Hartington

Hartington

It’s almost been four weeks since the end of my Scotland adventure and my feet are getting restless. I’ve been busy planning my next long distance walk, where currently the East Highland Way is starting to call me; my dad is also up for this, the WHW and the GGW didn’t put him off!

I mentioned in a previous blog that we would carry individual smaller tents next time. After some research I’ve settled for the Paria Zion 2P, my dad has chosen Aluxe Pyramid; two completely different tents.

Paria (left) Luxe (Right) Ginge the cat enjoying the camping!

The Luxe is a basic design where the support consists of your trekking pole. It offers plenty of vestibule space for your equipment and room for sheltered cooking, however the sleeping compartment hasn’t the room to swing a cat; you can see Ginge attests to this!

The Paria is very spacious but you sacrifice the vestibule area. Mine weighs in at 2.4kg including the footprint and my dad’s at 1.6kg without a footprint. Over the weekend we slept in our respective tents to test them out. We both remained dry through the rain, although it was a little cold; especially since it frosted over Saturday night.

Luckily I had planned for this eventuality, bringing a warm blanket that did the trick. My dad did question whether his Snugpack was a four season as he felt the cold. It didn’t help that his inflatable mat got a puncture, thus he kept having to blow it up to stop the chill seeping in from the ground. It only just lasted our Scottish adventure! One night away from disaster!

Paria Zion 2P

On the Sunday I arranged to go on a walk with an old friend around Hartington in the Peak District. He brought his son along for this sunny 8 mile circular trek from Hartington village, passing Pilsbury Castle ruins to Crowdicote and back.

The Route

Hartington is a very popular destination for day visitors, even this late in the year. We arrived at 1030hrs and all the available parking was taken. I managed to find a spot on the road outside the youth hostel.

The route beings from the village centre passing St. Giles church ascending up a country road out of the village. About a 600m along the road as you pass a small farm you follow a signposted public footpath across the fields with views of the valley below.

The path is well defined and you eventually follow a dry stone wall as you skirt past ‘Carder Low’ giving views up and down this little valley. The weather was certainly on our side, hard to believe it had rained constantly all this week.

My mate taking a photo opportunity with his son.
View towards Pilsbury

After about 3 miles you reach the earthworks of Pilbury Castle. It consists of three mounds where the motte and two baileys once stood. It incorporated a rocky geographical feature for it’s defences. It was midday at this point, so we stopped for a bite to eat while my mates son took full advantage of climbing the earthworks finding every patch of mud in the area.

Pilburys Ruins
The feature formed part of the castle’s defence
View over the Bailey from the Motte

After fueling up we continued on towards Crowdicote where we encountered a group on their Duke of Edinburgh course; you couldn’t miss their matching yellow backpack covers! The halfway point is marked by crossing the River Dove at ‘Bridge End Farm’. From here it was very boggy as we cut across fields towards Longnor Road, which you follow in the Harrington direction until you reach Harris Close Farm.

You leave the road and cross farmland again passing grazing cattle; you practically walk down the farm’s driveway; thankfully they have clearly highlighted where you need to go!

You soon catch sight of Harrington in the distance as you descend through a small copse of pine trees, joining a farm track towards Bridge-end Farm. You come across a signpost for Hartington directing you across a field and back over the River Dove, arriving back into Hartington.

Hartington
Hartington Selfie
Hartington

Once we got into the the village, I recounted my recent trip to Scotland to mate’s son, I asked “Do you fancy pitching up a tent and doing it all again tomorrow?” He gave an astounding no‘ for his answer! After a pasty from the village shop, we said our farewells and headed back. Nice easy strole in the Peaks with probably the last of Sun for this year; a brilliant day.

I also took this walk as a chance to test out my new cushioned insoles. I went for the ‘Scholl GelActiv Work’. They worked well around the heel however not so well around the balls of my feet. I had a suspicion this would be the case as the padding in that area is very thin. They were a little sore, especially on my right foot.

My mate does a lot of running and he recommended Sorbothane, so that is my next bit of kit research. This is something I definately need to nail before the Camino next year.

Reflection

About to Leave Inverness

The two weeks on the WHW and the GGW went by far too fast. On the train home from Inverness, the first stop was Aviemore. The end stage to the East Highland Way and the Speyside Way. The temptation to just get off at the station and walk the EHW in reverse was almost overwhelming.

Alas the tug of the real world dragging me back for work stopped me from what would have been a great twist in my adventure and blog!

I have also learnt from this backpacking experience. Lessons that I will take with me for the Camino next year and future long distance treks. In a way, Covid postponing it and allowing me to do these two walks, maybe a blessing in disguise.

I have my eyes set on either the EHW or the Speyside Way, spring next year (if I have enough leave available). It should warm me up ready for the Camino.

As an analysis of this adventure, I am going to do a little frequently asked questions type debrief, hopefully it will explain what I learnt and maybe help anybody thinking of tackling these two walks.

What should I have left at home?

Straight off, I’d say the candle lantern. It didn’t produce enough light to be usuable and the citronella candles did not deter the air piranhas.

We took a spare stove incase our gas one faltered or the fuel ran out. We didn’t end up cooking on it as much as we first intended due to the weather conditions. We had plenty of fuel left by the end, however it did break. The ignition mechanism for the stove stopped working, but we got around it with the lighter. So for future treks I would just take the one; we passed plenty of places that sold the gas canisters.

Dinner at the Kings House

I would also have left behind the insect repellant. The air piranhas did not mind any of it. In fact the Nordic Summer that dad had brought made better waterproofing for his boots than fending off the midges. At least the Avon skin so soft masked the smell from the day’s walking!

We found the best way to keep the blighters from munching on you, was to ensure you’re completely covered. We utilised the midge head nets, that worked a treat as long as you didn’t get any trapped inside! The only advantage of our wet weather was it kept them away. In fact on the GGW we had no bother from the wee beasts.

What should I have brought along?

Easy. The poncho. Not bringing them was our biggest mistake. Even though our packs had a rain cover and we wore our waterproofs for the majority of the walk. This didn’t prevent our rucksacks getting wet.

We found that the rain was running down our backs causing it to ingress in to our bags from this unprotected area. Had we brought our ponchos, these would have covered our rucksacks and the gap.

I hadn’t put my clothes and sleeping bag inside a waterproof liner, so you can guess how that turned out.

Drying our Gear at Milarrochy

At the end of day 2 from spending the day in the rain. I had to dry my clothing on the porch of glamping tent on the campsite. Due to Covid the backpackers facilities were closed, so I couldn’t even dry my gear there.

Luckily I was able to get a few bin bags from the site office but it wasn’t until day 4 when we stayed at the BnB in Crainlarich, that I was able to dry anything. Upon reaching Fort William I did buy some dry sacks. I will be ordering some more in the near future.

For me, the waterproof jacket did not breath. This made me uncomfortable and hot very quickly. By the end of the day I was just as wet through perspiration as if I hadn’t worn it at all. With a poncho, I would have been able to easily remove it after the rain showers and put it back on when required.

As I was having issues with my pack, having to take it off after getting it comfortable for a jacket wasn’t ideal. On numerous occasions, I wore my jacket like cape/poncho that worked until the wind picked up.

Cape Jacket

Was the tent a good choice?

I think the Scafell 300+ was a little too big and heavy for long distance trekking. The awning space was really handy to store our wet bags and gear over night, however I think we could have got around this by using a large plastic bags or even a dry sack to put the packs in and bring them into the inner tent without getting it wet.

Sheltering at Gairlochy

We also found that over the course of the trip, the sides weren’t as taut. We tried adjusting the straps etc but we couldn’t get it right. It seemed like the tent had to be pegged 10cm off the ground at opposite corners to get the tension. The night at Beinglas and Gairlochy it was really windy, where at one point we thought the outer tent would be sailing off across the campsite. The constant flapping of the tent also disturbed our sleep.

If we were to do another long distance walk, we would each take a small lightweight tent. This would be more versatile and reduce our carrying weight. Some campsites would only allow pitches for small tents to allow sufficient social distancing.

Even though my Vango Banshee 200 is the right size, it weighs over 3kg without a footprint. There are reasonably priced tents that are half that weight. So I’m looking into getting a new tent.

Did the anti-gravity backpack work?

Yes and no. The Osprey Atmos withstood the rigor of the adventure. However, like most things, they are not made for people, like me, who are built like poles.

Even at the shortest point, the belt wasn’t tight to hold the pack above my hips. This is where the frame of the Atmos distributes the weight, keeping it off your shoulders. For the first 3 days I suffered greatly with sore shoulders and generally feeling miserable with it.

I solved this problem by tieing my jumper around my waist to pad the belt out, keeping it from slipping down my hips. Once I got it in the right position, the AG system came into it’s own. I hardly noticed I was carrying over 15kgs.

The jumper method comes with draw backs though. It falters when it rains. The belt gets wet and it expands (an issue my dad had). The jumper becomes wet; I only packed one jumper so there went my mid layer. I had to buy another in Fort William.

With the rain, out comes my waterproof jacket. This bypassed my jumper system, as it reduced the friction between the pack and the padding, causing the belt to slide down my hips and my shoulders bearing the weight.

Really, the last 2 days and the stage from the Bridge of Orchy to the Kings House, were the only days I got on with the Atmos.

One of the Few Days the Pack Worked

I am going to have to devise a way to enable the belt to shorten or put some kind of padding around it for my next adventure.

Were blisters an issue?

For me no. I had gone to Cotswold’s to take advantage of the free boot fitting/consultation serivice as described in an earlier blog. Coupled with the socks they recommended, I had very little problems.

As part of my research into the Camino I had come across the blister topic frequently and looked into it, hence the kinesiology tape. There were a few times I felt “hotspots” on my feet indicating that the tape needs applying. This worked and prevented any blisters forming.

You have to be very aware of how your feet are feeling while walking such long distances. If you are starting to feel uncomfortable or something doesn’t feel right, you need investigate immediately, not wait till the end of the day or your next refreshment stop.

I didn’t have to apply the tape really after the first couple of days until the Scottish jet wash finally breached my boots; when your feet get wet, blisters start to appear due to the increased friction.

My dad however suffered very early on and remained in discomfort for the remainder of the adventure. He was having to pop and drain them each night and taped up his feet each morning. Until we arrived at Fort William, there was was nowhere to buy a more substantial treatment for them.

We got the compeeds for his heels and the sides of his feet. For his toes we got a silicon bandaged tube, that you cut to size. This really improved the comfort for my dad while walking.

Dad’s Kinesiology Taped Feet

One thing we both suffered with was the hard surfaces we walked across. There were long stretches of road, especially on the GGW, to navigate. The impact of our feet on the solid surfaces really took it’s toll on our bodies.

They ached something fierce after a mile or so on such surfaces; exacerbated when going down hill, like the descent in to Drumnadrochit. After massaging my feet for 30 minutes at the end of the day eased the pain and revitilised them.

I think this will also be an issue for the Camino next year, so I will be getting those gel cushioned insoles for my boots.

Would I do it again?

In a heartbeat. I really had a great time despite the trails and tribulations. Even during the day from hell, not even for one moment I wished I was somewhere else.

If I were to walk the WHW again, I would skip the Loch Lomand section. You spend most of this section within the forest line, obscuring the views and made the walk quite mundane; unless you like walking through woodlands.

I would get the train to either Crainlarich or Tyndrum and start from there. The views were better and the terrain more varied. The best stretch was from the Bridge of Orchy to the Kings House; if you wanted you could get the train to the Bridge of Orchy and go from there.

Leaving the Bridge of Orchy

I wouldn’t do the GGW again. I didn’t enjoy this as much. The majority of the route is within the pine forests that follow the lochs. Unless you take the high roads and the weather was on your side, you got the views. I mentioned in the blog, I enjoy climbing mountains rather than skirting around them. I felt with the GGW there is more skirting than climbing.

I’m glad I did it for the experience but it isn’t one I will repeat in a hurry. We also struggled on this route due to Covid. We ran out of food over the first two days because the places to eat described in the guide book were closed; even google couldn’t be relied on to establish if places were open. Had we known the situation we would have stocked up at Fort William.

The two Australian’s we met walking from John O’Groats to Lands End also ran out of food at this stage. I managed to contact them through Facebook to guide them where to buy food and camping sites.

What gear/kit worked well?

This is where I get a bit geeky. I bought a power bank for 20 quid from Amazon a week before leaving. The product description states it will charge the iPhone X up to 5 times before being depleated.

Iniu Power Bank

This bank kept my phone, my dad’s phone and my smart watch charged while we camped days at a time. It is a bit heavy, but for the price and the capacity is worth it.(I also liked the dogs paw)

I have a Garmin forerunner 35 watch. The battery life on this is exceptional with its built in GPS it lasted the whole 11 hours of the day from hell. It also bleeps after every mile you complete. I found this really helpful for keeping track of the distances we covered. The Garmin App also plots on a map the route you had taken; a nice feature.

Although I bought guides that included maps, I mainly relied on the Ordnance Survey App. The route is very well sign posted however there are times you need to consult a map. The app has both the land ranger and explorer maps built in. This enabled me to precisely pin point our location on the walk. The signal was really good throughout the trip with only the top end of Loch Lomand and some areas around Loch Ness, where the reception dropped.

I highly recommend you get this app and for the £25 subscription you get all the Ordnance maps across the UK. Even when the signal drops you still have access to the maps if you download them for offline mode. It also caches the map so you are still able to view if the signal temporary drops.

As I was writing this blog, the Bluetooth keyboard made this easy. I’m glad I took it along and will use it for the Camino next year.

Writing the blog

Walking poles are a must. Dad had the two from the start and swears he wouldn’t have made it through the day of hell without them. As we were scrambling over the wet rocks on that fateful stage, he slipped and fell. The sticks saved him from toppling down the bank into the loch.

I’ve only really used sticks for descents as this is when my knee tends to play up. I only took one this time as I tend to find it awkward walking with the two. However when my right knee became painful I relied on two sticks.

I expected my left knee to be an issue, as it always has in the past, ever since I hurt it doing the Total Warrior challenge in Shap a few years back. Knowing this I kept my left knee strapped up for the entire adventure and had no problems at all.

After getting a support for my right knee and using the sticks, I was able to keep going and it slowly healed. It made its presence known during the GGW but didn’t cause any issues.

We also took electrolyte tablets for our water. Either we drunk a bottle of it once we finished or dropped a tablet in our water for the day. Coupled with warm down stretches at the end of the day, we believe this is the reason our muscles didn’t complain throughout the trek.

Electrolyte Tablets

What advice would I give for the WHW and GGW?

With the problems caused by Covid, you would perhaps not encounter some of the issues we had. Rowardennan, the stage end for day 2, was closed to campers and the BnBs were full. The nearest campsite to Rowardennan had to be booked 2 days in advance and that area of Loch Lomand doesn’t allow wild camping until the end of September. Therefore we stopped at Milarrochy 7 miles short of Rowardennan.

The plan was to get to Inversnaid to have something to eat at the hotel there before continuing to Beinglas. As you know, Inversnaid was closed and nowhere to buy food. This impacted us greatly; we had very little substantial to eat that day, hence why we ended up so exhausted.

We almost had a similar situation on the GGW. So my advise is to carry more food. Also having a water filter was a God send. On this stretch there was nowhere to refill our bottles. Having the filter allowed us to get water from the small streams along the way.

Filling Station

I would also recommend taking the high road from Inversnaid avoiding Rob Roys Cave and the tretcherous terrain the low road entails. The cave is nothing special and the high road is better underfoot and wouldn’t have brought us to the brink of collapse.

For the GGW we rented the key to the facilities along the way. I wouldn’t bother with it. Most of the toilets were unlocked and there are outdoor taps at the locks to fill your bottles up. We ended up paying £10 each for a key we never used, that I now have to post back!

GGW Facilities Key

How much have we raised for Prostate Cancer UK?

At the time of writing this blog we raised £1623. We had a few donations once we returned which we put on to my justgiving page. This far exceeded what I imagined to raise. I put the target at £500 thinking that would be too high to reach. I have been blown away by the support we have had and I am grateful for everyone that has donated. Honestly, it has spurred us on and has been a source of encouragement for us both. The kind words and best wishes in response to my blog both on WordPress and Facebook have kept us going.

You genuinely have our heartfelt thanks.

Rehydration Therapy

Rehydration Therapy

A 179 miles. 397,142 steps. Through horizontal rain, high winds, sunshine, midge territory; over hill, tretcherous terrain, bog land and concrete. We endured challenges with the weather, lack of food and amenities. Problems caused by Covid regarding accommodation that resulted in a nightmare day 3. Suffered blisters, aching feet, broken knees, sore shoulders and dodgy guts.

We walked along lochs, canals, through pine forests and over moors. Conquered the Devil’s Staircase and the low road between Inversnaid and Beinglas. We have met some great people along the way that have made the experience, that more complete.

We have seen sights few have seen and climbed hills few have ventured. Walked aged old roads and crossed historic battles fields. Contended with stags and made friends with a pig.

We have burnt 1000s of calories and perspirated litres of sweat. So there is only one tried and tested method to restore ourselves; Rehydration Therapy aka drinking in the pub. Starting at the Castle Tavern, opposite the GGW finish line.

Castle Tavern

If we knew, what we know now, at the start of the trek, we would have booked an extra time off and do it all in reverse! A memorable experience.

The following pictures are from our little walk around Inverness this morning.

Flora MacDonald
Inverness Castle
St. Andrews Cathedral
Not Quite Santiago Cathedral
River Ness
Nessie
Retracing our Route

As you all know, we’ve done this challenge for Prostate Cancer UK, at writing this post it stands at £1,523. I’ll end the blog for this adventure with a message my dad made on Facebook before setting off.

“I am in training for a 170-mile hike for charity with my son Stuart in Scotland, walking from just outside Glasgow to Inverness, via Fort William. We leave Caverswall on Bank Holiday Monday and envisage it will take us approximately two weeks to complete. We will be wild camping for most of this time.

If you want to know the reason why, read on.
My journey started 18 months ago when my sister pestered me to have a PSA test. After some debate with her, I agreed. What did I have to lose? as I told my sister: I wasn’t that old, I was fighting fit, I had no symptoms and anyway I had been lucky with my health and also, prostate cancer happens to other people, doesn’t it!

WELL HOW WRONG WAS I?

On the day of the blood test which I arranged to stop my sister pestering me! I had a phone call from the surgery to say they had found an anomaly in my blood sample and I needed to see the Doctor ASAP. To cut a long story short this is where my relationship with prostate cancer began.

This September it is 12 months since I had major robotic surgery to remove my prostate gland. In truth it has taken all that time for me to get back to the near fitness I had before, and the doctors are happy with my progress. If it wasn’t for the research and advancement in technology sponsored by Prostate Cancer UK from charitable donations from ordinary people, plus the skill and dedication and support of the surgeons, doctors, nurses and staff of the NHS, along with the support of family and friends , I would be on the road to a darker place I’m sure.

I would urge the families of all men to encourage them to ask for a PSA test from their doctor even if, like me they don’t think they have symptoms. Potentially this simple action could save and extend their loved ones life.

About 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives (Prostate Cancer UK)
If you would like to follow our progress on the hike, our travel blog is below. You will also find the link to our sponsorship page for the Prostate Cancer UK charity if you feel you would like to donate. If not, please buy a prostate cancer UK pin badge whenever you see one for sale, to promote Prostate Cancer awareness. Also wear it with pride, in honour of those who may have lost the fight, those who have fought, are fighting, or those yet to fight the disease.

Thank you for taking time to read this.
Paul”

I need not say more.

Inverness

Mist

We had very little sleep during the night. Our cabins were next to a field full of inconsiderate cows that thought it was a good idea to ‘Moo’ throughout the night. They sounded like they were just outside! It also rained on and off which made me a little anxious with the potential of facing 19 miles in the wet.

Luckily when we decided to get ready and leave it was just cloudy with mist lingering above Loch Ness. We hit the road out of Drumnadrochit for a mile or so before we started our ascent of Creag Nay.

Mist Hanging Over Loch Ness
Castle Ruins on Loch Ness

This was a steep climb of 250m (1000ft in old money) through the pine forest. This would be the hardest stage of today’s route with regards to exertion. Two mountain bikers hit this point as we did; we played leap frog for an hour before they sped off ahead as the path levelled briefly.

Cyclist Taking a Breather

It was slow going, it took us almost 3 hours to cover just 4 miles. Soon we emerged from the tree line with views of Loch Ness hiding under the mist.

Eventually it was our turn to be enveloped in it. The path leveled with only a shallow incline at last. Our pace picked up so we could finally eat into the miles that lay ahead of us.

Misty Path

Two days earlier in Invermoriston, we were chatting to two students walking the GGW, but from Inverness. They mentioned a place about half way between Drumandrochit and Inverness that did excellent lemon cake.

We kept our eyes open for this as it would be a well needed resting stop. As we were following a narrow footpath with shrubs and birch trees overhanging us, we found it, the Abriachan Campsite. There had been painted wooden signs enticing us for over a mile with said lemon cake.

Painted Signs

This was a quirky little place that is a bit “out there”, it even had it’s only sleepy guard pig that lazily eyed us as we entered.

Guard Pig
Lazy Though
Walk Through

We ordered a drink and a slice of the lemon cake we have heard so much about; and yes it was good cake. So good that the pig joined us for a bite of it!

Munching on a bit of Cake
Coffee and Cake

The cafe and campsite has been open everyday for the last 20 years and is worth a stop if you undertake the GGW, you won’t regret it. We shoved our backpacks on and said bye to the pig.

From this point on for 3 miles or so we were on a single track road that started to cause our feet problems. Luckily halfway along this road section a footpath ran parallel that was softer underfoot.

To cheer us up though, the Sun came out and remained with us all the way to the finish. We left the road and passed through a pine forest. This was quite serene with the lazy autumn sun shining through the trees. It took our minds off our aching feet.

The route followed a dry stone wall and looking at it I realised it must have been built 100s of years ago. The moss and lichen grown over the time gave it a range of colours.

Dry Stone Wall

We reached the 15 mile point where we finally sighted Inverness and the castle where the finish line lay; this marks our slow descent into town.

Inverness

The GGW leads through suburbs of Inverness until you reach the Caledonian Canal. We decided to stop at a picnic bench to have a sandwich and a banana to give us a boost for the last mile to Inverness Castle.

Snack by the Caledonian Canal

The path then follows the River Ness and crosses to an island in the middle of the river that has been turned into a park. There were old style lamp posts that have stringed festival lights hanging between them. It had a very pleasant atmosphere.

We joined the bank of the river and followed this to the castle. The other side of the road is lined with restaurants with customers dining al fresco, they turned their heads to us, with the clacking of our sticks on the pavement attracting their attention. They watched as we passed; some gave a wave spurring us on.

The castle was obscured by trees and buildings until the last minute. Just when we thought our walk was over, our feet winced a little at the sight of one last hill to the stone marker.

We hobbled up the small incline that seemed like a mountain, to finally touch the standing stone that marked the end of our 179 mile journey across the WHW and the GGW.

Finish

We had a mouch around before heading to our BnB that is conveniently two roads down from the castle. We kicked off our shoes, flopped on to our beds and stretched our feet. I booted up my music app on the phone and got ‘We are the champions’ by Queen playing!

Looking up the River Ness
We are the Champions

Once showered we hit the town to find most pubs full; must be party night on Tuesdays. We eventually found a table at “The Auctioneers”!

Cheers!

Thanks again for all those that have donated to Prostate Cancer UK. Thank you for all the kind messages of encouragement over the last two weeks, it has kept us going during those very wet miles. We are now going to have a day in Inverness before heading home. By train not by foot!

Having now completed the challenge and you would like to donate. You can search for me at http://www.justgiving.com or at the top of this page there is a donate link that will take you directly to it (if you are on a mobile device, at the top of the page, click the menu button, then donate)

Drumnadrochit

Glenmoriston Arms Hotel

The forecast for our penultimate day on the GGW was cloudy with 0% chance of rain, according to the weather app on my phone.

Looking out the window there was a menacing cloud just outside Invermoriston just waiting for us to leave. We debated whether to don the waterproof over trousers or to risk it for a biscuit. In the end I packed them away and dad followed suit.

The route leads straight up a steep single track road out of the village before joining a forestry track, that made up the terrain for most of the day. We got our last glimpse of the Invermoriston and the surrounding hills before we disppeared into the tree line.

Clearer Today

We came to a fork in the road where we had the option to either take the high road or the low road. With the visibility the best we have had for the entire GGW, we decided to try our chances on the high road.

After an intense incline according to dad we finally got what were hoped for. The stunning scenery so famous for this part of the world.

View Catcher
View Catcher
Loch Ness
Loch Ness

It was a bit undulating the high road, but it was worth the effort. I finally started to enjoy the GGW. I prefer to be climbing the hills than skirting around them, glad we took the high road; although I think dad would disagree!

We crossed a gnarly bridge where apparently a troll lives underneath it.

Dad Made it Safely
Fly Amanita

We came to a great view point where we could see both directions along the Loch. We took the opportunity for a selfie.

Let’s Take a Selfie
Towards Fort Augustus
Towards Inverness

About halfway we found a bench along the forest track on the descent from the high road. The place was so secluded and quiet. All we could hear is a bird tweeting and the running water from a small stream nearby. Also a great spot for wild camping.

Silence

We continued on. The forest track soon joined a single track road, that took us in to Drumnadrochit for the last 4 miles. The hard surface wasn’t kind on our feet and were glad when we reached the hostel.

On our last 2 miles the sun came out and the gamble of not wearing our waterproofs paid off.

Drumnadrochit

Around 1530hrs we arrived at our hostel where our room is in a log cabin to the rear. So we’ve done it all these two weeks: Camping, Wild Camping, Hostels, BnBs, Hotels and now a wooden cabin.

Cabin Fever

Our last day walking tomorrow and it’s a toughie. 19 miles! Looking at the map it appears to be similar terrain as today. With luck the weather will hold however the app says rain; that is a headache for tomorrow, it is time to get a pint!

Thank you all who have sponsored us so far. We are just over £1400! If anyone is still wishing to denote, at the top of the page there is a donate button that will take you directly to my just giving page. Alternative you can search ‘Stuart Hulme’ on the just giving website. http://www.justgiving.com

Invermoriston

Morag’s Lodge, Fort Augustus

Today was only a short 7.5 miles and our bed for the night at the ‘Glenmoriston Arms Hotel’ has a check in time of 1500hrs. As this was to be a short day we left as late as possible.

It was a little frustrating as we had gotten into the routine of packing up then hitting the trail. We seemed out of sorts having to wait around; the urge to get on and walk was calling.

Our nemesis, the Scottish rain hadn’t let up at all during the night; we didn’t relish the thought of spending the day in it. At 1030hrs we had our customary incline to start our day.

The path led us through the pine forest that follows Loch Ness which unfortunately obscured any views. There was an option to take the high road, however the relentless rain meant any photo opportunities would be ruined. It wouldn’t be worth the effort of the further ascent.

Woodland Path
Rain

However with all the deluge, we were treated to more waterfalls.

We were in no rush to arrive today, but it was over very quickly. As we walked into Invermoriston, we crossed a bridge overlooking the river that was in full force. Some great photos were had.

We had two hours to kill, so we had something to eat at a cafe in the village, then had a look around. We found a short walk along the river. Where we found a seat with a plaque dedicated to an American woman who had fallen in and lost her life.

As I was reading this, there was a definate drop in the ambient temperature, even my dad noticed! We reasoned this to be air current pulled by the fast flowing river just below….We hope…It’s definately not haunted…there are no such things!

Swiftly moving on, we milled about the area getting more photographs until 1500, so we could check in to our hotel and have a shower.

The bridge in the above picture was built by Thomas Telford at the time of the construction of the Caledonian Canal. This fell in to disrepair where at one stage you had to step over gaping holes with the river below.

On the other side of this bridge there are holiday lodges. One year an very drunk Irish man stumbled out of our hotel and fell through a hole on his way back to his lodge. He managed to drag himself from Loch Ness back to his lodgings with broken ankles, broken ribs and a cracked skull. Luckily he survived.

A local land owner restored the bridge at his own expense.

Tomorrow is as 14 miler, warming us up to the final day which is 19 miles. The weather forecast for tomorrow is overcast and sunny spells the day after. Fingers crossed, our last two days will be rain free.

Fort Augustus

Great Glen Hostel

The rain had been on and off thoughout the night; we left while there was a break in it while the sun was shining. We managed about 300m before a shower hit us; on with the waterpoofs. We just can’t seem to shake our nemesis.

The path followed the canal for a short while before it veered off up into the pine forrest that lines Loch Oich. It joined a disused railway that has been converted into the cycle path/the GGW.

Invergarry Station Project

For the next 5 miles we couldn’t ask for better terrain. Although the ground was hard it had been pathed with a fine gravel. This cushioned our footsteps allowing us to speedly cover the distance. At one point we walked a mile in 16 mins!

Invergarry Castle

There wasn’t much views with the forest and the rain showers. However we caught a glimpse of the ruins of Invergarry Castle on the other side of the Loch in a brief break in the weather.

Railway Bridge
Railway Bridge

At the 5 mile mark we reached the top end of Loch Oich were after three days we finally got the views we were after.

As we approached Kytra Lock there was a heavy downpour. Under a tree sheltering, were a couple in red ponchos. We stopped to chat and bonded over our shared choice in backpacks. Turns out they are from Melbourne and walking from John O’Groats to Lands end having been stranded in Europe due to Covid.

Kytra Locks

They were meant to be walking the Camino de Santiago in May, but like my plans, theirs had gone awry. The chap is also is a Youtuber, his channel is ‘Steve’s Kitchen’. He did a little recording, so we may appear at some point in a video.

They were also planning on doing the WHW, so we gave them some advice on the perils of Loch Lomand from Beinglas to Inversnaid. We said our goodbyes and continued on to Fort Augustus.

As we approached Fort Augustus the sun came back out. By this time we needed something to eat so we called in the local shop for a sandwich before having a couple of pints in the pub; our hostel opens at 1600hrs, so we had time to kill.

Fort Augustus Locks
Cheers

We called into the Lock Inn where dad ended up like a bull in a china shop. The glass screen in the above picture almost came crashing down as he knocked it over with his backpack.

Luckily I have reactions like a cat and caught it. This isn’t the first time either, back at the Great Glen Hostel he knocked over and broke a radio with his pack! He wouldn’t make a good ninja turtle.

We queued up at the hostel to book in. In front of us were two walkers we met at Kings House. They had finished the WHW and are now traveling by car along the GGW. What are the odds we would meet at this hostel? It’s a small world.

Laggan

Rain!

The rain started around 1700hrs yesterday and relentlessly fell until around 1300hrs, where we had sunny spells and showers for the remainder of the day. I managed to get in touch with the hostel at Laggan, so a dry bed for tonight.

Throughout the night the wind and rain battered the tent ensuring we had little sleep. We packed our very soggy tent away and with luck this will be the last time for the trip.

The Scottish weather has again spoilt our photographic opportunities. The start of today’s stage follows the road up a hill (our usual starting incline) out of Gairlochy and winds it way through pine trees before dropping back down alongside the Loch.

Canoes

As we finally got an unobstructed view of Loch Lochy, a party of canoeists paddled by; equally drenched. We waved from the bank before continuing our journey.

D-Day Training
Landing Craft

We eventually rejoined the road and passed a surviving training landing craft that was used to prepare the soldiers for the D-Day landings.

The military used this area extensively for this prepartion. Training the pilots for the boats and such vessels. There were numerous plaques dedicated to this along this stretch.

The route eventually turned off the road and onto a cycle path that passed through a large pine forest; this followed the rest of the length of the loch. We passed a few cyclists doing the GGW and only met two fellow walkers however they were going in the opposite direction.

Rain Still Reducing Visibilty
Pine Forest

Around the 8 mile point the sun made a brief visit and the deluge subsided; finally we could see some of the views.

Rare Break in the Weather

Spending the last 3/4 of today in rain had taken its toll and the wetness breached my boots. I felt a hot spot forming on a toe to my right foot. This meant stopping to apply the kinesiology tape, thus hopefully preventing a blister developing.

Foot Care

Soon we were back into the pine forest and came across a wild camping spot complete with composting toilets. It was a nice spot on the shore of the Loch, but this was too short for the day plus we need to resupply of food stocks.

Composting Toilets

We reached our stage end at Laggan, but there was a further mile to walk to the hostel. Our feet were sore by this point as the path mostly consisted of road or similar surfaces today. The continual impact on the hard terrain isn’t kind on our bodies.

Laggan Stage End
Laggan Lock

We booked into the hostel, had a shower and put our clothes in the drying room. We set out following google maps to where a pub should be located, however there was no watering hole in sight. We passed a barge that is a floating pub on the way to the hostel.

I saw this on the map the day before and the opening hours were 1700hrs to 2300hrs. We tried our luck there to no avail. We returned to the hostel with our bellies rumbling; we will have to raid the tuck shop on site.

Gairlochy

So Begins Part 2

We took full advantage of our rest day in Fort William. All our gear has been washed and I replaced my waterproof trousers.

We did a tour of all the watering holes along the high street watching the hikers cross the finish line; many with the WHW strut. We bumped into a few walkers that we had met along our journey and bid them a safe trip home.

Cuil na Sithe BnB

As we left the BnB to begin the Great Glen Way, our old friend the rain decided to show; thankfully after about 10mins it stopped and didn’t return until we set up camp for the day.

The first order of business was to get the key to the facilities along the Caledonin Canal from the office at Corpach. Once done we set off along the Canal.

Corpach
Corpach

It wasn’t long until we reached Neptune’s Staircase; a series of 7 locks. Just as we arrived a steam train pulled out of the Banavie Station.

Boat at the Bottom Lock
Top Lock

The towpath was wide, flat and no loose stones to cause any touble; the miles flew by. We reached Moy bridge, the only surviving swing bridge from when the canal was built and is hand operated.

Moy Bridge
Moy Bridge

Before we knew it, we arrived at Gairlochy; here the canal joins Loch Lochy. About a mile on the road from the Gairlochy Locks we tried to get a pitch at the nearby campsite, but due to Covid they wouldn’t allow tents.

We trudged our way back to the locks to a wild camping spot right on the canal bank. We got the tent all set up just in time for the rain.

Gairlochy
Waterside Property
Wild Camping

Today was very easy going and we felt like we could have kept walking, but the next stop is 12 miles away at the other end of Loch Lochy.

We are in a bit of a quandary where to stop tomorrow night. Loggan is the next stage end which has facilities, however there is no camping; I have been unable to contact the hostel there to see if they have vacancies.

Invergarry, 4 miles further on, has camping but without facilities. There is a lot more civilsation at Invergarry so we will be able to get a beer at least. Unfortunately there are no free rooms going and again I can’t contact the hostel there!

We might just have to chance our luck for a bed at the hostels, if not, it’s proper wild camping! We have everything sorted from day 3 onwards, just these first two days that are being awkward.

Fort William

Kinlochleven

Thankfully the rain had stopped during the night allowing us to take down the tent which was relatively dry by Scottish weather standards.

The path took us through the village where it climbed through the woodlands surrounding Kinlochleven. Dad found it a bit tiring but we couldn’t stop long to catch our breaths as the air piranhas soon got our sent.

Eventually we got above the tree line and looking back we waved bye to Kinlochleven. The path continued to rise until around 300m where it followed a valley.

There were more people on the walk today, some familiar faces who had set off at the same time as us. As there is nothing between Kinlochleven and Fort William. It is inevitable we would meet here, some I was surprised to see who went ahead off us after day 3.

We came across a group of gentlemen who were walking the WHW for motor neurone disease and they were wearing their t-shirts for it; I wish Prostate Cancer UK had pulled their finger out and got ours delivered.

We pressed on and came across one of the iconic images for the WHW. The ruined farmhouse that sits alone in the valley. I decided to take a photo from a different angle.

Ruined Farmhouse
Looking Back at the Farmhouse

The path continued following the valley for a few more miles as it bends round Meall a Chaorainn passing Lochan Lunn Da-Bhra.

Lochan Lunn Da-Bhra

We had been walking for 7 miles now, roughly halfway for today. It was time for lunch; we found a small mound to sit behind out of the wind to eat.

Dinnertime

From here the path took us through a managed forest, where they have cut down a large number of trees; it was like walking through a tree graveyard. There was a plaque commemorating it in honour of the fallen in WW1. It seemed odd to me or maybe fitting, the jury is still out on this one.

Tree Graveyard

Eventually we got to where the new saplings had been planted and the familiar pine forests soon covered the landscape.

New Saplings on the Hill to Left of Centre

It wasn’t long before we caught sight of Ben Nevis although it had the peak in the clouds. We walked in it’s shadow for a few miles before the start of the descent into Fort William.

Nevis in the Clouds Above Dad

With 4 miles to go we finally saw the outskirts of Fort William. It was at this point the rain started, luckily it was nothing like yesterday. Two mountain bikers cheered us on as they hurtled passed us.

Civilization at Last
Then the Rain Came in

The route takes you to the road for the last 2 miles into town. This was heavy going on our feet walking on the pavement. At 15th bleep from my Garmin watch to indicate 15 miles we arrived at the old finish point to the WHW.

Pleased as Punch
Almost Done

However the true finish line is at the sore feet statue in town; a little further to go. We walked down the high street attracting a few looks from the townfolk, probably thinking ‘what fools these pair of down rats are’, but we felt like heroes as we did the West Highland Strut to the finish line.

West Highland Way Done

We are now going to take a rest day and will pick up the blog again once we start the Great Glen Way.

Thank you to all the amazing people who have sponsored us. The total we have raised so far is £1,295! We definitely feel like we earnt it!

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