Wednesday 30th October – with John and Richard
21.47 miles … 45,810 steps … 1,070′ ascent … 6 hours 39 minutes
The Start of the Great Glen way
I had an unusual start to the day because of yesterday evening! I left John and Mary Ducker’s at 6.45am to drive Bablu to the Belford Hospital. I checked that Fiona was going to be discharged today and OK to drive the camper van… It is amazing to see the extremes we go to to try out alternative accommodation. Fiona was very well looked after by the friendly staff but they probably don’t want us to advertise it too much or everyone will want to stay…(being brought tea and biscuits, warm bed, meals on a list, moderate WiFi, friendly people… what more could I need? Ed)
I walked through Ft William to Wetherspoons where John and Richard were having breakfast. I joined them and after a considerable amount of ‘faffing’, we set off on the Great Glen way at 9.20am… (they need me you see… today they were off at 7.35am, facilitator back in action! – Ed)
We negotiated our route through Ft William, very cold and misty to start, but the sun soon broke through and we had ideal conditions to walk on the footpath between the river and Caledonian Canal. Those old enough to remember episodes of ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ – the three of us must have looked very similar to passers by…
We enjoyed the history tour along Loch Lochy, especially hearing about the ‘Battle of the Shirts’ in July 1544 on the northern end of the Loch. The Clan MacDonald with friends Clan Cameron (492 men) fought the men from Clans Fraser and Grant (295 men). Of the men fighting only 8 MacDonalds and 5 Frasers survived and it was so hot they all took off their heavy plaids and chain mail and fought in their shirts!
Another significant engineering feat of Thomas Telford, connecting the west and east coasts of Scotland (he was a busy and clever man).
The autumn colours were again spectacular and we made good progress to Gairlochy, then to Clunes before Fiona was discharged and caught us up in the camper for coffee and snacks in the beech woods by Loch Lochy.
John and Richard doubled back with Fiona to collect John’s car, while I completed the next 7 miles to Laggan Locks to finish the day. Huge straight pine trees on either side of the path, provided a dramatic corridor. This part of Scotland is very familiar, as we have enjoyed many wonderful family holidays near here at our family cottage (http://www.highlands-cottage.co.uk/). Memories of long walks with Fiona and her Dad, our family and the Harrington’s, Andrew Savage and his dog Zac, all flooded back… with our ascents of nearby Munroes and Corbetts.
John was very conveniently waiting for me at Laggan Locks to take me to our overnight accommodation in the Great Glen Hostel, and then out for an amazing meal at the recently opened and refurbished ‘Whispering Pines’ Black Sheep Hotel.
One of the most delicious meals we have had, in a spectacular setting… thank you John 😇. (I had a great chat with Clem in the hostel about running a hostel, so new ideas for our hostel, thanks Clem. I would thoroughly recommend staying here – Ed)
(This trip has been amazing. One of the tensions has been holding the wonderful positive experiences alongside extreme pain of losing friends and seeing our girls losing friends, both in car accidents. Zoe sent us a beautiful piece she had written for today, including the words to this old hymn, which sums up our need for those everlasting arms when life is too hard. Ed)