Scotland Day 25 - Spean Bridge to Laggan
I had some messages last night about whether I was going to go for the whisky porridge for breakfast. I felt this morning that I'd be missing an opportunity to turn it down. I (whisper it whilst in Scotland) don't like whisky. Yet I can report that this was ambrosial. A layer of brown sugar on the top of the porridge, a tot of whisky and then a slurp of cream to finish it off. I was without words, I may have to move in with Ali and Teresa at Rosebank and eat their porridge every day.
Ali was telling me that he credits the porridge for his fell running success, and we had an interesting conversation about the Ben Race, when fell runners run up and down Ben Nevis, after obviously running round a playing field beforehand for no good reason. If you don't get to the top in 2 hours then you are disqualified. He has done the whole thing, up and down, in 2 hours 20 minutes. I deeply admire that level of fitness.
One of the brilliant things about travelling on my own is the freedom to strike up conversations with people in a way that is harder when in company. I become more outward facing. I got to have a great chat with another solo traveller in the B and B, who is a photographer by trade but is currently working as a driver for rich Americans over here to see a bit of Scotland. He was fascinating. And then when he and Teresa were explaining shinty to me I got the perfect outline of the sport. They described it as being devised so that the clans could practise fighting without killing each other. I'm sorry I won't be in Spean Bridge on Saturday when there's a big match on!
Back to Gairlochy to continue the GGW. Today is all about the imaginatively named Loch Lochy. The path follows the length of the loch, sometimes clinging to it, sometimes set back. It was sunny, and there was an atmospheric haze over the water.
I've heard some people be less than excited about this Way, in that it's much easier and flatter than the WHW, and the canal sections can be more boring. But this first hour or so was beguiling, being near the quiet water, with its empty little beaches. I thought I would have an early tea on one of the beaches, but the midges had other ideas.
There has continued to be information boards about the Commandos training around these waterways. A particularly striking moment was the remains of a mock up of a landing craft. These were used to teach the recruits how to leave the craft whilst under fire. They used live ammunition, which was shot at them by the trainers. The objective was to aim near enough to the recruits to give them the experience of being under fire without actually killing them. Which they must have been grateful for.
The path joined a road running through Burnarkaig, with big houses overlooking the loch. The air was full of the sappy smell of cut bracken, as a tractor had been flailing just as I arrived. It was good at this point to have a view down the loch to where I'd started. This is where the commandos did their boat training, an armada of boats would have been moored in this now tranquil part of the loch.
At Clunes the path joined a forestry track, where there was both a tree nursery and a forest school. Then it started to climb through some felled areas. I discovered later that the trees that have been cut down are the non-native ones, I feel happier about that. Some of the pines were so tall, and growing so close together that no light permeated down to the forest floor.
The midges weren't as prevalent in the Clunes beach, so I found a path down through the mossy trees for a drink and a chance to sit and look at the water.
I had been feeling rather cocky this morning, thinking how well my feet have been holding up, and that I don't have any blisters. Of course that was asking for trouble, and sure enough I started to feel a hot spot. I ignored this warning sign last year, and ended up with a large blister that took two weeks to heal. I have learnt from that unpleasant experience, and stopped and taped my foot, hoping that I would have got to it in time.
A period of sponsors' music whilst walking on the stony forestry path. Val had sent me three great tracks, there's nothing like a bit of Beatles and Boyzone. I also thought the Stereophonics 'have a nice day' summed up today well. It's a nice walk, but not a great one today. Maybe I've been spoiled by the intensity of the West Highland Way.
My lovely Samaritans mentor Steve sent me lots of tracks over yesterday too, and I especially loved catching up with some Deacon Blue. 'Dignity' was a favourite song back in the day, and the passionate 'I'm thinking about home, I'm thinking about work' section seemed very appropriate.
And finally my friend Jane sent me a wonderful clip of a choir rehearsal, singing the gospel song 'Praise the Lord, O my soul'. I seldom hear what my choir sounds like from within the body of the singers, it was great to hear it from that angle, together with the recording capturing my yelling out section changes as we ran through the rehearsal.
Then, to further distract me from my foot and from the stony forestry path. I saw Andrew and Simon from yesterday approaching me. I was very pleased to have their company for the next hour or so, as we chatted whilst zig zagging up the hill, following a path detour caused by a large building project for the Coire Glas hydro pumped storage scheme. This path has been constructed very sensitively, with SSE commissioning stone masons to build seats which were very much appreciated.
The excellent Scottish information boards have continued along this Way, and thus I learned about the Battle of the Shirts, a violent tussle between different sects of MacDonalds that was fought around here. Also about Wild Alasdair MacDonnell, the 15th chief, who appears to have been both eccentric and often furious, whilst also habitually wearing full Highland dress. Sounds a winning combination.
Andrew, Simon and I parted company at Laggan Lock, where Loch Lochy ends and the Caledonian canal links it with Loch Oich. It's likely we'll meet up tomorrow, as we're staying in the same hostel in Fort Augustus.
I walked the final mile or so to Laggan down a very busy road, forgetting the thoughtful instructions I'd been sent by my B and B on how to avoid it. They are kindly going to give me a lift back to the lock tomorrow to save a repeat of the nail biting journey.
Distance travelled: 13.3 miles
Total ascent: 957 feet
Calories burned: 1632
Local tipple - chilled tap water (no licence at the B and B)
Dinner at Forest Lodge B and B - lovely
Vegetable ragù with cheese, rice and salad
Warm ginger cake with cream
Sponsors' songs - thanks to Val, Steve and Jane
Here comes the Sun - Beatles
No matter what - Boyzone
Have a nice day - Stereophonics
Dignity - Deacon Blue
The Scientist - ColdPlay
Move away Jimmy Blue - Del Amici
Let it Be - The Beatles
Praise the Lord, O my soul - Village Voices
Video of the day