#76 “TAKE THE HIGH ROAD!”

Listen to that advice, on LEJoG Day 76

LEJoG Day 76 preamble

‘Take The High Road’ was a soap opera set in Scotland, which for reasons way beyond the ken of a Central region child, seemed to be on every flipping day during school holidays. The phrase comes from the chorus of the traditional Scottish song ‘The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond‘.

O ye’ll tak’ the high road, and I’ll tak’ the low road

This particular Midlands child was easily amused by the vagaries of the Scottish dialect. Well, you can hardly blame a 10-year-old when he’s been exposed to stuff like C U Jimmy most weekends. Our Junior School 3rd year concert even included an Englishman, Scotsman and Irishman sketch in which the Scotsman was basically just ‘C U Jimmy’ (and yes, the Irishman was a bit daft and the Englishman rather posh). Different times…

At that age the “clever kids” had weekly special English classes with a Scottish woman called Mrs. Hunter. Assigned to read ‘Kidnapped‘ by Robert Louis Stevenson, I remember complaining to her the following week that the opening pages were difficult because they were “all in Scottish”. The others realised what I’d said, and to whom, before I did…

Some years later, for Drama class, I invented an incompetent Scottish detective called ‘Dougal McDougall’. I studied no Scottish history or literature and don’t think I met anyone from the country until university. All of which is a prelude to saying that my upbringing made it very easy to fall back on cliché, and I apologise if that’s the impression given by the title of today’s blog.

But there is a justification. About half an hour into today’s walk, the Great Glen Way splits into a high route and a low route. And the advice from page 118 of my trusty Trailblazer guide is unequivocal:

Take the high route! Yes, it will make your calf muscles ache a bit more but you will spend the day high up on the open hill enjoying magnificent views across Loch Ness and the mountains to the north.

By contrast, it goes on to say, the low route is “a monotonous trudge through yet more commercial forestry plantations”.

Nae contest.

The low route was closed anyway.

LEJoG Day 76 (Tuesday 20 July 2021)

Fort Augustus to Invermoriston (8½ miles)

Cumulative: 1,093½ miles

Facts: Time on walk: 2 hours 40 minutes. Average speed: 3.19 mph (my that’s a drop-off!). Weather: Very warm, particularly on open high ground.

Practicalities: After the exertions of yesterday, I chilled out in the lap of luxury for as long as possible. Took a later breakfast than usual (8:30) – absolutely sumptuous by the way. Checked out as late as I could (11:30). Left my luggage for collection and walked back to yesterday’s finishing point.

The walk

Start: Junction of Caledonian Canal and A82, Fort Augustus, 11:45am. End: Craik na Dav B&B, Invermoriston, 4:00pm. Arrived at the village green for 3:05pm and only walked the last 5 minutes to the B&B when check-in opened.

Today’s walk can be followed on the South sheet of OS Explorer 416 (Inverness, Loch Ness and Culloden).

There’s not much to be said about the short section before the route splits. After crossing the canal to the north, a local link road – with no pavement – completes a quarter circle before a sign directs you into the (very tall) trees. This is where I saw the notice about the low route being closed. Next is a short, steep climb through the forest, then a track veers to the right, descending slightly to the high versus low junction.

As firmly established above, this was like a 2 coming up on Play Your Cards Right. (See, once you’ve remembered ‘Take The High Road’ and ‘Russ Abbot’s Madhouse’, all the early 80s stuff tumbles out)

The climb from here, through the forest, to the open moorland is lovely. It’s steep and testing, but the winding path helps. There’s a waterfall and plenty of spots on which to perch or rest. You emerge on to a clear path, heading right (NE) and rising much more gradually. For the first time you are overlooking Loch Ness with a clear view. A view which will dominate your walking for the next two days.

Now, it’s six months ago, but I think I must have eaten and/or drunk a little too much the previous night. I say this because I remember finding this relatively kind stretch fairly hard going. Stopped for a snack break well before the high point of the walk. There was the pretext of taking photos of Loch Ness, but it was more of an excuse really.

First elevated view of Loch Ness, from the snack stop

I have checked my records and find that I had two pints of lager and a three-course meal when celebrating the 25-mile-day at the Boathouse in Fort Augustus. So maybe I was a bit heavy-legged and laboured.

Next is a gradual ascent to a stone shelter at the high point of the path. And here I discovered (or acknowledged) another likely reason why I wasn’t on top form. Patently overdressed, with a completely unnecessary second layer on what was now a very warm day. Removed my inner shirt at the shelter and felt much better for it.

 

Top: Stone shelter at high point of today’s walk

Bottom: View of Loch Ness from the shelter

 

After ridding myself of the extra layer and starting to head downhill, the walk was a delight. It’s the first time in the whole week that you have the chance to enjoy open, undulating land and great views. There are some minor climbs, but really you’re bounding throughout, without the monotony of canals or the cloak of trees.

Took lunch (2:05 – 2:25) after 45 minutes of this freedom, at a very conveniently-situated rock/bench (marked on page 119 of the Trailblazer guide). This comes just before you re-enter a forested area and begin a very steep zig-zag descent towards a timber yard.

Boats on Loch Ness, from lunch spot

At this point I had to stand aside and allow a large group of mountain bikers to pass me on the zig-zags. In such glorious weather, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that this section of the trail was busier than the last two days put together.

After the timber yard, the walk is less interesting – a narrow path proceeds through the edge of the forest before doubling back on itself and joining a tarmac road into Invermoriston. At the end of that, you’re back with the ubiquitous A82 and crossing Telford’s Bridge over the River Moriston:

River Moriston (looking W) from Telford’s Bridge

As mentioned earlier, I made my way across the road and stopped at a picnic table on the village green awaiting check-in at the B&B. The last few minutes involve crossing two main roads (A82 and A887) and walking up a slight incline. It’s part of the route from Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit, so I could continue from the B&B on Wednesday morning.

After the walk

Checked in at Craik-na-Dav B&B at 4pm. Now, I have to say that the two sisters who run this place, Lindsey and Manda, are two of the loveliest people I’ve met on this entire walk. They cannot do enough for you, they take an active interest in anything you’re doing, they love animals (always a good sign in my book) and they’re full of good advice for the walk ahead. As if that’s not enough, there’s a complimentary double shot of whisky in your room.

Ate at the Glenmoriston Arms Hotel on the A887. It’s more or less the only option and can charge accordingly, but the meal was just about worth the premium. I had the all-too-rare treat of venison. Booked my meal quite early, so it was a long evening at the bed and breakfast. Can’t really remember what I did. But I do remember being assured, by Trailblazer and the sibling proprietors, that Day 4 – tomorrow – was the highlight of the Great Glen Way.

They were both right.

Postscript – My Listening Pleasure

About two thirds of Chart Music #59, which I’d already listened to a couple of weeks earlier. It may never again reach the heights of the pre-pandemic years, but it’s still ideal for long walks.

 

Picture (20 July 2021) shows Loch Ness from the stone shelter at the high point of today’s walk, with the descending path ahead and small forest offering perspective.

Next: Day 77 (21 July 2021)... in which the heat is on.

 

 

3 thoughts on “#76 “TAKE THE HIGH ROAD!”

  1. I really enjoyed “walking” those routes with you. Also good to be reminded of classic 80s TV.

    Thank you for all the details you give it really does feel as though I’m walking with you. Not that I could go at your pace!! (At the moment).

    When will you be finishing the epic journey? If agreeable with you it wound be good to celebrate the finish with you and yours.

    1. Hi Rose, thank you for your kind words.

      I am scheduled to finish on Saturday 4th June. My mum, Roger, Dawn and Paul are coming and I’m sure you would be welcome if you want to speak to them about arrangements. It hasn’t been the easiest task for them to book accommodation though.

      We are (separately) leaving on 1st June and staying in Perth that night and Wick on 2nd. Then I am taking 2 days to walk to JoG.

      Let me know if you need any more info.

      Cheers and thanks again,

      Arron

  2. You are right about the accommodations! All places near Wick / Perth and John 0’Groates all seem to be fully booked for the dates you are there.
    Puffin Cottage JOC looks rustic and ideal for me, myself and I and unfortunately booked out.
    I will raise a toast when you are back in Aldercar 😃.

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