When I woke this morning in my tent I noticed a lot of condensation had buillt up on the fly sheet so I expected it to be a big midge ‘ho down’ outside. Surprisingly, being so far away from the tree line there were only a few of the satan spawn buzzing about. With my tent being of such light weight material I only needed to give it a few shakes to get the condensation off and let it lie in the wind for a wee while before it had dried and I could pack it away. Breakfast was a crushed cheese and onion pasty from yesterday. It was kind of like eating a cold pizza on a hangover morning – still good.
It was a long, feet crushing walk today. From just outside Fort Augustus the walk was a nice gravel track that dipped in and out of the woods along Loch Oich. It later joined what was formerly an old railway track which opened in 1903, however due to fierce competition with the larger, more commercial railway companies it never materialised and was forced to close in 1946. Near the end of the track it looked as if a group of businesses were in the midst of restoring the old Invergarry Railway Station to it’s former glory.
From there I entered the forest path which ran adjacent to Loch Lochy. The sign before it warned that users should have fully working phones or VHF radio before attempting to traverse the area. The weather was looking bleak so I donned my waterproof trousers and Gore-Tex jacket. It turned out to be 4 seasons every single hour, a real test of the whole clothing layering system. It would be banging hot for 15 minutes, then rain, then freezing wind, then just mildly pleasant.
By the time I reached Clunes the weather had softened up a bit to a more comfortable level. Without the torrential downpour I was able to read many of the local interest boards around Achnacarry. Loads of history around this area, which I found very interesting. The most intriguing was that this area was used by British troops during WWII to practice beach landings. There were a few of the actual remains of purpose-built landing craft still on the beach. Sad to wonder how many of the men pictured in these practice operations on the information boards actually lost their lives when the real landings took place.
After walking through a very well-to-do area for a time I ended back to the canals after leaving Loch Lochy. Though cloudy the weather seemed pleasant enough, and in that same instant the rain came down in biblical proportions…..and didn’t stop for the next four bleedin’ hours. Fortunately it was a canal walk for pretty much the remainder of the route to Fort William, but it was one of those walks that every bend looked like every other bend, and the track afterwards looked identical to the one you just left.
Realising I was going to reach my goal to Fort William I hastily went online (finally a 3G signal) and booked a hotel. The promise of a long, hot bath and warm bed was the only way I could overcome my wet, cold, cramped and tired feet. Sadly, I drew the short straw yet again and was assigned the only room without a bath tub. (Sigh)
The end of the Great Glen Way was in sight, but what a peculiar way to finish it. Once the path strayed from the canal it went through a residential area, through a village, over a bridge, along a toepath through the middle of a field full of sheep and piles of wet poo, and then what looked like a dog-walking common, and finally into town. Not quite the accolade and fanfare I had been expecting after 5 days of gruelling hiking, but there you go.
The rain did not stop once I arrived at the Nevis Bank Inn. I checked the weather report for the next few days before unloading my dirty smalls and t-shirts into the sink for a wash. Saturday was forecasted non-stop rain and a weather warning in effect along the West Highland Way. Well, that made my mind up. I was not, no way, starting my next adventure in the pouring rain…”oh, helllll no!”
Day off tomorrow, though I had to rebook into the Travelodge further into town for the next night. Fort William is full, full, full. I’m amazed I was able to find a room. Could well be the last one, I wager.
Sorry, photos not so great this entry. I think I was too busy battling the elements. Photo 1 is the radio tower I bowed to when I realise it gave me a 3G signal….sad, yeah, I know. Photo 2 is the newly rebuilt Invergarry station platform.