Great Glen Way Day 3
Day 3 INVERGARRY to INVERMORISTON
Hiked on August 8, 2022
We like to get up early and start hiking when we can. On this particular day we managed to do so. The folks at the Invergarry Hotel handed off a couple breakfast rolls (breakfast sandwiches in North American parlance) and a coffee for me. We proceeded on out the door with food in hand to complete the link. The trail actually runs behind and above the hotel, itself so we had no trouble finding it.
After an initial climb, the link continued to provide a pretty walk through a variety of foliage. There were a couple of views of Loch Oich though the trees but it was mostly a terrestrial walk for the first few miles. Still, it was great to continue our break from the canal. The ground was softer underfoot. In many places it resembled the sort of hiking we are familiar with in New England. This was a nice change from the harder packed sections. The first few miles drifted pleasantly by as we both ate our sandwiches and I finished my coffee.
The last gift of the Invergarry Link was the Bridge of Oich. This suspension bridge was built in 1854 by brewer-engineer James Dredge. We first got a view from the newer bridge and then took a slight detour to walk over it. Mostly it was just pretty and graceful, but this hike-about-water also has a subtext of engineering. The lochs, the canal, and even the many different boats make one think about how hard we as a species have worked to harness nature. Yet we only succeed for a time. This bridge was replaced by the one the trail (and incredibly large trucks) go across. Now it is preserved as an illustration of advancements in bridge construction and--well--to look at the water...
Ultimately, though, we rejoined the main trail for the rest of the morning. It was hard packed and flat as a potato scone (which are excellent and not at all what one would think). The views were beautiful of course, but...it did become something of a slog after a while. We had been inundated with things to look at the whole trip, after all. It was a challenge to take it in at times. That said, there was ample free food. Free of shade for the length of the canal, wild--or perhaps feral--raspberries were in abundance! We stopped to pick them, grabbing a handful in order to continue our march along the bank to the next handful.
Our lunchtime destination was Fort Augustus. Like Fort William at the beginning of the Great Glen Way, it has a reputation for being a gathering place for hikers, bikers, boaters and other adventure-vacationers. As we got closer--and it got later in the morning--the foot traffic increased and we noticed a number of kayakers on the canal. The Great Glen Way can be done by boat and a few of the people we saw were clearly doing just that. Their kayaks were weighed down with packs just as our backs were, which made it easy to pick them out among the sailboats, barges, and family day trippers questioning their decision to rent a skiff. At each lock there are instructions for how and where to portage. Maybe that would be a fun trip for future plans.
Located at one end of Loch Ness, Fort Augustus itself was very busy. The places we had stayed in since Fort William had been tiny. Now we were back in the land of sight seers and bus tours. Still, it had its advantages. We dropped into the visitor center, did a little souvenir shopping, grabbed an inadequate meal right at noon at the first restaurant that opened, then worked our way back out of town.
This is where things changed. The morning canal walk had vanished and we began our climb toward the first of the "High Route" options. The low (or traditional) route stays closer to the lake and promises an easier go if it. However, over time the demands for something more spectacular were heeded and these higher routes were born. This one was pretty special. After working our way through forest along a small stream featuring many waterfalls--remember this hike is about water--we broke out onto a ridge and highland moor that dominated the rest of the day's walk.
In a previous post about Mount Jefferson in the White Mountains I talked about the failure of photography to capture the whole experience. This was one of those times. You just have to see it. I have so many pics of this section of the hike and when I go through them...they just aren't right. There was a welcome wind and a constant view of Loch Ness in the valley below us. I felt like I was in a movie. We found places out of the wind to rest and admire the view. We were drawn to the foliage around us as well. It was a full sensory experience and a highlight of the trip. This high road was one of the reasons we decided to take this hike. It was well worth the planes, trains, and foot power to get there.
After all that we still had a few miles to go. We began our descent through the forest and into farmland, ultimately hitting a road to the town of Invermoriston and our B&B. Invermoriston--like Invergarry and Spean Bridge--has little in the way of restaurants, which is why we made sure to eat a not-very-good lunch in Fort Augustus. We did, however, stop by the Glenmoriston Hotel for a beer and to admire what other people were eating. We were over halfway on the hike at this point, but the second half of this day felt like the pinnacle.
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I am a full-time pastor in a small, progressive church in Massachusetts. This blog is about the non-church things I do to find spiritual sustenance.