Monday, 19 November 2012

The Great Glen Way Pt 3

The walk between Laggan and Fort Augustus is a pleasant one, it’s completely flat following as it does the canal for a spell then the banks of Loch Oich then a bit more canal into Fort Augustus, the total distance is about ten miles.

I and another leader had driven on to find a camp site for the third night (opting to be indoors later in the week due to colder weather being forecast.) We managed to find a wild campsite about a mile and half beyond Fort Augustus, no picnic table or ducks but enough flat ground to pitch tents and an old fire circle, we weren’t the first to camp here it seemed. The ground was soft and mossy, although if it rained we’d probably all end up needing a life boat but there wasn’t much choice, it did turn out to be a decent camp site, if a little noise due to forestry trucks thundering by 15 metres away on the forestry road.

The days walk however was good, I walked this section last year from Fort Augustus to Laggan and found it to be very nice indeed, the canal tow path was still quite novel coming from Inverness (you don’t use any canal tow path between the outskirts of Inverness and Fort Augustus.) If you’re walking from Fort William though, it gets a bit boring. With that in mind we decided to chance our arm a little, we met up with the rest of the group just past Kytra Lock about two miles West of Fort Augustus and had some lunch. While sitting there we were joined by the Fingal of Caledonia, the 39 metre 190 ton barge-cum-hotel (and one of the other purveyors of booze on the canal if you happened to be a paying customer.)

I suppose it was actually bad timing, although not for us. Davey, the barge skipper seemed friendly and possibly amiable enough to let us onboard for a wee boat trip along the last two miles to Fort Augustus. I sent up one of our more attractive members to enquire but he wasn’t assertive enough, this is the problem with the youth of today, so easily fobbed off. Not so with me however, not being overly concerned with walking every inch of the Great Glen Way, I begged & simpered for us to be let aboard, I said it would add to our experience and in any case, we’re scouts… After securing agreement from the guy who was leading the coast-to-coasters, who’d just arrived, Davey invited us all aboard. I think this is where the timing was an issue, as we climbed aboard (Michael, one of the leader team fairly threw himself aboard landing on his face) the people who were actually paying to have the boat shadow them along the route got a bit voluble about this new arrangement, I don’t really blame them, basically there they were walking while we pinched their (probably quite expensive) ride.

We were told not to go downstairs into the body of the boat which seemed fair enough, the sun was out so the conditions were perfect for a short cruise on deck. Davey invited us into the wheel house and allowed me to take the wheel which was as interesting as it was disconcerting. He said not even the paying customers got to do this, I know some folk buy fast cars to make up for other imagined (or real) short comings, what you really want is a 100mtr barge and a slender canal in which to insert it. We didn’t crash and Davey said my skills were not inconsiderable, even although we were only doing about 5mph, you’d have to be spectacularly slow witted to crash, not even I fill that criteria. That said, with no way of knowing if the wheel was centred it took constant concentration and small corrections to keep the boat in the middle of the canal.

It’s for this type of thing we do these daft walking trips, last year on the West highland Way, we hired two random guys who were sitting the Rowerdennan Hotel bar (who may have been slightly inebriated) to transport some of us down Loch Lomond to Inversnaid. They claimed to have boats, what we got was a tiny wee speed boat; you could have had a moderately spacious bath in it. They crammed bags and bodies on board (I forget who all went on the boat) I sent my pal Sheridan with them because I know he’s a strong swimmer and could take the blame if things went wrong, (I’m joking, I take these things very seriously indeed, your honour…) We watched as this tiny overloaded craft nosed its way out onto Loch Lomond and wondered if we’d ever see them alive again, we did of course, after the other guy had to go out in his considerably larger speed boat to rescue the bathtub because it ran out of fuel.

Anyway the point I’m trying to make (with out incriminating myself on grounds of negligence) is that we like to mix things up a wee bit, it’s more about the journey than some purist walking experience. With that in mind, we can’t thank Davey and the Fingal Cruise crowd enough for giving us a new experience and added quirk to our week.

So it was that we hove to (oh the nautical banter) at Fort Augustus with the eminently more capable Davey at the wheel, we said our good byes, although we bumped into each other several times over the next few days, and wandered into FA to get some fish and chips.

FA is handy; it’s about bang in the middle distance wise and a good place to resupply if you’re walking unaided. We reloaded our water supply and bought food as required for the next couple of days. We’d been living on a mixture of boil in the bag and dried foods (the dreaded pot or super noodle options.) If you are walking unaided or with a youth group as we were, its important to know that there are no shops between Neptune’s Ladder (4 miles in) and FA (34 miles in,) there is the floating pub at Laggan which is fine for beer and a burger (and not overly expensive either) but if you are cooking your own, you need to carry it in from the start point. Like us, if you have no shame, you can just leave your young charges outside in the cold while you sit inside and push food and beer into your face as we did, (and horrible it was too…)

There are hotels, B&B’s and plenty pubs to choose from, the chip shop is good as well, everything is cooked from fresh, the wait is well worth it and if your order is big enough, he won’t charge for the sauce sachets, (it’s the little things.)

If you elected to purchase a key to the canal toilets, they are at the top of the lock complex outside of town, there is no campsite here though, I can understand the local hostelries and B&B’s would prefer walkers were directed to their establishments, but it would be helpful if they were actually open. Last year I stayed in a B&B called the Abbey, ran by a gay couple (there’s a sitcom in there somewhere.) In the morning I had a Dutch Bouncer for breakfast which was nice, and then I had some thing to eat. I’m joking, the Dutch Bouncer was my breakfast, no really, it’s a Dutch thing obviously, not a brawny nightclub doorman from the Netherlands on his holidays. (I don’t think there was any brawny Dutchmen there at all, there were some brawny looking shinty players in the pub the night before right enough, but they weren’t on the breakfast menu at the B&B.)

I digress, basically this is (or was) a dish served at chucking out time in Dutch pubs and nightclubs, essentially a couple of slices of white bread with a slice of ham and cheese toped with fried eggs. I have to say, this is much more agreeable way to be informed of the impending closure of the pub or club you’re awarding your custom to rather than being told by a thick-necked twat in a puffa jacket to fuck off.

Alas, no Bouncers this time round, we were camping out this evening. I took my car and the gear to the campsite we’d found while the others walked the short distance from FA, I was going to have a wee nap in the car but decided to put their tents up instead on account of them being a bit wet from the previous night. The site we’d found was just off the A82, there is a forestry car park with an unpronounceable Gaelic name (Allt Na Criche) through which the Great Glen Way passes, the site we found was about a quarter of mile further on. While exploring earlier in the day we got caught by a forestry worker, sometimes they don’t like folk driving their cars on forestry roads and there are signs posted saying not to, although I tend to ignore them. I drive a green four wheel drive (now with a bloody great big dent in the side) which looks like a forestry vehicle anyway; I managed to blag my way past him by behaving as if I belonged there. He gave us some directions to a forestry office so we could ask about camp sites but we didn’t bother, sometimes asking elicits a no.

Go to Pt 4


  1. Oh you are a devil... "sometimes asking elicits a no"

  2. I'm thinking of asking the Scout Movement to add it to their list of Scout laws, probably just after 'A Scout is a member of the world family of Scouting." (It used to be "A scout is a brother to all other scouts" but that precluded girls and were completely mixed now.)


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.

Who knew blogging could be so bad for ones self-confidence?