Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Great Glen Way Day05 - Fort Augustus to Laggan Locks

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 08 October 2013
Walkers - Steve Smith, Gina Smith, Joss Johnson
Accommodation - Abbey Cottage B&B - Fort Augustus
Start Point - Fort Augustus, Abbey Cottage B&B - Fort Augustus (NH 37944 09121)
Start Time - 09:46
Finish Point - Laggan Locks (NN 28616 96296)
Finish Time - 15:31
Duration - 5hrs 45mins
Average pace - 1.91mph
Distance Walked - 11.00miles
Height Ascended - 177.95metres

Peaks visited

Nearly 4 miles further to walk than yesterday but with only 163m of planned ascent can still be considered easier than the first two days, especially as the rain had cleared, replaced by bright skies and periods of weak sunshine breaking through the blanket of cloud.
In addition it was this leg of The Great Glen Way, albeit in reverse from Laggan Locks to Fort Augustus, we all walked together last November 2012, hence no doubt in anyones mind about what we could expect from the day ahead. Whilst I have considered completing many of the UK long distance walks at some time, I can look back on this day last year as my inspiration to return for this end to end attempt. I also think it is fair to say Joss and Gina felt if the whole walk was like this they would quite fancy it as well.
As it turns out, the whole walk is not like this leg, however because we are walking the
route west to east, the opposite direction to convention, the more remote hillier parts of the route have already been completed and therefore the easier flatter days are ahead.

Caledonian Canal towards Kytra Lock
near Eilean Floda
Because we were setting off from our accommodation base there did not seem any urgency to prepare for an early start. As a result we did not start any sooner than we had on previous days when a taxi transfer was required to get us to the walk starting point.
One bonus however was freshly made sandwiches and home made Scotch Pie from the butcher DJ MacDougal next door to The Lock Inn, scene of a great evenings food and entertainment the night before. Sandwiches packed we returned to the swing bridge and started the days walk by ascending the steps past the five lock gates in Fort Augustus, the major part of the days ascent. While a boat passed downhill from the Fort William direction I chatted with the Lock keeper, he told me it took about 90 minutes to pass through all 5 locks, quite labour intensive I thought and at a charge of £18.00 per metre for a 7 day pass for the whole canal seemed pretty good value.
Kytra Locks gets prettier
the closer you get

The rest of the mornings walk would be characterised by level walking on tow paths along the banks of The Caledonian Canal. So without any  worries about navigation the map could stay packed safely in my pocket, leaving us all the time we needed to enjoy the scenery, photography and hints of high peaks ahead as we headed west. 
The first checkpoint was Kytra Locks, marked as Kyltra on the OS Explorer map. I remembered these from last year as having a chocolate box feel even though it was pouring with rain. But today from the first distant glimpse just seemed to get prettier the closer we approached.

After the locks we returned to tow path walking and similar scenery, the difference being
Oich cantilever bridge
the autumn colours seemed so much more vivid. Once again the tow path was punctuated by some pretty locks, this time our second checkpoint at Cullochy. 

By the time we left Cullochy it was nearly mid day and could see the swing bridge
carrying the A82 near Aberchalder so decided the picnic bench we found last year would be a good place to have lunch. But first we took a small detour to visit the innovative (for its time) double cantilever Bridge of Oich, built in 1849 and continued in use until it was bypassed by the present bridge in 1932. It has now been restored by Historic Scotland.

Old cottage near Leitirfearn
With lunch all sorted, we set off towards Loch Oich and after skirting the northern shore crossed the old railway bridge across the Calder Burn. From the bridge the first part of this section of The Great Glen Way follows the old track bed for a short distance then somehow manages to swap and follow the route of General Wades Military Road dropping to the shore of Loch Oich near Ceum na h-Inghinn. Look out for the Crannog Eilean Drynachan with its red navigation post before reaching the cottage at Leitirfearn. I had presumed it was an old railway cottage but further internet research suggests it is an abandoned 18th century byre where the occupants shared the dwellings with their animals. Other than the cottage there is lots of evidence of the route the railway followed above, including a drainage aqueduct and bridges. Don't spend too much time looking out for railway memorabilia, or if you do, take extra care under foot, tree roots growing through the path surface may trip you up.

Invergarry Castle
Continuing along the military road past Invergarry Castle on the shore opposite, the path turns left and up hill to pick up the old railway track bed. From here it is a case of following the path through woods all the way to Invergarry Station. The site is being restored and after clearing the old passenger subway and track beds either side of the platform there was evidence of the massive trees that had grown out of the platform being prepared for removal. More information about the restoration is available here.
Invergarry Station
Next to the station and sharing an access road is a log cabin holiday park. The road leads to the A82 at Laggan and a possible end point for the days walking. This was never an option on our plan and we had already contacted Great Glen Travel to meet us at Laggan Locks. It was an extra 50 minutes willingly walked on the basis that 1½ miles walked today would be 1½ miles we would not have to walk tomorrow.

More Photographs

Kytra Locks just gets prettier the closer you get
Click on photograph to view slide-show

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