Day 91 – Fort William to Laggan

The Great Glen goes all the way up from Fort William to Inverness. It has many sterling qualities – it’s well made, well waymarked, has convenient stopping points and some nice views. But from my point of view, it has some major disadvantages as part of LEJOG – it involves more walking on canal towpaths (in this case, the Caledonian Canal which links the various lochs making up the Great Glen), the views are limited because much of the path is on tracks through commercial forestry, and a lot of the walking is on hard surfaces (tarmac and aggregate). I’ve walked the path before and probably wouldn’t have chosen to do it again in isolation, but needs must!
The path heads out from Fort William round the coast; I took a shortcut through Caol and was rewarded by reaching the level crossing by Neptune’s Staircase just minutes before the steam train to Mallaig came through. I had a nice chat to a man who had sailed from Norway and brought his very beautiful yacht down the canal heading for Oban, and got a great ground-level picture of the train as it came through. Then I headed up Neptune’s Staircase, a ladder of locks taking boats up from sea level to the canal, which is frankly not a patch on the awesome Falkirk wheel, and there I was, back on the canal. Again.
I have made myself a promise that I won’t walk long distances along canals ever again after this trip. There was admittedly more interest on the Caledonian than there had been on the Forth and Clyde, as there are a lot more boats and the odd swing bridge or lock, but by the time I reached Gairlochy I was still going slightly nuts with boredom and my legs were feeling sore from the hard flat path. Definitely a day when it would have helped to have an MP3 player!
Fortunately, from Gairlochy the path skirts the loch and is a bit more varied. The loch was absolutely still and quiet, and it was almost entirely silent. I passed the entrance to the Clan Cameron museum at Achnacarry (well worth a visit, but I’ve been before), and some interesting boards with information about the training of commando troops at Achnacarry during World War II. There is a cement mockup of a landing craft next to the path, which was used for training ahead of the D-day landings – it looked very incongruous surrounded by bracken and birch trees.
From Achnacarry, it is a long trudge along the loch (with quite a lot of road walking) before you reach Laggan Locks at the end. The youth hostel where I was staying is another mile further on. It felt like a very long day indeed, but after doing all my washing and having a nutritious dinner of frozen microwave curry and chocolate (!) I felt much bouncier. A short day tomorrow, only 17 miles to Invermoriston.

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