At this point of the walk I was actually 2 days ahead of my original schedule. I had planned to do the WHW in 7 days, making up enough time to do the standard walk in 6, plus 1 day for Buachaille Etive Mor. I was a little overzealous at making up time, and somehow managed to finish the entire walk INCLUDING Buachaille Etive Mor in 6 days. I had then planned “a couple of days off” in Fort William. Sadly when I got there my brain translated “a couple of days” as “a couple of nights” . . . . which of course is only one day off! I was staying in a friend of a friends’ flat in Inverness and the earliest Scott could get there with the keys was 5pm Tuesday. This meant that I now had only 75km to do, on good paths, in 3 days! Before the start of this trip I would’ve thought that was still a fair pace . . . but by now I realised I could probably do that in 2 days if I had to. So, it was time to slow the pace down!
I got up late and had a leisurely breakfast, wandered around taking photos (it was an absolutely stunning morning, and location) and slowly packed up. Luckily there were no midges out thismorning. I tried to dry some gear but the sun was taking forever to clear the ridge so eventually I gave up and started walking. The kayakers nearby pushed off at about the same time I did and I ended up leapfrogging them for half of the day as they had to portage (get out and carry their kayaks) at every lock!
It was a beautiful morning – sunny and calm. The walk here was mainly along canal paths so was very hard on my feet and fairly uneventful. I went past the Bridge of Oich (which I’d seen last trip, so didn’t stop at) and saw a miniature railway line in a beautiful little garden nearby!
I stopped at Cullochy Loch and sat down on a bench for a while, waving my tent fly around to dry it out. I saw quite a few boats on the canal (and leapfrogged these as they passed through the locks as well) and also three very serious looking hikers (power walking, compression gear and an intense sense of purpose!)
I arrived in Fort Augustus very suddenly. I was walking along a canal path in the middle of nowhere then all of a sudden I could see the locks ahead! Fort Augustus is quite a large town at the southern end of Loch Ness.
I saw the super serious hikers, stretching and looking a bit sore (but still super serious) so I meandered past and, just to show them how serious a hiker I was, I went for a boat cruise!
I had a lot of time to kill (it wasn’t even 12pm and I only had 15km left to walk today) and Norma, at Aldourie (Fort William), had said that Loch Ness Cruises were pretty good so I decided to take a tour on the loch with them. The cruise was good, with a fair bit of information, but it didn’t go as far down the loch as I was hoping. Still, they had sonar displays on board, which were pretty cool. The loch is about 200m deep for most of its length (with shallow sections at the ends and slightly shallower sections where the rivers dump sediment in) and reaches this depth within about 50m of the edge, so it is incredibly steep. It has more water than all the lakes and rivers in England and Wales combined yet has very little marine life. Something to do with it being such a deep, massive body of water that it gets quite cold reasonably shallow I think. No, I didn’t see Nessy. More on her tomorrow.
I also saw a crannog, Cherry Island, at the northern end. This was sort of the birthplace for underwater archaeology apparently as one guy decided he wanted to see how it was made so procured a diving suit (think old fashioned, with the big metal fishbowl helmet) and went down to have a look. (It is made of oak piles driven into the loch bed, filled with stones) The island/crannog used to be a bit bigger than it is now because the loch rose a few metres when they made the Caledonian Canal.
Also, as the tour was coming back in, I saw my three kayakers heading out onto the loch. They looked so tiny out there!
I got back, checked out most of the menus in town and decided on The Lock Inn for lunch . . . partly because their menu appealed to me (I had a little appetite back at this point) but also because the name made me smile. It was a very leisurely lunch, over an hour, with haggis, salad, cider and “Maccallan Whisky Icecream with Highland Raspberries and Strawberries”! I realised part way through lunch that I was sitting over a power point, so charged a lot of my gear. I had accidentally turned my GPS on during the night, and forgotten to charge it yesterday, so it had gone flat sometime thismorning and I didn’t realise until I got to Fort Augustus. Silly me, but at least it was only a set path section I missed.
The walk out of town was through some quite pretty woods then up into a pine plantation (in the process of being logged). It was quite a long walk through the pines, with no views until . . . WOW, I got to a logged section. Loch Ness is really big!!
Further along in the pines there was a sign pointing down an almost non-existent track to a cottage. I was intrigued, and followed the path down the hill, expecting to find a quaint little cottage in a clearing in the middle of nowhere. I was disappointed – there was a quaint little cottage but it was actually on the main road! I had walked all the way off the ridge to the main road that runs along the loch . . . and now had to walk all the way back up again!
There were pines (so not much view) all the way to Invermoriston and the path down to Invermoriston was not very well signposted so a little frustrating. However the town was lovely. There is a very impressive old bridge (part of Telford’s Parliamentary road system – remember the cobbles from Day 4 of the WHW?), some stunning waterfalls (the Moriston river is very impressive) and a cute little “Summer House”. I also saw Saint Columba’s well, but this was very poorly maintained and quite disappointing.
The hotel in town looked lovely but there wasn’t much point in me stopping as my stomach was still upset and I had no appetite again. Plus, it was already ~5:30pm and I knew I had more pines to walk through (which are not great for finding campsites). The hill out of town was incredibly steep, and there was a slight detour due to active logging in the pine forest.
Shortly after this point, a new “high” section of the track had just been completed. This section was slightly longer and obviously climbed higher up the ridge than the standard track but offered better views. I also thought that I might stand a better chance of finding a campsite there. The start of the high track was not particularly inspiring to start with (looking much like a long trek uphill through a pine forest!) but did offer some promising glimpses of what was to come. And I found a suitable campsite soon enough! There was a flat cleared section that looked like it’d been used to park construction equipment. It was a bit lumpy and midgey but was flat enough, sheltered and near a small stream.
Today had been a fairly pretty but uninspiring day of walking – mainly on canal paths or through pine forests. Some sections of view were really stunning though. My feet were also quite sore, and almost blistery, today which was odd considering it was such a short day. Possibly all of the flat path walking was the problem. Not that I was complaining about having paths to walk on!!
And I’m sorry, today I had to sacrifice some stunning photos to fit more educational, story-telling ones into my quota of 10!