augustus - Inverness over 2

Postby gld73 » Sat Aug 31, 2019 10:35 pm

Oh yes, the shorter distance and absence of housing estate pavements meant day 2 was definitely more feet friendly :D
Posts: 613
Munros:157   Corbetts:63
Grahams:52   Donalds:6
Sub 2000:64   Hewitts:42
Wainwrights:59   Islands:13
Joined: Aug 11, 2015
Location: Inverness

Re: South Loch Ness Trail: Fort Augustus - Inverness over 2

Postby gld73 » Mon Sep 02, 2019 5:44 pm

...and glad I did this walk before yet another windfarm starts construction near it .... :(

Posts: 613
Munros:157   Corbetts:63
Grahams:52   Donalds:6
Sub 2000:64   Hewitts:42
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Joined: Aug 11, 2015
Location: Inverness

Re: South Loch Ness Trail: Fort Augustus - Inverness over 2

Postby Freshman » Sun Aug 09, 2020 9:34 am

Thanks for this fantastic report :clap: :clap: :clap:
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2 people think this report is great.
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