This B&B’s dining room was full of oddments, paintings and antique furnishings which had a distinct French feel about them. As it turned out our host was originally from France, but now living in Scotland and had been for some years. She plied us with a lovely breakfast before ordering us a taxi to take us to the railway station.
With fond farewells we stood outside with rucksacks and cases waiting for a large taxi. When it eventually arrived it was a car and we immediately thought it wouldn’t take all our cases and sacks, but it did – fair play to the driver for his packing skills.
At the station we only waited a while before boarding our train to Glasgow via Perth. The scenery was good but you could sense you were leaving the Highlands as the landscape became more urban.
At Glasgow we walked from Queen Street Station to Glasgow Central. It was lunch time now so there were lots of shoppers, workers and tourists about.
As we left the railway station we knew that a Texaco Express was nearby so we purchased our “Meal Deals” lunch. What a bargain! We headed off to Central Station and upon arrival it was only another short wait before we were allowed to board the train to Wolverhampton.
En route the ticket collector came along to check tickets but found a man without one. When the passenger became abusive and angry the ticket collector left but when we arrived in Carlisle station police boarded the train to ask the angry man to step off the train to discuss the issue. He refused to leave, but after swift action and control of the passenger, the police got him off.
Onwards now to Wolverhampton where we had a taxi to take us home.
After a continental breakfast, which wasn’t too bad, and having collected our packed lunches, we were soon heading off to find the trail which was about a mile & a half outside the town following the A82.
The trail leaves the main road where you can see Urquhart Castle
standing proud in the distance at the edge of the loch. The path winds slowly up to start the last major ascent of the walk to get longer views of the loch. We followed the path and took our final photos of the very impressive Loch Ness.
Now the view disappeared as we were into open land with only the odd farm around and forestry workings to be seen. Eventually we were walking on a gravel track,
capable of being used by tractors and other large machinery, until we arrived at the road where walkers are picked up or dropped off depending on their arrangements. We crossed the road and were now following a very narrow path through the woods.
It was so narrow that if anyone was coming the opposite way, one would have to step amongst the trees.
As we walked into the thick forest, signs began to appear telling us of a café, and there were random planks of wood with signs on showing coffee, tea, chocolate etc. But no visual sign of a café. The path went on and on with only the one single walker going in the opposite direction. She was an American who suggested we should try out the café, “It’s unusual.” We followed the track until we arrived at the pathway leading to
the café, but then decided to carry on to the road. Once on the road we had open views across fields with even more fantastic scenery.
It wasn’t long before we decided to stop for lunch, and do the usual checks and adjustments to boots and feet. The lone French lady walked by, followed by the Irish men, another lone walker, then the Canadians.
Lunch now devoured we set off on the final leg, so it was back on the road where we soon caught up with the French walker. During a brief conversation, Steve found out she was from Grenoble and here on holiday. We continued on our way for about an hour before stopping for a coffee break in the woods and to check out any problems.
The French lady walked by followed by the two German ladies – with a smile and a wave they carried on.
We set off again following the path until we could see, in the distance below us, Inverness.
“We’ve nearly finished,” so I thought, but a little further on we were deflated to read the sign- Inverness 4 miles. (Huh!) Anyway, we followed the path into Inverness, through the housing estates until we arrived at the Caledonian Canal,
now turning towards the city to cross the canal for the last time, then walking towards the park still following the GREAT GLEN WAY marker posts to eventually arrive at the River Ness.
Crossing onto Ness Island and going along the path, we met up with the two ladies from Germany, passing them on our way to the second and final bridge. Crossing the river again for the last time we followed the signs leading to the finish line by the castle.
On our way up to the castle, walking towards us was someone dressed in bright red, full traditional Scottish uniform with kilt etc. leading a small group of tourists into town. As we passed each other he shook our hands and congratulated us all.
We arrived at the finish point where we just had to wait whilst other people were taking photos. They were asked if they would take ours
and as they did the German ladies appeared so Steve offered to take their picture.
Next we went across the road for a celebratory drink. Whilst we were there we saw the Canadian couple so we congratulated them and had a chat.
Next it was off to find our accommodation which wasn’t too far away. Our lady host, who was very friendly, showed us to our rooms and we asked about any Italian restaurant she would recommend. She told us of her favourite and duly booked us a table and a taxi.
After freshening up we were soon met by our taxi driver who swiftly drove us to the restaurant. We celebrated our achievement of walking from Fort William to Inverness in style, with a lovely meal, a bottle of wine and good friends. After the meal our taxi appeared to take us back to our accommodation for a restful night’s sleep.
I had heard that Inverness was not worth a visit, but from what I saw it has a lot of character and interesting historical architecture which I feel is worth another visit if ever I visit Scotland on a touring holiday.
Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit (locally known as Drum) – 15 miles
At breakfast we met our hosts and, surprisingly, the two Australians we had met at Forest Lodge a couple of days ago, plus the American couple we met at the Bridge of Oich, so friendly conversation was plentiful.
After breakfast, bags and lunch packs stowed away, we were off for another climbing day. We joined the trail and the path led up into the woods,
becoming steeper and steeper as we progressed. Our aim was not only to get above the tree line, but also to find the view point from the man made wooden ring. As we found ourselves in the clearing, and above some of the tree line, we could see the wooden ring ahead.
Occasionally we had to step aside for cyclists. We continued until we reached the view point where we met up with the Australian couple and Steve offered his photographic skills to take their picture together.
We stood and chatted a while before they set off leaving us to take photos of each other and the views, again of Ben Nevis and the mountains.
After a short respite we set off, now climbing even higher and it was getting warmer. As we got to a fairly steep section we could hear a motorbike coming along the trail. It turned out to be the local forest ranger checking on the fences, looking for anyway deer could get through. We stood aside to let him pass and watched as he disappeared up the hill.
As we climbed further we met up with him again repairing the fence. He talked about the wild life, deer, squirrels and eagles and was very informative but, unfortunately, we still didn’t see any wild life, which was disappointing.
As we got to the summit,
where, our guide book said is one of the best places to see Loch Ness. Sheltering by the curved wall was the young lady from Iceland we had met the other day. She was cooking her lunch on a small stove
and we had a brief chat before taking more photos. We started the long descent back into the forest to where the path joins up with the lower trail and upon coming across a man made shelter, similar to the one the Icelandic girl was using, we stopped for lunch.
We noticed that dark clouds were heading our way and, although rain wasn’t expected, it looked threatening, so lunch over we were soon on the move. On the way down we met three Irish walkers whom we’d seen at Laggan Locks having a break, but were too far away to say hello. They greeted us as they passed by whilst we took more photos of the scenery.
Heading on we came to a timber bridge, known as Troll Bridge
which is decorated with poems and artwork. We continued until we arrived at a very dense, dark wood
where a torch would have been much appreciated. As we neared Drumnadrochit we needed to don our waterproof jackets as it had started to rain, tho’ it turned out to be just a shower. We decided not to make a detour to see Urquhart Castle so we continued on to the A82 Inverness Road and headed into town to find our accommodation. The downside was that it was at the far end of town so making us pretty tired at the end of the day.
We arrived at the Fiddlers Rest Inn to find arrangements were not as expected but after some discussion we were given a larger room, which solved the issue. We went for dinner and a drink in the bar downstairs; the meal was very tasty and plentiful. We met the American couple again and it transpired the man worked for the
US Government. They were enjoying the walk and hoped to see us at the end. After they had departed we had a little night cap before calling it a day.
We ate a hearty breakfast and then packed our dry waterproofs away as the weather had improved considerably.
We bade farewell to our host and set off to buy packed lunches from the local store.
On our way we took a slight detour as the “Pride of the Glen”, a huge boat, was working its way through the lock.
Whilst the vessel was in the lock no other boat could use it at the same time as it took up all the space. We watched a while then set off to buy lunch.
Today was going to be our first steep hill walking in the forest. As we found the trail it was a climb straight away up to the point where it divides into the upper trail and lower trail. We took the higher trail as the weather was clear so we would have good views over Loch Ness. Into the forest we went,
taking it steady as it hadn’t been long since breakfast, until we got to a point where we had our first sight of Loch Ness from above. Looking down to the shore line we could see the loch’s only island – actually an Iron Age man made structure known as a crannog – renamed Cherry Island by Oliver Cromwell.
As we climbed we eventually got above the tree line, now heading to an even higher part of the walk. Near the top, looking back
along the Lochs, in the distance you could see Loch Oich and, just about, Loch Lochy.
We set off following the path overlooking Loch Ness;
what an impressive view of this extremely long loch with its scenic beauty.
We arrived at a curved wall that can only be described as a shelter to give protection from the elements and decided to stop for a break. As we had just walked up the steepest section of the path, we were amazed to see cyclists, some riding their bikes up, some pushing.
Now replenished we set off along the path until we reached the summit, then it was a long and sometimes steep descent into the enclosed forest
to Invermoriston to join the lower path. We eventually arrived at the outskirts of Invermoriston where we rejoined the A82 alongside an old drovers’ road bridge built by Thomas Telford in 1813. The bridge was restored many times, but due to flood damage in 1951, it was replaced by a modern bridge in 1954 and here you can still see the older bridge
with its cascading waters.
We had a look around and took the obligatory photos before arriving in the village. Once again we had arrived too early but found that our B&B was right next to the Glenmoriston Arms Hotel. (How lucky were we?)
Off we went to find the sign posted café. On the way we found the start of the following day’s walk and a little further on was the Glen Rowan café, not too far from the B&B.
As we entered, there, having a snack was the Icelandic girl so we chattered about her progress before sitting down for a refreshing cup of tea and a scone.
It was now time to book in at Barcarina House and as we arrived there were others waiting to go inside. We met our host, Robert, who asked us to leave our boots and any wet gear in the drying room where we also would find a pair of crocs each to wear around the house. We noticed our cases were in the garage, so once we had changed into the comfy crocs we took our cases into the house where we were
shown to our rooms. It wasn’t long before we had showered and changed, then sent the daily text home before heading to the Glenmoriston Arms for a meal.
Whilst having a drink we asked for a table as we wanted to dine. It wasn’t long before we were enjoying a delicious meal and one last drink before heading back to our B&B for the night.
We woke to a view that didn’t look very promising, low mist in the distance;
we could also see that it had rained over night so it was going to be wet gear today.
At breakfast we met the two prison officers from last night, along with a couple from Perth, Australia, who had walked the West Highland Way the week before and were now doing the Great Glen Way before heading off to Skye, then Aberdeen and finally London before flying home.
Yet again we had a wonderful breakfast, not too filling but just enough to start the walk and take us up to lunch. We soon donned our wet gear, picked up the lunch packs and with a friendly goodbye we were off into the drizzling rain, walking along the A82 towards our finish/start point from yesterday.
The walk back to the start was equally as scary; now we were walking with our backs to the traffic in order to save crossing the road twice.
At the start point we set off into the forest following the Caledonian Canal until we eventually arrived at a disused railway line, with an old steam engine in some stage of renovation. Following the old railway line, after some distance
the track ended and we continued along the track bed with views of
Loch Oich to our left, now looking out for Invergarry Castle amongst the trees on the opposite side of the loch. After some distance, we could see ahead the young lady from Iceland putting on her waterproofs, but didn’t catch up as she was soon off walking again. Before reaching the Bridge of Oich, Aberchalder, we decided to stop for a rest in the drizzle. One cup of coffee and a biscuit later,
we headed towards the end of Loch Oich. As we neared the swing road bridge over the canal we made a detour to see the historical old bridge,
designed by James Dredge in 1850 and used by cars until 1932 but now only used by tourists to walk over and view.
Amidst our usual photo taking a small group of Italian/German visitors arrived so we asked them take a group photo of us. Then a young couple appeared so Steve offered to take their picture; they too were walking the Great Glen Way. As we returned to cross the road swing bridge all the alarms and barriers started to operate and stopped us
as we had to wait for a sailing boat passing through in to Loch Oich.
After the bridge was back in place we were able to continue,
this time walking between the Caledonian Canal and the River Oich. The drizzle had now turned to rain,
but it wasn’t so bad that it makes you want to give up. Just before where the canal joins the river, we stopped for lunch under the cover of trees. This was not the wisest of moves but it was necessary. Whilst lunching, the two German ladies passed by with a damp smile. Half an hour later we were on the move again, nearing the end of the day’s walk.
We knew our accommodation was on the side of the canal but didn’t realise just how close it was. We had arrived two hours too early, so our rooms weren’t ready. After speaking to our host, we left our rucksacks and headed into Fort August for a coffee.
As we wandered into town it was busy with more tourists and boats working their way through the locks, with the aid of the lock keeper.
We checked out a few places for an evening meal, before making our way to our host’s recommended coffee shop/restaurant near the
Loch Ness lighthouse
and overlooking Loch Ness.
We were able to get a table by the window so could admire the views. After nearly two hours of sitting in damp clothes we were ready to return to our accommodation, so we made our way back to Tigh na Mairi B& B. Our host took our wet jackets, over-trousers and boots to dry for the following day, and then showed us to our rooms.
After freshening up it wasn’t long before we had a drink and found a good place to have a meal before settling down for the night.
We gathered for breakfast in a very nice dining room full of what were probably antiques. Our breakfast was very tastefully done and plentiful, whilst Glen gave us more information about the area and what to look out for as there were nesting eagles in and around where we would be walking.
Before leaving, we were given four slices of cherry cake with a hint of whisky soaking in it (mmmm). We loaded our sacks into the car as Glen was taking us back to our start point, Gairlochy, and as we arrived we saw the two (German?) ladies ahead of us. We said our goodbyes to Glen and were soon crossing the bridge to rejoin the Great Glen Way path.
We set off up a hill following the road for a short distance before turning and dropping down to the Loch shoreline, to be on the banks of Loch Lochy.
As we walked there were random information and history boards referring to the commandos and their training for WW2; we also passed the area Glen said to look for as there were nesting eagles in the area. (Guess what, we didn’t see any, maybe we were being a little optimistic.) We continued along the shore of Loch Lochy, only stopping for the occasional photo, towards Clunes where there is a mock beach landing practice pad used by the commandos.
A little further we saw a sign to the Cameron Clan Museum, but we didn’t visit as we were too early. We continued, heading into Clune Forest and then South Laggan Forest. As there was shade we decided to take a lunch break and check out any boot or feet issues. During our stop, three Irish men came by with a cheery’ hello’, then out of the blue our first cyclists came whizzing by with a nod and a smile, soon to be figures in the distance.
Whilst into our lunch a couple came walking by and with a few friendly words they carried on. We tried to guess where they were from and thought America – we found out later on that they were actually from Canada.
Time to move on walking along the trail. As we neared the end of the forest a few more cyclists appeared, then in the distance we could see Laggan Locks.
As we arrived, boats were moored up waiting for the lock keeper to open the next set of gates.
A few photos later we saw, up ahead, the Dutch barge which had been converted into a pub,
and which had also been suggested in our itinerary as one of the possible eating places for our evening meal.
It looked interesting and thought we would check with the next hosts. We walked past the lock and in to the pine forest. By now the weather had turned, it was much cooler so we needed to don fleeces. We walked through the forest for some time – about a mile- before we came to a foot bridge where we now had to turn and walk along the main A82 Inverness road, back in the direction of Laggan Locks area, to our next accommodation.
This proved to be a little scary as there was no pavement for most of the way and there was the added problem of heavy traffic in full flow. We eventually arrived at Forest Lodge B&B where Alison and David welcomed us with a very refreshing cup of tea and a lovely slice of homemade fruit cake. During our refreshments, Alison recommended different places to eat that evening, with a leaning towards the Dutch barge. We decided that was the place for us and Alison said that David would take us when we were ready.
The evening arrived and we handed in our breakfast requirements, along with our lunch pack order. David, as promised, took us to the barge and said to let the owners know where we were staying and when we wanted to return they would take us back.
Inside the barge it was quite busy, but there were still some seats available. As we were taking in the first pint, two other walkers appeared. They were staying at the same place as us but walking the Great Glen Way from Inverness to Fort William. During conversation they informed us that they were retired prison officers just notching up another walk as they had been walking together for some time and in countries such as France, Italy and Poland to name but a few places.
We duly ordered our meals which were so hot we decided we just needed one more drink to cool us down before being driven back to our B&B where we saw the second half of the rugby match, Scarlets (Wales) v Munster (Ireland), which the Scarlets won. Shortly after watching the replay of the tries it was time for some sleep.
Fort William to Gairlochy – 14 miles (Accommodation at Spean Lodge)
Following a lovely breakfast, bags were put out for the carrier, and it was a fond farewell to our host before going to buy more ‘meal deals’ at the local supermarket. Once purchased, we headed off to the start point
of the Great Glen Way,
near the old fort. As we arrived Steve cajoled a passerby to take group photos. Unfortunately for this person it wasn’t just one camera, there were two others. Then as we were moving out of the way Steve ask a lone walker if she wanted a photo, which she did; it turned out she was from Grenoble, France.
Now it was time for the off, officially, and we started to follow the Great Glen Way marker posts (they were a brilliant aid).
During the first stage we found we needed to sort little problems, like adjusting laces, tight boots, stones in boots and taking many photos.
We eventually arrived at the Caledonian Canal
and time to make more adjustments. Whilst here I was asked by a couple of locals if we were walking the Great Glen Way, as they had done it two years previously. After a brief chat, everyone was ready to continue. The path was easy, as it is a towpath of the canal.
As we walked towards Neptune’s staircase, as it’s known, we met another single walker; it turned out in conversation she was from Iceland. She had decided to do the walk as it was her annual holiday from work. We chatted a while then, at the staircase,
we split up as there were lots of tourists around, and the Icelandic girl was taking photos. We took some photos our selves before we carried on with our walk.
As we continued, the scenery improved with distant views of the hillside, and of different types of boats sailing along the canal.
Along the towpath we met up with the young lady from France who we had met earlier at the start. She said she was fine and enjoying the scenery. We meandered along the path
when, ahead of us, were two more walkers who had stopped for a break. They were two women who just smiled as we walked by.
As we went along we were identifying place names from the map and seeing more and more boats ranging from small motor launches to large car carrying ships.
This was amazing when you think it’s a canal; your mind tends to think of canals as being narrow but this canal was leading from the west side of Scotland to the east side and the North Sea.
We decided to stop for a lunch break and make any necessary adjustments –
one was wearing new boots, one was wearing new socks and we all needed to check padding around the feet. Whilst we were eating the ladies we had seen earlier came by and as they said, “Hello again,” we could just make out they were probably German. This now became our challenge to find out their nationality before the end of the walk.
We were just finishing lunch when the French lady came by, giving us a smile and a wave before walking on.
Time to get going again and as we were setting off the young lady from Iceland appeared. She chatted a while as we walked then decided to stop for her lunch so we said we would probably meet up later along the way.
It was about two hours later when we arrived at Gairlochy Lock.
We were staying at Spean Bridge which, we had been informed, was only a short walk away. It was too early to book in at our B&B so we sat a while before I gave Spean Lodge a call. On speaking to our host, Suzanne, she said her husband would come and collect us; we were to stay and not walk on, as it was about three and half miles away.
After 15 minutes the car arrived to collect us. The driver introduced himself as Glen, he welcomed us and put our gear in the boot. En route he gave us a chat about the area, plus a potted history of himself and how he came to be living in Spean Bridge, when he was clearly a Yorkshire man.
As we neared the commando memorial,
Glen stopped and offered us a brief tour and history lesson of WW2 activities. We later found he was a bit of a historian and wild life enthusiast. At our accommodation he very kindly showed us to our rooms, gave us details for breakfast and where to go for a drink that evening and left us to it.
We met up later and gave our breakfast order before heading to the railway station which we had seen the other day as we were travelling to Fort William. This turned out to also be a pub and it had history too, as it was used as a briefing room for the commandos during their training periods. We had a drink then went to find where we were eating as I’d booked it the previous night from Fort William. After the meal we had a night cap and called it a day.
We had agreed that Steve’s house would be the start point, so I met everyone at 6.30am there as planned. Steve had booked the taxi to take us all to Wolverhampton train station to catch the 7.35am to Glasgow. We arrived in plenty of time, so we had an early morning coffee and bought respective newspapers. It wasn’t long before we were up and out on the platform just as the train was arriving.
We boarded the train, deposited our bags in the storage areas and were seated just as the train left the station. After a few minutes everyone was quietly reading their papers.
The journey to Glasgow was very relaxing and, after the expected time of three and half hours, we arrived at Glasgow Central; now it was off to find the next station to get the train to Fort William. We headed off to find Queen Street Station which was only 10 minutes away and easy walking. It was lunch time and all the streets were buzzing with people, street artists and shoppers.
Once at Queen Street it was decided that, as the next part of the journey was of 4 hours duration – the train stopped at almost every station between Glasgow and Fort William – we should buy lunch, so “Meal Deals” were purchased. What good value!
As we boarded the train it was a bit of a scramble, but luckily we were able to sit as a group, even though there were so many people. As we passed Loch Lomand the scenery became spectacular, it also reminded me of the West Highland Way walk that Steve and I did a few years ago. As we were nearing the Trossachs , people were taking photos of the mountains which looked spectacular as the sun was lower in the sky as the evening light fell.
On arrival at Fort William it appeared that everyone was getting off the train; the platform was busy with passengers. We made our way slowly out of the station as the Jacobite steam train had just pulled in and everyone wanted to see it, so progress out into the high street became even slower. I knew our accommodation was at the far end of town as I’d checked it out on Google. It was rather boring walking along, dragging our cases over the pedestrian cobbled pavement. We eventually found our accommodation with lovely views from the hotel
and our host was lovely, giving all the advice she could about local eateries. Asking where we were staying the next day, she recommended places to eat in Spean Bridge. After settling in to our rooms, we decided to go and find where to eat now as the evening was already upon us.
We walked into town, found a bar for a quick drink and it was agreed that, as advised by our host, I would book for tomorrow night’s evening meal. In the meantime we called home to assure our wives we had arrived in good spirits. Steve asked the bar staff where we could eat, which turned out quite well as they recommended a place across the road. After taking care to cross the pedestrian walkway we entered the busy restaurant, but after only a few minutes wait we were sitting down and enjoying our first night’s meal in Scotland.
The meal over, we headed out for a night cap and found a sports pub that was selling beer at £1.50 a pint, so decided to give it a try. The price was understandable as to charge more would have been robbery!
So, fed and watered, it was time to head back to our accommodation for a good night’s sleep
After completing the Dales Way in 2016, Steve and I talked about a walk for the following year (2017). I had looked at the Great Glen Way on various YouTube videos and, upon discussion with Steve, he found it appealing.
He spoke to Lynn, (who was unable to walk with us last year) who said he was interested in doing the walk and the next I heard was that Steve’s brother Derek also wished to join us.
After checking out the itinerary with Macs Adventure and sharing the information, everyone agreed to do the walk. It was pointed out to all, via Steve, that the last day of the walk was 20 miles, therefore lots of practice training walks were essential and should be part of each individual training plan.
Derek and Lynn were left to their own devices as they live in different parts of the country, whereas Steve and I had training days together as we live in the same town.
Our training walks consisted of building up our performance and endurance knowing we had a walk of 20miles on one day. We had a couple of walks over Long Mynd in Shropshire (8miles), we walked the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire (7miles), then stretched it out to walk from home to Kidderminster, Worcestershire (10miles). We did this a few times, on each occasion starting at different points till eventually we could walk to Kidderminster and back (20 miles).
Then, as luck would have it, Dudley Council organised the annual “Dudley Trail”, consisting of 1,6,9,12,20 & 28 mile walks. We chose the 20 miles walk, following the route around the canal system and historical places of the Black Country. By doing all this practice walking we found our pace had improved from 2.5 mph to 3 / 3.5 mph.
Whilst all this training was happening, Steve organized the train tickets from Wolverhampton to Glasgow, then on to Fort William. Once booked he then organized the returns from Inverness to Glasgow to Wolverhampton.
We were now ready for the Great Glen Way. Whilst we were training, Steve had been in touch from time to time with Lynn & Derek to enquire of their progress; they had been doing very well with a lot of training walks and were also ready.
It was now down to Lynn & Derek to make their way to the Midlands so that we could all set off together on the 17th May.
Normally after a long distance walk Steve & I end it with a celebratory meal, but this time, as Lynn & Derek had plans to return home the day after the end of walk, we decided to have a curry the night before travelling. This could have been risky, but fortunately everyone was fine.