Day 65: 27 May 2014; Fort William to Invergarry
|Tue 27 May 2014
|Start to end time
|Route miles left
|Route ft left
|Fine and sunny in morning, overcast in afternoon. Rain in evening. Mild 16C. Light easterly breeze
(the red cross in a circle shows where I am at the moment)
|GPX based track of today’s walk
(click here to access to access downloadable file)
Yesterday, for me, was one of the best – achievement of a significant goal, good company, and a night in an excellent B&B. So it was hard to see how today could be anything other than a bit of a disappointment in comparison. Plus the fact that this was going to be the second of the four “big” post-WHW days, with a hike of at least 25 miles.
So after a good night’s sleep, and in clean clothes which I’d been able to wash out the night before – and get dry, I set off from Fort William with relatively low expectations. But how wrong could I be! I’d done some major route re-engineering so today I followed the Great Glen Way alongside the Caledonian Canal, in the general direction of Inverness. My original plan had me heading into the wilderness to the North West into largely pathless moorland – and that option seemed considerably less attractive to me “in the field” than it did when I have planned it from the comfortable remoteness of home.
I stepped out of the B&B at about 7:30 am into a fine morning, with a clear blue sky and bright sunshine. I skirted round Fort William and quickly joined the Caledonian Canal. This is a magnificent piece of engineering, completed in 1822, and built by the gifted engineer Thomas Telford (he also built the Menai suspension bridge to Anglesey, and much of the A5 road). It joins the North Sea at Inverness to the Atlantic at Fort William, cutting out the journey round the north of Scotland. It’s well maintained – gardeners were hard at work mowing the grass alongside the canal as I walked – with impressive hydraulically-operated locks. I joined at Neptune’s Staircase – a flight of 8 such locks, and continued to follow it until the path reached Loch Lochy.
The Great Glen Way, or GGW, skirts along the northern shore of Loch Lochy, having crossed from the Southern side at Gairlochy. This was a significant moment – crossing the Great Glen geological fault and moving into the Northwest Highlands. One thing I’ve noticed about this walk is that, slightly depressingly, you are always at the “southernmost” point of something. After nine days walking in Scotland, for example, I reached the southernmost distillery. Then the next day I reached the southernmost Munro. And now, I was at the southernmost point of the North West Highlands. It would be nice, one day, to think I had actually reached the most northerly point of something!!
Walking along the shores of Loch Lochy was really enjoyable – a good track, relatively level, and excellent vistas to the south, back over to Ben Nevis. The sun shone, and it reminded me a lot of the walk along the shores of Derwentwater to Keswick, only drier. I stopped off at Laggan for a bacon sandwich (no rolls) in a floating pub, then rejoined the canal and finished off the walk to Invergarry with a short road-walk. I normally avoid road-walking when I can, but today I had no option as I needed to visit the shop at the “Well of the Seven Heads” to get provisions for tomorrow – as this is the last shop on my walk for 45 miles, until I reach Shiel Bridge.
The curious name reflects a gory history – seven murderers were captured and beheaded here in 1665, and their decapitated heads washed in the nearby well. The monument to their demise is interesting in itself – a sort of Rosetta Stone, with inscriptions in Latin, French, English and Gaelic.
I arrived at the campsite after 27 miles walking, making this by some margin the longest day of the hike so far (the first day, surprisingly, was the previous longest). I was quite tired when I arrived and tempted just to put the tent up and go to bed. But I remembered the experience of Chepstow where I’d skipped a meal and suffered the next day as a result, I made myself walk the mile and a half back to the pub for a decent meal. Hard work – and I’m not looking forward to the hike back – but essential as I have another 25-miler tomorrow.
But all in all, a great day, unexpectedly enjoyable.