A Walk in the Woods

The bulk of today’s walking has been on woodland tracks. Most Scottish woods consist of neat rows of fast growing pine trees planted in the twentieth century but there are moves afoot to restore highland woodlands to their former glory. These areas originally supported a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees but centuries of plundering for ship building and military use means there are very few mixed woodlands left.Along the Great Glen Way, and in other parts of Scotland we can see that more birch, oak, rowan and other indigenous trees are being reintroduced and the wild life loves it.   

chambered cairn by The Great Glen near Inverness
gorse in the foreground sea in the distance
from west to east Scotland

I was delighted to stumble across the delightful, Abriachan campsite and cafe in the woods and I stopped for a lovely cup of real tea (made with tea leaves, not bags). This is the proper home-made, shack in the woods, off-grid technology that I love and the best tea ever. Do not pass it by, stop for a cuppa and you may even get to meet Oink the pig.

But the highlight of today has to be meeting up with Kerriann and Hugo in Inverness. Yes, Kerriann has driven all the way up here to support me on my final leg to John O’Groats – good on her!

best cafe in Scotland

One Thousand Miles

Yes I have walked 1000 miles and more. I was hoping that the 1000 mile point would be somewhere special and as my gps was reading 999.8 a deer ran across the path in front of me.
I walked to that point and the gps declared that I had walked 1000 miles. As I was on my own I marked the point with a 1000 in sticks and ‘miles’ in little gravel stones so that I had something to photograph.I was then passed by a group of fellow walkers that I had seen yesterday; they were suitably impressed with my milestone.

Just reached Drumnadrochit and met the group again so have put my slightly damp tent up in the corner of the tourist carpark. There is a nice flat grass verge next to a field with a cow in it and I hope that the carpark will be quiet at night. Not my usual middle of nowhere type pitch but it might be good to go out for a meal tonight and celebrate.

st Columba’s Well
note washing facilities in background
my tent mate
no sign of Nessie
ooops should be on the green path
getting pine needles out of my socks

The Great Glen Way

The Great Glen Way is a lovely walk but for me not a patch on the West Highland Way.Maybe my view will change tomorrow but today’s walking was a lot of forestry tracks, old railway lines and yet more old military roads all of which tend to be wide and straightish. There were some lovely glimpses of Loch Ness but not as many as I had hoped for – still not seen the monster.  Maybe my slightly less upbeat review is due to my feet still aching because of the new boots or maybe because of the rain. I have had lovely sunshine all day and made good progress to Fort Augustus where I had a lovely meal. After lunch I climbed the hill in scorching heat and took a nap resting on my rucksack. I was awoken by a lovely couple of German walkers who were much amused by my snoozing and much impressed by the distance I have covered.

loch ness
first glimpse of loch ness
caledonian canal
caledonian canal

I carried on till about 5.30 when the sky was clouding over – as I started pitching my tent the rain started – I got the tent up and got in it in record time and that is where I am writing this – it is still raining outside but I am nice and snug. I just hope it all dries up for tomorrow’s walk.I am amazed to see that I have covered nearly 25 miles today.

view from my tent
tonight’s pitch

Sore feet by a Lochy 

Breaking in new boots on a long walk was never going to be easy but it has to be done. Also I have long thought that it is the feet that have to be broken in as much as the boots. Skin hardens where needed, leather softens and stretches – eventually the boots and feet adjust to become perfect matches – in theory. But today my feet hurt. Still, I covered 19 miles and have a lovely wild pitch by Lake Lochy. It even has a fire pit.A local info panel says that there are lots of Pine Martens here and that they are secretive and smelly – I can relate to that …

 tent by a lake
tonight’s pitch
sign for end kf west highlxnd way
end of west highland way

Sore feet by a Lochy 

Breaking in new boots on a long walk was never going to be easy but it has to be done. Also I have long thought that it is the feet that have to be broken in as much as the boots. Skin hardens where needed, leather softens and stretches – eventually the boots and feet adjust to become perfect matches – in theory. But today my feet hurt. Still, I covered 19 miles and have a lovely wild pitch by Lake Lochy. It even has a fire pit.A local info panel says that there are lots of Pine Martens here and that they are secretive and smelly – I can relate to that …

 tent by a lake
tonight’s pitch
sign for end kf west highlxnd way
end of west highland way

Waxing Lyrical

Yesterday’s walk was shorter than usual partly due to the hangover forced on me by fellow walkers. Today’s walk was also a mere 12 miles into Fort William where I am stocking up with supplies and sorting out my kit. Top priority was boots.

new boots
look at me… new boots

Fort William has more outdoor shops than any town could possibly need – every second shop is catering for the massive West Highland Way market.  Having finish the WHW my memories of it are wonderful. The views are awesome – they almost moved me to tears. To wake up in a Scottish Glen surrounded by mountains with snow in gullies and clouds forming around their peaks, with the sun creeping over the horizon sending beams onto a distant loch, and realise that you are the only human to witness this show is very special indeed. Every day, every hour, the show is different. The interaction of sun and shadow on this landscape is fantastic but I think It might be a somewhat different experience in a winter blizzard. Strangely, I also enjoyed the interaction with people. I tend to be a bit of a loner when walking but I really enjoyed the comradery and the banter between the walkers on the WHW – it was rather like the Santiago de Compostela.  

ben nevis mountain in clouds
Ben Nevis in the clouds

sign  showing wnd of west highland way
the end of one more road

Having said that, I’m looking forward to walking my next leg – The Great Glen across to Inverness. I think I will enjoy the Caledonian canal and also Nessie watching on the banks of Loch Ness and lots of solitude.I called in to Cotswold Clothing and told them I had purchased my boots from their Truro branch a few months ago and showed them their condition – within 10 minutes they had issued me with new pair. Once again I congratulate Cotswold Outdoor for their excellent service. I had a chat with the manager and he pointed out the difficulty in recommending a boot for the type of walk I was doing i.e. Fell walking, mountain/ hill scrambling, grass/ gravel canal tow paths, paved and unpaved forest tracks. Most modern boots are designed to suit one of these categories not all of them.

fort william cotswold
fort william cotswold
old boots with hole on sole
not looking great

I would also point out that, touch wood, I haven’t had any blisters yet unlike most of the walkers I have met on the WHW. 

Staying in a B&B tonight to catch up with my washing.Congratulation to all my new friends who are completing the West Highland Way and commiserations to those who have had to drop out through injury. Those who have finished and those who haven’t have undergone a remarkable life enriching challenge and I look forward to meeting you again on another hillside path…

whisky
a treat for the end of the way
inchgower whisky
favorite of my seven tasters

Along the Devil’s Staircase

I knew it was dangerous camping near a pub. Needless to say I was led astray by fellow walkers who plied me with whisky. As soon as I walked into the pub I was invited to join a group of walkers that I had met earlier on the West Highland Way. A good night was had by all in this excellent pub, The Kingshouse Hotel climbers’ bar.

West Highland way signpost
at least I’m on the right path
Glen Coe
Lovely Glen Coe
stepping stones
stepping stones

I didn’t have a lot to drink but I’m out of practice. Ive hardly touched a drop on this walk apart from the odd nip from my whisky flask. Still, I slept well once I’d found my tent.

I’ve made good progress north over the past few days and should make Fort William tomorrow in time to get my boots sorted out. I thing I’ll stay in a hostel or camp site so that I can get my washing done and have a decent shower; Im feeling a bit dirty.
I’ve just met some young walkers that were finding the walk too difficult so they ditched their tents and camping kit and went to B&Bs instead. Without the extra weight the walk has become a pleasure for them – they were walking with a bounce and chatting merrily – they obviously made a wise decision. 

Devil's Staricase  path
Along the Devil’s Staircase

I am pitched beside the way in a lovely glen a few miles north of Kinlochleven.
Kerriann, Hugo and the motorhome are slowly heading north – it will be lovely to see them. 

Found My Namesake Pub


I have just pitched my tent next to the river around the back of the Kingshouse Hotel. 

Clearly I had to stay at a place called Kingshouse.

tent with mountain in background
tonight’s pitch
The walk today was across Rannoch Moor which the guide books warn us ‘can be a very tough stage of The West Highland Way if the conditions are poor. Luckily, today, the conditions were wonderful and the walk was easy if a tad long.

It was especially long for me because I wandered down the wrong track for a mile and a half and had to retrace my steps – never mind.

At Inveroran I had a pint of shandy ‘on the house’ because I had walked so far. I also had a nice toasted sandwich and another pint before the 10 mile hike across the spectacular Rannoch moor.

Tomorrow’s section includes The Devil’s Staircase which sounds like fun!

Off to the pub now for a proper evening meal – a real treat when wild camping.