Thursday, 15 September 2011

Laggan to Invermoriston

                Another day, another walk along the Great Glen Way, and possibly another regretful Fraoch-fuelled posting... For those who love stats, today's walk was just a smidegen over twenty miles.

                I awoke early this morning and got changed into my walking clothes ready for the drive to Invermoriston. This was long, and took longer than expected due to the dark and a surprising amount of fog. The latter was somewhat welcome, however, because it meant that the fairly persistent drizzle of yesterday was replaced once the fog lifted with wall to wall sunshine. There was plenty of time for me to potter about at the car park in Invermoriston before my bus at twenty past seven, although two busses came at once and initially I got on the wrong one.
                The bus dropped me off at the little layby near the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel just before eight, and I was soon striding off down the trail. Initially this did not see much of the water as it headed high above the canal off to the left; the path underfoot was good, the gravel crunching. Soon the main road was crossed, and the path followed a road before joining the old railway line to fort Augustus. The platforms here were remarkably large for what was a small branch line, and some very large trees were growing out of them; the parts of concrete faces devoid of vegetation seemed to be in a good state, however.
                Soon the trail dropped off the old railway line and headed below it, following the course of an old military road. Some works appeared to be going on the old railway line, and a sign later said that investigation works were being down to see if the line could be made into a Sustrans cycle path. A little later on the old military road climbed steeply before falling once more, passing the rather ornate portal of a tunnel.
                The trail did nit stay on the military road for long afterwards, and it crossed a large stream using the old railway bridge, Some of the views across Loch Oich had been superb when the surrounding vegetation had allowed them, but from now on the views down the loch were exquisite. Two Scotsmen – the first I had met doing the trail – had camped overnight at what must be one of the best spots in Scotland, the loch stretching away behind them. It was a magic view, and I strolled out onto the water as deep as I dared to take some photos.
                Soon afterwards I got to the Aberchalader Bride that carries the A82 over the canal and the river. What interested me most, however, was the superb Oich bridge. Although this initially looks like a suspension brudge, it is actually a double cantilever, each half of the bridge supporting its own weight so that the cables in the middle are far fewer than those nearer the towers. I diverted off the trail to study it, took some photos and then rejoined the trail.
                Initially this followed the eastern bank of the canal; a yacht motored past me and I turned around to watch as the swing bridge opened for it to pass through. The trail changed over to the western bank at Cullochy Lock, and what followed was a fairly uninteresting four mile walk into Fort Augustus, the only items of interest being the few boats that passed and the picturesque Kyltra Lock.
                I was in need of a rest by the time I reached Fort Augustus, and I nipped into the Lock inn to have a break. I ended up having a couple of pints of Belhaven and a wonderful meal of Haggis starter and a Beef lasagne main; I really need the food, as my energy levels had been rather low after my McDonalds last night. The two pints rather went to my head, and I set off on looser legs, nipping into the tourist information centre in the town to see it chocabloc with Nessie souvenirs.
                A looping climb up and down a road took me back towards the main road, after which a steep path headed uphill to meet a forestry track. This was followed for well over six miles; there were not too many nasty gradients and the walk was enjoyable enough, with occasional grand views over Loch Ness where the trees had been cleared. At other times, however, it was more of a drag and it as a relief when the track started to curve inland along Glen Moriston, as it meant that Invermoriston was just a short distance away.
                And then came the words which no walker wants to see – ‘footpath diversion’. A sign stated that due to fallen branches the direct path down to Invermoriston was closed and that the indirect diversion would add two miles onto the day. I was not too dismayed by this, but sadly the diversion was along a track that headed down through a gloomy valley that felt like it never saw the sun. It was a fairly dispiriting stroll, and it was a surprising relief when it dropped me out onto a track at the bottom.
                This rose and fell slightly, but was a better stroll than the track through the forest had been. I soon reached the place where the direct route joined the track and it was clear to see why it had been closed – the path was obliterated by fallen trees. I was thankful that for once I had obeyed the diversion sign instead of continuing on.
                A worthwhile diversion at Invermoriston is to go down to see Telford’s old bridge, which seems to spring out of the craggy riverbed. The path down to it was a bit rough, but the views down the craggy river were superb; the new bridge (built in 1833) dominates the valley, but Telford’s structure seems to be almost part of the living rock, working in harmony with nature rather than overpowering it.
                My car was only a few yards away, and I was soon driving to my nigght’s bed at the Loch Ness Backpackers in Lewiston. I had stayed here ten years ago and had really enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to a good night. After a shower I want for a walk to see where the bus stop was for the morning, then went back. The hostel was now fairly full, and the room I was in had been invaded by severl other Great Glen walkers. They had set off on Monday from For William, and had walked from Fort Augustus today; one of the men’s feet was severely blistered; so much so that I worry about his ability to do his final day tomorrow.
                The hostel has changed a little since I last stayed here in 2002 – it is bigger and now serves food – and drink, thank God – as a standard each night. Yet the same friendliness that I saw on my last trip is still here, and the staff are very welcoming. These independent hostels are so much better than the authoritarian YHA ones...

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