I slept head-down for most of the night (silly tent set up) then after not being able to sleep because my head was so stuffy I finally turned around and put my head at the narrow end of my tent (uphill). That helped! Then I slept in, not getting up until 7:30!! I packed up, carefully packing my new pottery bowl in the top of my pack, and was just about ready to leave when the three super serious hikers from the previous few days passed me. They were looking slightly less serious by this point. I walked up to the top of the hill and stopped at a lookout for a sit down breakfast (I still had heaps of time to kill today).
There were a couple of other nice viewpoints along the way but nothing like yesterday. There was also a lot of pine forest walking, which gets kind of boring – as much for the big wide roads as for the lack of view. At least the road walking was not too bad on the feet today.
Eventually I got to the Abriachan Forest. This was a water catchment area so there were lots of signs saying to not take water from streams and to use proper toilet facilities (and presumably that means you shouldn’t camp here either). I passed a sign for the “highest point on GGW”, which was a bit of a joke after the hill I’d been up yesterday on the new “high section”, and the fact that immediately after the sign I turned off for a slight detour and went up another big hill (Carn na Leitire).
The top of the hill gave some decent views and I followed the “peat walk” for a short way. The walk had information signs on it telling the story of a peat cutter’s year. There were some loggers ahead (on foot, walking through bog and heather carrying their chainsaws to selectively log the trees) so I turned around and went back the same way.
I was taking it pretty easy and I sat down on a carved bench for a while. I actually saw quite a few people walking through here as it is obviously a well known family day-trip place, with lots of nice, short, well signposted tracks.
I wandered past the Abriachan Forest Centre (which had signs welcoming orienteerers – pretty cool!), filled my water bottles at an official water tap for the GGW then walked down a very narrow track surrounded by hedges. There were signs at regular intervals along the track advertising a cafe ahead, with each sign having a different item from the menu (hot chocolate, tea, coffee, Bovril, soup, sandwiches etc). After a LOT of signs, I finally got to the turn off for the cafe, which had even more signs!
This was the Abriachan Eco Campsite and Cafe. I followed the track in and was pretty worried I was in the wrong place as it just looked like somebody’s house and farmyard. But no, there was a lovely friendly couple there, very informal and delightful. There were also a few dogs (Inuit dog bitch plus her x German Shepherd pups (now full grown) including a big boy called Gorgeous George), some pigs and chooks (including a white one that will steal your food if you give it a chance!).
I had a lovely cup of loose leaf tea and some shortbread and read the GGW guide book. It probably would’ve been useful to read this before I started!! I also had a chat about frogs as the man there collects them. He said it has been a very good year for frogs because normally the frosts in spring kill the eggs, but this year there were no frosts so there are hundreds of them around. That is certainly supported by what I’ve seen so far! We took a photo of me in front of the back door (which doesn’t have a wall around it yet!) which they were going to try to upload onto facebook . . . when they had some power for the computer again. They are fully off grid and self sufficient up here (or try to be?)
I headed out onto the track again in a great mood. I soon came onto country roads again, but through lovely countryside and very little traffic. It was a fairly uneventful walk but with nice forest and moors around me. Coming over the hill towards Inverness there was a track off to the side which I followed for a bit (still HEAPS of time to kill) but it didn’t seem to go anywhere so I turned back again.
Then, down the hill into town . . . oops, sorry, “city” (the queen said Inverness was a city, so so should I!). I walked past the Scottish Natural Heritage building which is quite lovely and clearly architecturally designed. Then into the suburbs. I saw a gumtree in someone’s backyard, which was quite surprising.
When I got to the Caledonian Canal I decided that as I still had time to kill I should take the 6km round trip detour out to the sea lock (the final lock that connects the canal to the open water). I thought that this would be quite big and impressive, but actually it just looked a lot like a normal lock!
It was incredibly windy out there though, and I did see some interesting things including what looked like the ruin of a long wooden boat and an uncontrolled railway crossing with heaps of warnings about “being careful”!
On the walk back to the GGW my feet were getting pretty sore – I was not sure this had been a good idea! But, good old feet, they just kept on going!
The GGW takes a detour through a carpark at a sports field to take you right past the door of a cafe, which I was not impressed with (I hate advertising and marketing stuff trying to make me do things). I also walked past a kayak slalom course (flat water, but with the poles hanging down that they need to weave through) which was in terrible condition – low, stagnant, disgusting water and heaps of rubbish.
Then onto the Ness Islands again (I was here two years ago). These are a series of beautiful, forested islands on the River Ness, all connected by bridges and walk trails. There were two teenage boys swimming in the river . . . actually, one was swimming, the other was hanging off a tree just above the water as it was too cold to go in!
I hadn’t heard from Scott yet, although it was past 5 so I found myself a pub (the Glenalbyn) to sit down in, have a pint and set up some blog posts for when I had internet.
It turns out Scott had just forgotten to text me when he was leaving, so he arrived shortly with a friend from Durness. We went to the flat where we were staying, showered (yay!) then went out for dinner at a fantastic Indian place down an alleyway in Inverness centre, went out to see a movie, then came home for another movie and some more drinks. A lovely end to a long, but lovely, day.