GGW 28th April -4th May 2013

I'd considered the GGW as a walk around the time I was contemplating the WHW. I seemed like the easier of the two. The allure and romance of the WHW, though, and because I'd driven the A82 a number of time's and loved the scenery, especially around Rannoch Moor and of course Buchaille Etive Mor meant it had to be the first.
However, whilst doing the WHW I decided that GGW was going to be the next one in April 2013.
I'm not sure on the time line but I'm pretty sure Garth and I had also at this time, along with his missus Tash decided to do WHW next September, so end of April seemed like a good time to do it for various reasons. Plus once you've done one, then any other holiday seems a waste now!
Well, I'd booked all the accom for GGW by end of October and WHW by beginning of year, I was itching to go back straight away and bemoaning the fact that I lived so far away from Scotland. It isn't somewhere I can pop to for the weekend. I decided that I needed to upgrade on the quality and weight of a waterproof jacket, and after wearing my Brasher Azuma GTX for work for the last 3 years, then doing the WHW in them and suffering from blisters and bruising from the hard surface underfoot, wanted to invest in a new pair of boots with maybe a stiffer sole. Plus I wanted to have a look at a softshell jacket as well as an alternative if the rain was light. I'm not a lover of waterproof jackets. They,for me anyway, are too warm and after doing the WHW, found they really make me sweat, especially underneath my backpack. All three of us took a trip up to Go outdoors at Dartford on the way to visiting Charles Darwin's house. Because of traffic we were running late so I only had time to get some boots. I'd already had a look online, My Brashers weren't available anymore, I'd even emailed Brasher and asked if they maybe had a couple of pairs knocking around at the back of the warehouse to no avail. I think I tried every pair they had out but none were as comfy as my B's had been straight out of the box. I eventually settled on the Scarpa Ranger GTX at £145. Not that I was completely happy with them. I must have wide feet because none seemed to have the same room as my B's. I wore 2 pairs of socks, as I do when I walk. Also I took my homemade insoles out and fitted them in as well. The salesman who genuinely seemed to know his stuff, kept telling me that I needed to do them up tighter which I wasn't convinced about. I've never worn my B's that tight before and never use the top hooks. I walk with poles which give me a confidence and surefootedness when the going is muddy or rocky so have never worried about twisting my ankle etc. The boots were a lot tighter then than I'm used to but convinced myself they would loosen up.
I've worn them a number of times at work and done a couple of short walks in them and just can not get on with them. even loosening the laces right off, my feet end up hot and sweaty and feel like they've been in a vice. I decided I would have to wear my Brashers again for the GGW. I intended on getting them re-soled before I left but unfortunately the cobbler on the high street didn't have any suitable and wouldn't be able to get any in time. I spent the week before I left applying liberal amounts of boot polish to them, really getting into all the joints around upper and sole. I hoped they'd work out ok. Don't get me wrong, They're extremely comfy, but I haven't looked after them properly and force drying them on the fourth day of WHW last year, directly under a 2KW electric fan probably didn't help matters.
I spent ages poring over mid layer, outer layer and trouser options online hoping to be able to get everything from Cotswold outdoors in Maidstone which is a bit easier to get to seeing as it avoids having to cross at Dartford twice, but they didn't have all my options and as is always the case when I see an item on Go Outdoors website, it's never available for home delivery.
At the end of March I went to Cotswold outdoors and after much humming and arrhing settled on a Craghoppers terrain lite shell. Not as light or compact as I would of hoped but a steal at £60 and an improvement on the cheap Karrimor one I'd got from Sports Direct. I recently found out Karrimor are now owned by Sports Direct. Maybe that accounts for the poor quality now but more of that in my kit reviews soon.
Not finding anything else there I wanted, I carried on to Go Outdoors, where after much prevaricating, I settled on a cheap Regatta Cera softshell top at £24.99, a couple of new wicking long sleeve tops, High Gear at £5.99 and a Paramo gillet at £72. I'd already ordered a pair of Craghoppers waterproof trousers. I liked the idea of these, not needing to wear two pairs. These were lined, windproof and water resistant. I decided at the last minute not to pack my overtrousers which were a fairly cheap Adidas pair from Sports Direct. I realise I should be writing all this on my kit page but will be giving a review of them after the walk itself.
What with work and everything else I did really no training at all this time round, a 5 mile and a 3 mile walk is all I did since coming back from WHW. Lazy I know, but That's my name. I kept telling Garth it would be fine as the first three days are flat and short and would be a gentle start for the next three days. He reminded me of how confident I'd been on what terrain would be coming up next last year, the "gentle" stroll down to Kinlochleven in particular. I assured him I was not going to be "as wrong" this time which merited much merriment.
I'm going to be carrying everything with me this time, though with all accomm booked I don't need to worry about camping gear etc.
My kit will consist of

I'll be wearing the below, so not in my backpack
Waterproof trousers (craghoppers)
Wicking Long sleeve Tshirt
Regatta Cera Soft shell top.
1 thin 1 thick pair of socks.

In my pack will be

Walking trousers( an old pair of Regatta's for the evenings)
spare long sleeve Tshirt
Paramo gillet
2 pairs of thin, 2 thick, of socks
2 spare pairs of undies.
I plan to wash socks etc on the go
emergency kit
mossie net
toothbrush, paste, razor
Small flask
bladder with 2 lts water
Diary, pen
Phone charger.
Hip flask full of Dalwhinnie singlemalt. I developed a taste for it from that boozy night in Kingshouse Hotel last year.
I've also got a samsonite bumbag I've had for a few years which I'll use for all the other crap. Phone, camera, painkillers, spare batteries, money etc.
I'm really conscious of weight this time and am determined to keep it as low as I can.

Day 0. Arrival in Fort William

Finally arrived just after four in the afternoon after a 2 day journey, stopping over at Marthrown of Mabie, a fantastic place just outside Dumfries. Mike, the owner has a roundhouse in the woods along with a couple of yurts, a teepee, and a bunkhouse. I got to know the place through a guy at work and have been up half a dozen times now. It's in the forest at the top of a hill and is the perfect spot to unwind. Mike picked me up from the train station and we shot to Morrisons to pick up some goodies for later, to go with the hog roast Mike had done the day before for a party. We had a good feast and took the dogs out around the woods for an hour as it was getting dark. I didn't want to stay up late because if I missed my train in the morning, I wouldn't be getting to Fort William until after ten, which was the whole reason for splitting the journey. I didn't want to be getting in that late and more or less having to go straight to bed.
The journey up from Dumfries was strategic as well, I wanted to get the lie of the land as the train passed through Sanqhuar which is my preferred route for Lejog one day.
Again, the journey from Glasgow to Fort William was as good as I remembered it from last year. Spectacular scenery, the ticket collector/trolley dolley/ allrounder was great, telling us at Crianlarich that we had 12 minutes while the train split, so if we wanted to stretch our legs and have a smoke by all means do so. Well you can't ask for better service, the same applied at Rannoch Moor which was very nice of them.
It was great seeing the WHW through the window at times, I even saw a few walkers going from Tyndrum along to Bridge Of Ochy.
Crianlarich Station

Checked into the Alexandra Hotel, which is right across the from the train station and dumped my bag in the room. I went back down and took a stroll around town, going up to the end of WHW and then walking to the start of the Great Glen Way. It wasn't far, I was planning on doing it again in the morning  with my bag on just so I'd officially linked the two walks up.
Walking back up through town, I couldn't decide where to eat. I didn't want to go in the Crofters again after a bad meal at the end of WHW. It looked fairly busy and noisy besides. I ended up in Cobbs, underneath the Nevis centre, a fairly quiet place with an open fire and a good atmosphere. Not wanting to break with my walking tradition entirely, I, surprise, surprise, went for the scampi. It was an improvement on the Crofter's but still not on a par with Kinlochleven's. I had a coffee, then went back to the hotel, where a 2 piece band where playing in the bar. I had a couple of Jd's and coke whilst listening to "I'll take the high road", "Alba" and other Scottish airs. Well, not just listening but joining in too with everyone in the bar, it was a good laugh, a great first night in the highlands. I went to bed very happy and looking forward to the morning.

Day 1 Walking 1040-1420.

When booking my accommodation for the walk, Dreamweavers in Gairlochy had reminded me twice not to set off too early as check in wasn't until four and she may be out before that. Plus she'd said if I did get there early, she may get me mowing the lawn. We'd laughed about it, and I already had it in my mind, " well if I get there early and I feel ok, maybe we could barter. I would do the grass and get my evening meal for free.
For that reason I was in no rush in the morning. Breakfast was served until nine, so I put an appearance in at ten to nine. It was still fairly busy, but well organised. It was buffet style, Plenty of cereals, fruits etc to start, then a massive table with the kind of silver trays with a high domed lid that you'd expect a pigs head to be lurking underneath. Well if you think about it, the main ingredients underneath were pig, only better presented in the form of well cooked bacon, sausage, black pudding. The were beans, mushrooms, potato cakes and all the sundries you can think of. The waiters and waitresses only had to keep you supplied with teas, coffee and toast, which they did very efficiently. I restrained myself and only took some bacon, egg, mushrooms , beans and a potato cake. Asking the waitress for some more coffee, I filled my little flask for the day ahead.
Thoroughly sated I went upstairs to get my stuff together, taking my time, conscious of not setting off too early. About twenty past ten I went down and checked out. Standing outside for a quick fag before the off, the rain came down steadily but not too heavy. Saying "c'est la vie" to myself, I got my waterproof jacket out reluctantly and put it on. Setting off down the precinct, I headed for the end of the WHW, to link up the two walks, then heading back on myself to the underpass, nipping in the supermarket to grab a stamp to stick on a postcard from the train journey up.
Well, got to the start, no one was around, it was wet, windy, the loch looking cold and uninviting, as did the route ahead. Not the most auspicious start I could think of.

 Resigned , but not disheartened by the prospect of rain all day, I set off on my big adventure. The scenery to the right was a mixture of drab housing and spectacular, snow topped mountains, Ben Nevis among them.
To the left the loch was steel Gray, with wind and rain whipping the surface up.

 It was marshy underfoot for a few hundred yards until I reached the road into Caol, where there was some pavement pounding to do. Turning right, I was walking directly into the wind, which decided to increase immediately, along with the rain, which turned into a vicious torrent. I spied a church on the right, which I ducked behind for a couple of minutes it soon eased off to a more comfortable downpour. Setting off again, I soon caught and passed a couple of guys, fully waterproofed up, heading the same way as me, we said hello in passing but no more, we were too busy trying to stay dry.I passed a large boat marooned on the shore, an orange buoy seemingly the only thing stopping it from toppling over.
The turn at the very end of the canal at Corpach soon came, and the wind and rain also eased right off. I took the opportunity to take the jacket off, which was more than welcome, opening a can off coke at the same time.A fellow came up with 2 dogs, one a large red setter type, the other a collie which spent the entire time, rounding up the other dog, with a maniacal look in it's eye. It span round the other dog every second or two barking, as if it was rounding up a flock of sheep, it was that keen. I chatted to the owner, who was English, had lived in Scotland for 30 years. He recognised my accent and upon hearing I was  born in Radcliffe, a small town outside Manchester, said his son had been born there too. I asked "what, Bealeys nursing Home"?, which he said yes to. I laughed, " that's where I was born too". A small place, not a hospital, just a little nursing home. It's a small world, we agreed.
The 2 guys I passed had passed us whilst we were chatting, saying hello again, I learnt they were also doing the way, so said "I'm sure I'll see you again along the way" which held true. I never saw anyone else that day though , who was doing the whole thing, only a few day walkers.
It must have been half an hour before I said goodbye to Man and dogs, and set back off. There were more houses behind the trees for a while up until Neptune's Staircase, which was good, but not as amazing as I'd hoped, I couldn't get a decent picture of the whole flight of locks, I should have tried earlier when I was further away. It was well kept, well manicured grass, shiny black and white stonework, as were the lock gates. A group of people where planting saplings along the path side. Everyone around looked busy at work.

I took the best pics I could and carried on. The path underfoot was good, a canal towpath. but conscious of time, I took it easy. A bench soon presented itself and I took advantage, taking my pack off and getting my flask out for a cup of coffee. A cigarette joined in and I just relaxed for 5 minutes, taking in a bit of sun which had put in an appearance, seeing where the recent fires had blackened the hillsides, a boat passing going towards Fort William.

Capezzoli Di Venere!

I was going to have a competition at this point, with some random, walking related prize, if anyone could give me the filmatic reference for the above, but on googling it, it was there straight away. Ahh, google, at times the arbiter of arguments, the banisher of tip of the tongue torments, but also the dispeller of mystery and obscure research. Ah well, the prize wouldn't have been that good so you didn't miss out on much.
I soon set off again, the scenery not changing much, hillside, canal, footpath, trees, left to right in that order. Behind, Ben Nevis put the occasional show on, when cloud and mist permitted. Another bench appeared after a couple of miles and I repeated the same procedure as before. I was in no rush, it was still only about half one and I didn't have far to go. Continuing with my sedate pace, I soon reached the lock at Gairlochy, a couple of guys were working on a boat, didn't pay too much attention, it wasn't the most inspiring place, a couple of ugly sheds by the lock, not much too see.
It was after two when I, as slowly as I could, sauntered up the B road to the B&B I'd booked online. I've already described the advice I'd received a few times about setting off at the right time, so it was with some reluctance that I ventured through the gate, where I could see a lady moving around inside the living room. Knowing I was too early, I rang the bell, ready to launch into profuse apologies for my early arrival, which I did as soon as she opened the door. I explained I was more than happy to just sit in the back garden, out of the wind and rain, which by this time had put in another showing, until four, when I could check in, whereupon, she immediately questioned me as to my smoking habits. I conceded I was a filthy smoker, to which she replied that there was no smoking in the garden, and if  I wished to smoke I would have to content myself with standing on the road. I readily agreed, not wanting to antagonise her any further than I obviously had by my premature arrival.
She with some reluctance, said I'd better come in and she would make some tea, after I had removed my boots and pack under her instruction and left them in a cold porch, which see said was never locked.
Sitting in the living room, a large cat unfurled itself and came over for a stroke. I like cats and they seem to like me and I gave it a good stroke, until my genial host came in with tea and a biscuit and announced I'd better be careful or it would go for me, whilst ushering the cat out of the door.
We both sat down with tea, her mentioning again I was early and had disturbed her planned nap, to which I again apologised. Somewhere early in the conversation I'd said how much I loved Scotland and would love to move back up here if I could find work, to which she asked if she could ask a strange question. I assented, wondering if she was going to tell me she knew of the perfect job going and could I start next week? It wasn't to be though, instead asking what I thought of the independence vote. Already aware of getting off on the wrong foot, I ventured that if I was a Scot, in my heart of course I would vote for independence, however in my head I don't think I would, whereupon I was subjected to over an hour of, not so much political debate, as I felt it wasn't my place to put an opposing view, but a harangue concerning the evils of Westminster, the Conservatives, David Cameron and the English. Now and again I felt sure the phrase "you English" was going to issue forth, but I bit my tongue and tried not to say anything too provocative which would have no doubt resulted in it.
After, as I said more than an hour, to my relief, two wet and bedraggled figures appeared in the drive, it looked like the two guys I'd passed earlier in the day. Seeing my chance for escape I said I would get myself sorted out now in my room if that was ok as it was now after four. Fleeing to my room, which didn't have a lock on the door and had a notice over the radiator telling me not to dare to hang anything on it, but was a reasonably good room with en suite shower, I attended to my needs and after about half an hour or so braved the living room again. My fellow guests were now ensconced on the sofa, listening to, by the sounds of it, much the same political seminar as I had been. What they had done to merit this discourse, both being from Glasgow, I do not know, quite possibly it was carried over from where she had left off with me. She possibly imagined now she had reinforcements for her view and hadn't got it all out of her system, however Joe and Euan said nothing to encourage her and sat meekly, allowing her to get it all out. When she had finished, talk turned to the evening meal, which had been my bete noir for a few weeks now. I'd been telling friends etc, that tonight's accommodation was the only night where I had no alternative for an evening meal as the was nothing else around, so I was fully expecting to be served salmon, which is something that holds no interest for me and while not feeling physically nauseous whilst eating it, for me , has no real flavour and is bland and boring. I'm not a fussy eater and have tried it in all the usual ways. Baked in foil, blanched, fried, over an open fire, smoked,as a starter with bagels and cream cheese, all the usual ways. Well quelle suprise, she said she was doing salmon. She must have seen the look on my face, also Joe and Euan chuckled, as It had come out about my dislike of it earlier, when we met at the start of the canal for the second time, because she asked "why, don't you like it"? I filled her in on my previous attempts to appreciate the flavour of what I was sure was perfectly good fish, but I simply didn't like it. I could have, but thought it would be a bridge too far to mention that I liked tinned salmon on a salad, this no doubt would have elicited a further tirade on the ignorance of the English to treat salmon that way. She said she would have to see what she could do for me, letting us know she had another awkward guest arriving, 2 women, one of which was gluten intolerant. I felt a bit better, knowing now I wasn't going to be the only one causing her disruption.
By this time it was around half five and I felt the need to escape for a bit from her disapproving glare so I slunk outside where I had a wander back down the road, where I met the two ladies who where the last two guests to arrive. I gave them some advice on how to open the gate, a double gate which swung both ways and had to be perfectly lined up to get the catch off.  I was hoping to get out to the little headland poking in to Loch Lochy, but was soon met by a gate, with only very muddy, soggy ground beyond and a scattering of sheep who I had no wish to disturb. Wandering back to the road, I walked up past the B&B and continued up the road for a few hundred yards, coming on the left to a large arch under a road which ran just above the one I was one. IT lead to a fishery as I learnt later.
As it was raining again, I took shelter underneath and rang Garth to fill him in on progress and  had a smoke.
The rain eased a bit and I went further up the hill, to where a herd of cattle was huddled together under a stand of trees, which were completely obscuring what I thought was a cowshed, but later learnt was an old church. You could barely make it out.
It could be the Alps, I'm expecting Julie Andrews to burst in to song any minute.

It was approaching seven now, the stated time for dinner, so summoning up the courage I returned to the B&B to succumb to the fate of whatever "alternative" she had manged to come up with.
Spraying myself liberally with deodorant so as not to incur her wrath any further, and also in consideration for the others, I tried but failed to open the front door, which "was never locked". I had to resort to ringing the bell, which Joe kindly answered, seeing me through the window from his room. We all congregated in the front room and very shortly Helen, our charming host announced dinner was ready. We filed into the dining room, the table set for five, One on the end, two either side. Naturally as I was alone and the others were in pairs I took the head seat. Well this elicited a sarcastic "humph, I thought you'd sit there" as if I was somehow displaying an English sense of superiority over those savages north of the border. To me it was simply the logical place to sit. She disappeared into the kitchen, which gave Joe, Euan and, as I learnt, Margaret and Susan, mother and daughter from Inverness, chance to rib me on getting in her bad books again.
She reappeared with tomato and basil soup, with a warm roll which was more than welcome as a starter. Tinned obviously, not that I'm complaining, the rolls, the part baked kind you can buy. Again, not a criticism, I complimented her on the rolls and said I had enjoyed it which I had.
Mains followed, which started with the other four's salmon being served, which looked as bland as I expected. Mine followed which included the same vegetables as the others, minus the sweetcorn, this being replaced by some fried peppers. The salmon had been replaced by some curiously misshapen   small pieces of chicken breast, binded together with an extremely thick  Bisto beef gravy. I thanked her profusely for this fine alternative not wanting to give her as much as an inch. It was food was the best that could be said for it, I was hungry so I ate it. Dessert followed, ice cream, squirty cream and some raspberries.  The meal had a definite school meal feel to it, which didn't surprise as she had told me earlier, how, when she was a school head teacher, the English government had cut her school budget and she'd had to run the whole school for a year on £2500.
We all thanked her, exclaiming it was great, I got the feeling everyone was of the same view that to do anything else wouldn't have been wise.
Still sat there we were then told how she liked to organise breakfast, which involved going round us in turn and asking us what we'd like rather than filling a form in. Which was fine as both options go. I just don't like this tendency nowadays to have to decide what you want the night before, especially just 10 minutes after eating dinner. she started with the two ladies, then went on to Joe and Euan, Euan earning my undying friendship for asking for a poached egg as part of his breakfast, which was what I wanted to order, only I knew if I'd of asked for one first then my awkwardness would have again been demonstrated.
I asked for two poached eggs on toast, saying white or brown, I was not fussy when asked.
We were finally able to escape. I'd asked about the commando monument which was further up the road than I'd been earlier, also just off the map I had. Assuring me it was at the top of the hill, next to a car park, unable to miss and with about an hour of light left I said I was going for a walk up to have a look. The rain had stopped now and the wind had died. I didn't feel tired and my feet were fine. It was a tarmac road with no pavement but only a couple of cars passed and it didn't take long to reach the top,  where there was indeed a car park of sorts, but no sign of a memorial anywhere, just a gravel road leading off the road and back down the hill from what I could see, the tarmac road going back down hill for at least the same distance as I'd come up. Thinking it couldn't be that far back down, she had said  at the top definitely, I thought "sod it" I'm not going that far, it was starting to get a bit dim and I didn't have my headtorch with me, forgetting to pick it up before I left.
I headed back slowly, rang my mum from the arch to say hello on route and went in about 10 o'clock.
Everyone else were in their rooms and I didn't feel inclined to do anything different so went to my room and wrote up the days events while having a can of Coke. Where's he getting these cokes from I hear you say.
Well last year on the WHW, at some stops I'd been given Pepsi not Coke, which hadn't impressed me, if it's not Coke then say so, don't just fob me off with Pepsi. Determined not to be caught out this time, throwing aside my weight saving rule again, just like I did last year before we set off with all the crap we threw in in Glasgow, I'd set off with 5 cans of Coke in my pack. I knew I wouldn't be able to get any on the first night and was worried I'd struggle all the way. I actually set off with 2 lts of water, 3/4 lt of coffee and a 1 1/2 lts of Coke. I wasn't going to go thirsty that's for sure. Well sods law dictated that I never had any trouble getting it apart from that first night.
The room was cold, there was a small fan heater, which she had said I could use if I needed so I thought I'd stick it on for a bit to take the chill off. This was the noisiest fan heater I have ever heard. It sounded like a jet taking off and set off a vibration throughout the room. I couldn't hear my wonky tv over it, this was the second wonky tv in a row, which was impossible to set straight. It also had a strange green tinge to it. Paranoid that it was deliberately that loud so she could keep track of how much I used it and interrogate me in the morning, and also I thought that there's no way Joe and Euan won't hear that next door I only left it on for a couple of minutes then turned it and the tv off and wrapped the duvet tight around me. Thankfully sleep came soon and the day was over.

Day 2 Walking 940 to 350

After the horrors of last night I wasn't holding out much hope for breakfast, the table however, looked very inviting, lots of bits and pieces on it, jars of cereals and a bowl of fresh fruit. We had all agreed to eat together at 830 so everyone was there. I took up my seat of superiority at the end and started with a bowl of cornflakes. Helen came in saying she hadn't started yet as she liked to cook everything fresh as otherwise the eggs would be hard and rubbery. Toast arrived next which niggled. It seems to happen more and more that you get the toast before the main meal, so by the time you want it it's hard and cold. Not that that mattered in this case as the toast was already in that condition. The butter was hard too which made it  impossible to spread without shattering the toast, which I did twice. The girls and Joe were served first, then Euan and finally me. Well, it's a skill I've not seen before, but she had managed to fit both poached eggs on one diagonally sliced piece of toast, which again was rock hard, but at least it matched the eggs which were hard and rubbery! It was quite possibly the driest poached eggs on toast I've experienced, but to give her credit they were better than the vinegar infused ones I'd had at Balmaha  on last years walk.
I drank a couple of cups of coffee to help them go down, and after asking for more in the pot, tried, surreptitiously, to fill my flask. I didn't feel like I was being out of order doing this, whether I drank it there and then or a couple of hours later, did it matter? I wasn't taking any chances though so had to do it when she left the room. She came in while I was putting some milk in and although she never said anything I saw her spot me and give me a withering look. I didn't bother with toast and marmalade as I usually do to finish, as by this time, as you can imagine, the toast was still sat there cold and unloved.
Breakfast endured I escaped sharpish, getting my bag organised and double checking that I hadn't missed anything. I always have a moment of panic 2 miles down the road that I've left something behind and have to make sure it's there. I sure as hell didn't want to be coming back to this place  after check out.
Going out into the hallway, Joe and Euan and Margaret and Susan were getting their bags into the porch for the baggage service. Catching Helen I gave her what I owed and as directed to do so signed the guest book, thanking her for a great stay. I was going to put 2 or 3 exclamation marks after it, but didn't think they would convey the level of sarcasm intended, thinking someone might think it was a reinforcement of the statement instead. A polite handshake from mien host and I was off. 
It was looking fairly cloudy and damp walking down the road back towards the way but not enough to dampen my spirits now I was free again. A little tip. If your in the hospitality trade, dealing with people from all over the world, put your prejudices to one side and treat everyone the same. Also avoid embroiling your guests in a political debate if your whole argument involves slagging off your guests country of birth.
You may think all of this "review" is a bit harsh but I would direct you to the website for this establishment and then tell me that. I, upon booking it, had expected maybe some bohemian, flower power set up full of tie die Tshirts and Tantric sex etc. Not a draconian headmistress who had you on your guard permanently. Walkers were promised drying facilities and a warm welcome, not a curt" put your stuff there"in a cold porch with an unlocked front door. No locks on the bedroom doors either, which although I didn't have any doubt in my mind about the other guests, that may not always be the case. I set off then with hopes that tonight's B&B would be a vast improvement, the only fly in the ointment being, when I mentioned where I was stopping that night, at dinner the previous evening, Helen  had said "oh yes, I know Francis". This was a worry, if they were cut from the same cloth I was in for another fun night.
When I left I couldn't help thinking of Bill Bryson, on his first visit to England, holed up for a week in Dover, finally being given his marching orders after being wordlessly led to the shared toilet to be shown an unflushed stool by the fearsome Mrs Smegma. I think if I'd had to stay a week here then something similar would have occurred.
I was soon by the lock at Garlochy, the little bridge was swung shut to allow a small boat through which gave em a minute to batten down the hatches as it was starting to rain again. Crossing, I started up a steep tarmac road which didn't last long, then it was down to the loch side again for a rather pleasant stroll along the beach in places and through some old woods. The views were great, the rain had stopped and I took my waterproof off, not to be put on again until the second half of the last day, although this was not through a lack of rain. An old wooden barge, half beached on the shore with a small lighthouse behind made for a pretty picture.

I also came across something which made me stop and remember something Helen had come out with at breakfast, when she had told us all conspiratorially that there were fairies in the wood and you had to be nice to them or else. Through the trees on a closed in path were various little fairy figures and other little figurines with a mythical theme. There was a little tub with a few small coins in, and not wanting to tempt fate I threw 20p in to be on the safe side. I think I actually crossed myself as well to make sure, Although I'm not religious I thought the more the better, as by this time I imagined She was probably putting the hex on me and I needed bad luck like a hole in the head, doing a walk like this.
I came across quite a few tree stumps where some felling had taken place some time ago, judging by the colouring of the stumps.

 Some had small, galvanised stamped plates on, with names like stumpy and shorty I think. Whether these were names for the stumps themselves or nicknames of the guys who chopped them down I didn't know, however with names like shorty and stumpy, I wouldn't have liked to be around them if it was the choppers.
Guerrilla Gardening.

There were lots of trees which had been uprooted, by the wind presumably, laying this way and that, some laying over into the water, one of which had been visited in the night by the fairies and was sporting a little border planted with various flowers, next to this tree was another which hadn't been so well tended. It looked like a beaver had had a case of the munchies, totally shredded, wood pulp lying every around the tree. The difference between the two couldn't have been greater

.Beaver gardening.

 This gentle amble along the loch soon ended after a mile and I joined a B road for some tarmac walking for the next two and half miles, passed Bunarkaig along to Clunes, where the road turned right and become a forestry road more or less all the way into South laggan from this point.

 The view from Bunarkaig

The road past Clunes.

 It was hard underfoot, but easier than tarmac.It was raining fairly hard now, but I resisted putting on my waterproof jacket. I'd been wearing my craghopper Steall waterproof lined trousers from the start, which throughout had kept my legs dry no problem although they were absolutely soaked through on the outside. They were also very comfortable to wear and saved me having to put on over trousers, which I'd deliberately left at home anyway. Instead I wore solely a wicking long sleeve T shirt and a Regatta Cera soft shell. Again, the Regatta was absolutely soaked through from the outside but I stopped a couple of times to check to find my T shirt was bone dry. I was carrying a small umbrella, which kept the worst of the rain off me, but I was still soaked on the outside so was most impressed by the results so far.
The forest road rose and fell, generally climbing above the loch a couple of hundred feet at most I think. I was, although dry, feeling a bit dishevelled with the consistent rain, so was keeping an eye out for somewhere to take shelter for ten minutes so I could grab a coffee in the dry when the opportunity presented itself in the form of a open fronted wooden structure perched on the edge of the drop down to the loch. I went in gratefully and shrugged off my pack, thinking, "well if only they'd stuck a bench in as well it would have been perfect". It was obviously designed for walkers or bikers to take a break in so would have seemed obvious.

The roof was constructed with overlapping timbers but only just. The wood had shrunk and there were enough gaps in it to it impossible to stand in and not get a drip down the back of your neck when you least expected it. I had a coffee and a smoke while hoping the rain would maybe ease up a bit.
Suddenly a lad appeared at the front of the shelter, looking for the same shelter as me. He was cycling from Fort Augustus to Fort William today. He had stuck to the A82 to South Laggan, but tiring of the main road, he'd chosen the forest track from there. unfortunately he was on road tyres, which were

                     the view from the hut
digging on the softer surface and making life hard for him. He was dripping wet and when he reached in his coat for a pouch of baccy I took pity on him and offered him a pre roll from my tin, which was gratefully received. Next minute Joe and Euan turned up, it must have been a popular hut, or the only shelter for miles. We reminisced about our previous night's b&b, Joe confessing that he didn't like salmon either but kept his mouth shut after seeing what happened to me. It was getting a bit crowded in the hut now and I must have been there half an hour, so I said my goodbyes and soldiered on.
The rain hadn't eased off and the track didn't change much. There were occasional glimpses of Lochy Lochy to my right, but few and far between. This was just mileage covering, this stretch. Nothing of any real interest presented itself except for a small plaque on the stonework of a bridge commemorating ......

                                  This was moving

A man after my own heart as we say. Very sad, but if I could choose a way to go it would be like that, walking in Scotland, doing something you love with friends.

 After 3 or 4 more miles I found a semi sheltered spot on the left hand side, a few wooden steps set into the banking, which afforded a comfortable seat to have my packed lunch.I got my umbrella out and propped it up against my neck and rested it on my hat. With the shelter of the trees as well, I was quite comfortable eating my ham salad sandwich and drinking coffee. A couple passed, he carrying a large umbrella they were both using to shelter from the rain. We said hello but they didn't stop.

I decided to try out my gloves as my hands were feeling pretty cold, they were supposed to be waterproof and they would stop water running up my arms under the cuff, which I'd learnt happens when you use sticks. Setting back off I soon passed the couple but they in turn passed me when a bit of steep track came up. We swapped places a couple of times over the next mile or so, I caught them up at a composting toilet block set up a couple of miles from South Laggan. The husband was using the facilities, the wife was waiting outside with the umbrella, huddled under a 6" overhang of the roof for shelter. I joined her for a minute to discuss the weather as only we Brits can. Her husband came out and said hello. They were from Liverpool, basing themselves in Fort Augustus and walking to south Laggan to get picked up. I never learnt their names and couldn't get my head round the way they were putting the walk together. I saw them on each day after, sometimes walking the same way, sometimes in the opposite direction. It baffled me by the end.
I stayed behind as they left and cut to the shore of the loch, only 50 yards away where there was a sign indicating a wild camping area. A secluded little beach with a few old downed trees creating two or three separate little spots to camp with a little fire pit for each. It was all very civilised and for a change, litter free. I didn't dally but set back off after a minute or so. It wasn't long before I came off the forest track, through a gate on to a dirt road and gentle slopes, green grass and sheep doing what sheep do. I passed a few houses and some holiday chalets on the loch side, couple of hundred yards of tarmac, then onto a little path with the loch on one the right and flooded marshy land to the left, almost a causeway really. This lead to a lock to cross, a couple of pleasure cruisers were moored in the loch but I couldn't see any activity around them.

Looking back down Loch Lochy

 On the Path, now a causeway, looking north

That green field was a lot brighter than the pic suggests

I turned left onto the canal towpath by the lock where a large barge was moored, with a sign on the side saying The Eagle Bar and Restaurant.There was a decked area leading onto it which had a few tables and chairs upturned, making me not sure if it was open for business. I tried the door, which thankfully was open and descended down a very steep flight of wooden stairs into the barge. The inside was very warm and inviting, I instantly felt comfortable and relaxed. Margaret and Susan were in already, a few other people as well who for some reason I took as locals. I ordered a coffee and a scone, which arrived warm and melted in the mouth. The place was decorated with some model ships in glass cases and  military memorabilia. I wasn't in long before Joe and Euan turned up, followed by the couple from 'pool. They were being picked up and returning to Fort Augustus for the evening. I was asked if I was eating there later by the owner to which, after a quick think I agreed. I'd planned to go onto the water park a mile past the b&b but that was only because I thought it was the only choice around. This comfortable warm barge or a water park, possibly full of people and screaming kids,Umm let me think...

I choose the lamb shank, one of only 2 meat dishes on offer. Quick thinking led me to say to the chef, who was behind the bar taking mine and other food orders "please don't put any rosemary on it, if you were planning on doing. I could see by his reaction that had indeed been the plan, but he wasn't put out by it at all and said he would do it in mint, which is the only proper way of doing lamb to me. I've only experienced rosemary once when I bought a tear and share flat bread from a supermarket once, thinking it looked good but not reading the label. I'd got home, put it in the oven, sat down. Five minutes later I was up, "what's that fu%^&ng awful smell", it was making me gag. It was coming from the oven obviously and after checking the ingredients concluded it could only have been the rosemary. I've stayed well clear since. While I'm on the subject, what's with the obsession with parsley? Every time you see a chef on TV he's throwing some parsley on a dish as a garnish, be it fish, meat whatever. A few years ago I was watching some cooking programme and the guy was making a beef stroganoff which I like myself. Well it was quite simple to make and I thought I'd have one for my tea the next day. He had used parsley in his, adding it a couple of minutes before serving. I was dubious but thought, "well that's the recipe so I'll do it and see". Well I sat down, took one mouth full and thought, "what the fuck is parsley doing in with beef stroganoff". I had to then pick all the stuff out of my tea. So, every chef out there or just you, whatever you do , don't use F,ing parsley with meat. It goes with fish, period.
Now I've taught you how not to cook I'll move on.....
Joe and Euan were also planning on returning for their dinner, as were Margaret and Susan, so saying see you later I headed back out into the rain. A hundred yards of towpath took me onto a wooded path, trees either side for half a mile or so before emerging in a little turning onto the main road, where for the first time I encountered the A82. I only had a couple of hundred yards to walk back up it, that was enough.
Looking back from Lillac cottage 
 There was hardly any verge and the traffic, which was probably only doing 45-50 seemed to be flying past at a 100 miles an hour.
Lillac Cottage, THE place to stay.

It was now time to see if mien host was cut from the same cloth as last night's, to which I can tell you, after knocking on the back door, it being opened and seeing Francis's warm friendly, inviting face I could dismiss straight away. Asked to come round to the front, I was ushered in with a air of concern for my soaked state and told to get me stuff hung up on my radiator, which was just off to the right through the first door. She immediately went and got some newspapers to spread on the floor in front of the radiator as well for my bag and boots, offering me free rein with any others I could find. The difference couldn't have been greater between last night and tonight. While I was getting sorted, hanging my soft shell on the radiator by the front door, a couple of guys turned up outside. Opening the door for them and shouting through to Francis, I welcomed them in where they received the same care and attention that I had. Announcing she would go and make some coffee and tea for us she disappeared, whilst we three sang her praises. It says something when three different people immediately come to the same conclusion. Dave and Phil, as that was their names shot upstairs to get into dry stuff, reappearing shortly in the living room where I was already enjoying the home comforts of coffee and homemade ginger cakes before a fire. They were knackered having walked from Fort William that morning. No wonder! Both late 40's early 50's I'd say, I guessed and learnt that they were indeed ex army, retired, both seemed unflappable. Francis worried around us, showing is the due care and attention that had been sorely lacking last night. This lady had obviously attended the class called "how to win guests over and make them feel welcome" that Helen must have missed. I labelled her St Francis of Scotland, the new and improved patron saint of travellers. Put simply this lady was like my own grandmother.
We discussed eating arrangements, me saying I had booked at the Eagle, Phil and Dave announcing curtly, " no, we're not going there" which made me think maybe they had called in on the way and had a bad experience somehow. When they asked if there was anywhere else and being told " well, there's the Eagle about a mile back or there's the water park a mile forward, they said "well then the Eagle it is. It was simply that they thought it was too far to go and after walking all that way I couldn't blame them really. On learning that Francis would also be giving us a lift there and the bar usually gave customers a lift back as well, smiles where to be had all round and all was right with the world again.We all three left to sort ourselves out. There only being one bathroom between us we amicably decided I should have first dabs, while they got a bit more organised. It was right next door to my room, which under normal circumstances would have worried me, also my room being next door to the front door, but I wasn't concerned. I didn't think Phil and Dave would be keeping me awake that night. I showered and sorted my feet out. My left foot had developed a humongous blister half underneath, half on the side, below my big toe, my right foot had one just below my middle toe on the sole.
Nice blister!

Doing what I'd done last year, against advice, I popped them both, squeezing all the fluid out, wiped them with an anti-septic wipe and applied large Compeed blister plasters to them both.
For good measure I took out my trusty foam inserts and cut out a round hole for the right foot one and a crescent shape on the side of the left one. Trying them out the relief was immense. I can't emphasise enough what a major difference using these simple insoles they have made to my life. Whereas before I wouldn't have been able to contemplate doing anything like this, now I know that I can and know that whatever blisters come along you can get on top of them and manage them. If any of you have persistent problems with sore points on your feet, then I'd be quite willing to send you a couple to to try out.
Feeling a lot better I got my stuff back on as it was already dry.
My soft shell and trousers had had a good road testing now, and I was glad to see they both worked admirably, nay superbly. The soft shell at £25 had kept me dry my T shirt had been bone dry when I took it off. Similarly so had my trousers. Both had been absolutely soaked and water was running of in rivulets. I hadn't felt encumbered by either, nothing like having to wear over trousers and a hard shell. They'd dried quick flash as well, all in all a couple of excellent bits of kit.
it was coming to 730 and we were watching the news on TV. Tomorrow was going to be a clear day apparently which cheered us all up. Francis came in and we all repaired to her car for the lift to the Eagle. Dave and Phil were as effusive as me with praise for her generosity and we thanked her numerous times.
Entering, Joe and Euan were already in, Margaret and Susan soon following us in as well. I offered them both a drink, Phil and Dave having kindly bought me one. Susan asked for a Coke, full fat, which I commended her on. Margaret went the whole hog and had a pint of bitter. Well, we got the coke straight away, the pint being poured then sat on the drip tray to settle. We were chatting about the days walk and time slipped by, it must have been 10 minutes before all three of us realised Margaret was still waiting for her drink. Catching the owner who was the sole barman, the younger chef being in the kitchen, I politely asked id "the lady could possibly get her drink now" to be answered that " could I just hold on sir, I''m just seating these two gentleman". With that he walked past the pint, grabbed something from behind the bar, then led Joe and Euan to the table further down. He then faffed about for another five minutes before finally returning to pick up the pint he'd walked past before and place it on the bar. I was with good company and was going to enjoy myself so I stayed amused by this rather than getting wound up, which is what normally happens in these situations. I've been in the hospitality trade and being able to multi task is a given. I wasn't asking him to spin plates while giving us a rendition of some Celtic air on a fiddle, just pass us the pint as your passing please.
There was an old grey Alsatian roaming the barge, not bothering anyone really, but every time it moved the owner would order it to go back to it's spot, which happened to be through the half height swing door in to the "galley" to give it its proper name, where it would lie down on the top of a couple of wooden stairs. That didn't bother me it was just that the dog, bless him, was quite mangy looking and was forever scratching itself and obviously dispersing hair and other funky stuff into the air.

Scratchy Dog!
Margaret and Susan were seated for their meal, on a table for two, then Phil and Dave were seated on the same table as Joe and Euan. It was a big long table, room for about eight, and I soon joined them as well, again ending up at the head of the table, as was my want. I'm sure Joe and Euan made some good natured and received remark about that.
Joe and Euan's meals arrived. Euan having the trout I think, Joe going for the Balmoral chicken, which was chicken and haggis with a whisky sauce and all the usual veg. Phil and Dave's arrived, cant remember what they had. My lamb soon arrived too, which was very tender and slid off the bone easily, with a similar selection of veggies. It was all very nice and we had a good chin wag regarding the walk so far.
The owner was very meticulous in his service. We had all finished our meal for a good five minutes before he came over, reaching for Joe and Euan's plate to take them away, bypassing Phil and Dave's which were closer to him and just as finished with.He came back with a pad to take their sweet order, however all four were deep in conversation, and seeing him trying to attract their attention I tried to do the same. He must have seen that I was trying to do this for him and trying to move things along, I started to ask him if I could have the...." I'm sorry sir, these gentleman where before you if you could wait". Well I wasn't impressed, he got an answer from J & E, then took P&D's order removing their plates now. He left for five minutes before returning with J&E's before at last removing my plate and asking me what I would like. I was being awkward now and said I didn't want anything thank you. The place wasn't big, there was maybe 10 people eating, maybe 15 in the place in total. No one was rushing anywhere, I'd hate to have seen him if it was packed out.
I had another drink and went outside to have a smoke and  ring Sue, the dog sitter to see how Monty was doing. She assured me he was fine and she hadn't had him out for miles as she usually does. Last time he could hardly walk for a week. I'm sure he enjoyed himself but he's getting on now and suffers afterwards if he goes to far.
I had a last drink with Margaret and Susan, Joe and Euan and Dave and Phil opting to get a lift back to their accommodation, The former were stopping at Forest Lodge which was a lot further up the road than my place and hadn't enjoyed the road walking it had involved.
I gallantly offered to escort Margaret and Susan back, as all three of us had decided to walk back as it was a pleasant night outside now. They were stopping a couple of hundred yards up the road further than me at the hostel, so we set off for a gentle stroll back. Saying goodbye at my b&b, I went round the back where there was a large shed with a covered veranda, a couple of wooden benches to sit on. I sat there for half an hour, having a smoke and a few nips of malt from my hip flask. It was a pleasant end to a pleasant evening.
I got in bed, writing up my diary, having a can of Coke and a few more warming nips of whisky which must have done the trick because it didn't take long for me to crash out.

Day 3 Walking 910-210

Was up at about ten to eight this morning, breakfast had been organised for eight o'clock the previous night, although we hadn't been pressured into deciding the night before so all was good. I asked for bacon,egg, sausage and tomato, which came promptly after my cereals and was excellent. A large pot of coffee and no dark looks when I asked if I could fill my flask, further endeared my new grandmother to me. All in all, a very satisfactory start to the day. The sun was shining outside and the forecast didn't have any rain on it so what more could I ask for. Dave and Phil were not hanging around as they had to get to Invermoriston today, another long one for them. Full credit to you if that's your bag, I much prefer the more leisurely approach as you may have gathered by now.
I left at 910, after paying Francis and giving her £46 instead of £40, and a kiss on the cheek, to which she remarked that she wasn't going to wash it that day as she had had so many kisses. It was all the spare I had on me, although I would have quite willingly given her more. This woman deserves a medal for the hospitality she shows people. So ok, the cottage is a little tired looking with regard to decor, there was no TV in the room or en suite, but not for one minute did this become an issue to me. If I'd have turned up to be told that she had made a mistake and double booked and all she had available was a mattress on the floor in the shed behind the house, she would still be up there in the pantheon of perfect hosts.
Apparently, the Scottish tourist board had paid her a visit a couple of years previously and told her that they would have to knock a star off her rating as her walls weren't straight. She had quite rightly responded by leaving the organisation and going "off grid  as it were. I can only say that they made the biggest mistake letting her go and should be banging on her door on bended knee, asking to be forgiven for their stupidity. This Lady is the epitome of what a perfect host should be. I cannot be over enthusing as to her attributes. With warm feelings inside me, I left her to become someone else's favourite grandmother and set off on my way. Back down to the turning and then I rejoined the shady, wooded path I had used last night, continuing further north until less than a mile later I met with the A82 again.
Back on the path.
 This was crossed and I passed by the water park, on a little tarmac road, which soon turned into a delightful little path, muddy in parts, but right next to Loch Oich with the remains of the old railway line which never was on the right just above my level. A platform of sorts was slowly being overtaken by flora and I imagine fauna as well, although I never really saw anything wild all week. No deer or anything.

This path continued like this for the next four miles. The weather was perfect, a clear day, not too warm. A large viaduct of one arch only came up next, the almost white stone still giving it a classical look.

 I stopped after a couple of miles at a little headland sticking out into the loch. There was a bench conveniently located for me to carry out my regular routine of coffee, smoke and a soak in of the scenery. The ruins of Invergarry castle were directly opposite on the other side of the loch and I took a couple of pictures.Margaret and Susan came along and stopped also for a quick chat. They too were going all the way to Invermoriston today, so didn't hang around too long. I asked and took a picture of them for this blog as I tried to do with everyone I talked to.

Invergarry Castle

Margaret and Susan.

We said our goodbyes, it was the last I saw of them on the walk, I hope they made it ok.
Setting back off, the path continued as before, one one occasion climbing up the side of the bank and joining the old railway line, it was not strenuous at all, just a gentle walk,  I was in no hurry yet again.

A novel way to drain water.

A large steel box section bridge was the next obstacle, well not an obstacle really, just the next thing to happen.

It led, after going through a tall wooden gate on the left to a large flat meadow area populated with a few sheep. I could see Oich bridge coming up and was looking forward to a sit down with a cup of tea and possibly a sticky bun.
I soon reached the bridge and crossing it spotted the old lock keepers cottage that was now the tea-room Francis had told me about when booking my stay. I'd asked about a packed lunch and she'd told me about this place. Too be honest, I wasn't feeling like I needed to eat, but upon spying the selection of cakes on offer I soon changed my mind and had a piece of the chocolate cake. It went down well. Unfortunately the tea was extremely weak, even after letting it stew for a bit and then mashing it against the inside of the pot. I paid up just as Joe and Euan put an appearance in, disappearing into the log cabin type structure which served as the little shop, filled with a good variety of cakes etc. Joe was suffering with blisters and had grazed his heel somehow so was sore on his feet.
Getting up I took some pictures of the beautiful stone bridge which crossed the river Oich. I didn't go to it but I would imagine it's one of Telford's.

I headed on, the canal towpath fairly wide now, the canal also. The wind was picking up a bit now but still no rain so I counted my blessings. I walked on for a couple of miles then spotted a forked branch which looked the perfect height for a seat, plus with the way it was lying it would provide some suspension, which it did and was very comfy thank you very much.
I'd spotted someone a couple of hundred yards ahead of me, walking the same way as me. For a split second natural instincts had took over and I'd thought " I'll have you soon", but quickly rejected the idea. Again, I wasn't in a rush, it wasn't a race with anyone so I took my comfy seat and let them disappear into the distance. A coffee and smoke later still hadn't caused the appearance of Joe and Euan so I set off and carried on.
Another couple of miles walking brought me to Kyltra lock, a beautiful place, the old lock keepers cottage I recognised from some website as now holiday accommodation. The place was very picturesque and I would have felt churlish if I hadn't taken advantage of the bench available. My usual routine followed, I wont bore you with the details, I ended up staying here for at least half an hour.
Kyltra lock
There was a Labrador roaming around the lock, obviously the lock keepers, who I saw moving around. I encouraged it over for a stroke before leaving.
The canal continued, not much change in scenery for the next 2-3 mile into Fort Augustus. A change in the weather though, it decided to start raining again just as I reached the flight of locks. I spotted a chippy on the other side of the canal which was open, proclaiming itself to be a  "traditional Scottish chippy".
Suddenly getting an urge for chips and curry, I crossed by one of the lock gates and entered just as the rain got really heavy. A large sign stated that everything was cooked to order," it may take a bit longer but I'm sure you'll appreciate the wait." Encouraged I ordered said chips etc  and taking my pack off sat on the wide window sill just inside the door. He was cooking chips for a lady in front of me so I thought "nice one, just in time". Well the chips arrived and forgive me, but I thought traditional chippy would mean something other than frozen chips and the runniest, yellowist curry known to man. It must have come out of a industrial sized bag of curry powder, cheap as chips brand, not that the chips were cheap at £1.75.  There wasn't even any little bits of onion or anything in it, to give it a bit of body. Thoroughly disappointed with it I sat there eating it for the sake of eating and not wasting money, I could have just as easily thrown it in the bin for the enjoyment I got from it.
The rain conveniently eased off as I finished my gourmet dish and I went back outside, taking a stroll down to the end of the locks, where A large swing bridge carried the A82 over the end of the locks, Loch Ness on the other side.I crossed the bridge and wandered down the northern side of the Loch, only a few hundred yards or so. It wasn't actually the loch, more the last bit of canal, with moorings either side which had a pleasure cruiser and a few smaller craft moored up.

I retraced my steps, going in The Mooring's. A cafe/ diner sort of place, which looked okay, and had a small contingent of stereotype holiday makers in. A couple of Americans in shorts, with large cameras. A gaggle of Japanese, all with even larger cameras and a few Indians, young lads who were dressed to the nines, all blinged up. Apart from the TV blasting some new rap noise from Sean Paul, the place had quite a relaxed atmosphere, as the location dictated, in a way.
I had a couple of coffees while sitting by the window, watching a large cruiser disgorging another large crowd of tourists, some of who headed our way, others going up to the locks, or into the gift shops to add no doubt to their souvenir collection.
I also spotted my earlier, possible target, the person I'd seen in front of me after leaving Oich bridge tearoom and decided not to catch up with. I couldn't mistake the light blue jacket. It was a Japanese girl, probably mid twenties, it was the first time I'd seen her on the walk so didn't know if she was doing the whole walk or not.
Going back out, I joined the souvenir hunt, going in the mill shop, which looked like it was in an old church, right next to the bridge. I browsed the shop, coming away with a bookmark and a couple of hat badges to join my growing collection. It was still only 3 o'clock, so the next port of call was The Bothy, a pub restaurant on the other side of the bridge, right opposite my b&b for the night, Abbey Cottage. Another coffee followed and I sat by the window looking out at the locks right outside. There was quite crowd out there. Next minute Joe and Euan passed the window, entering the pub a few seconds later. Another round of coffees followed all round. You may have noticed by now I drink a lot of coffee.They weren't stopping long, they were staying another half a mile or so along the walk at The Three Bridges b&b so I didn't see them that evening.
It was gone four now finally, so I crossed the road and knocked on the door of my b&b which was answered by Mike, as he introduced himself. He showed me to my room which was very small but perfectly adequate for my needs. It had an en suite with shower, a straight TV for the first time, lots of sugars in the tea tray, normally you get 2-4, there must have been 10. As I said, everything I needed.
I had a long shower and sorted my feet out. No new blisters had appeared and the one on my left foot was fine, no worse than before. My right foot was still tender underneath, but manageable.
I swapped and changed my hat badges around, applying some new ones I'd just acquired. Another tradition it seems, if I come to Scotland on a walk, I'm going to be buying more no doubt.

This week I've mostly been hat.

Sorted sartorially, I went back out to get something to eat. I'd decided on The Bothy, Joe and Euan had been given good reviews of it and the info pack in my room recommended it as well. Like most places I'd been, the menu was mostly fish, meat being given second billing, normally two choices only, one being Balmoral chicken. I opted for the pork here, in a pepper sauce with vegetables. I sat in the corner of the conservatory, which served as the restaurant, writing up the days event's as I had a Coke, while waiting to be served.
 The pork came, I couldn't really tell you what it tasted like as the pepper sauce was volcanically hot. The hottest I've ever had. The veg the rock hard and no taste due to the sauce. The only thing that could be said for it really was that it was also red hot on a red hot plate so I was able to take my time with it, watching the world go by, writing my dairy. I finished and had a coffee, taking it outside, sitting on some seating under a roof to have a smoke out of the light rain that had just started. I went for a walk along the canal again, going down past the old abbey, there were signs everywhere stating private property, no trespassers. It all seemed a bit much given its location and the fact that there were big gaps in the hedges running along the canal towpath where you could simply step onto the grass lawns around the abbey. There was a family playing with a couple of tennis bats and balls, I imagined it must be the headquarters of some secret sect, a rabid cult hell-bent on world domination. This is quite possibly the only explanation for the, as Bonnie Prince Charlie would say, "Monstrous carbuncle" of an extension which had been wrapped around parts of the building, some of it sat inside a large wall, which looked like it was an old courtyard. Whoever or whichever planning committee approved a 1970's styled office building facade to be stuck over this beautiful old building should be quite bluntly led out the back and despatched of quietly.

Said Monstrosity

Said carbuncle.

There was yet another opportunity for a sit down and a relax with a coffee at The Boathouse. A Cafe/Coffee house at the end of the loch, a large telescope at the very end of a spit of land for views up the loch and to spy boats coming in, which I used for this purpose.
 Loch Ness.

Walking back I passed a quaint little lighthouse, almost Germanic looking. I could imagine it on the Rhine, warning sailors of dangers ahead. There was a automatic green light inside, behind some black metal slats.

From the lighthouse.

The Lighthouse

Strolling back up to town and crossing the bridge, I passed The Moorings again and went around the little headland poking into the loch, just like the one with the abbey I'd just come from. Walking back up the northern edge I came to a rickety old bridge which, according to a sign, was waiting to be restored once enough funding was raised.
Rickety old bridge

It was still only 8 o'clock so I went back in the Bothy and found it fairly quiet, a group of four at he bar, Germans it turned out who had come in to watch the football, a European game between a German and Spanish, team, whose names , for the life of me I cant remember. Normally this would have had me supping up and leaving, as watching football is one of my least favourite activities. I remember as a kid, I must have only been about nine, going to the Christmas party at my fathers Working men's Club. Father Christmas appeared, handing presents out. It came to my turn and all excited I unwrapped mine to find a football. I'm sure I thought something like "what the F%^k am I meant to do with that"?
That's how interested I am in football, but I decided to settle back and just relax, have a few drinks and watch for a change. The Germans won I think.
I stayed until about 10 o'clock before crossing the road and going to my b&b. I finished my write up and went to bed about eleven.

Day 4 Walking 920-120

It was a short day today, only around seven miles, but judging by the map there was going to be a bit more of the up and down variety so I ordered breakfast for 830 and was down on time. The usual cereal as a starter, followed by a full breakfast which unfortunately consisted of everything being under cooked. The ingredients were all good quality, just disappointing overall. The coffee was good and filling my flask wasn't an issue. 
Finishing up I went back up and got my bag sorted, going back down to settle up. It was £30 for the room including breakfast and although it had been a let down, as it had been the first full breakfast I'd had, I ended up giving him £40. Comparing the first nights b&b at £40, I felt it was justified leaving a tip.
The sun was out now even though it had been raining quite hard when I was having breakfast.
Crossing the bridge I walked a couple of hundred yards up the A82 before turning off left up a little road which rose and looped round, then fell back to the A82, over about half a mile. The way then turned off left again , climbing steeply along a dirt path, through the trees, up to about 300 feet. I passed the Japanese girl, saying hello, she gave a timid hello back.
The next mile was fairly easy going, a good forest track surface, gentle ups and downs, going back down  to near loch level, before re-ascending to about the same height over the next mile after which I more or less stayed around this height for nearly all the way to Invermoriston.

Well, except for a crazy diversion which came up after another couple of miles contour hugging. I came around a corner and saw the usual pale blue marker post, this time with a bright orange triangular shape stapled to it, pointing straight down the hillside to the right. I stopped looking around for any signs of life. There were a couple of plant machines and a 4x4 parked up but I couldn't see anyone. Signs were also in place warning of logging taking place and to stick to the diversion. Reluctantly I followed orders and for the next 15 minutes probably risked life and limb more then if I'd walked blindfolded past 10 guys wielding chainsaws, intent on knocking me over with every tree felled. Bluntly speaking it was fucking crazy. A large area had been felled between the track and the A82 some 300 feet below.
This must have been done some time ago as all the loose twigs etc were silver white. They were also slippery as hell, even with my two poles I nearly went flying twice, straight down the hill, which is what route the path took, straight down about 1 in 2. Fifty metres flat was followed by a series of short, sharp, switchbacks back to the track. Looking back I could see I had probably travelled 100 metres along it. I was seriously not impressed. I later learnt that a couple doing the walk had to pull out as the wife had twisted her ankle and her husband had gone flying down the hill after slipping. I also spoke to a couple of people who were waved through and allowed to stay on the track.
Feeling aggrieved and determined that if another one came up I was going to ignore it and carry on, I continued, deciding it was time to enact another tradition I've decided I must follow on these walks. The opportunity soon arrived with a waterfall coming down from the rocky left hand side of the track. A swirling pool, a suitably positioned seat, within five minutes I had  a cup of coffee, a smoke and my feet cooling nicely in the aforementioned pool. The only thing to spoil it was that it decided to start raining at this point.I got my brolly out and that did the trick so all was good.

Ahhh.. That's better. Booting back up I set back off, the rain didn't last long and it soon brightened back up. I hadn't used my jacket at all day. Experimenting with my umbrella, which was one of the tiny black ones, I'd learnt the trick of slipping the handle underneath my pack chest strap, the pole against the side of my neck and resting the umbrella on top of my hat. Hey, it's not a fashion parade. It worked well, when the rain got a bit heavy I'd stick it up and it would keep the worst off.
A couple of more miles later I passed the 'pool couple again, they heading towards Fort Augustus. It still baffled me how they were doing it. Apparently when they booked the accommodation there, they were told 3 days minimum. That's one of the reasons the were doing it that way. When I heard that I just thought, "well why didn't you try somewhere else"? I don't think I could have done it that way, it wouldn't have felt like I'd done it properly. That's the whole appeal to me. Leaving one place and walking for a week until you reach your goal, not going here, there and everywhere in different directions. They seemed to be enjoying themselves though. They were also able to allay my worries regarding something coming up. From several blogs I've read, I knew there was a short cut coming up which would cut over a mile off the end. I'd more or less decided that I was going to ignore it but 'pool told me that the shortcut was now the official route. Saying goodbye, I spied Joe, Euan and a couple of ladies walking up the track. I decided to wait for them at the shortcut, which came up after a couple of minutes, they arriving a few minutes later, obviously having had a chat themselves with 'pool.
The ladies turned out to be Jos and Jean, Dutch and Scottish respectively. Two friends who now lived in Aberdeen, they'd walked the WHW a couple of years earlier. Joe and Euan had taken the diversion as well, the girls, I'm not sure. Walking across the new bridge, well 1933 anyway, we all went down to the old Telford bridge. What a sight it was. The central caisson was built into a massive lump of rock in the middle of the raging torrent. It was magnificent.

Not bad...

 Joe, Euan and yours truly.

"No, You go first."

We took some pictures, as you can see, it was the scenic highlight of the day by far. Heading along the road a hundred yards brought us all to the Glenmoriston Arms, as far as I could see the only place for refreshments apart from a little village store opposite. Joe and Euan, who still had to get to their b&b at Alltsigh 4 miles further along the Way, decided to have a break, it was still only about 130. 
I opted for a Crabbies Ginger beer, which went down well. We all sat outside enjoying the sun which had decided to come out for a bit.
We must have sat there until 330, I had a couple of coffees, Joe and Euan regretting having so long a break, getting going soon afterwards. I stayed for a bit longer and left about 4 to go up to my b&b, Darroch View,which was just a bit further along the road.
After my initial horror experience on the first night, I now approach them with some trepidation, wondering how mien host is going to be. I needn't have worried as Hayley was very welcoming and friendly. I'd also been upgraded from a twin to a double as she had 3 other pairs who were looking for twin rooms. The room was large and comfortable with Sky +. all the usual sundries, lots of fresh towels and miniature soaps, shampoos etc.
I used said shampoos etc, washing my socks etc then having a welcome shower, which overall was the only niggle I had. The head was very low, even at maximum height I had to duck quite a bit to get underneath. I watched TV for a bit, catching the weather, which promised more of the same, overcast, showers, bit of sun, a mixed bag. I wasn't expecting anything else so just shrugged at the news.
Going back out, I had another wander down to the old bridge, wandering across and ringing Garth to make him wish he was here. I also paid a visit to St Columba's Well, which was an uninspiring stagnant puddle, viewed from a garden patio type structure.

It must have been about 630 so I headed back to the Glenmoriston Arms, to fill my face and have a few drinks.
I started with the usual jd and Coke, writing up the days events before having a look at the menu. As usual there was a plentiful supply of salmon served in a variety of ways. A specials board had various choices, amongst them ostrich, served with horseradish mash, wild mushrooms and a garlic butter glaze. I uhmmed and argghhed, asking the waitress what it was like. Deciding to go for it, I had a soup starter, then the ostrich came, very fancily presented and I can now report, extremely tasty. I had a suspicion it was overcooked, as the waitress had said, "just like steak, only leaner". This was definitely a well done steak then, but I could, hand on heart say it was the best meal I've ever eaten in a restaurant. The ostrich was full of flavour, the mash and mushrooms, very nice and the garlic butter glaze, which was the only concern I had, was very understated and not overpowering in the slightest.

Very tasty.

Outside the pub, Darroch view, house furthest away .

Thoroughly impressed I told the waitress to compliment the chef and taking a coffee outside, had a few smokes and relaxed, chatting to other smokers who congregated outside. Japanese lady came out, buttoning up her coat and heading up the road to her own b&b for the evening. After another drink I followed suit and finishing writing up my diary, I went to bed about 11 o'clock. Another enjoyable day..

Day 5 Walking 930-345

I arranged breakfast for 830 so was up at eight, getting my bag organised before going down so I could set off straight after. Breakfast was very good, only issue being toast out before the main so was again cold. I was able to fill my flask no problem and before leaving was provided with my packed lunch, which was a Tuna salad sandwich, bag of crisps, chocolate bar, and an apple. Suitably provisioned I set off at around half nine, heading past the pub and turning right to follow a tarmac lane as it switchbacked up the hillside climbing around 500 feet. Mercifully it was not a long distance and I was glad to spot the turn on to the forest track which was leveller ground, also a bit softer underfoot. This only lasted less than a mile before the way turned off to the right, twisting back down the hillside, but again, a nice little path that wasn't too taxing and brought me out on another little track at about 250 feet. This was a very pleasant stretch of path. Going up the first climb earlier I had seen more of the orange triangles attached to waymarkers. Approaching from a distance my heart had sank, imagining some mad, random diversion which would entail me risking life and limb to achieve 50 metres forward motion. These were the first ones I'd spotted since the crazy diversion yesterday, fortunately they matched the actual route. I found out later they were there for a bike challenge which was taking place this coming weekend. I didn't know this until after the days walk so each time I saw one, which was probably a dozen times at least I would take a deep breath, wondering what hazards I would be facing.
This path however, although there were the orange triangles, had obviously not had any heavy transport on it for some time, also it didn't look wide enough, so I was able to relax over the issue for a bit.

I came to the man made cave Old Tommy, as he was called, a local who I had met last night outside the pub smoking a fag, had told me about. He had worked in forestry and had told me how one time while clearing the sides of the path, his workmate had nearly destroyed it. it had been overgrown and he could only make out the top rough stone, not the filled in walls. Tommy had managed to shout to him over the noise of the machinery just before he pulled it down.

It was a very well put together shelter, I could imagine on a rough day, being holed up in there, warm and dry whilst the weather raged outside.
I continued on the path, even encountering some grass to walk on for a change. Last year on the WHW I think I managed about 50 yards on grass the whole walk.
And then I walked on some grass..... which was nice.
The path continued like this for nearly three miles gradually going down to Alltsigh, where Joe and Euan had stopped the previous evening. I wasn't expecting to bump into them today as I imagined they were probably a couple of hours ahead of me, plus I wasn't planning on racing them and missing out on my little pitstops for coffee etc.
A hard two miles came next, climbing about 900 feet, switchback after switchback, each seeming steeper than the last. At one hairpin, with good views of the loch, a bench was perfectly positioned, unfortunately it had a full quota of behinds with no room for mine, so after stopping for half a minute to say hello to the owners, and take a breath, I carried on puffing and panting. Thankfully the climb finished and easier terrain followed for a while.
 Going up..
 Been up....
Easier going.

I met another couple at the top, both must have been late 50's, early 60's at least, fair play to them, they weren't using poles and were cracking along. We passed each other a few times over the rest of the day. I chatted with them for a few minutes, me doing what I did with everyone I came across who wasn't using poles, that is try to convince them to try using them.
Another mile or so of the above picture followed, high up above the loch, a decent surface, I got cracking on this bit. I hadn't had a sit down yet and after that climb I was looking forward to spying a bench which I could bagsy first dabs on, so was determined to stay in front of these two until then. As I said they weren't hanging around, I'd look behind me after five minutes of speed marching almost and see them not 50 yards behind.
The Way branched of this path after a mile or so heading to the right, going downhill overall, a bit muddy in places, trees either side. I spied at last my goal, an unoccupied bench with a good view.
 Claiming my prize, I got my tuna sandwich out, bulking it up with about half a bag of crisps. It went down well so I topped it up with an apple and had a couple of little cups of coffee with a smoke.
It was raining again, so the umbrella came out as I set off, perched on top of my head, I probably looked a "reet plonker", but like I said, it's not a fashion parade, it's a "be comfortable parade".
this path continued for another half mile or so then I was back on a forestry road for about the same distance, until reaching a left turn, through a high wooden gate which took me past a small holding with sheep scattered around, munching on grass quite peacefully. This was followed by some 3 miles of road walking, at times just off the road on a narrow verge path, dotted with daffodils all the way along.This reminded me of something Stephen Fry once said on QI, that if you walked from Lands end To John O'Groats, because spring heads north at about 4 miles an hour you could walk all the way with daffodils coming into flower as you walked. That would be nice lol.


 I caught up a group of three walkers, two men and a woman who I hadn't seen before today. They didn't seem very talkative and I didn't see them again so they may have only been out for the day. The road was a hard slog, the rain was persistent, I was just wanting to get the day over with. I hadn't seen Joe and Euan all day and had it in my mind I would try to hook up with them at the end of the day.
Finally the Way branched off the road to the left, through a forest gate, winding it's way through some trees before emerging on the open hillside with my first views of Drumnadrochit. I hadn't seen the castle yet which was a disappointment, and I still couldn't see it. I imagined I'd have had good views of it at some point in the last hour but no.  I'd told J and E, and Joss and Jean it was much like Invermoriston in the sense of its location at the end of a glen with hills north and south, which it was, but it looked a lot bigger than I'd imagined. Looking at the map, the castle didn't look like it was going to be a walking destination for this evening which was disappointing.

 First sight of Drumnadrochit

The path wound down the hill until I reached a little bridge, where I decided to have a quick smoke and finish my coffee off. It was still raining so the umbrella was still deployed. 
Quick fag and a brew
My feet where pretty much on fire now, more so the right one from the blister from day two, the left not as bad. Summoning up the energy I set back off after five minutes for the final slog into town, which was very uninspiring, consisting of a mile or so of pavement walking besides the A82, the traffic seeming to be going at crazy speeds, although after five days of walking off road, a car going past at thirty was still a shock to the system.
I reached my destination, the Drumnadrochit Hotel,which was right on the main road, where you turned left to head out of town along the lochside. Apologising for my appearance, I checked in at reception then was escorted to the annexe at the back, a very bland, grey block of bedrooms, where my room was the first one, closest to the door. This had me worried as to noise that evening if everyone who was staying there, I think there was about 15 rooms in it, was going to be banging through that door and passing my room on the way to theirs.
The room was perfectly acceptable, only a single bed though and the TV only picked up the basic channels. A bath was present though with a good powerful shower overhead. First things first, I filled the bath almost to the brim, squeezing a couple of the shower gel bottles provided in to it under the taps to get a load of foam on the go. I washed my dirty socks etc and both my base layers in the sink and then I stripped and slid in, the bath,  closing my eyes and nearly falling to sleep within five minutes. I reluctantly pulled the plug, literally, after about half an hour then finished off with a long shower which revived me to a degree. 
My clothes had dried by this time, hanging up above a electric heater provided so I dressed and headed down to the bar/restaurant.
There was no-one in customer wise, so I had free reign of the tables, choosing on with a good view outside, in case Joe and Euan wandered past. The waiter, a young guy around mid twenties came straight over and I ordered a Jd and coke. He went back to the bar and waving a tall glass at me asked if I wanted a big one. I took it to mean the size of the glass and assented. Coming over he said he had left half the can of coke behind the bar for my next drink. Feeling this was a bit presumptuous of him I gave a noncommittal ok. He also asked if I was eating in the restaurant tonight to which I replied that I wasn't sure yet as I was hoping to catch up with a couple of fellow walkers and see what they were doing. He told me they expected to be packed that night so I'd better book early. I was starting to resent his hard sell and finishing my drink, I went to reception, asking for the phone number of Tramps b&b, which I'd heard mentioned yesterday when we were having a drink outside the pub. I went outside to have a smoke while I rang. A lady answered, and after asking if she had a Joe and Euan stopping there said "Hold on" and a voice, a female voice asked,"Hi, is that Colin? This is Joss. Ha, I'd got mixed up as to who was where. Joss wasn't sure where J and E were stopping, all she could come up with was "it's something like Alba". Well that obviously sounded right so after saying I was thinking of going to the Fiddlers which was back down the road and maybe they could come up as well if they fancied it, I said goodbye and went back to reception to see if they had a number. They couldn't find an Alba anywhere in Drum.. so I returned to the bar to ponder my next move. The waiter was straight on me again as to whether I was eating in which made me even more determined not to be. I got on my phone and went on looking for accom in the area, trying to find a name which had Alba in there somewhere. The only one I could find was somewhere called Glenelva, which sounded a possibility. Well, on answering my call, and after me asking the same question, got told "Hold on" again, then a second later, there was Joe on the line who had been stood with Euan talking to the receptionist as I rang. Lol. Sorry for the lols by the way.
I filled them in on my conversation with Joss regarding eating out, Joe saying why not come down to their hotel for a meal instead as they weren't planning on going out. I readily agreed, looking forward to catching up with them. I said I'd ring Joss and let them know our plans if they fancied joining us, but they had decided to stay in as well. I didn't blame them, If I hadn't been hassled by the waiter I may have done the same as I was feeling knackered.
I decided to have another drink and write up some of the day's events. Catching a different waiter who had appeared I asked for another Jd plus the half can left over, the first waiter coming out of the kitchen whilst I was saying this. Passing the other waiter he said to him " he's drinking doubles". I clocked this and told the other waiter that " No, I just want a single". I realised then that I had been given  a double first time round through somewhat underhand tactics. I was not impressed at all and was able to get my own back to a degree, when Salesman of the year came over after a couple of minutes to again ask if I was eating in the hotel. I informed him that I had located my friends and was eating with them at their hotel, The Glenelva. He didn't give up, informing me back that "oh, they've got load of dogs which roam about the bar and restaurant", turning his nose up to emphasise the point. I was able at last to silence him with " Oh I love dogs, it doesn't bother me in the least". He slunk off with his tail between his legs.
When I'd booked accom, I'd seen that this place was a family run hotel and he was probably the son, or one of them, the other waiter looked a bit like him, probably brothers, so being keen and trying to make a sale is all well and good. It's just that there's a fine line between a welcoming host trying to gain some business and an overly pushy salesman who makes me more determined to say no.
It was getting on for seven now, I'd arranged to go down for about half seven, so finishing my drink I made my way back down the road, turning left after half a mile then around the same distance along to the Hotel. It was only around a mile but it was hard on the feet. I only had one stick with me to take the weight off a bit so arrived half an hour later bang on time. The Hotel was an old manse house, in it's own grounds, reception through the front door and the bar and restaurant round the back.According to all the signs and certificates up it had won Camra's Pub of the year for 3 years running, although as I don't drink beer, lager etc I couldn't offer any opinion on whether it was deserved or not. Finding Joe and Euan sat at a table in the restaurant, I joined them, apologising for tracking them down like some crazy stalker. They assured me not to worry and we had a drink while catching up on our days walk.
I learnt of their own horror experience at their b&b last night at Alltsigh. The owner apparently greeted them wearing a kilt, sporran etc. Nothing wrong with that, of course, proud to be Scottish and all that. The only problem was he also apparently a racist against every race on earth. To Joe and Euan he was very friendly, plying them with drink the moment they arrived, serving for dinner,  mince and tatties, a massive portion each which they couldn't finish. Unfortunately it was before they'd eaten he told them how he went out picking up roadkill and storing it in his freezer for some unspecified purpose. He then very loudly told them how he more or less hated the English, the French etc. This was with a couple of English lads and a French family in the room. He then turned to the French man, asking him if he hated the English as well. At breakfast they were served an enormous plate with an unimaginable amount of fried food, all swimming in copious amounts of grease. They were totally put off and serving them coffee he tried to put whisky in for them. They escaped as quickly as they could. It made us all have a good laugh at their own expense, astounded at the blokes attitude. I can honestly say compared to him, Dreamsnatchers Helen now seemed like an angel.
I settled on a prawn cocktail starter, very 80's an all that but still a good starter when all said and done. Bangers and mash followed, thankfully nothing like the overpriced rubbish I had last year in Drymen on the WHW. I bought a round of drinks, Jd and Coke for me, a Laphroig single malt for Euan and a Coke for Joe. It came to £5.75 which had me doubletaking, asking the barman if that was right.I was expecting about £8-9, so very good prices to be had here. The roaming pack of dogs never materialised, save for one dog which didn't do a lot of roaming and looked quite at home.

Wild and roaming dog

It was getting close to 10 now, a large group came through, various ages, all clutching a different bottle of ale which they lined up down the centre of the large table they sat around. From what we could gather they were ale tasting various brews, all of which, for some reason, had a name with a left wing bent, I cant remember the exact names but along the lines of "The workers Ale", Revolution Brew", Red Flag flagon and such like.
We left them to it, it was gone ten now and all three of us were knackered so saying goodbye I left them to it and walked back up to the hotel, which was deserted, a couple of people in the bar at most, surprising, as the salesman of the year had said it was going to be packed. I had a couple of smokes outside my room block before crashing out in short order.

Day 6 Walking 9-545

A long day ahead today, the longest of the walk at about 20 mile to my hotel so I was up 745 for breakfast at 8 when they started serving. The same staff where on again, which is always normally a sign that it is in fact family run as stated. I sat the table next to Japanese lady, who I rather confidently said Konnichiwa to. I probably got it wrong and she thought I was a doughnut, but I do like to make an attempt. We must be the most ignorant country on earth when it comes to expecting everyone else to speak English while making no effort ourselves. I always like to learn a few basic phrases, just hello, goodbye etc to show we're not all ignoramuses. our A decent breakfast with plenty of cereals, fruits etc, You did your own toast which was a new on but worked well enough. A decent full plate of all the usual, I felt that I'd better stock up today as I wasn't 100% sure that there would be any place to fill up in between. I'd told J and E, and Joss and Jean about the caravan which I'd seen on Google streetview, set up near Abriachan Forest that served refreshments, although I wasn't sure whether it would still be there or not. I'd read on a couple of blogs about  walkers coming upon this place, but these were a couple of years ago .
Plenty of coffee available so was able to fill my little flask, it only held around a normal cups worth but I would get about 5-6 drinks using the lid of the flask, which were enough during the day for all my little stops. I wasn't planning on too many stops today though if I could help it.
Fortified for the day ahead I set off by nine along the dreaded A82, on  the pavement fortunately for a mile or so before reaching the turn off. I expected to climb away from the road in short order, however after a walk around 3 sides of a house, all of which were surrounded by a high wooden fence, obviously to stop walkers peering through windows, although there was actually no windows which weren't frosted facing the fence, so it seemed like a complete waste of money on their part, plus the fence was a twin wall affair, only with spacing between the slats which meant you could still see through all the way and totally negated the whole fence idea anyway, I was back down to road level. The path then, instead of going up the waymarked, totally good surface path, which was gated and padlocked, was diverted along a completely muddy boglike path for a couple of hundred yards until finally ascending, meeting the blocked path along the way, with another gate and padlock. Looking along I could discern no good reason for this, both ends of the path were in good shape, unlike the quagmire I'd just been through.
I met a couple at the top of this climb who, like me, took advantage of the view to get a half decent picture finally of Drumnadrochit Castle. I'd managed to get a first view of it 10 minutes earlier near the useless fence.
Drumnadrochit Castle
Carrying on I entered a beautiful forest, with tall conifers, the path narrow, carpeted with needles, giving a soft surface underfoot. There was evidence of the fires I'd heard about in the weeks leading up to the walk, this disappeared however after crossing a burn coming down the hillside, after which there was no fire damage.

However pleasant it looked it was a hard slog, the path switchbacking up the hillside very steeply, well it was for me being a wimp when it comes to steep climbs anyway. Carrying on climbing the forest stopped and the view opened out a bit, a viewpoint coming up which I had a look at. A family appeared who I had seen in The Moriston Arms back in Invermoriston. I hadn't seen them at all yesterday or in the evening last night but they must have been doing all the Way. I said hello but they weren't very forthcoming.
We kept climbing, I came across a info sign telling of how during the war a lot of Canadians had come over to help with tree felling in the area. Within a very short time I also came across a large marque tent, all sides closed up. I wondered what the hell it was doing here in the middle of nowhere. I imagined it must have been covering up some unearthed archaeological find and I tried to fold open one of the flaps but they were pegged down tight. Oh well, carrying on pretty soon the views opened up with some of my last views of Loch Ness to the right, the path now turning into a wide gravel forest road. Hard underfoot, I would pick a line to follow, where vehicles had smoothed the road somewhat, only to find sometimes that because you were stepping on individual pieces of gravel instead of a surface layer it was better to go on to the lighter layers instead. Bit anal I know but all these little things add up to an easier walk overall.

Garth's favourite surface..

I came across another cairn in memory of a lad called Stuart, there was no information, just a rain soaked picture set into the cairn. A beautiful spot, I wished him well, wherever he was.

The track now beared to the left, hiding the Loch for the last time, I was sorry to see it go. The land was more barren now, the track winding away in the distance. According to the map I'd done less than five miles, but let me tell you, it was a long five miles and I'd stopped for nothing more than to get my breath or soak in the views so I was on the lookout for a suitable place to rest for a quick brew. This thankfully arrived after another mile or so in the shape of some large flat topped boulders on the side of the path, a little pond, I can't call it a loch, it was only about 30 feet across just behind them. I got a coffee out and had a smoke while getting the brolley out ,as as usual when I stopped, it had started raining again. I say again, it hadn't rained yet today but the weather forecast last night had predicted heavy rain and wind, even turning to sleet and snow on the tops. Well I was definitely on the tops now. When it had said possible snow I had said to myself "well that might be quite nice, I dont mind a bit of falling snow" plus you normally don't get much wind when the snow starts. Let me just qualify that a second. I've lived on a marsh for 10 years in the SE of England, so that's what normally happens here.

Setting back off the rain became heavier and looked like it was settling in for the day. I must have passed the highest point of the Way without spotting the marker post although I was looking out for it around this point, the track however started to descend now and I could take comfort in the fact that I had very little ascent in front of me all the way to Inverness which meant I could make faster progress from now on. The track soon turned into a tarmac road, straight as a die for a mile. This heartened me because at the end of it was the caravan I'd told Joe and Euan about back in Invermoriston. Approaching it I could see that refreshments were not going to be the order of the day here.The caravan looked like it was falling to bits and there was no signs of life anywhere. I was disheartened, thinking , "well that's it till Inverness". Texting Euan to fill him in on the bad news, I opened the gate which led onto a path to carry on just as two cyclists came to it from the opposite direction, saving them from having to dismount. They smiled, the weather was miserable and I could see they were grateful. On passing through, a length of driftwood was laying on the ground, painted black or brown, with "cafe" written in paint on it. "well there's no cafe now" I said to myself.

The path was beautiful. Christmas trees were growing either side of it as it twisted around.Then another piece of driftwood, this time still stuck in the ground appeared, proclaiming, "Tea", another 50 yards then "Coffee", another 50 yards "Bovril". Haha I thought, maybe I'm in luck. Sure enough after 5 minutes a wood bark carpeted path appeared on the right, with a cafe sign pointing along it. A ramshackle shed appeared with a little patio/terrace stuck on the back with a roof over a wooden bench and seats. Japanese Lady was ensconsed with the couple I'd bumped into taking pictures of the castle earlier. We all said hello and commiserated each other over the weather. I was sopping wet at this point and so where they.The hostess appeared, a garrulous woman, very friendly who was most welcoming. I opted for the Bovril, being told it came with some oatcakes and cheese. Just what the doctor ordered I thought. I texted Euan again to give him the good news, he had texted me back before, they were at the highest point, a couple of miles or so back.The cafe owner had gone to get my order and the couple where getting up to leave, We were all under the terrace roof at this point, a very small area, I was waiting for the husband to move so I could sit down but he took forever faffing around putting his gloves on, stood at his seat dithering. I had to bite my lip or I'd have said, for %$^ks sake just move can you so I can sit down. he finally did and I sat down gratefully. The rain was heavy and the roof did very little to help so I kept my umbrella deployed. Refreshments arrived along with a instruction that I mustn't leave before signing and receiving a receipt for my repast, which I'd already gathered as she had already told the couple as they were getting ready to leave the same thing. It all concerned the taxman apparently, she was very nice and everything, just seemed to be fixated on said taxman and asked everyone if they weren't one in disguise , deployed to catch her out.
The couple had had enough of waiting for her to come back and left without one which I scribbled on for her when she appeared as she went into a panic that they had left first.
The bovril etc went down very well, just what I needed. Next minute Joss and Jean turned up, looking as drenched as me, both ordering a drink and going through the same routine vis a vis the taxman.
It would have been a beautiful spot if the weather had been good, she had a little pond with seating around, plenty of places for people to camp. You could see that she had felled a lot of trees to create this area and planted again selectively. I loved the setting and told her to bear me in mind if she ever wanted a Man Friday.
 She asked if she could take our pictures as she uploaded all of them on to her facebook page which we assented to. Yoss offered and I accepted some of her pot of coffee as she said she wouldn't be able to finish it. I cleaned my Bovril cup out as best I could and obliged her willingly.Just as I was finishing and saying to myself that I'd better get moving Joe and Euan turned up, again looking just as bedraggled as the rest of us. We had a quick catch up but I didn't linger, I needed to get going. Oh, the Pool couple had also turned up so their wasn't enough room for us all to shelter anyway. I said well I'd better go, only 10 miles to go, whereupon the Pool's said oh no it's 12 miles. Well the rest of us agreed to go with 10 miles instead, purely I think for psychological reasons. It sounded better.

The view from the terrace

Jean and Joss

Saying goodbye I continued down the little tree lined path for a couple of minutes before coming out onto a tarmac road, trees to the right, but exposed on the left now a few minutes before the trees disappeared and I was exposed to the full brunt of the weather which had now decided to combine sleet with a 20 mile an hour horizontal headwind. This was fun...not. The road snaked away into the distance, the woods I knew I would be entering a long way off, at least a couple of miles. No cars passed though and after a mile a path on the left of the road, gave me the chance to avoid more road walking than was necessary.
 Another 20 minutes and I entered the edge of the forest which immediately sheltered me from the worst of the wind and the sleet eased up a bit and came down vertically...which was nice. I spotted a suitable tree stump and hunkered down for a quick slurp of coffee and a fag. I knew all the hard stuff was over and knew I was going to make it so I wasn't going to rush. If the weather hadn't have been so horrible I would probably have took my time even more. I was hoping J and E and Y and J were going to catch up and we could finish together, but entering the woods I'd seen no sign of them on the road behind. Quite a few people passed by heading in the opposite direction, families on bikes, 4 lads with enormous backpacks on all covered with massive ponchos over everything, pack and all.
I ate an apple I'd had rolling around my bag for a few days before carrying on. The woods were very pretty, managed apparently for deer rather than timber, so lots of old trees of various kinds, not too dense, very picturesque. Don't ask me which types of tree as I'm useless at botanical matters.On another day, with better weather and not 5 days walking behind me it would have been a fantastic walk in the woods. There was also lots of path wide puddles to try to negotiate but my trusty poles again made a big difference.
The path continued like this for the next three and a half miles, Woods to the left of me , woods to the right, here I am , stuck in the middle of you....
It was a nice amble though, a welcome respite from the weather being hemmed in on both sides.
I came across another of the big canvas marques that I'd seen earlier in the day, again all closed up. A brainwave hit me, "Der.. these must be for the cycle race that's taking place over the weekend." Obviously there for refreshment purposes.Again, Der...
After said three and half..ish miles a gate appeared and a little loch on the left. As I passed through the gate I must have disturbed something in the woods to the right, as a great kerfuffle erupted and I could hear something moving quickly away. It freaked me out about and I had visions of a scene from "Dog Soldiers appear in my mind. I kept a wary eye until I angled away from the trees, alongside the loch. A large orange triangle pointed down a steep field, but a slightly hidden blue marker post was to the left by the loch and I followed that instead.
I had views now of Inverness, my goal after around 73 miles covered, so only four miles to go now, plus a bit more to the hotel.
The path started to descend and wind down the hill. Plus I was also exposed now to the miserable weather.
Spying my old faithful, a suitable chainsawed seat with a un-chainsawed tree next to it providing a bit of shelter, I finished my flask off and had a couple of smokes, still hopeful that The four behind, JEJJ for short, you know who I mean, would come along and we could finish together. I gave it twenty minutes but no sign, so sighing myself I set off.
Going down a steep bit a bloke come running up, nodding a quick hello. Sorry, but that seems too peverse for me, why run when you can walk?
At the bottom of the hill, all of a sudden I was on a little tarmac side road, going past some abandoned, security fenced off buildings and joining a main road. This was it now, I was entering Inverness. Although pleased, I was disappointed that the walk was nearly over and had to tell myself not to start getting pissed off about that.
The Way turned right after a couple of hundred yards, past a new complex of buildings, a college or something, I wasn't looking to closely as I had my head down and hood up against the now exposed conditions. It was throwing it down, which seems to be par for the course on a last day of a long walk.
Back onto a grassy path between some fields I carried on descending, I was still about 250 ft above Inverness. A small estate appeared, the Way passing over some communal ground, joy of joys, beautiful soft grass for about 100 yards. It was absolutely sodden though which spoiled the effect somewhat.
Then I was going past a golf course on my right, fields on my left, a hillock in front of me just like the one on the fist day of WHW last year, Dumgoyne. next minute I was back on the towpath of the Calendonian canal.
In my sodden and tired state I didn't have a clue as to whether to turn left or right and looking around there was no marker anywhere in sight. Since coming down the hill and hitting the tarmac road, the Way markers had been at times ambiguous to say the least and I'd had to drag my map out to doublecheck, which I had to do now and turned right along to Tomnahunch bridge. A few boats where moored alongside the canal, some looking like people where living in them. The bridge was a nice looking one, all painted white and black, just like some of the locks I'd seen.
Crossing it then turning right the Way continued on a path then for some undecipherable reason took me across the carpark of some leisure centre then back to the same path at the corner of Bught park, on the banks of the River Ness. There were signs up saying no dog walkers, which seemed a bit mean. The path was flooded all the way across for much of the next 200 yards and a steep grassy bank on my left and a fence on my right meant it was hard to avoid. I tried in a couple of the deeper parts to pass around on the bank, only my sticks stopped me going on my arse.
A little metal bridge put me across half the river onto the Island in the middle. I could see that about half the Island was under water, not just water but a raging torrent of water, the river was high and in full spate. I wondered whether I would actually get to the other bridge, if the path itself wasn't under water and I would have to turn round and cross further up on on of the little suspension bridges but luckily I crossed without incident.
Last leg now along the riverside, passing b&b's hotels etc, the weather hadn't improved so I wasn't going to finish the walk with the sun on my face, that's for sure.
Over the road and up a narrow alley then to the castle, at last that was it, finished. I took a picture of the finish sign and hopped it over to the Castle View pub 50 yards away.

Entering, my glasses immediately steamed up and I couldn't see. Taking them off I could see the pub was packed out, people turning to look at my sorry state and opening up to let me through to the bar. A few good natured comments came my way which I took in a gracious manner. I asked for a large coffee, saying I would go back outside as this was all a bit too busy for me and I didn't fancy having to stand there steaming and dripping away over everyone. There was a nice ornate cast iron roof affair in front of the pub which sheltered some benches, where I plonked myself down and lit a smoke. The coffee arrived which didn't touch the sides on the way down, so when a waitress appeared to clean some tables I asked politely if she would be so nice as to bring me another on, the largest one they served, to save me going in and dripping all over the customers again. She could see I was a bit worse for wear and kindly assented. I haung around for about half an hour, keeping my eye out for JEJJ but alas no sign of them.
I couldn't wait any longer, the days walk was catching me up now and I was knackered, I had to get sorted out now, so heading down the road I crossed the bridge over the river and headed to my hotel, the Premier Inn. Entering I approached the reception, again, as was my want, apologising for my decrepit appearance to which she assured me it was not a problem, giving my my key card and directions to my room.
After a couple of attempts to get the lifts to work with the card I succeeded and made it upstairs. Getting in my room the first thing I did was walk straight in the bathroom and turned the taps on to run a bath. Stripping in there as well, I found that my feet were soaking wet, along with my socks, plus everything else basically. I emptied my bag hoping to find some dry, clean clothes in there. Alas, there wasn't a dry item of clothing in my bag. No socks or anything, even though there should have been. Casting my eye around I discovered that there was nowhere where I could hang anything over or near a heater. The heating came through a large vent above the door, which was no good, plus the hangers in the wardrobe were of the type that separate into two and cannot be hung anywhere but in the wardrobe. You know the ones.
This was a pretty pickle then. It also started the downwards spiral of me getting pissed off with everything and anything, which is the downside to finishing a walk for me obviously.
There was a hairdryer fixed to the large unit incorporating the wardrobe, on an extending spiral of cable. Aha I thought, Maybe?... I hung the clothes up I wanted to wear that evening back in the wardrobe, laid my boots on their side on the bottom shelf, then taking the hairdryer laid that on its side on there as well. Turning it on I managed to get some drying action going, although I had to lie it on a pair of boxers as it started to vibrate loudly against the hard surface. Satisfied my Heath Robinson, or rather Bodge it and Makeshift approach was working, I returned to the bathroom, sinking into the beckoning tub and chillaxed for 20 minutes feeling a bit happier. The niggles returned though when I roused to use the soap dispenser, which was positioned at the tap end of the bath. Perfect if you wanted a shower, but totally useless for a bath. I tried to reach by shuffling forward, knees bent but still couldn't. I had to resort to half crouching and leaning right over to reach, which with the bath being very slippy with no grip was pretty dodgy and just pissed me off again. Maybe Lenny Henry could have reached it! There was another dispenser placed by the sink, so no shortage of the stuff, but whoever had designed this obviously hadn't thought it through properly had they?
Draining the bath I finished off with a long shower, at last able to actually use the soap!
I was too knackered to stand there drying myself, so after a cursory toweling I sprawled out on the chaise longue provided, which doubled as a spare bed and stared blankly at the tv for the next hour, absolutely knackered. with one hand I kind of hoped to hear from J and E, on the other I didn't think I had the energy to go back out.
After said hour or so my clothes were dry and I was able to dress, go downstairs and ring my mum outside while having a smoke. It was raining still, the river right in front of me, raging past at a hundred miles an hour. Well not quite but you get the picture. I toyed with going finding somewhere to eat in town, but quickly sacked the idea, resolving to eat in the hotel and get to bed.
The restaurant looked decent enough, the menu promising wonderous food, I opted for the pie, chips and peas which sounded appealing the way it described, asking for a pot of tea as well.
I waited 10 minutes, slowly getting more pissed off as it didn't appear. A couple sat down next to my table, the same waitress coming over to take their order, both ordering the steak. Catching her as she finished I asked if I could possibly get my tea now. "Oh, the other waitress is bringing it to you sir". Still another five minutes passed before this happened. In the mean time the same waitress had come back to ask the couple how they liked their steak cooking, a question that is surely the automatic next question when someone asks for steak in the first place?
Answering in unison, " Oh well done please" got me riled again. Everyone I know always has steak well done and it just ruins the meat, medium to medium rare and you can actually taste something.
My food finally arrived, I had high hopes but was disappointed again. Frozen pie, frozen chips and frozen peas and a miniscule drop of gravy in a boat on the the plate. The pie was so dry that the gravy barely softened it up. The vinegar was in one of those stupid carafes with the stopper which either means not getting any out or flooding the plate with the stuff. I went for the second option, my chips floating in it, at least it added a bit of moisture to the plate. As I and Peter Kay have always said, "You've got to have somat moist ont' plate"
The waitress had come back with the couples steak which I could see was going to be as dry as my offering, asking them if they would like any sauces with their meal, to which they again, in unison, went, " Oh ketchup please". I was seething inside, muttering darkly under my breath as to their philistine tastes. Why bother ordering a F%&*ing steak, well done and smothering it in Ketchup. You may as well of thrown the sole of my boot on the plate for all the flavour you'd get out of what I could now see on theirs. Bleedin hell I can hear you say, Each to their own and all that but really! I did thank the waitress when she came for my plate, I didn't demur when she asked if I'd enjoyed my food, and I apologised for being a bit ratty, saying I had had a long hard day. No doubt she had as well. All the staff seemed to be Eastern European, which seems to be the case everywhere nowadays. Nothing wrong with that, they always seem to work harder and longer than we do anyway, and have to put up with miserable old moaners like me as well.
As soon as I'd finished I went and paid up, leaving a £1 tip,  I didn't think the meal warranted it but I will always leave something if the service has been above a certain level. I went out into the still pouring rain for a couple of smokes then back in to the lift to try in vain to get my card to work again. It took a couple of Dutch guys with their key to get it to work by the simple expedient of turning the card so it faced the other way. As I said to the waitress it had been a long day. That's my excuse anyway and I'm sticking to it.
That's it really, I crashed out in bed, knackered and slept the sleep of the dead until the morning. Another walk ticked off the list. Roll on September when it's the West Highland Way again!!


I did worry before setting off whether I would have the perseverance to complete the walk on my own. Last year, having Garth ahead and waiting at the top of any hills for me was a spur to keep going, a goal to reach. Not that I don't think I would have completed it anyway. But doing it on my own, even though that was always the idea, was not so much a concern as something to contemplate. I needn't have worried though. Skipping sections or taking shortcuts was never an option or a thought. You just set off in the morning and walked until you reach your goal. Life becomes simple, get up, have a good breakfast, get your S..t together and set off, stop here and there, soak in the view, have a brew, get to the end, have a nice shower/bath then a good feed and relax in the evening. I could live like that if I won the lottery and could afford to. 
That's the next point. Walking aint cheap. Let me qualify that. It aint cheap if you live miles from where you're walking, stay in b&b's or hotels and don't watch the pennies regarding food and drink etc. If you camp all the way and live off rice and pasta then I'm sure you can go a lot cheaper but that's not my bag. I've always been a bit of a spendthrift, if I want to sit there at the end of the day outside a nice pub or cafe drinking coffee, instead of in my room at a b&b drinking it, then after a days walk I think I deserve it. I kept a note of everything I spent on the way but as we speak I haven't added it up yet. I am reaching now for my notebook and within a few minutes will find out... 
Five minutes later.....
Well, Trains first, Including my stop off in Dumfries they came to £220, if I'd not stopped off on the way it would have been £161.50 return. However I managed to continue on from Glasgow the following day, technically after my ticket had ran out, which they do after four in the morning I learnt. By speaking to the ticket office at Glasgow I got my ticket re stamped which was nice of them, again technically I could of been charged another £47.
Accommodation came to £313.25, although with the well deserved tip at Laggan to Saint Francis and the one at Fort Augustus that went up to £329.25.
On food, drink, souvenirs etc I spent £276.79, although I'm sure I missed a few coffees or snacks of so let say £300, so all in I must have spent about £775 all in. Like I said, walking aint cheap if you go the comfortable route.
Gaiters.. In all this time writing this blog, I've never mentioned them. Last year after the horrors of mega blisters from getting my feet wet on the fourth day, which was when they appeared, so I'm assuming a link, I was determined to try to avoid them this time and with the forecast offering lots of rain for the walk I thought I'd go with gaiters this time. Picking up a reasonably priced pair from Go Outdoors, £12.99 if I remember correctly, Trekmates brand, I put them on in Fort William first thing before setting off. They seemed to work on the first day even though I actually put them on back to front before realising that night. The next day however I arrived at South Laggan with wet socks and feet, plus the obligatory blisters. I persevered with them but found that to put them on entailed wrapping your trousers around at the bottom first which opens up a gap between your ankle, which then means you're relying on the gaiters 100% to do the job. They were surprisingly comfortable and were not at all restrictive to wear although I'm not sure whether I'll wear them again.


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