Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit – 15.9 miles (927.4 total)
When I walked this section 15 years ago, in my memory it was one of the less demanding days on the Great Glen Way. We finished the walk in time to watch the Scottish Cup Final (football) on television in a social club in Drumnadrochit, so we must have been there by 2.30pm. Today’s experience, however, couldn’t have been more testing. There are 2 main reasons for that: the amount of ascent involved and the weather.
If it is to be believed, my GPS gave my total ascent as over 4,000 feet today. I had 2 fairly steep climbs to endure, the second one taking me to a height of about 1,000 feet. There was also a diversion near the beginning of my walk which added length and height to the day. In the afternoon I had a further road climb before a steep descent into Drumnadrochit. Hardly any of the forest walking is level, the path constantly going up and down.
What can I say about the weather? For the second day running I expected rain, still, high temperatures, but, at the very least, showers. Yet again, it stayed dry and warm all day. Today though wasn’t just hot, it was extremely humid with not a breath of wind to offer any relief. The sunglasses that I had carefully wrapped up and packed away had to be unpacked before I started walking. My gortex walking jacket, that I had handily placed at the top of my bag, once more didn’t see the light of day. By the time I had completed the first steep climb out of Invermoriston my shirt was wringing wet – as if I’d fallen in Loch Ness. For most of the walk I was bathed in sweat, my eyes were stinging with the salt, my sunglasses were slipping down my nose, making me worried that they might fall on the ground where I might inadvertently tramp on them. I don’t remember ever walking in conditions as humid and oppressive as those I encountered today.
My water bottle was filled, but, from early on, it was obvious it was going to run out. I knew there was a tearoom of sorts at The Pottery, 9 miles into the walk at Grotaig so it was critical that I didn’t go past it. Of course, it was hidden out of sight and I had to double back to locate it. It was pretty basic, a converted byre, like somebody’s old kitchen – but it was, for the umpteenth time on this journey, an oasis for me. One can of ginger beer plus a glass with 2 ice cubes, one extra glass of water, one fill up of my empty water bottle and I was ready to complete my walk.
Despite the climbs today, I had very few sightings of Loch Ness, or anything else, to be honest… other than trees. Now, trees are fine, maybe even beautiful to some people, but you kind of get the feeling that when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Much more impressively, the forest paths were lined with gorse bushes and broom bushes, both in full bloom in similar shades of yellow. Their perfumed aroma and bright colour, although not exclusively Scottish, cheered this wilting walker up on his tramp today.
After Grotaig the remainder of the walk was country road all the way to Drumnadrochit. Strictly speaking, the last part of the GGW was a path following the River Coiltie but I continued on the road to rejoin the GGW, before crossing the inevitable bridge into Drumnadrochit.
I met very few fellow walkers today but I must mention the first one of the day. It was at the top of the second climb and he was coming in the other direction. I had just reached the top, thinking the ascent would never end and he was obviously thinking the same thing, coming from his side. I would guess he was the same age as me, perhaps slightly older, and just as weatherbeaten. We got talking, as you do, and exchanged details of our journeys. He was walking from Dover to Dunbar (I think he said), but in a roundabout route, staying in hostels and bothies. He was on Day 59, I am on Day 60. I have printouts of my route and a GPS to navigate with, he had a compass round his neck which he says he has only used 6 times. What a wimp I feel. His accent was Antipodean, possibly New Zealand, but I can’t be sure. We only chatted for 10 minutes but he was shaking my hand when we parted as if we’d been friends all our life. I could never be brave enough (or confident enough) to attempt his epic task, but it was nice to feel that we had a little bit of something in common.
Tomorrow there really is a strong chance of rain. It is also the last section of the Great Glen Way, a long walk to Inverness. Elizabeth is coming up to meet me and I’ll take a day off (Sunday) before starting the final assault on John o’Groats.