May 26, 2012
We were awoken early by the slamming of doors, so we got up at 6:30 am, hoping for an early start. As it turned out, by the time we packed and had breakfast it was 8 am. The day was bright and sunny so we knew the climb out of Drumnadrochit would be hard.
The start of today’s route went alongside the A82 for a couple of miles before heading up the hill. So far the going was good, but there was a short diversion. Instead of going diagonally across a field we had to go around it, because lambing might be going on in the field. The track around the field was a bit rocky and then climbed very steeply. Once we rejoined the main path the incline eased somewhat, but this was short-lived. It switchbacked up the hill, and on each turn it got a bit steeper. However after a couple of hours we came to a forest path which was still upwards, but at a more manageable slope.
We passed a couple of tree planters at work, and then the high point of the day and of the entire Great Glen Way. From here the road went downhill through the Abriachan Forest Park, a recreational area with trails for walking and mountain biking. It was just about noon so we stopped at the car park, which had picnic tables and toilets. We sat and ate a leisurely lunch with Jeanette, the walker who we had met several times starting way back at Rowardennan and who was walking from Lands End to John O’Groats.
After lunch Jeanette turned left, heading north, and we carried on along the Great Glen Way. Our route took us along a narrow trail through a scrubby forest with little shade, and by now the day was hot. There was a stretch of road-walking, and then we turned off onto a path which was an old “drove” road, where cattle were driven from their Highland pastures to the south to be sold. There was a sign which said that the estate we were about to walk through was one of the few remaining leks of the endangered Black Grouse, and within five minutes a grouse flew up out of the heather. But it turned out to be a Red Grouse, which is found all over Scotland. Too bad!
As we walked, we were discussing how much the Great Glen Way had been like a small-scale version of the Kootenays back home. Both had long narrow lakes, the smell of the dry pine forests, and the green agricultural fields down in the lowlands.
This path was really pleasant walking, and it soon went into a large forest of old trees. By now we were wondering how steep the drop into Inverness would be, but so far it wasn’t very steep at all. About 3 pm we decided to stop for our second lunch. Sitting on a mossy old stone wall in the shade, we had a relaxing break. We saw a deer nibbling away at the grass, and were finally lucky enough to see a red squirrel, also an endangered species, bound up a tree.
By now we were close to Inverness, but it still took almost two hours to reach the end of the walk. The expected downhill walking took us through the outskirts of the town, through a park with signs pointing to “Picnic Tables” and “Xylophones” and past a former hospital being redeveloped into pricey-looking housing. The route through the city was very pleasant, with parts of it along the canal and other parts along the River Ness and on the Ness Islands. We finally came to the end of the Way, in front of Inverness Castle by the statue of Flora MacDonald.
Here we met up with some other Canadians who had just finished the walk, and they were very surprised that we had done it in only four days while carrying all our own gear. After having our photo taken we headed to the Bazpackers Hostel, which luckily was just around the corner. We got ourselves checked in and had showers. Then we went next door to the Castle Pub for dinner. Since it was a Saturday night it was very crowded, but we managed to get a small table in the corner of the bar. After dinner we walked over to the castle to take a few photos, and then headed back to the hostel.