Friday Flickr -The Great Glen Way

This week’s Flickr album sees me reminiscing about my first long distance walk.

It’s quite a while since I had my introduction to long-distance walking and ticked a challenge of my 60 before 60 list by walking the Great Glen Way.

The Great Glen Way meanders it’s way through the (yep, you guessed it) the Great Glen, which stretches from coast to coast across the Scottish Highlands.

A series of lochs, formed along a geological fault line, almost splits the country in half. Just to finish the job, the Caledonian Canal came along in the 1800s and linked the lochs. It is now impossible to travel to the far north of Scotland without crossing water somewhere. (Does that mean the north of Scotland is actually an island?)

The Great Glen Way begins in Fort William and leads onwards and upwards to Inverness on the west coast. Although the official path actually starts and finishes in the middle of these two towns, I walked out to the sea lochs at either end, adding a few more miles and making it a true coast to coast walk.

As an introduction to long distance walking, this is a good one. Plenty of wilderness, but not too difficult to get lost. Few enough people to make it feel like an adventure, but enough people around if you ran into difficulties. Lots of trees and ‘nature’, but also plenty of man-made historical stuff to keep it interesting on a different level.

I wrote about it in a lot more detail at the time, but for an overview of what it looks like, I’ve put a Flickr album together.

Click on the photo below to access the Flickr album.

Great Glen Way

And in case this has whetted your appetite, here are the links to the rest of my posts on the Great Glen Way.

Great Glen Way Day 1

Great Glen Way Day 2

Great Glen Way Day 3

Great Glen Way Day 4

Great Glen Way Day 5

Great Glen Way Day 6

Great Glen Way Day 7

GGW day 7

The end of the path AND the end of the canal.

boat on canal
Bridge near the campsite

Wednesday 24th August, 2011

I had a leisurely start to today as I had no need to rush anywhere. I spent the morning walking out to the sea lock at Clachnaharry. This is about a 5 mile round trip and meant that not only had I followed the Great Glen Way in its entirety, but also the Caledonian Canal. The path all the way to the sea lock was busy with dog-walkers, joggers, boats, and residential and business premises. It was a gloriously warm and sunny day and a lovely end to my walk. Except it wasn’t the end really, as I still had to get to Inverness Castle.

Opening bridge
The bridge was opening to let a boat through

Caledonian Canal model ship
sea lock through the sea lock

sea lock sign for end of the canal

end of the canal out to sea

Back near the campsite I called in at the Floral Hall coffee shop for lunch. This is a botanical garden, but as there was an admission charge and I didn’t know how much time I’d need to look round it properly, I didn’t go in. I’ll save it for another time.

Ness Islands
Ness Islands

I went back to the campsite and spent a bit of time lying around reading before getting packed up for the walk across the Ness Islands to Inverness. The Ness Islands are set in the River Ness and joined by a series of bridges. They are all covered with woodland and make a pleasant park area for the people of Inverness.

Nessie carving
Finally saw Nessie on the Ness Islands
End of GGW sign
The official end of the GGW sign
Inverness Castle
Inverness Castle

Finally the path reached Inverness proper and climbed upwards along roads to reach the castle and the GGW start/finish sign.

view from castle
View from Inverness Castle

Once I’d taken the obligatory photos I headed for the train station and sat in the bar with a well-deserved beer before getting the train back to Glasgow.
View from castle view from castle

Distance walked = about 7 miles (2 ‘official’ miles plus the 5 miles to the sea lock and back)

GGW day 6

A world speed record not quite broken, a ruined castle, an abandoned Canadian lumberjacks’ camp, a secret cafe and first views of Inverness.

Tuesday 23rd August, 2011

The final full day of the walk. I got the same bus as I’d got yesterday morning, but because I was only going as far as Drumnadrochit I was able to start walking a lot earlier.

The path starts by following the A82. At first alongside the road but then on a separate path. A couple of miles in and the path started to climb away from the road.

Temple Pier
Temple Pier

Information boards told the story of how, on the other side of the road at Temple Pier, on the 26th August, 1952, John Cobb’s Crusader had arrived and been lowered into the water ready to begin preparations to attempt to break the World Water Speed record. Crusader was the first water-borne craft to be designed and built for jet propulsion. The board shows a picture of a white craft looking more like a space capsule than a boat.

Information board

Over the next month Cobb and his twenty-strong support team used the pier as a base as they carried out trials on the loch. The world record attempt took place on the 29th September, 1952 amid great excitement. The Inverness Courier reported what happened next,

“She skimmed over the course … but then seemed to bounce twice on the water … next moment the horrified spectators saw the boat plunge into the loch in a whirl of spray and foam flecked with flying wreckage”.

John Cobb was killed in the crash, the cause of which has never been explained. Although, Cobb did have the triumph of travelling on water at over 200 miles an hour, this didn’t count for the world record. For it to be official he needed to travel a measured course of one mile and then return. The average speed over the two runs would have been used to calculate the official speed, but as he crashed before completing the second mile his average speed couldn’t be calculated.

Urquhart Castle
Urquhart Castle on the peninsula

Continuing, I came to a nice spot where I could look along the loch and get a good view of Urquhart Castle. The ruin is said to be the most photographed site in Scotland, partly because it is very picturesque, but also because it is known as one of the spots where Nessie the Loch Ness monster has been most frequently spotted.  

Further along, I came across more illustrated information boards. This time they informed me of a Canadian lumber camp that had been here during the second world war. Huge supplies of timber were needed for the war effort and extra forresters were needed to provide it. The government put out a call for help and by 1941 over 2000 Canadian lumberjacks had answered the call and arrived in this part of Scotland. Many were from Newfoundland and so the men became known as ‘Newfies’.

information board

The timber they produced was used for mine props, obstruction poles to stop enemy craft from landing on beaches and fields, telegraph poles, crates for shipping military equipment and for building accomodation and mess rooms for soldiers.

path through trees

Many of the men married local women and whilst some settled in Scotland, others returned home with their Scottish wives. A Highland Canadian Wives Club was formed to help women prepare for life in Canada after the war. Little remains of the lumber camps now apart from a few odd bits of cable and railway.

path over moor path over moor

highest point signThe path joins a forest road and I followed this to the highest point on the whole GGW at 375m. The road then descended for a way to get to Abriachan. This is a kind of woodland outdoor centre with a car park, picnic tables, eco toilets, and lots of bird houses and sculptures. I stopped here for lunch.

bird houses eco toilet

signs for the cafeA short while further on I bumped into the Canadians again (we’d been passing each other all day) as they were emerging from what seemed to be overgrown brushland. There is a campsite and cafe hidden away in it and they’d just stopped for a cup of tea. Curious, even though I’d already eaten, I picked my way through boggy paths to find it. It’s quite a bizarre place run by an eccentric couple. It seems overgrown yet is actually maintained with fruit and veggies growing, chickens roaming about and a pond. I had a freshly squeezed orange juice (yum, vitamins – something I felt I was lacking living on instant noodles and cup-a-soups) and chatted to the couple.

They’ve owned the land for a few years and live in a caravan on it. They started offering camping as way of getting people to camp officially rather then wild camping and using what is essentially their garden, as a toilet. I got an elaborately hand-written receipt for my orange juice; something to do with placating the tax man.

path path

treesThe path continued on the level and then met the road which I followed across the Abriachan plateau for a couple of mile or so. Then I joined a path which rises again and got my first views of Inverness in the distance. The path began descending and entered a forest through which I walked for several miles. The path then drops steeply into Inverness. I had to stop several times to give me knees a break. Once on the outskirts of Inverness I was back to walking through a housing estate just like at the beginning of the walk.

view of Inverness Inverness

The path joins the canal again near the campsite. I was about 2 miles (if that) from the end of the walk at Inverness Castle but didn’t see the point in walking past the campsite into Inverness, just to walk back out the campsite again, and then walk back in again tomorrow to get the train. So I went straight to my tent instead.

Distance walked = about 16 miles.

GGW day 5

Friendly cats, ups and downs, too much road walking, but still no sign of Nessie.

Monday 22nd August, 2011

catsI got up early and trekked to the bus stop. It’s quite frustrating having to walk all the way round – walking past my tent 10 mins after I’ve just left it! I can understand why there’s no gate at this end of the campsite because if there was anyone could walk in and there could be quite a security issue. But I’m sure they could have put the vehicleless field nearer the main gate!

The bus back to Invermoriston was a lot more expensive than the one I’d got yesterday. Apparently there are different companies running the routes and they all have different prices. Oh well, it’s worth it, not to be carrying my heavy pack. I still have the pack with me as I don’t have a daypack, but it’s almost empty and really light.

Once in Invermoriston I bought a sandwich for breakfast and sat in the shop’s garden to eat it. A couple of friendly cats joined me and I fed them bits of hard-boiled egg from my sandwich.


I wandered round Invermoriston for a few minutes (really, that’s all it took) and bumped into the Canadian women again. The men had already set off walking (I saw them several times throughout the day), the women were taking the day off and going to get the bus to Urquhart Castle instead.

path through trees

stone benchThe path begins by climbing very steeply along a narrow road behind the shops. In no time at all I was well above them. The path continued to zigzag upwards, though not quite as steeply. It climbs about 215m in the the first mile. It then drops to about 110 metres. The path joins a forest road and continues to descend until it comes alongside the A82. The forest road then climbs again to about 300m before dropping down again to 120m. At least I couldn’t complain about it being flat today!

Loch Ness Loch Ness

The path climbs again towards Grotaig where it joins a small road. There are some paths at the side of the road, but a lot of the time I was walking on the road itself. This section is about 3 miles long and was very hard on my feet. Then I turned to descend on a gravel path before reaching the A82 and following this into Drumnadrochit.

the path Loch Ness

Drumnadrochit is the main hub for all things Nessie. There are a couple of Nessie exhibitions and lots of cafes and shops. I was too late and too tired to do much more than wait for the bus though.

Loch Ness

Distance walked = 14 miles

GGW day 4

An ascent, a diversion, some Canadians, but no monsters.

Fort Augustus
Fort Augustus

Sunday 21st August, 2011

This morning even though it was Sunday the Fort Augustus shops were open and the tourists were out in force. I only had 8 miles to go today, but my pack was feeling heavy and my feet were feeling weary. This was the first day where it wasn’t flat and I was looking forward to a bit of inconsistency in the terrain.

path through treesI was now following Loch Ness and would do until almost the end of my walk. Loch Ness is one of the largest lochs, only Loch Lomond has a larger surface area. By volume however, it is by far the largest, containing more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined. It is just under 23 miles long and is 1.7 miles across at its widest point. Loch Ness is of course famous for its monster, but though I kept a good look out I didn’t catch so much as a fleeting glimpse of it.

Loch Ness Loch Ness

Loch Ness Loch Ness

Leaving Fort Augustus, the path immediately began to climb. It follows minor roads for a while, but is soon on forest tracks. The path kept its height with a few undulations. It was hard to see the loch for a lot of the time because of the tree cover. But it was also hard to hear (and see) the traffic down below on the busy A82, something which I’m not complaining about. Every now and again there would be a break in the trees and the chance to stop and drink in the view.

waterfallAt one such viewpoint I was perched on a conveniently placed large, flat rock enjoying coffee from my flask when two older Canadian couples came along. They were walking the path too, but staying in B&Bs and using a baggage carrying service. I chatted for a while before moving on. I continued to see them on and off throughout the rest of the day.

As it got towards the end of the day I felt I was beginning to tire of carrying my back. The next two days are long days with a lot of hills and a lot of miles and I wasn’t sure how I’d go on. I decided to check out buses when I got to Invermoriston to see if it was possible to easily get to and from the Inverness campsite. If I could do this I could leave the bulk of my gear there and sleep there for the remaining three nights just getting a bus at the beginning and end of each day.

Loch Ness
DiversionAlmost at Invermoriston the path dropped steeply through woods to reach the main A82. Unfortunately because of damage to the trees the path had been closed for safety reasons. I had to follow a lane instead which added another couple of miles to my day’s walk. I really wasn’t in the mood for this. I was tempted to try the path and probably would have done if I didn’t have my big pack. When I got to the other end of the path I could look up into the woods and see the damage. It would have been really difficult to get through as trees were all across the path. So I’d made the right decision to follow the detour.

I found a bus stop and checked the timetable. It being a Sunday I was hoping I wasn’t too late for the last bus. It was fine and I only had about 20 minutes to wait. The bus dropped me outside the campsite which is actually on the route of the GGW. I could see tents from the bus so thought I didn’t have far to walk. Wrong. The campsite is big. And the entrance is at the far end. I had to walk all the way down the side road to get to the entrance. The field for campers without cars was then at the other end of the campsite and so I had to walk all the way back again. I ended up with my tent quite close to the road and the bus stop, yet a good 10-15 minute walk away. I was not a happy bunny. It was good to get my tent up though and know I didn’t have to carry it tomorrow.

Distance walked = 10-11 miles (8 ‘official’ miles plus a couple for the diversion and the best part of a mile getting to the field I put my tent up in)

GGW day 3

An old railway line, a military road, coffee and cake and playing catch.

Saturday 20th August, 2011

Loch OichA soggy morning. I stayed in my tent for a while and eventually it eased off. I packed up in drizzle rather than a downpour. By the time I started walking it had cleared up well. Today’s walk is only 10 miles so I didn’t have to be in too much of a hurry.

The path goes along the south side of the canal to the small Loch Oich. There’s only about a mile of canal joining these two lochs. When I got to Loch Oich I went into the coffee shop at the Great Glen Water Park for a coffee and an orange juice. It seems like quite a nice place with log cabins scattered throughout the trees.

path through the trees

information signLeaving the water park the path follows the bed of an old railway line. Part of a station platform can still be seen as can the stone walls that would have been alongside the sunken track. Trains used to run between Spean Bridge and Fort Augustus but the line was never successful due to rivalries between different companies.

old station platform
section of old station platform

old railway bridge


The path then follows the remains of one of General Wade’s military roads. I sat for a while on a conveniently placed bench and looked across the loch to the ruins of Invergarry Castle. This used to be the seat of the MacDonald clan who supported the Jacobites and Bonnie Prince Charlie. It was burnt down after the battle of Culloden.

Invergarry Castle
boat on the canalAfter the castle the path moved slightly inland. When it returned to the lochside just before Aberchalder I was surprised at how windy it was beside the loch. Aberchalder has a rather pretty old bridge (The Bridge of Oich). It’s now only used by pedestrians. This is where Loch Oich ends and the canal begins again. I found a lovely tea garden just by the canal and the bridge and sat with coffee and a cake for a while enjoying the warmth. Now I was back near the canal and away from the loch, the wind had dropped and I hadn’t seen rain since this morning. The tea garden had a couple of resident dogs who insisted on playing catch with me, though one really hadn’t got the concept of the game and kept forgetting to bring the ball back to me.

bridge canal path

Just past the tea garden I crossed a bridge and followed the canal along a path on the north side. This was an even, flat path and, fortified by coffee and cake, I was able to get quite a pace going. I had a break at Kytra lock which was pretty and had nice grass for camping on, but no facilities. I considered stopping, but wanted to get another couple of miles under my belt, so carried on to Fort Augustus.

Kytra lock Kytra lock

Fort Augustus is a busy little tourist town with the most people I’d seen since Glasgow. Because of the proximity to houses and businesses camping is not allowed at the lock and so I had to go up the road to the commercial campsite. This was a big campsite with several different camping areas. I was in a field for campers without vehicles. There were four young Spanish people with motorbikes and tents on the far side of the field from me, but that was it. It should have been a peaceful night. It wasn’t. The Spanish had set up a kind of communal tent as well as there own individual tents and proceeded to have a very loud party. If it wasn’t so annoying, I would have been quite impressed by how much noise could emanate from just four people! I ended up getting quite nowty and shouting over to them to shut up. To their credit, they did, and I was able to get a bit of sleep.

Fort Augustus

Distance walked = 10 miles

GGW day 2

Disaster strikes twice, a fairy forest and the first rain.


Friday 19th August, 2011

I woke feeling much better. It was a beautiful day and the sun had driven all the midges away. I sat at a picnic table for a while having breakfast and just enjoyed sitting in such a lovely place. I couldn’t stay too long though and had to rouse myself to get packed away. I appreciated why the guys I’d met yesterday had enjoyed taking so long. If I wasn’t on a restricted timetable I would have loved to be able to spend a few hours, if not the whole day, here.

Gairlochy Gairlochy

I hoisted my backpack up onto the picnic bench and disaster struck. One of the straps that holds the pack closed caught on the bench and the buckle broke. It was unfixable and wouldn’t stay fastened with only half the buckle. Luckily I always have a stash of duct tape wrapped round my walking poles so I was able to use some of this to wrap round the buckle and keep the pack closed. It worked really well, but did mean that to open my pack I had to carefully unwrap the duct tape, stick it on the side of my pack and then carefully peel it off to wrap it round the strap again when it was time to refasten my pack. A whole lot of faffing, but at least I’d fixed it.

I hoisted my backpack up onto my shoulders and disaster struck. (Didn’t I write this already?) The waist strap caught on the picnic bench and the buckle broke. I couldn’t carry my pack all day without the support of the waist strap so I had to fix it. Duct tape wasn’t an option here as it would be too difficult to get the pack on and off. I managed to figure out a way of tying one end of the strap to the other and it held quite well. Maybe it’s time I got myself a new backpack.

Woods near Gairlochy

Fairy woodFinally, I was able to set off. The path headed away from the loch on the north side. It climbed up into a thickly wooded area which seems to have been converted in to a fairy glen. A very large area was filled with glittery and shiny baubles. There were trees that seemed to be fruiting teddy bears or wellington boots. Umbrellas were arranged over fairy tea parties and plastic flowers bloomed. The conservative part of me thought it was an eyesore in such a nice place, but the fun part of me loved it. I don’t know who has done this here, or why, but it’s certainly different.

Fairy wood Fairy wood

Fairy wood Fairy wood

Fairy wood Fairy wood

Fairy wood Fairy wood

Fairy wood Fairy wood

The path continued on the north side of Loch Lochy all day. I finished the day at South Laggan locks which are at the far end of the loch and where the path joins the canal again. The walk took me through woods all day and although I did get to walk alongside the loch for a couple of miles after the fairy wood, most of the time I was higher than the loch and only got glimpses of it through the trees.

Loch Lochy Loch Lochy

green woods misty view

waterfallTowards the end of the day it began to rain. It started off quite light, but got heavier and so I had to stop and put wet weather gear on for the first time. It was still raining heavily when I reached South Laggan and had to put my tent up. Luckily it doesn’t take long to get the bulk of it up and I could chuck my gear inside whilst I finished pegging it out properly.

There were a lot of boats moored up for the night and a few other campers too, but the area wasn’t as nice as Gairlochy locks. Nice enough I suppose, but not the sort of place I’d want to linger even if I did have the time.

Lggan locks

Distance walked = 13 miles

GGW day 1

My first day on the Great Glen Way: acquiring a platypus; detouring to get a toilet key; Neptune’s Staircase and a lovely campsite at Gairlochy.

GGW sign at Fort William
The start

Thursday 18th August, 2011

I got a lift to the local train station and then had to walk between stations in Glasgow to get to Queen St to catch my train to Fort William. The 10 minute walk made me realise how heavy my pack is. I’ve cut everything down to the bare minimum – I only have one change of clothes, I’ve rationed out my food, I have no reading books, and so on – so the only way I’d get lighter is to buy more expensive gear. At least it should get lighter as the week goes on and I eat my food.

The train from route from Glasgow to Mallaig via Fort William is said to be one of the most scenic in the world. I did the Fort William to Mallaig stretch a few years ago when I needed a day off walking to let my knees recover from the descent of Ben Nevis. I went on the steam train in true Harry Potter style over the Glenfinnan Viaduct and it was truly stunning. Now I was getting to do the first bit of that journey that I’d missed out on before. Once we cleared the suburbs of Glasgow the views got better and better and the last bit into Fort William was wonderful.

To get to the official start of the walk I had walk through Morrison’s car park and cross a main road to get to a grassy area by Loch Linnhe. This grassy area covers the remains of a fort built in the 1600s. I sat and had lunch at a picnic table and then wandered over to the GGW sign to take a photo. A group of young guys were sprawled beneath it enjoyed a case of lager. They’d just finished the walk and were celebrating. They said they’d spent 2 weeks doing it and had really enjoyed the leisurely pace and being able to camp wherever they found a nice spot. They also warned me that water isn’t that easy to get and one of them gave me his platypus complete with 3 litres of water. It was difficult to stuff it into my backpack and meant I had just added another 3 kilos to my already heavy load, but I was grateful. I’d never bought myself a platypus or camelbak as I wasn’t sure if I’d get on with them. But now I had the perfect opportunity to test drive one.

housing estate housing estate
The walk begins by taking a path through a housing estate. As much as possible it was beside the River Nevis and in the trees, but there were times when I was just walking down residential streets. About a mile before Corpach and the sea lock the path doubles back on itself and then begins the journey east. I had to do a detour down to the sea lock though to buy a toilet key from the office there. I only phoned about key a couple of days ago – if I’d been more organised and rang earlier they would have posted one out to me. However, as I wanted to go to the sea lock anyway, it wasn’t an issue. The key cost £6 and is a British Waterways Key rather than just a Caledonian Canal key which is what I was expecting it to be. What this means is that I can use it to access toilets and showers at canal locks all over the UK.

sea lock
The sea lock (aka the place to buy a toilet key)

It was when I left Corpach that I felt like I was on the path proper. It was getting quite late in the day, but as it’s August in Scotland there was still plenty of daylight. I was hoping to make it as far as Gairlochy to camp; at the very least I wanted to make it to Moy which is a couple of miles before Gairlochy, but knew I’d feel much better if I could complete what is the usual day one leg despite my late start and detour.

The path follows the south bank of the canal all the way to Gairlochy and Loch Lochy, the first of the three lochs I would follow as part of the path. The path is good and very, very flat. So much so, it felt quite monotonous and I could feel my legs seizing up from doing what was essentially the same step over and over. If it continues like this (which it probably will) I could well finish the walk with a case of RSI.

Neptune's StaircaseAs I came close to Neptune’s Staircase I started to see lots of people. Generally the path is very quiet until it reaches a lock or small town. Neptune’s Staircase is quite a tourist attraction and many people were standing around photographing the boats passing through the series of eight locks. The following is what Wikipedia has to say about it:

Neptune’s Staircase (grid reference NN113769) is a staircase lock comprising eight locks on the Caledonian Canal. It is the longest staircase lock in the United Kingdom, and lifts boats 64 feet (19.5 metres). The locks were originally hand-powered, but have been converted to hydraulic operation. The base plinths of the original capstans are still present, although the capstans themselves are now gone.

The current lock gates weigh 22 tons each, and require a team of three lock-keepers (at minimum) to run the staircase.

It is usual for them to operate on an “Efficiency Basis”, that is the keepers try to either fill each cut with boats on the lift or drop, or to allow for passing, ie a dropping craft to pass a rising craft on the same fill/empty cycle.

It takes approx 1 hour 30 minutes for a boat to pass from one end of the staircase to the other, through the eight locks.

It is one of the biggest staircases in Britain, and is kept by British Waterways.

It is located at Banavie, near Fort William just north of Loch Linnhe.

The structure was designed by Thomas Telford.

Neptune's Staircase

By the time I got to Moy I was feeling pretty tired and my feet were starting to throb. I was tempted to stop and camp, but decided I could manage another few miles and so pushed on. I was glad I did as Gairlochy is a lovely place to camp. Light was fading and the midges were coming out in force so I threw my tent up in quite a hurry on the soft manicured grass at the side of one of the locks. It was only afterwards when I went looking for the toilet and shower that I realised the building I thought was the toilet block wasn’t and the actual one was much further down. So I had a bit of trek each time I wanted to go to the loo, clean my teeth, wash my dishes, etc. I was beyond caring too much and after a shower and something to eat crawled into my sleeping bag really grateful to be able to give my feet a rest. I don’t usually have a problem with throbbing feet so have put it down to the hard surface of the path and the repetitive way of walking on the flat.

My tent at Gairlochy

Distance walked = about 12 miles (10 ‘official’ miles, plus a couple on the detour to the sea lock)

Some thoughts on the GGW

What I’d do differently next time.

GGW signNow that I’ve had a few days to reflect on my walk here are some of my thoughts:

I’m glad I’ve walked a long distance path in one go and in the recommended amount of time as I feel like I’ve proved something to myself. I know I can do it, so now I can walk paths any way I like without feeling like I have something to prove.

At the start of my walk I met a group of young guys sitting under the start/finish sign in Fort William celebrating the end of their walk with a crate of beers. They’d walked it the other way round to me. When I asked them about it and how long they’d taken I wouldn’t have been surprised if they’d said less than the usual amount of days. Instead they said, “Well most people take five or six days, but we took about two weeks”. They went on to say how much they’d enjoyed just walking however far they felt like and camping in nice places. As I did the walk I really appreciated what they meant by this and felt that their way was a great way to do it. I did feel like I was missing out on enjoying the wonderful places I was passing through because I was always aware that I had to keep walking to make that day’s target. I also felt like I spent far too much time looking at my feet and the ground and not enough at the wonderful views. So next time I do a one week walk, I’m going to allow 2 weeks. If I finish in one week, then I’ll have a week in hand to do something else. But I’ll know I have plenty of time to really enjoy my walk.

The path was much harder than I thought it was going to be. And I mean that literally. I don’t mean it was a more difficult walk, but that it was very, very hard underfoot. Chunks of it were on roads (mainly very minor roads, with only the odd car) and most of the rest of it was on paths and tracks that were not only hard but often stony as well. By the end of each day the soles of my feet were really sore. It took a lot of lying down before the throbbing started to wear off. By the end of the week I was resorting to painkillers. If I was to do the walk again I would seriously consider getting some air cushioned trainers and walking in those. The stones would still hurt through the soles, but the overall impact would be a lot less that it was with my heavy, rigid-soled walking boots. Even though it’s been a wet summer, the path was never particularly muddy, so trainers would have been fine.

All along the path there were items of discarded clothing hanging on fences and trees. Was someone walking ahead of me trying to lighten their load? Or do lots of people lose random items of clothing on the walk and other people come along behind and hang them up?

I need a lighter tent. My tent is quite light for it’s size. It’s small, but I can sit up in it and have room to spread my stuff out and cook. I bought this one because it is light enough to carry, but also it’s good for spending long rainy days in. I didn’t want to be stuck in a tent that I can only lie down in and can only cook if I go outside. However, to carry it for this distance I really could have done with something ultra light. I will seriously have to look at bivvy bags too.

Back home

I’m back home after just over a month away in which I completed two of my challenges. I’ve wild camped in the UK and walked a long distance path in one go.

My wild camping was quite soft really as in Shetland it’s so easy and most of the time I camped near piers where there are toilets and showers. But I did do nine straight nights. I also officially wild camped for a couple of nights on the Great Glen Way as I slept at locks where there are designated wild camping sites (can it be wild camping when it’s a designated site?) and I was able to buy a key enabling me to use the toilets and showers at the locks. I’ve done much wilder wild camping in other parts of the world (particularly Africa) so I know I’m capable of it, I just wanted to break my habit of always relying on campsites when I’m in this country.

As for my long distance walk, I walked the Great Glen Way over 6 days. Technically I finished on the 7th day as I stopped at the campsite in Inverness at the end of day 6. This is right on the route and there seemed no point walking into Inverness just to walk back out again, only to walk back in again the next day to get the train. The walk should have been 73 miles but I did just over 80 as one day there was a 2 mile diversion and I also walked out to both sea locks which aren’t included in the official trail. I carried all my gear for the first 4 days, but set up camp in Inverness and bussed back to the walk for the last couple of days when it was long and hilly. I could have done it with all my gear but would have needed more time. As with the wild camping, I have done longer walks than this and carried more gear in other countries, but wanted to do it here just to prove to myself that I’m still up to it.

So right now, I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself.