Fort William to South Laggan
I think I may have been a little concerned about over sleeping this morning as I promptly awoke at 4:35am…wide awake! Not a good start considering I had just over twenty two miles ahead of me that’s for sure. I tried to sleep a little longer but I think I only managed to doze for the next couple of hours on and off.
Breakfast started at 7:30am and I sorted myself out and got down there promptly for the start to find the hotel reception in complete darkness. Well, not quite complete darkness as the girl on reception was trying to work by torch light. She told me that during the storm/rain over night something went wrong with the electrics and all the lights in the reception area went out and never came back on again, and that she was waiting for an electrician to turn up to sort it out.
Ashley never made it down to for breakfast as early as he said he would so I polished my food off and went back to my room to sort out my final bits as quick as I could. As I walked through reception the electrician was working away trying to figure out what had happened to the lights. I was surprised he’d made it out that early!?
After checking out and a little chat with the girl on reception I hit the wet outdoors at 8:15am – not bad – and headed off through the town centre to pick up the start of the Great Glen Way, a 73 mile national trail that goes from Fort William all the way along the Great Glen to Inverness.
To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled to be walking in the rain for another day but there wasn’t much choice. Having already walked pretty much the entire West Highland Way in the rain this really was beginning to get to me. I haven’t really minded the rain over the course of this walk but my patience was beginning to wear thin with the weather.
The start couldn’t have been more horrible if it’d tried. The beginning of the Great Glen Way is by McDonalds on what looks more like a small industrial estate, and it didn’t improve much for quite some time.
The first mile was along a path taking you through a housing estate and then out over some grassland on the way to Lochyside. From there it was through more houses until finally, a good hour or so in to the walk, I found myself on the Caledonian Canal towpath near Banavie station. Great, another bloody canal! I guess the only thing that this one had going for it was the fact that it was a lot bigger than the other canals I’ve walked along as it was designed to take sea-faring boats and not just the small canal barges. It didn’t make me any happier to be walking along it though that’s for sure.
Just over the railway line I came to Neptune’s Staircase, the longest staircase lock in the United Kingdom, lifting boats 64 feet through its eight locks. Thankfully for the people using it the locks are now hydraulically powered over their original hand-powered operation. That must have been hard work?!
I didn’t hang around too long to look at it due to the weather conditions and continued along the towpath. As ever, I struggled to find anywhere to sit down for a break along the canal. There were a couple of benches on the way to Gairlochy so I took advantage of them and took a break whenever I came across one just to make sure I stopped for a bit and didn’t push on too hard.
To say that the walk had so far been boring would be an understatement. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been much better had it not been chucking it down but the rain meant I hardly looked up or around as I just couldn’t take the rain in my face any longer. Not a good start.
I guess the only saving grace so far was the fact that it’d been pretty much flat all the way. At Gairlochy this changed though. Crossing the bridge I headed up the hill along the B8005. The Great Glen Way takes you along the road for a bit and then heads off to the left, crosses the road to head off down to the shore line through the trees, eventually making its way back to the road again a few miles down the road. Again I’d decided that following the path for path’s sake was a stupid idea and so I stayed on the B8005 all the way.
As I was beginning to get a little on the peckish side by now I found a stump to sit on at one of the crossings the path makes with the road, trying to get as much cover from the rain as I could.
While I was sitting there a couple came up from the path on the other side of the road and asked me how far it was to Gairlochy. I told them and then they asked which direction I was walking in. I told them that I was heading to South Laggan, i.e. in the direction they’d come from, although I wouldn’t be following the path down to the shore line as I was following the road as it saved all the mucking about with the path.
They then said something that was a little disconcerting and made me glad that I’d decided to walk the road way. They said that they wish they’d made the same decision as down the path, in the thick of the dark pine wood, they’d come across a place that looked like it had come out of the Blair Witch Project or something, with old umbrellas hanging from the trees, a burnt old guitar and sticks all laid out on the ground – very creepy. Now, I’m not someone who scares easily but I can tell you right now that I was glad I wasn’t going down there on my own…no sir! Yes, it would have been cool to have had a photo of that place but I think I can live without that one.
I finished my lunch and hit the road again, following the B8005 all the way to Clunes. I’m sure on a better day the views over Loch Lochy would have been glorious but all I could see was low cloud and rain…lots of it. Very grim indeed.
From Clunes I had a seven mile slog along a forest track. This was a little on the hilly side but nothing too bad that’s for sure. It was just, well, boring. There wasn’t much to see because of the trees and even when there was a break in the trees, the views were ruined by the weather.
With nothing much to look at I just kept my head down and barreled along, taking a break every hour to make sure my feet didn’t fall apart too badly. They were beginning to hurt so I did my best to get through the day without too much pain.
I finally came out of the woods and made my way down to Laggan Locks, following the towpath once again for a mile or so up to the Great Glen youth hostel, my bed for the night.
I’d made good time today, completing the distance in just over eight hours. The weather had played a good part in that as even when I did stop, I didn’t want to sit around for too long for fear of catching a chill and let’s face it, sitting in the rain isn’t exactly the nicest thing to do is it?
I got myself showered and changed and phoned the girls before sitting in the hostel common room for a bit to try and chill out listening to my iPod before tomorrow’s long-ish walk.
Today was an awful day. The walk was long, wet, boring and altogether a massive chore. Walking in the rain for yet another day really did a good job at dampening my spirits – no pun intended – and it felt as though I was walking just to get this thing finished instead of walking to reach the final goal, if that makes sense?
I knew there would more than likely come a point where the fun ended and the walk became a just that, a walk for walk’s sake. Today really felt like that but I’m hoping, if the weather breaks and the sun comes out a little – hell, I’d just take a grey day with no rain at the moment – things might change for the better. We’ll see how tomorrow turns out.
I guess I should be pleased by the fact that I broke the 900 mile barrier today, finishing the day off having walked a grand total of 920 miles. Who’d have thought it eh?