Scotland Day 26 - Laggan to Fort Augustus
Today has been like the curate's egg. Good in parts. A great feature is that it was the third dry day in a row.
I gulped when I looked at the map on the wall, to see just how far I still have to go. But conversely, I realised that since starting in Lands End I have walked more than 1000 miles. And I've increased my fundraising target because I've raised a lot more than £1000. If you're wanting to pop a bit in the fund then the link is in the header at the top of this page.
Last night I was really moved to be told by Laura and Lorraine, the owners of my B and B, that they didn't want payment for my dinner or packed lunch, but instead to put the money into my sponsorship fund. Today Laura told me that sadly her father died by suicide, and therefore the Samaritans is a particularly dear charity to her. I was most touched by the conversation, and her giving me permission to mention it here. We also talked about the support that the listeners give to families and friends of those in emotional distress, and how valued that was. I felt so proud of being a Samaritans listening volunteer.
I spent the meal last night with Marinella and Arent, from the Netherlands. As with all the Dutch people I have met, their English is so good that I forget they have it as a second language. They kindly sponsored me too, and we shared a ride in Laura's car back to Laggan Lock, saving me walking back along the busy A road.
My Cicerone guide book says that today's walk is 'splendid' and that there are 'often high views of mountains'. It was written before all the forestry and SSE work that is going on, which means that all walkers are rerouted on what's described as the Invergarry link. This section is neither splendid nor has high views, though it does involve hills. Steep climbs with no views at the end are not worthwhile climbs. It was also a pretty relentless slog on forestry roads which are hard on the feet. My blister (many thanks to everyone who's messaged about it!) is under control, taped and Compeeded, but these hard roads are not the ideal scenario for its recovery.
According to the map, it looks like it's an idyllic walk along Loch Oich (another brilliantly named body of water!). In fact I only saw the loch at the beginning, when going over the swing bridge down from Laggan lock.
To compound my dreary morning, I managed to miss the one interesting sounding landmark, because I had my head down powering up a gravelly hill. There is a monument near the Well of the Seven Heads, which refers to seven severed heads that were washed in a well after being separated from their owners in yet another clan war. It's not a cheery sounding monument, but at least it was something. And I missed it. But I looked up a picture of it, so that will have to do.
So it was music this morning, and phone conversations and also just thinking and trudging. My lovely friend Tracey had suggested the Miley Cyrus version of Heart of Glass, it was good to hear the different take to Blondie's original. And a faith song by Rend Collective, which was very uplifting. Laura from Forest Lodge had suggested a Fleetwood Mac song that I didn't know but enjoyed a lot, and Louise had suggested Mr Blue Sky. That was just what was needed, both for my mood and the sky.
I had a chat to my good buddy Carly, as I was feeling quite testy about the road and the hill and the concern that I might not have a coffee. Given I'd rung her to cheer her up, as she's in a sad time, I possibly was not giving the right vibe. She sent me this encouraging excerpt from the Wonky Donkey. I sent her a picture of the coffee and two biscuits at Invergarry hotel.
You realise just how little there is to see when the description of this alternate route in my guide book clings to 'there is a view of the roof if Invergarry Power Station'. Indeed there was.
Finally the path came down to meet the original route, and I got a look at the end of Loch Oich, and the lovely Bridge of Oich. For the bridge engineers out there, (you know who you are!) this looks like a suspension bridge, but is in fact a double cantilever based on the taper principle. Whatever, it was pleasing to the eye, and the most interesting thing I'd seen since my coffee a few miles earlier.
The rest of the journey to Fort Augustus runs between the River Oich and the Caledonian canal. Much nicer on the eye and the feet.
There was a moment where it is possible that the canal might overflow down into the river which would cause walkers to have to wade. This is an unusual occurrence, and was not required today. However, the depth markers show just how much water can be found here.
I stopped for a sandwich at Kytra lock, and watched a group of teenagers unloading their canoes and carrying the contents past the lock, before finally portaging the vessels. They were good natured in their teasing and arguing, and I enjoyed observing them cracking on with their task. I chatted to their leaders, and discovered that they are a Duke of Edinburgh Gold expedition from the Crypt school in Gloucester. 'Not as creepy as it sounds' one of the girls told me. I didn't realise that these expeditions can be by canoe; they are paddling the length of the Great Glen. I photographed Logan from L and D adventures, with the impressive young people in the background, and asked them to suggest a song to listen to. I said anything would be great as long as it wasn't too sweary. This took a considerable time in the deciding, but to my surprise they came up with Creedence Clearwater Revival's 'Fortunate Son' . Great choice, classic song.
This encounter cheered me up so much. I properly bounced down the towpath for a few miles, blister or no. I was really impressed by the massive ferry-like boat that was ploughing its way down the canal. It had a great name too.
As I approached Fort Augustus I felt very nostalgic for the lovely holiday that David and I had here some years ago. We'd stayed in a very fancy B and B then, rather different from the hostel I'm in tonight. That first morning I got up early and went for a run along the canal, and here I was walking back along that route. It was as beautiful as I remembered, and I put on my old running playlist from that era. Nothing like a bit of Ironik 'Tiny Dancer' and James P Johnson's 'Carolina Shout'.
Fort Augustus is extremely touristy and a bit of a shock after the quiet. Lots of tourists looking at locks and lochs, with bagpipers and kilts agogo. I've not eaten enough today, and thought a rum and raisin ice cream would hit the spot. Lovely, but I couldn't finish it. My appetite is a weird thing.
Morag's hostel is the nicest one that I've stayed in so far, a friendly and relaxed place with a great bar and good food. There's a pink piano in the lounge and lots of conversation in many languages. After a fruitless extra mile of walking to eat at the recommended pizza place in Fort Augustus, only to discover it was full, I returned to the hostel for a very good burger instead. I was delighted to find Simon and Andrew eating at the same time as me. Their familial banter reminds me of my family dynamic, (down to the tea towel fights), and it's great to share with Andrew the experiences of the other parts of his end to end walk. Quite the tonic after a rather mixed day. And it looks like another dry day tomorrow.
Distance travelled: 13.9 miles
Total ascent: 974 feet
Calories burned: 1829
Local tipple - Skye Gold from Isle of Skye brewery
Dinner at Morag's hostel - good
Veggie burger with pickles and cheese, coleslaw, salad and chips
Sponsors' songs, thanks to Tracey, Louise, Laura and the students of the Crypt school
Build your kingdom here - Rend collective
Heart of Glass - Miley Cyrus
Mr Blue Sky - ELO
Seven Wonders - Fleetwood Mac
Fortunate Son - Creedence Clearwater Revival
Video of the day