Friday 10 August 2007

Highlands: Fort William - Inverness (Great Glen Way) [6th - 10th August]

[Update 11]

At Fort William, we had to decide whether to head North East up the Great Glen Way, another national trail, then up the east coast of Scotland (which would involve walking a lot of the treacherous A9) to John O'Groats, or to head North up through the West Highlands, then North East to John O'Groats. Despite the latter (North) being our original plan as it was the more scenic and remote route, everything seemed to be pushing us to choose the former (North East). Here's a list of con's for going North;

* The inner tent zips were breaking and there are plenty more midges North. We'd be eaten alive!
* It would involve carrying six days worth of food, then another six days of food after that. Also, our stove was on its way out.
* There would be lots of potentially dangerous river crossings, so after all this rain.... Also Will's shoe had gone through to his holey socks, Inov8 trainers have been great though!
* The expense £££££ of replacing all our kit!
* Deer stalking shots to avoid!
* We were knackered and going North was harder!!!

So, we decided to save the remote way for another drier summer and bought some duck tape for when our tent zips broke. Going NE would also have the bonus of seeing our friends in Dingwall, and be in time to see our new friend Jonathon from the Pennine Way, at John O'Groats as he was going to Orkney for a family holiday from there.

We started the Great Glen Way and saw some Harry Potter train carriages, before reaching a canal. Oh dear, memories of that painful 42 miler came flooding back. A view of Ben Nevis's snow patched north face and a peaceful Great Glen created better canal memories though, until the rain returned. Funny how all the bad, forgotten memories can come flooding back. Oh well, as we have learnt along the way, low points are always rewarded with high points (eventually) and our next high point was just around the corner in the form of a surprise fairy forest. We've never seen anything like it. Decorated in every corner of a dark forest were fairies, trinkets, wooded carved mushroom houses and wishing wells. Starting as an egg hunt, the locals have added to it over the past year and raised over £150 for Marie Curie. It was so nice to see something respected and unspoilt. We paid our fairy toll so that we'd safely find our way out and spent ages looking around. Daisy particularly liked the snake pit and leopard den and we particularly liked Eric the bagpiper who had timed his arrival there perfectly for us. At first we wondered if his photo would come out, or whether we'd just see a mysterious aura, but we later found out that he was maintaining the tradition of 'playing for pints' along the Great Glen Way. (incidentally the photo didn't come out)!

The stunning views of Loch Lochy ensured that the endless forest track didn't become too monotonous, until we reached the Caledonian canal's only floating Inn. You can't pass that by, so we didn't, and met two lovely ladies, Irene and Helen who kindly gave us a donation :-).
I finally ate my tin of tuna (a complete idiot for carrying a tin for 10 days) and noticed that my thumbs were sore again after developing hard skin as a resistance against my walking stick handles.

We found delicious dripping-cooked fish 'n' chips at Fort Augustus and the next day it actually didn't rain. Well, except for a few drops that night, it just can't quite manage it can it. Loch Ness looked an amazing deep blue mass of sparkling water. Even more amazing is that it holds more water than all the fresh water lakes in England and Wales put together. There were lots of American tourists along this part of the trail so toilet spots were tricky. Invermoriston had even more tourists taking pictures of the token Highland cow, but unfortunately the campsite there no longer took tents so we had to walk the next days walk that day, another 17 miles.

We met two nice musical Glaswegians, Mike and James, who helped us along the long, long Loch Ness forest track to Drumnadrochit. As it was a late finish we were too tired for pudding so we had that for breakfast the next day and had a day off at the campsite there, full of horses with flatulence, they even gave Will a run for his money! We reached Inverness the next day after reaching the Great Glen Way High point at Craig Leach forest, passing more ancient mossy forests, baby frogs and scary dogs - Daisy kept looking back in fear for ages.

Only one week to go now!!

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