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  • Writer's pictureJane Smith

Scotland Day 28 - Alltsigh to Drumnadrochit

My tiny hostel room didn't used to be so tiny. The coving told me that once upon a time it was a normal sized single bedroom, but part of it was at some point taken away to become a very small shower. This shower was the only one for five bedrooms, some of which had multiple bunks. And all the occupants were very clean. So they were using the shower until 11.30 last night and started again at 6.30 this morning. With the partition wall, it sounded as if they were showering in my bedroom. And just so that I didn't become complacent in the dead of the night, the four berth room on the other side had some intense snorers. My earplugs are normally bombproof. Not last night.

So it was with a happy heart that I surveyed the mediocre breakfast this morning, before making a move as soon as I could. The view of the water last night was good though.

There were various options for getting back onto the path, all involving a steep climb up from the loch. I'd hoped to retrace my steps a bit to go up to the final section of the higher route, but a combination of tiredness and a steep hill meant that I missed the turning. A shame, but the skies were lower today and so the views wouldn't have been as cracking as yesterday. Is what I told myself.

The path gained 800 feet over two miles, quite a vigorous start to the morning. There was the odd view, but also, following the first bit of proper rain for 5 days, there were micro views too. The raindrops were glistening on the ferns, I narrowly avoided sitting on an ant hill so instead spent some time watching the insects' industry instead.

I started to catch up with the songs that my kind sponsors had suggested to me. I met Mary briefly on the walk last year, and she has been kind enough to continue to follow the blog. She suggested Life is Life by Jonah and the Whale, which was a new one for me. What a great song, and the lyrics were really talking to me. 'And it feels like his new life can start, and it feels like heaven'. And then Peter, the priest I met yesterday had suggested Joni Mitchell Big Yellow Taxi. Looking at the forest, the view, the droplets on the ferns, again it all seemed to be so apposite. And that percussion section too. The clincher of this part of the day was Sophie's suggestion of Lulu's Shout. The double time section might have involved some pole related dance moves.

There was a bit of forestry related route diversion which gave me the bonus of a glade with a large rock, perfect for a snack. I was really surprised to find I'd been walking for two hours. My body is so used to the exertion now, it just feels like normal.

The landscape was quieter now, with grasses and birch trees, and pylons walking up the hill in the mist.

Soon after the diversion, my guidebook told me that there was a coffee opportunity, I was there in a flash. The Grota pottery makes lovely pots, but also excellent coffee. There are only two tables, and both were full when I entered. Not knowing if there were more tables somewhere else, I asked if I could sit anywhere. The potter said 'only if one of these groups lets you sit with them'. In my normal life I'd have just backed out, apologising. But somehow this different life allows me to approach a group of strangers, and allow them to shift round to let me in. Alec, Kate and their parents Helena and Matt come from Carmel, California, and were excellent company for half an hour. They are walking part of the GGW before going on an exploration of other parts of Scotland. We shared stories about eagles, and they showed me pictures that convinced me to go to this beautiful part of the world sometime. They then kindly paid for my excellent drink as a contribution to the fund. I forgot to ask them for a song choice, so if you're reading this, let me know what your favourite is!

The coffee was very good and very strong, and I felt turbocharged as I walked down a gorse lined path towards Drumnadrochit. I tuned into my songs again, The views were lovely over the moorland and the sky was blue. David's Wichita Lineman (I went for the original Glenn Campbell version) and River Deep Mountain High quite hit the spot.

Then a strange extra couple of miles where the path moved away from the more obvious and much shorter road walking. I nearly didn't do it, but it was worth the extra walking, as I was suddenly in one of those really special pine forests that Scotland has often presented to me and was so utterly delighted with Ali and Teresa's Proclaimers' choices. 500 miles is about as appropriate as can be. But the one that got me was Sunshine on Leith. I was thinking about my most loved people, and bellowing the song as the sun glinted down through the trees.

It may not have been the most exciting walk today, but it's had a lot of joy.

The path follows the river Coiltie up to the junction to Drumnadrochit. A rather understated river, more boulder than water. I had a hasty sandwich, and then set off on my side mission for today. Urquhart Castle is a couple of miles outside the village, on the edge of Loch Ness. It's a hilly walk up part sheep fields, but it was worth the extra miles. The castle was the centre of a lot of fighting, between England and Scotland, and then between the clans. It was finally blown up by one clan that didn't want the other one to get it. As always with all the fighting, I'm left feeling sorry for all the others who would have been caught up with the squabble.

There was an excellent film describing the history, and a good exhibition that demonstrated the range of skills required from the staff of the castle. I was keen on the ale wife.

The ruins are extremely evocative, even though their history is a bit vague. Over the centuries the local villagers used most of the stone and other materials to build their houses, and then when the Scottish government took over the running of the castle in the 1920s they 'tidied up' a lot of the remaining stone, meaning that the little that was left that could be discovered was lost. That notwithstanding, I enjoyed the visit alongside the large number of German and Italian tourists. It is so noticeable that there are few tourists from the UK.

On the way back to the village I watched what looked like a coastguard helicopter practising sea rescues. A crew member was dangled from the aircraft, and then repeatedly had to pick up a buoy, drop it, be dragged in the water for a bit, then pick it up again. It was fascinating watching these life saving skills being learnt.

My hostel tonight is much improved on last night's, with a warm welcome and even doing my laundry. I'll be here for two nights as I have a semi-rest day tomorrow.

But my joyous day was not over yet. I had arranged to meet my new friends Andrew and Simin for dinner. Andrew finishes his long sabbatical walking adventure in Inverness tomorrow, with Simon for company. So tonight was the last time we would bump into each other. They kindly paid for my dinner as a fund contribution, but even better was their company for the evening. Our conversations over the last few days have been wide ranging, serious, teasing and hilarious. I could have managed without some of the toenail discussions though! They have made this leg of the journey a delight, and I feel very lucky to have met them.


Distance travelled: 14 miles

Total ascent: 1624 feet

Calories burned: 1985

Local tipple - Light Ness from Loch Ness Brewery

Dinner at Loch Ness Inn - excellent

Gravlax with fennel and capers

Sea bream with crushed potatoes and feta with a pea and shrimp butter and green vegetables

Sponsors' songs - thanks to Mary, Peter, Sophie, Ali and Teresa, David

Life is Life - Noah and the Whale

Big Yellow Taxi - Joni Mitchell

Shout - Lulu

Sunshine on Leith - Proclaimers

500 miles - Proclaimers

Wichita lineman - Glen Campbell

River Deep, Mountain High - Ike and Tina Turner

Video of the day

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Jul 26, 2023

I am catching up after a few days, otherwise engaged, and what a delight it was to read your blog! I’m so glad so many of your days are full of joy. I did hope that Lulu would get you dancing in the glens! WALKING POLE DANCING! I think that should be added to one of the Highland flings.


Jul 24, 2023

A music suggestion. Walk the line Johnny cash, just watched the film last night. Xx


Jul 23, 2023

I might be accused of bias but you do take amazing photographs! Xx

Jane Smith
Jane Smith
Jul 24, 2023
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