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The Highland Canal. nessie1

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28th March 2017.

 The legs are strong the feet are fit, it's time for another adventure. 

The flights are still cheap if we return from Glasgow, sounds too good to miss. 

We took the train from Glasgow to Fort William. This is the train ride of a lifetime for us. As the train climbs higher and higher it seems to struggle as it reaches the summit. The gorges and lakes deep below, the snow capped mountains on either side seem touchable. The views are incredible, then we stop at a station in the middle of nowhere, low and behold someone gets off, is John Boy Walton about to arrive with the mule and cart to pick up Mary Ellen?? 

If we just came for the train ride we would be happy.

We've been to Fort William in the Camper Van in the Summer of 2006. On that occassion we climbed Ben Nevis, a memorable climb. 

This time it has a Scandinavian feeling just as the snow is disappearing. We found our Hostel, at the back of the town, and we reminisced and we walked through the streets. 

After a good sleep we are excited to get started on our Adventure. 

 

IMG 20170329 071648IMG 20170329 073223It is a beautiful morning as we walk down past the train station, the River had flooded it's banks so we had to divert through the streets. Ben Nevis over looked the town as we began our walk. For several hours it towered above us keeping a watchful eye.

 

 

 

 

IMG 20170329 082452IMG 20170329 083612The Caledonian Canal joins the Rivers and Lochs as  part of The Great Glen Way eventually joining up with Lough Ness.

 A short distance along the way Neptune's Staircase stretches out above us. It is a flight of eight Locks designed by Thomas Telford and opened in 1847 and takes 90 mins for a boat to pass through. Thankfully it only took us about 9 mins. Coincidentally we both grew up in the Fingal area of north county Dublin. Further along as we were looking over an Aqueduct to the River below,  we spotted a Dipper fishing for it's dinner. It was our first time to see a Dipper. We had to drag ourselves away. Just a little further and we approached the Moy Swing Bridge.

IMG 20170329 101649IMG 20170329 102015This is a Cast Iron Bridge and the only operating Swing Bridge still using man power. The operator suggested we stick around a while as there would be a Cruiser along soon. He offered us tea while we waited. As the Boat appeared he turned a handle which opened one side, then he got into a small craft with an outboard motor and crossed to the other side to open it. Good to be in the right place at the right time. At the end of the stage it was a long hot walk to our accommodation from Gairlochy to Spean Bridge but it is a remote village and worth the walk.

IMG 20170329 090059IMG 20170330 092504The next days walk was along the shore of Loch Lochy, through a magical woodland. Who's there ? there is recently filled bird feeders everywhere.

There are also several reminders of soldiers training grounds here in this remote place. Concrete stands and information plaques mark the spot. Then there is a long forestry walk, we were taking time out when we met two walkers, they seemed tired but determined to reach their destination, Gairlochy. 

 

Our destination is Laggan, we now know that there is another Laggan, in a different direction. Luckily we received an email before we left home frrom our accommodation of the Dinner Menu, and through our communication we became aware that this Laggan is 30km from the Great Glen Way. We found last minute accommodation in Invergarry on the Link Route.

 

 

 

 

IMG 20170330 144447IMG 20170330 144547We came upon the Well of the Seven Heads, representing seven who were accused of murder and whose severed heads were washed here before being presented to his Majesty. We were lucky to escape with ours. 

 

We rejoined the walk next morning at Loch Oich Bridge. 

From here the Canal widens and we walk through a Pine woodland with Giant Red Woods, magnificent trees, their bark has a surprisingly spongy texture. Later we come across the remnants of old Railway lines from World War Two. We pass two canoes with possibly first time paddlers at the helm. We greet them as rain begins to fall. 

 The Canal leads into Fort Augustus with a decending flight of Locks. 

IMG 20170331 125933IMG 20170331 120421Fort Augustus is a very small but touristic town as the Caledonian Canal merges with the World famous Loch Ness, home to the Loch Ness Monster  !!!!!!!! 

We are in search of the Friday treat and we found just the right coffe shop to fit the bill, chocolate cake and mango cheesecake☕ with hot chocolate,

              Sheer indulgence on a wet Friday, worth walking for. After a stroll, and a good meal in our small but perfect Hotel, sleep came easily.  dry sunny morning followed the torrential rain of the previous day. Sun is what we have become accustomed to on this walk. Soon we are high above the Lake. No sign of Nessie yet perhaps he likes a lie in on a Saturday. We see the canoes from yestsrday and are surprised that they have decided to take on this lake. We keep a watchfull eye on them each time that there is a clearing in the trees. We lost sight of them for a while and became a little anxious when we heard a boat coming at speed. Soon we could see them again and also many boats big and small heading in both directions. A glance was cast from time to time for the possibility of a creature from the deep. As we climbed we lost sight of the canoes and the Lake. 

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It was a steep decent to Invermoriston. This is a magical place with this Telford Stone Bridge across the River Moriston and a woodland with ancient walkways, there is a strong feeling of being part of it, all IS one. 

Our home for the night really does feel homely, as we are welcomed by two sisters who love what they do. They gave us lots of their time, the most valuable gift, and provided us with a wee dram as a nightcap in our room. We talked a lot about wildlife and we watched the red squirrels and numerous birds including the red legged grouse and the great spotted woodpecker as they visited the garden and feeders provided. It was our first time to see both of these birds.

The breakfast menu was extensive and I just couldn't resist ordering the kippers as it's been ages. As we bade farewell we were undecided to taks the high or low route. When we came to divide on the track the decision was taken out of our hands as the high route was closed for bird nesting season. We passed through a walker counting device, and came upon a small stone cave. Time out time for fruit, our hosts had given to us to take on our journey. Further along Alltsigh bridge is said to be where the last she wolf was killed in Scotland, what a pity! Primroses line the path and remind us that the nature knows that it's Springtime, man can't kill everything. 

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Nature too provides us with drinking water for remainder of the day, But man thankfully provided the safety rope and the steps to get to it. Pity about the litter. A woodland walk took us down into Drumnadrochit. This is a small town with all things "Nessie". We soon found our lodgings and as we had already eaten we settled in for a good nights rest as we hoped to reach Inverness by the end of the next day. 

As we left the town the next morning we soon saw Urquhart Castle across the bay, before we entered a woodland. In the stillness of the morning it seemed as if we were alone on the dry path meandering through the mature woods, when suddenly a lone deer silently leeped across our path. It was breathtaking and we stood motionless for some moments. 

A while later we were again looking down on the Loch, as we reached the highest point of the The Great Glen Way the Cairngorm mountains across the Lake came into view. 

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Like Alice through the looking glass, but now it was through a gate we were enchanted by a young wooded area with painted signs enticing us away from the path.  How could we resist? there are signs for Bovril, Hot Chocolate, etc. Who lives here, it must be someone special to live out here. Just as we imagined, like ourselves two people living off grid and as self sufficiently as possible, and planted trees here fifteen years ago.

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A very special tea was made for us served with homemade biscuits. Time to move on.  We reluctantly left after an invite to return. For us to meet others who have made the choice to do it their way is encouraging.

IMG 20170403 153525This last day's walk is full of surprises. Is this a mother carrying her young to safety?  the road way was full of frogs. As we turned the corner we met people out walking their dogs and we informed them of the frogs. Inverness came into view and we began to slow our pace to prolong the last of our adventure.

A dog walker stopped to inquire about our walk, we spoke of the frogs as we had never witnessed this before. She told us that it is mating season and that the male is much smaller than the female. Hop off !!! 

Down into Inverness and across the Ness River Bridge through  Ness Island and up the hill to the final marker on the walk.

 

 

 

What a great walk...........

 

 

IMG 20170403 172847dancers

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