walkhighlands

Around Loch Ness in 6 days

Date walked: 21/07/2020

Time taken: 6 days

Distance: 126km

Ascent: 420m

The day wild camping is allowed in Scotland again on 16th July 2020 is the day I head up to the Highlands for my next long-distance adventure! My kid will be staying with family in Drumnadrochit, so that’s where I’m starting and ending my walk.

DAY 1: Drumnadrochit to Inverness, or So It Begins & Garden Camping (30.5 km / 19 mi)

16th July 2020
Start 11.30 am
Finish 8.30 pm

I’ve been so sleep-deprived recently that my body refuses to start a 6-day walk without a good sleep-in, so it’s already 11.30 am when I’m finally out of the door. But it’s a sunny day and I’m in high spirits. It’s so good to be walking again.

Barely 30 minutes into the walk, I meet a couple also walking Loch Ness 360, only in the opposite direction and with an adorable dog in tow. I shall meet them again in a couple of days on the other side of the loch!

In the woods, the slender pine trees sway, creaking and sighing in the breeze, rubbing their boughs together high above my head. I imagine they’re Tolkien’s Huorns whispering to each other, discussing the return of humans to the forest paths. I’m also sorely regretting putting plasters on my heels to prevent blisters as they seem to have the opposite effect...

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The next bit of the path crosses moorland, and I note how most of the flowers I see are purple or pink. After Abriachan forest (and a brief rain shower), I figure I’ll probably make it to Inverness today despite my late start and text a friend who’s in town to ask if I can pitch my tent in her parents’ garden for the night. Apparently it was the plan all along, so that’s accommodation sorted!

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In the woods I get to enjoy the perks of July walking: spotting tiny toads and picking chanterelles, raspberries and blaeberries. At some point I start listening to a Wolf Hall to get rid of Vesta’s song Ota varovasti that has been looping round and round my head all day long.

In Inverness, I find a picnic table and make myself a cup of tea while I wait to hear from my friend. Then I'm off to pitch my tent and confuse my friend’s brother, who has no idea who I am and what I’m doing in his folk’s garden. :lol:


DAY 2: Inverness to Erchite Wood, or Friends (Who Carry Rucksacks) Are the Best ♥ (19.5 km / 12 mi)

17th July 2020
Start: 12 noon
Finish: 9 pm

Another ridiculously late start, but a hot shower and proper breakfast made it worth it. My friend is joining me today for part of the way and even offers to carry my heavy rucksack! We start the day by walking through the Ness islands, then we get distracted by raspberry bushes for a good twenty minutes. It’s a good thing we’re not in a rush to get anywhere. It’s a hot day!

When we get to Torbeck Woods and the start of the South Loch Ness Way, we take a peek at the information board and take a left turn, though the arrow is clearly pointing right (I verify this by looking at the photos later). We eat our sandwiches and walk for a while at a relaxed pace, picking blaeberries before we realise we’re not on the route anymore. At times like this, online maps sure come in very handy.

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The next part follows a forestry track and we spot a buzzard and a lizard and enjoy the views over fields and rolling hills basking in the sunlight. Heading towards Dores, we walk past a golden field undulating in the breeze, dotted with yellow flowers. My friend is picked up by her family just before Dores, and I carry on walking to the beach, where I sit on a fallen log to have a snack and take in the Loch Ness views and the sun sparkles on the waves.

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The last stretch of the day comprises 3 tiring miles on the B852 plus a bit further on General Wade’s Road in Erchite Wood. At sunset I pitch my tent and watch the sun sink behind the hills on the opposite side of the loch. I’m a little closer to the track than I’d like to be, so I keep waking up throughout the night thinking I can hear someone walk around my tent. The noises turn out to be grass rubbing against the tent fabric. It’s such a windy night!

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DAY 3: Erchite Wood to Foyers, or A Couple of Wrong Turns (19 km / 11.5 mi)

18th July 2020
Start: 9.30 am
Finish: 8.30 pm

Good morning Loch Ness! Today I start walking ‘early’, i.e. 9.30 am. I enter a forested bit and as I start to descend a steep, uneven path with loose rocks, I think to myself I’m so glad that I’m not walking up this thing. Then about halfway down, I realise that I’ve taken a wrong turn and have to trace my steps right back up. :lol:

I have my lunch by a large birch tree with lovely views of the Urquhart Castle (ok, I can just about see it) and the loch. Several cyclists zoom past me while I cook my noodles.

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The highest point of the path looks lovely and open with exposed rocks and heather, but I’m soon back in a forest under some conifers again. An expedition of kids led by a couple of adults passes me while I’m taking a moment to rest on a tree stump.

After I emerge from the forest, I join a farm track, and I admire the views as I walk past sheep and cows towards Loch Ness again. A woman waves and smiles at me as she drives past while I'm taking a breather leaning against my walking poles. I think it’s at this point that I get into the habit of greeting animals in Scottish Gaelic (or at least I attempt to, I'm not entirely confident my grammar is spot on).

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The road (apparently known locally as the Corkscrew Road) is soon zigzagging down the hillside towards Inverfarigaig. I spot a painted stone with the word JOY on it, and I’m happy to report that the message resonates. I take a wee break at the Farigaig Forest car park before entering the shaded woodland. There I take another wrong turn, but this one leads me to a memorial bench (stranger – may you find such joy here as we) and a beautiful view. I also spot a red squirrel, so I’m not annoyed with myself this time!

The path is really rough around halfway through the forest with steep ups and downs, rocks, jutting roots and plenty of mud. I realise how stark the difference between the dark and the light is as I eventually emerge from the cover of the dense trees.

As I get close to Foyers, a couple of guys stop their car to ask me for directions to the waterfalls, and I get my map out. (I later run into them again, and turns out they also live in Edinburgh.) I walk to the shop and find out that it closed at 5.30 pm and won’t open again until 10 am the next morning. Bummer, I had really hoped I could get some supplies.

I ponder about going down to check out the falls, but in the end decide to walk on to look for a camping spot. There are pretty falls underneath a bridge I cross, so I’m not completely missing out! I walk past a pasture into a small woodland and find a perfect flat spot away from the path and hidden by several tall trees. I even find some chanterelles and cook them with my dinner.

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DAY 4: Foyers to Fort Augustus, or The End of the South Loch Ness Way (24.5 km / 15 mi)

19th July 2020
Start: 9.30 am
Finish: 7.30 pm

I feel very cosy in my little woodland nest in the morning. Then I find out that three slugs are feeling equally cosy and are playing house inside my right boot. I’m so glad I checked before I slipped my foot inside! :shock:

With all the talk on social media about irresponsible people camping and leaving their trash behind, I get inspired to take a snap of my camping spot after packing my things away. I’m idly thinking of starting a social media trend of posting before and after pics of what responsible camping looks like. Of course, I know full well that I’ll never do it.

I’m running low on water at this point and fill up a bottle from the River Foyers, thinking I can probably boil whatever might be in the water to death if I can’t get water from somewhere else.

I run into the couple I met on the other side of Loch Ness again near Whitebridge. The dog seems to remember me and runs to greet me. We exchange stories from the trail and they tell me I’ve got some hills to look forward to today.

The pub in Whitebridge is also closed, so I end up having a cup of some aggressively boiled river tea on a fallen tree trunk before I embark on a bridge-finding mission. Somehow my map-reading skills haven’t been up to scratch today and I end up clumsily climbing onto the bridge from the side just as a runner is approaching.

A section after Stratherrick has warning signs of forestry work in progress, but thankfully it’s a Sunday and the workers are off site. The tree stumps on the hill are a forlorn sight, but the lack of trees does offer unobstructed views of Loch Knockie.

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Next I walk up Carn an t-Suidhe (‘sitting cairn’ in English, if my Googling skills are any better than my map reading abilities) and although I’ve seen it dismissed as a ‘hillock for tourists’, I’m really enjoying the views from the top! Personally, I'd rank this as one of the prettiest parts of Loch Ness 360. (As a bonus, I have reception again!)

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As I start descending towards Loch Tarff, it starts raining. A woman carrying a bike asks me how much further to the top. I tell her it’s not much further. She thanks me and asks me to tell the good news to her disgruntled teenaged sons treading up the hill behind her.

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According to my map, South Loch Ness Way ends at Loch Tarff, so I’m surprised when I look at the information board and find out that this isn’t the case. There’s a very fresh-looking path above the road, and grateful that I don’t need to figure out the way to Fort Augustus myself after all, I carry on walking. The sun comes back!

By the time I catch my first glimpse of Fort Augustus, I’m so ready to stop walking. The path spirals all the way down to the loch (the closest I’ve been to it since Dores), but the ‘beach’ there is definitely not suitable for camping. I end up climbing up a hill to find a camping spot that’s suitably out of sight. I can’t find anywhere completely flat though, but I think to myself that it’s not the nature of nature to be flat…

Dogs bark for a long time. When they finally stop, the sheep take over. I fall asleep thinking how different each individual sheep sounds like when you really listen to them.

DAY 5: Fort Augustus to Allt Ruighe Bhacain, or Re-joining the Great Glen Way (19.5 km / 12 mi)

20th July 2020
Start: 9.30 am
Finish: 8 pm

I come across a pretty little spider with a yellowish abdomen and spindly legs as I pack away my stuff in the morning. First it crawls all over my trousers, then it keeps trying to get into my rucksack, apparently dead set on coming with me. I shoo it away. Look pal, I love it that you’re so friendly, but I don’t want to accidentally crush you to death...

I walk the last stretch to Fort Augustus and to my utter delight finally find a shop that’s open! I get water and a soda plus some crisps, sweets and fruit. Not that healthy I know, but I got a little excited. Outside the shop I see my reflection in the window and notice just how sunburnt I am despite all the sun block I’ve slapped on. My nose is scarlet! No wonder people have given me weird looks…

I re-join the Great Glen Way, and I choose the higher route. I find more chanterelles along the way and add them to my lunch which I cook at the lookout point above Fort Augustus.

The weather gets cooler and it rains a bit as I carry on, but it’s so pretty up here with all the heather and cotton grass, and I’m in bliss inhaling the scent of the bog myrtle. Plus there are so many places to sit. It would be rude not to make use of them, so I sit down often to admire the views.

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Just before Invermoriston, the path slopes down along a steep gradient and I’m once again glad I have walking poles for support. I spend some time eating more raspberries, then admire the old bridge at Invermoriston. After a quick break, I follow the high route again, so I’ve got another climb to tackle.

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By the time I get to the Viewcatcher sculpture, I’m getting tired, but I’ve still got to find somewhere to camp. There’s nowhere near flat enough in the woods, and I carry on up another steep hill after the Troll Bridge. Eventually I find somewhere flat enough. I’m looking at my favourite views on the walk though (I can see Meall na Sròine and Loch Ness from my tent), so I’m pretty pleased. Not bad for my last night on the trail!

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DAY 6: Scenic camp to Drumnadrochit, or Half a Day of Glorious Sunshine (14.5 km / 9 mi)

21st July 2020
Start: 9.45 am
Finish: 2.30 pm

I’m so cold at night and barely get any sleep before the sun rises and starts warming up my tent. It rained at night too, and this is the first morning I have to pack away a wet tent. Two runners and three cyclists pass by while I’m getting ready to get going again.

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To make up for the night, the day is absolutely gorgeous. In addition, I’m simply feeling great: I’m used to walking now, I'm strong, and my legs and feet aren’t complaining at all.

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I catch my last views from the higher section of the route before the path descends into the woods. Near Balbeg I spot a deer on a field and we share a moment before it darts away. After the field, the rest of the way is mostly road walking.

Just before Drumnadrochit, I exchange a few words with a 60-year-old hiker walking his penultimate National Trail. Perhaps that will be me in 20 years time! We walk together for a bit and then I return to my starting point, finishing my walk at 2.30 pm.

Final thoughts

I was incredibly lucky with the weather! I still can’t believe how little it rained. I also believe that the starting point and direction of my walk worked well as I got the section to Inverness done first (which I didn’t find as thrilling) and saved the best scenery (in my opinion) for the last few days.

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nitamiriam


User avatar
Location: Edinburgh
Activity: Walker

Munros: 1
Corbetts: 1
Grahams: 1
Donalds: 1
Sub 2000: 5
Islands: 8
Long Distance routes: West Highland Way    Loch Lomond and Cowal Way    Rob Roy Way    Affric Kintail Way    Loch Ness 360   



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Statistics

2020

Trips: 1
Distance: 126 km
Ascent: 420m

2019

Trips: 2
Distance: 119 km
Ascent: 785m

2018

Trips: 1
Distance: 128 km
Ascent: 565m

2017

Trips: 2
Distance: 127 km
Ascent: 870m

2016

Trips: 1
Distance: 154 km
Ascent: 548m


Joined: Apr 11, 2016
Last visited: Nov 29, 2021
Total posts: 16 | Search posts