Friday, 20 June 2014

Aberchalder to Invermoriston

Old bridge over River Oich
After an excellent breakfast Neville took us back from Drynachan to the swing bridge at Aberchalder where we had finished the previous evening. This is a picturesque place, with the old bridge over the River Oiche and a vista over the mountains to the East.

The Great Glen Way then follows the West bank of the Caledonian Canal all the way to Fort Augustus. It runs on the old towpath with the canal to the left and the River Oich to the right. The river starts with rapids as it runs out of Loch Oich, and drops steadily as it flows into Loch Ness at Fort Augustus. Most of the time it is screened by trees, but there are occasional glimpses of the river. It looks like good salmon water.

Shortly after starting long he towpath we met a Scot walking towards us, and stopped for a chat. His T-shirt mentioned some expedition involving Munros; on enquiry he said hat he’d done them all. I think they now number 283, so it’s an impressive achievement. Particularly in his case, I felt: he was short and stocky, not the sort of lean and fit character I’d associate with hill walking – or mountaineering, for that matter. After all some of the Munros require real rock climbing, and walking along narrow ledges where a slip could prove fatal. I think it’s a little late for me to start on them now! I’ve managed Cairn Gorm, but only from the cable car station, so even that doesn’t really count.

The flight of locks at Fort Augustus, carrying the
Caledonian Canal down to Loch Ness
It’s all easy walking for the five miles to Fort Augustus. It’s quite attractive, and the canal at Kyltra Lock, half way along this stretch, is especially so. It goes through an old loch, and then along a stretch with modest hills on the far side, before the final bit as you approach the town with its golf course on the far bank.

Fort Augustus is built on either side of the flight of locks that drops the canal down to the level of Loch Ness. It’s not as famous as Neptune’s Staircase at the other end of the Caledonian Canal, but I think it’s actually rather more attractive. We stopped there for coffees and to buy sandwiches for lunch later.

Alan, Rosemary and Tom in front of the
Loch Ness Monster
It was then time to head into the woods. After skirting the Northern end of Fort Augustus the Way climbs through woodland to reach a track that runs along the shoulder of the hills above Loch Ness. This is generally between the 60 and 100m contours, but undulates to some degree, and is slightly higher before the drop down into Invermoriston. For the most part it’s heavily wooded so that you cannot see the Loch, but there are a couple of areas of clear fell where there are excellent views. The Loch is over twenty miles long, with steep sides, so it’s an impressive area for views. It could have done with more sun to light up the views, though.

How to keep midges out of your lunch
We stopped after an hour or so to eat our sandwiches. Midges found us immediately. Rosemary is particularly wary of them, so it was on with her anti-midge hat which sports a full veil. It’s not the easiest apparel for eating a sandwich, but she managed it somehow. Alan and I stuck it out: perhaps we aren’t as sweet.

When ever I stopped to take a photograph I’d find myself 20 metres or so behind Alan and Rosemary. It could also happen as we were walking along. Their natural walking pace is marginally faster than mine, so I seemed destined to drop behind when we were not actually engaged in conversation. Their rears become familiar sights!

One of the areas of clear felling was recent, and though nobody was working as we went past there was still a range of heavy equipment in place. There were huge piles of logs waiting to be transported, marked with their lengths and indicating whether they were for pulping or for timber. Fortunately we didn’t encounter any logging trucks, so it was a peaceful if rather desolate scene.

The track carries on past the point where the descent to Invermoriston would be shortest, so we had to carry on for another half mile or so before we were offered a descent. This was through an older area of clear fell, and meant that we had to walk back to the main road – still the A82 – to cross the river into the village.

On the old bridge at Invermoriston
There is a very picturesque old bridge just above the main road bridge, where both cross a series of falls and rapids on the River Moriston. So it was a short rest and photography stop before the final half mile into the centre of Invermoriston. Not that it’s much of a place – a few houses, and a hotel and a very basic village store at the junction of the A82 and the road that leads to the Isle of Skye.

The B&B, strangely named Craik na Dav, involved a short climb out of the village, and the two sisters who run it welcomed us with tea and cake. So it was a shower, rest, and then a trip back down to the hotel for dinner. This was rather better than the previous day, fortunately.

Cloudy with occasional sunny spells. A little rain early afternoon. 15-19C. Easy going on canal path and good tracks; minor road walking in Fort Augustus. Max altitude 120m, minimum 15m. 20.1 km. 302m of ascents, 315m descents. Midge factor 1; briefly 2 at lunch time.

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