Monday, 19 November 2012

The Great Glen Way. Pt 1

(You can consider this a feature length blog post, recently a group of us walked the length of the Great Glen from Fort William to Inverness, what happened is chronicled below. The usual caveats apply, if you choose to read it, you won't get the time back. Thanks and good luck.)

The Great Glen Way.

In terms of things to do, if you had choose, it would be quite reasonable not to pick as an activity walking from Fort William to Inverness, especially in October with young people who don't have credit cards allowing them access to hotels, quaint little B&B's and other civilising perks of modern day living (like pubs and restaurants.) Never-the-less here we are, sitting in a Hobbit Microcabin over-looking Loch Ness. The fan heater is on, it’s now uncomfortably warm, since the cabin is barrel shaped and of wooden construction its a bit like sitting in a sauna.

There are nine of us, four adults and five youths aged 16 and 17. We started the walk four days ago and have so far covered forty of the seventy five mile route. I say we, I mean they, I've only walked about twenty, I've driven about one hundred and twenty miles looking for wild campsites and cheap indoor accommodation, in my defence, I walked it last year in April in driving snow, I didn't camp out mind, I was on my own or at least, accompanied by my credit card which allowed me access to hotels and quaint little B&B's, at least the ones that were open out of season. I did carry a tent but only for emergencies, camping is a loathsome activity especially in winter, hiking tents are also loathsome. For me, they're a bit like swimming pools, which is to say, there is no gainly way to get out of either thing, be it arse or head first, getting out of a hike tent after having gotten dressed lying down is, as they say, for dicks.

Getting in to a mild claustrophobic panic because you're unknowingly trying to thrust your legs into the sleeves of a jumper and getting no where, you can't stand up and if you roll onto your stomach you're pretty much doomed because there isn't enough space to spread your arms out to right yourself, it really is deeply unpleasant. It goes without saying, its either too cold or too busy to get dressed outside, my body is not for public consumption and frankly, my fragile ego wouldn't withstand the disapproving looks from other walkers, resplendent in their multi-zipped activity trousers, walking poles and technical backpacks, I find these people, full of vim and energy, deeply suspicious, if you want my opinion (and I know you don't,) I think they're using performance enhancing Kendal Mint Cake, when I'm out in the country, I look like shit, while they always look fresh and ready for anything, even when exiting their prissy little tents.

The Great Glen Way follows the route of the Caledonian Canal for the most part, it’s actually a pretty good walk to do, although I'd recommend cycling the canal tow path sections as they become a wee bit boring after a while on foot. You can also buy keys to the British Waterways toilet blocks situated at the various locks along the canal, I never knew these things existed or one could gain access, I thought you had to be a yachting type to qualify. You can get keys from the Lock Master's Office at Fort William (in Corpach) or at the Inverness end. These really are a hidden gem, drying facilities, hot showers in really very clean and crucially for us, warm buildings. One tip, they have an odd charging regime, the lady in the lock master's office asked how many of us were walking, I told her nine. She said, normally, I'd have to buy nine keys at £5 a pop but on this occasion she'd cap it at three, which was nice of her. So, if you're going to go and there are lots of you; tell a wee fib and save some money.

When it comes to walking, we're not purists, we don't set out to walk every inch of the route we've chosen, last year we did the West Highland Way, 98 miles from Milngavie to Fort William, on the second day we used a bus, two taxis and two speed boats. We set out to do it all on foot but it just didn't work out that way, these things are supposed to be a fun challenge, we did carry full kit for that walk and it proved to be to much for some of the smaller group members, as far as I'm concerned, its not fair to send folk home because their shoulders aren't as broad or legs not so sturdy, basically we made do, the challenge became slightly different but no less of a challenging; getting everyone to the finish line at roughly the same time. No one walked less than 80 miles (and half of that with full kit) as far as I can see, that’s pretty good going for a novice group.

And so it has been for the Great Glen Way, the young folk have been walking with day bags while the three drivers have been darting hither and thither in cars filled with rucksacks and food. I won't even try to explain what we've done and will be doing with cars, I find it hard to understand myself, we've been trying to plan ahead, leaving vehicles where we can then walking back to meet the walkers.

Our first night was spent at Gairlochy on a British Waterways campsite, and I have to say, even although it was wet and cold, it was a lovely campsite. With a fire pit and picnic table plus extremely tame ducks for entertainment; all we needed for a pleasant time was some warmth. We tried to light a fire, I say we, I mean me and failed miserably, the wood was wet and we had no petrol. I know, I'm a scout leader type so should know how to light fires, I do; just not when the fuel is soaking wet, you don't think Bear Grills mucks about with wet wood do you? No, he goes to a hotel with his film crew. We had no hotel so basically huddled together round the picnic table for heat. This campsite as mentioned, had toilets, showers and drying facilities, we were far to proud to go and huddled round the tumble dryer and no one had a pound coin anyway, but it was handy to have it, even if it was about as far away as it could get and still remain in the canal lock area, a theme that was to repeat at the other British Waterway sites.

Go to Pt 2

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Thanks for comment as always and I apologise if you have to jump through any hoops to do so. Its just that, I'm still being spammed by organisations who are certain I can't get it up or when it is up its not big enough or that I don't have anyone to get it up for.

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