The Great Glen Way – A Scenic Trek Through Highland Beauty
By Sarah Bennett
The decision for Paul and I to walk the Great Glen Way was fueled by a sense of nostalgia and cherished memories. For me, the allure of returning to Inverness, a city I had explored years ago and for my dear Mum Fort William held a special place with its majestic mountains.
However, we knew that tackling the renowned West Highland Way might be too ambitious for our abilities, so the Great Glen Way beckoned with its promise of a more manageable yet equally captivating experience. And let’s not forget the icing on the cake – the opportunity to sample some of Scotland’s finest Whiskies along the way.
Leaving our car parked in Inverness we chose to take the bus to Fort William leaving us with a hassle free return after completing the trail. The scenic bus route offered views of breathtaking landscapes giving us glimpses of what was to come over the next seven days.
Day 1: Fort William to Gairlochy
Our day began with a hearty Scottish breakfast, our dining room offered views over Loch Linhe the mountains in the distance set the tone for what we knew would be a day of scenic splendor.
With our appetites satisfied we made our way to explore the remains of Fort William Fort. A place that held historical significance, this fort had played a vital role in shaping Scotland’s past.
With awe inspiring views of Ben Nevis and sister mountains behind us the walk led us along a wooded river bank, we reached the iconic soldiers bridge which was constructed in the 1960’s built by soldiers as a gift to the community. The views from the bridge showcase the beauty of the surrounding landscape.
Continuing our journey we joined the Caledonian canal where the fascinating engineering marvel of Neptune’s staircase captured our attention. As we paused at the café to savour a cup of coffee we were seated with a view of the boats passing through the intricate system of a series of eight interconnected locks creating a blissful interlude to our journey.
Our meandering walk along the canal led us to Gairlochy where our accommodation host greeted us for our arranged transfer to Spean Bridge. Over dinner we reminisced about the highlights of our first day excited about the new experiences that awaited us on day two.
Day 2: Gairlochy to South Laggan
Day two of our adventure led us from Gairlochy to South Laggan. Starting the day with the creamiest Scottish porridge.
Along Loch Lochy forestry track we unraveled the history of the Cameron Clan and World War II commando training which had taken place in the surrounding area. Our highlight was to take a worthwhile one and a half mile detour to the Clan Cameron Museum at Achnacarry, where a small yet informative display enriched our understanding of the past.
The rest of the trail surrounded us with conifer plantations, spruces and birch forests, providing a tranquil experience, occasionally hearing the sounds of the many waterfalls and various forest birds.
Compared to the previous days flat walk, day two’s trail presented a little more undulation. The slight elevation added an enjoyable variety to our journey. Along this section of the route there is a diversion path in place due to Coire Glas hydro scheme, this lead us uphill rewarding us with panoramic views of the Loch.
As we reached the end of Loch Lochy the familiar sight of the Caledonian canal greeting and guiding us to our next destination South Laggan.
Day 3: South Laggan to Fort Augustus
We set out on our journey to Fort Augustus, an uphill diversion in place until the end of 2024 along the Invergarry Link added an additional 2.4 miles to our 10 mile day however this rewarded us with a refreshing stop at The Invergarry Hotel and a spectacular view of the Bridge of Oich. Dating back to the 1850’s the historic structure was originally built to carry the railway across the River Oich, the railway is no more but the bridge still provides panoramic vistas of the surrounding area.
A perfect place to pause for lunch nestled between the tranquil waters of the River Oich and the historic Aberchalder Swing Bridge.
Lupin-lined woodland forests were the tone of the day until we joined up with the canal where we encountered cyclists, boaters and the occasional fellow hiker.
The canal pathway led us to the final Kytra Loch the last before reaching the charming village of Fort Augustus where the canal meets the Mighty Loch Ness.
With a well-deserved drink in hand, we found ourselves a perfect spot to watch the boats gracefully navigate the flights of locks watching the lock keepers and boat crews teamwork, a fabulous end to the day.
Day 4: Fort Augustus to Invermoriston
On this leg of the journey our favourite day was filled with breathtaking views and a touch of mystery as we sought the legendary Nessie on Loch Ness. The eight mile walking day was transformed into an adventure of discovery, where each step revealed the magic of the Scottish Highlands.
Choosing to start the day with a boat trip on Loch Ness, we couldn’t resist the allure of searching for Nessie, the mythical Loch Ness monster. Were we successful? Check out our photo!
Opting for the high route option we were rewarded with forest views with spruces, birches and pink and purple heather. The sights and sounds of cascading waterfalls and calls of birds of prey greeted us along the way.
As we progressed on the high route we stumbled upon a perfect bench with breathtaking views. We couldn’t resist the temptation to stop for lunch this was the Highlands at its finest.
The trail lead us on a steep descent into Invermoriston, we stopped at The Invermoriston Arms for refreshments. The welcoming ambience and friendly faces of fellow travellers added to the charm of this picturesque village.
Day 5: Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit
Day five of our Great Glen Way expedition led us from Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit, choosing the high route we embraced the challenge of seven miles of undulating terrain, rewarded with the stunning sight of the view catcher sculpture made from Caledonian pine and local stone which is designed to highlight the view, a great place to meet fellow walkers.
As we traversed through the forest we encountered a variety of wildlife including the majestic sparrow hawk, deer and the charming red squirrel. As we continued our journey the air was filled with the scent of wild garlic.
After seven miles of the challenging high route we joined the lower route, which we were told was still very undulating and added extra mileage.
As the day drew to a close our walk into Drumnadrochit was a delightful experience where we were greeted with the melodic notes of a bagpiper, an enchanting welcome that set the stage for a memorable evening filled with camaraderie and a few wee drams of Highland goodness.
Day 6: Drumnadrochit to Blackfold
Day six was a journey filled with exciting adventures as we decided to walk the route in reverse. A taxi was going to take us to Blackfold however as we wanted to visit Urquhart Castle in the afternoon our driver suggested dropping us near an eco-café along the Abriachan forest, which made for a seven mile day, leaving us with ample time to explore the castle’s captivating remains.
This mostly downhill forest path was an enjoyable stroll which led us to Temple Pier, a site with historical significance where, in 1952 John Cobb attempted to break the world water speed record. Sadly the endeavor ended in tragedy, but the site holds a poignant reminder of history.
As we continued our journey, we reached a charming harbour where we stopped for lunch watching the picturesque view of the boats on the Loch.
In the afternoon we caught the bus a few miles down the road to visit the beautiful remains of Urquhart Castle, the two hour tour was a journey through time connecting us to the rich heritage of Scotland.
After our castle visit we returned to Drumnadrochit where the sound of bagpipes once again welcomed us. The local pub provided the perfect setting for reflection as we discussed our adventure so far. Feeling both sad and excitement, knowing that we only had one day left before reaching our final destination – Inverness.
Day 7: Blackfold to Inverness
Day seven marked the culmination of our unforgettable Great Glen Way adventure, as we set out from near to Blackfold on the final leg.
After a taxi transfer to where we set off the day before we followed a few miles of tarmac road, eager to reach the familiar beauty of the Caledonian pine forestry track.
As we continued the views of Inverness unfolded before us, a sight that filled us with a sense of accomplishment. Crossing the Caledonian canal one last time, we hopped over the wooded Ness islands in the River Ness, bringing us to our finish line at Inverness Castle, despite its current closure.
With a few selfies to mark our achievement, we raised a celebratory toast before retiring to our final accommodation, ready to explore the enchanting city of Inverness, which did not disappoint.
Our Great Glen Way adventure proved to be a peaceful and tranquil walk, offering a delightful blend of nature’s beauty, historical sites, and charming accommodations providing the perfect retreat after a long day’s journey. Starting with gentle walking days, the trail gradually led us through the picturesque landscapes of The Great Glen. As we progressed further north, the route presented some inclines, adding an extra touch of challenge and a chance to revel in the rewarding views atop the hills. For those seeking an alternative to the bustling West Highland Way , the Great Glen Way proved to be an excellent choice. The convenience of the bus route from Fort William to Inverness offered flexibility, making it easy to explore the trail at your own pace. If you’d like to know more about the Great Glen Way, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can email us [email protected] or call 017687 72335, we’d be delighted to hear from you.