Sunday, 31 May 2009

Day 57 Sunday - Glen Nevis to Laggan Locks

Walking 9.30am to 8.45pm
Distance walked today 20 miles
Total distance walked 851 miles
Distance left 201 miles

The campsite at Glen Nevis is quite big, catering for caravans and motohomes, as well as tent campers but is good. The showers are excellent. Before I left the site, I rang my mum to wish her happy birthday - 87 today.

I went into Fort William to end the West Highland Way and then looked for the start of the Great Glen Way - the first sign I saw was behind Morrisons. The route took a meandering way out of Fort William and eventually popped up on to the towpath of the Caledonian Canal. It is a wide canal - no narrowboats as on English canals - mainly cruisers and sailing boats.

For the two miles or so to Gairlochy lock walked with Nick from Leighton Buzzard. He'd just finished his twenty second traverse of the West Highland Way and was going on towards Inverness tomorrow. It was nice to have company for a while.

The path switched to the other side of the water. This part of the canal ended and there was then three miles of road walking, meandering along the north side of Loch Lochy.

Loch Lochy
At Clunes, the Way continued alongside and above the loch for a further seven miles to Laggan. Camping is permitted by the lock but the ground is atrocious - very stony and difficult to get pegs in.

Loch Lochy

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Day 56 Saturday - Kings House Hotel to Glen Nevis

Walking 8.30am to 8.00pm
Distance walked today 20 miles
Total distance walked 831 miles
Distance left 221 miles

Once again today, there was really only one way to go. The day was going to be on the hot side.

The Way followed the Old Military Road for about three miles, parallel to the A82 and then, at a layby, there was a long, winding climb north and then a very long and gradual descent to Kinlochleven. It was here that I discovered that I was carrying unwelcome passengers, namely two ticks, my first ever. Fortunately, I had with me the wherewithal to deal with them. They are not nice.

Looking back to Kings House

The road just north of Kings House

Old Military Road north of Devil's Staircase

The long descent into Kinlochleven

I spent a while in Kinlochleven. It reminded me a little of a continental ski resort. I downed a cold pint of milk before moving on. The sun was beating down as I ascended through the woods up to the Old Military Road, also called the Lairigmor. It followed a winding stony path along the northern side of a wide valley.

Looking back at Kinlochleven

Old Military Road north of Kinlochleven

In the heat and difficult underfoot, I found it really hard going. At about four o'clock, I'd had enough. I flopped down by the trailside and slept for maybe twenty minutes. I then had a second lunch.

Suitably powered, I made better progress, still with seven miles to get to the campsite. The first two forests on the map had been felled. The third had not and made perfect evening walking, it having cooled a little. There was then a long descent down a forest road into Glen Nevis with clear views of Ben Nevis. A very tough day.

Heading towards Ben Nevis

Fort William in the distance

Carn Dearg

Ben Nevis

Friday, 29 May 2009

Camp at Kings House Hotel

Day 55 Friday - Tyndrum to Kings House Hotel

Walking 10.45am to 7.20pm
Distance walked today 18 miles
Total distance walked 811 miles
Distance left 241 miles

I was waiting for a resupply parcel to arrive this morning so went into the tiny village - more of a "truck stop" really. I'm sure it wouldn't be what it is but for the West Highland Way. After buying food supplies for two days, I went into the Green Wellie Stop for a full Scottish to set me up for the day.

The postman hadn't delivered my parcel so I left without it. The Way heads north with the single track railway line on the left and then the road. After a mile or so, heard my name called only to see the owner of the By the Way Hostel & Campsite on the road brandishing my parcel - the postman had discovered it in his van and delivered it.

Just north of Tyndrum

Today's weather was superb - clear blue sky and very warm. It showed the Highland scenery off to perfection. Really, the West Highland Way is nothing until this point as far as scenery is concerned.

It was impossible to get lost - there was only one way to go. Almost a case of following the crowd as there were quite a number of Way walkers. All I had to was put one foot in front of the other and take it all in.

I stopped for a refreshing pint of Deuchars IPA at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel.

River Orchy behind Bridge of Orchy Hotel

Loch Tulla

Inveroran Hotel

I then had eleven miles to do to reach Kings House Hotel along an old military road. It was quite hard on the feet. I'm camped with many others, next to the River Etive. It's an official no facilities site belonging to the hotel.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Day 54 Thursday - Rowardennan to Tyndrum

Walking 5.15am to 7.40pm
Distance walked today 22 miles
Total distance walked 793 miles
Distance left 259 miles

The bug nest certainly was effective last night; I slept peacefully but there were hordes of the little critters outside this morning, furious that they couldn't get at their meal, i.e. me.

The first ten miles were alongside Loch Lomond, very easy and on a stony tree- lined track with a steep slope down to the loch on the left and a steep wooded slope up on the right.

Loch Lomond in the early morning mist

Waterfall behind Rowardennan Hotel

However, after three miles it narrowed to a single file path cut into the hillside and was very rocky. I picked my way through but it really became tedious. The views of the loch were good at times but the cloud didn't lift and it came on to rain. Light rain and drizzle continued for much of the day.

Reg and Geert caught up with me at Inverarnan while I was enjoying a pot of tea in the bar. Although only two o'clock, they'd finished for the day.

Reg and Geert

I had a further ten miles to do as I wanted to get to Tyndrum. I set off at 2.45. It was head down all the way. My longest day yet by a mile.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Day 53 Wednesday - Drymen to Rowardennan

Walking 8.30am to 4.30pm
Distance walked today 14 miles
Total distance walked 771 miles
Distance left 281 miles

I went into Drymen to buy supplies for today. Reg and Geert decided to road walk. I set out alone out of the village on the Rob Roy Way up to Garadhban Forest to join the West Highland Way. It rained on and off but not too bad. Before Conic Hill, I dropped down to the road - I couldn't see the point of hill climbing for the sake of it.

The Way then followed alongside Loch Lomond for the rest of the day, much of it in woodland - very pleasant.

I'm camped in woodland not far from the loch. It's quite midgy so I've got the bug nest set up. Madness would be the result if I didn't have it.

Day 52 Tuesday - Kilsyth to Drymen

Walking 9.15am to 5.15pm
Distance walked today 20 miles
Total distance walked 757 miles
Distance left 295 miles

After a good breakfast, Norrie dropped me off in Kilsyth where I met up with Reg and Geert. Norrie's generosity to me has been overwhelming and I'm very grateful.

Me and Norrie

We walked out of the town along the A803, passing through Queenzieburn on the way to Milton of Campsie where a very nice deli provided lunch to take away. Here, we joined the route of an old railway which has been hard surfaced in parts as a leisure trail. There's not a lot to be said about it. Parts of it were through woodland and parts between fields. Very easy going.

The trail diverted up to the A891 at Strathblane and then, about fifty yards down the A80, it went through a small housing development before continuing through more woodland. It was very muddy.

Near Dumgoyach Farm, we joined the West Highland Way and this took us along more of the old railway route. Reg and Geert then left to go to a B&B in Croftamie and I continued on to Easter Drumquhassle Farm, just outside Drymen, to a campsite. Torrential rain during the evening.

Day 51 Monday - Beecraigs Country Park to Kilsyth

Walking 6.45am to 4.00pm
Distance walked today 21 miles
Total distance walked 737 miles
Distance left 315 miles

An unexpected pleasure last evening. Having had a meal in the restaurant, I was invited over to the only other tent on the site. Gayle, Katie & Donna were boiling water for tea and we spent an enjoyable half hour talking before I turned in for the night. They were camping just for one night, checking out their kit for the "T in the Park" festival.

It was an easy walk down to the outskirts of Linlithgow to the towpath of the Forth & Clyde Canal. I was to follow this all day.

A mile or so along the route, I met a "trail angel" (see Norrie is a keen backpacker, lives in Linlithgow and was full of questions about the walk. One important question he asked was whether I'd had breakfast and mentioned the possibility of a bacon roll and coffee.

An hour later, after I was thinking that I'd dreamt about the encounter, he appeared again and, in a picnic area, produced a bacon roll (with HP sauce) and a cafétiere of coffee perched on the roof of his car! Amazing.

There followed an offer for me to be picked up at the end of the day's walking, ferried back to his home in Linlithgow for a meal and a bed and then deposited back on the trail tomorrow morning. My pack was left in his car so I walked today with just food, a bit of water and waterproof.

I stopped off to see the spectacle of the Falkirk Wheel in operation - well worth the visit.

The canal walking was nice and undemanding with a few locks to be seen but very few boats.
A lot of people were using the towpath for walking and cycling.

I heard that Reg & Geert (see earlier postings for Devon and Gloucestershire) were in Kilsyth and gave Reg a call. I shall probably meet up with them tomorrow morning. Vinnie is at least a day behind me.

I've had a really good evening at Norrie's home in Linlithgow, meeting his partner, Alison. We've taken his neighbour's boisterous dog for a walk in the rain around Loch Linlithgow to see the ruined palace where Mary, Queen of Scots was born.