It was certainly not the best night’s sleep I’ve had, possibly even the worst on this trip so far – I think I was worried about my campsite. In the end it was a fine. A bit cold though! A few locals also commented on the low temperatures overnight yesterday and today so it wasn’t just me being an unseasoned Australian!
I set off bright and early (~7:30) and it was still quite chilly. There were birds everywhere, absolutely stunning views and stunning weather to go with it. This high path was really worth it, not yet for the views over the loch, but for the views to the north.
The new route incorporated some sculptural works and, as I had time to kill still, I mucked around for a long time trying to take the perfect photo!
More walking brought more stunning views. Also an amazing atmosphere which is impossible to capture in a photo. It was quiet except for the chirping and birds and the rustle of trees (and European tree rustle, not gum tree rustle too). Wow. It really was a magical place.
I crossed over a cute troll bridge, with a display of some poems done by local primary school students, then went up a big hill. It was definitely worth it for the views at the top! Again, WOW! Again, Loch Ness is HUGE! You can see a picture of me and the loch here.
The weather was so lovely and it was a cruisy day so I had lay down on a bench for a while and listened to the wind and the birds.
The path went through some more pines the came out into beautiful woodlands and fields. I saw what looked like a child’s tree fort through the trees which was, funnily, at the same spot that a pre-Roman fort was marked on my map! I was looking for a fort there, . . . just not that kind!
A couple of cyclists rode past the other way and commented on the “amazing views from here”. I wanted to reply “wait until you see what is to come!!”, but being on bikes they probably wouldn’t be taking the high route. I then got to have a lovely long pat with a big black bearded dog, Smuggler (I think), and a chat with his owner.
Next stop was a pottery that was mentioned in the guides (Loch Ness Clayworks). I love potteries, but they are not the best places to shop when hiking! Luckily for me they have also recently started operating as tearooms as well. I had a browse then had a lovely cup of tea (made by Jonathon) and some shortbread, plus pats with Jack, a black Pekinese with the most amazing coat. . . . brushed every second day! He is from Kent and hasn’t had a winter there yet so it could be interesting when he first sees snow. A large loud group came through while I was there, and another solo guy, both with dogs. I bought a small bowl as a present, hoping that if I was careful I could get it through the next two days without breaking it!
The next section of walking was along country roads. I still had heaps of time so I followed a butterfly for a while. I passed three guys having lunch by the side of the road. They looked like the same super serious three from Fort Augustus but I thought they would’ve been long gone by now?!
Then it was a long wind down the hill into Drumnadrochit. I took a scenic detour through town, past some local houses (almost all B&Bs!) and the graveyard. I saw some signs coming through town for the local Highland Gathering. It had been on Saturday! I’d missed it by only two days!!
It was only ~2:30 so I wandered around town seeing if there as anything I wanted to do or somewhere I wanted to eat. I finally tried Fiddlers, and found out they’d just finished serving pub food. I actually had some appetite today so didn’t want just the cafe food next door. I went up to the Drumnadrochit Hotel where the bistro was supposed to open at 3pm. After waiting until 3:30 (and it still wasn’t open), I asked reception, who said it should be open, then finally asked the cafe staff. They informed me they’d just shifted from peak to shoulder hours and “it’s not worth opening it up for one person”. What?!?!?! It’s not like I’d implied they should open it just for me, but maybe they could change their signs, or at least tell reception what’s going on!!
They said they were opening at 5pm so I went into the Ness Centre, which is an award winning display of information relating to the loch, and in particular, the Loch Ness Monster. It was quite good with lots of scientific information and facts, not too dumber down for tourists. It is done in a series of rooms with audio-visual displays telling different aspects of the loch. Information suggests that there is no large marine creature living in the loch. There is simply not enough fish to support it. Also, the idea that it’s a plesiosaur took a bit of a beating by the fact that the loch was full of ice (full, not just covered over) and then not connected to the sea anymore so it’s very unlikely that a plesiosaur could’ve got in there. They’ve also done a full sonar sweep of the loch (although this is far from conclusive). Other things all the sightings could be are large seals, lost sturgeon (fish), seabirds seen at funny angles, boat wash (the loch is so huge that a boat is often out of sight when the wash arrives) or hoaxes (some of the famous photos are). That said, the final room had loads of fairly compelling eyewitness accounts. I spent a lot of time in the final room, waiting until 5pm for dinner!
I went back to the Hotel and the bistro was still not open. A guy walked past with breadrolls at 5:10 so I asked him. “No, we don’t open until 5:30”. WHAT!?!?!??! I was pretty pissed off by this stage and walked out, partly on principal, but also because it was already getting late and I still had to get out of town and find a campsite (pine forests again on the north side of town).
I started walking, eating the rest of my lollies to cheer me up. I got my second injury for the walk when I climbed a fence (which was on top of a 4’ high stone embankment) to rescue a sheep with its head stuck in a fence. Luckily just a small cut on my hand . . . although I also brushed some stinging nettles and my finger got a bit red and swollen (and hurt!). There was a bit of walking next to the road, with some lovely views of Urquhart Castle (which I went to last time I was here), then some fields, . . . then into the pine forest.
As usual, the pine forest was on a steep hill and not at all promising for campsites. It was also getting quite dark – partly due to the hill and pines but also that it was now 10 days closer to winter than when I first arrived. There were very few flat spots (ie none), although I noted a couple of possibilities in case I couldn’t find anything better. Then, I looked back as I was going around a hairpin bend, and there was a big flat spot that had obviously been used as a campsite before. It was flat, clear and soft. Yay!
I set my tent up then had some dinner – bread and cheese. Thanks a lot Drumnadrochit Hotel!! All day I’d eaten breakfast (muesli and milk), 1 muesli bar, a cup of tea, shortbread, ¼ of a packet of lollies and a piece of pita bread and several bits of cheese!