Our Walk of The Great Glen Way, with Meall na Teanga and Sron a' Choire Ghairbh
- Fort William to Gairlochy
- Gairlochy to Kilfinnan and then Cam Bhealach
- Meall na Teanga and Sron a' Choire Ghairbh (Munros beside Great Glen Way)
- Kilfinnan to Loch Oich
- Loch Oich to 4 miles past Fort Augustus
- 4 miles past Fort Augustus to Grotaig
- Grotaig to Abriachan
- Abriachan to Inverness
Monday 2nd January:
Fort William to Gairlochy
Trains being a rarity this soon after the New Year, we decided to bus-it up to Fort William, our starting point and the largest town in the West Highlands of Scotland. Nearing the town, we passed through the great Rannoch Moor, now familiar to us from our trek of the West Highland Way the previous September. We peered keenly though the windows to see what we could of the spectacular Buchaille Etive Mor, the great triangular mountain at the head of Glencoe, though it was shrouded in mist and clouds right down to its base! The A86 road winds West, right through the narrow valley of Glencoe, with peaks rising directly from the roadside, which makes for a fittingly adventurous prelude to a trip such as this!
|Mr. Hungover the Intrepid makes friends with the obelisk that marks the start of the Great Glen Way, with views of Fort William and Cow Hill in the background.||Jo showcases the opposing side of the obelisk.|
Once in Fort William, the start of the trail proved tricky to find, as it is poorly signposted and Alan was still suffering heavy brain fog and tunnel vision induced by the excesses of New Year (not that we encourage such indulgences of course). We'd recommend either a good trail guide with an enlargement of Fort William which shows the start, or simply asking a native for the site of the old fort! The guide book we purchased on this occasion was from "Rucksack Readers", though unfortunately we could not recommend these books as the maps are of poor detail and the descriptions are very generic and touristy. In fact we were even left wondering if the authors had actually walked the route themselves or simply cobbled their information together from the Internet! The Great Glen Way begins by the site of an old fort, "Fort William", built during an English invasion in the 1600's, and from which the surrounding settlement takes its name.
Initially the trail follows the usual suburban town roads and back paths to find its way out of the town. Close to the shores of Loch Linnhe, we crossed the powerful outflow from the hydroelectric facility fed by Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, the "half-way lochan" which is of course familiar from our climb of Ben Nevis at the end of the West Highland Way! Nearing the start of the Caledonian Canal, where the trail starts proper, we walk a small part of the shore of Loch Linnhe, the sea loch at the West of the Great Glen, and get our trousers rapidly soaked from the combined wind, rain and sea spray! We didn't think to put on our waterproof ones, and it's not possible to wear them all the time as they're impermeable, so they don't breathe and accumulate sweat. Fully waterproof and breathable trousers seem to be one of the few bits of kit we still have to acquire - we will add those to the list! The path meets the Caledonian Canal, which is of very broad construction, and flanked on either side by smart fittings and manicured lawns, beautifully kept by British Waterways. At this point, the waterway is divided by a remarkable series of immaculately kept locks, known as "Neptune's Staircase", which climb away from the adjoining sea loch, raising the water level by 64 feet.
Only a few sailing vessels and barges are moored by the banks at the top of the "Staircase", and after that, the canal is deserted. Unfortunately, we don't get the opportunity to see any boats using the locks to enter the canal or to pass the other way into loch Linnhe; this would be a much more interesting place to be in summer when it is undoubtedly much busier, and would be a very pleasant spot for a day out!
|Few boats and even fewer passers-by - as we continue it soon becomes deserted!|
This is truly a unique setting with the broad flat canal winding among hills with spectacular mountains to the South-East. Indeed, the Neptune's Staircase area makes for an excellent introduction to the Great Glen Way, and puts the little riverside walk which introduces the West Highland Way to shame!
As we continue along the canal, we draw perpendicular to the peaks of Aonach Mor, Carn Mor Dearg, Ben Nevis and Cow Hill, all arranged out from left to right. In the fading light, the snow-covered upper slopes of Aonach Mor appear illuminated as they slide into the clouds. The tow path by the canal is wide, with easy walking, though sometimes stony and uncomfortable underfoot. Mostly throughout this stage, it remains flat though does occasionally rise above the canal. The river Lochy some 100 feet below closes noisily on the canal as we proceed, and at its closest point, the canal spills over into it through a weir.
|Pitched by the canal at Gairlochy - low marks for wilderness setting, but we have some street lights to help us.||It's all looking good so far as we warm up with a mug of hot chocolate. This will be Alan's last flu-free night however!|
We continue along the slowly winding towpath in the dark, eventually arriving at the locks of Gairlochy, illuminated by orange street lights. Again, well-kept grass verges border the canal side, and straight stone walls descend into the dark water. The Way crosses the canal and turns right to continue along the opposite bank. As it was dark, and there were no British Waterways workers about, we were glad to make camp on the embankment.< Home Next >