The West Highland Way & Great Glen Way

Walked in August 2010

Day 9 - Monday 23rd August

Fort Willam – Gairlochy
11.5 miles

Rain. That is the simplest and best way to describe this day. From early in the morning until well into the following day the rain didn’t let up except for one or two brief lulls, one of which (thankfully) came at just the right time for us to set up our tents at the caravan park in Gairlochy. It was consistently miserable, seemingly without end and put a bit of a downer on the first day of the Great Glen Way. It was raining when we emerged from our tents and packed up, when we caught the bus on the main road, when we disembarked at Fort William, when. . . You get the picture.

The bus had arrived outside the campsite at 9.25 and dropped us off in Fort William at about 9.40. We headed straight to McDonald’s for a coffee and McMuffin meal each, even though we’d already technically had breakfast. Given the state of the weather, we needed cheering up. Across the road we found the remains of the old fort, and the obelisk which marks the beginning of the Great Glen Way.

We took a couple of photos then began the walk which passed around the side of McDonald’s and Morrison’s, through some small wooded areas and toward a housing estate and river that flowed eventually into the imaginatively named Loch Lochy.

At Caol (pronounced ‘cool’) we walked alongside Loch Eil feeling like we were in a seaside town and went into the post office to get a drink and some snacks, relieved to be out of the rain, if only for a few minutes. The woman who served me implied that it was very rare to see the Sun there, so we weren’t necessarily unlucky.

We walked on and soon reached Neptune’s Staircase – a series of lochs that allowed boats to get up the hill, very slowly I would imagine. We still had our heads down and hoods up against the rain, and although we hadn’t walked very far we’d still almost had enough for one day. We didn’t see many other walkers, although they could have started before us. We did see a foreign couple and two cyclists, but apart from that we were on our own for long stretches as we walked along the start of the Caledonian Canal.

We slogged through the rain and fairly uneventful scenery until we eventually reached the turn off to Gairlochy. We then had to walk about a mile along a country road and up a hill to get to the caravan site which (understandable given that it was a wet Monday) was practically deserted. There was only one other tent on the small section of grass near the entrance, and one or two people in motor-homes, but apart from that the place was dead.

We knocked on the door of the main building, but the reception didn’t appear to be manned, so we went back to the grass area and pitched our tents. While Darryl finished pitching his I went back and tried Reception again. This time it was open, so I paid the woman £14 for our two pitches, exchanging comments about the awful weather. I got back to the tent and set about drying the wet ground sheet with my towel and toilet paper. Soon afterwards we both crossed the road to take a shower and then basically got ourselves comfortable under canvas as it started to rain again, not intending to emerge again unless the rain stopped for good, which it didn’t until morning. Even though it was only three or four in the afternoon and we had several hours to kill, neither of us were particularly bored - I for one had a book to read and a radio, so we were able to amuse ourselves until it was time to get some sleep, wondering all the while where all that water could possibly still be coming from.

We were concerned about the lack of shops on the route the next day, as our food was running out. We had 15 miles to go until South Laggan, so we would have to make what we had last until then. We had enough to eat for the evening though. I had some smoked pork sausage, a banana and some malt loaf, so I wouldn’t go to bed hungry. We had discussed staying at a hostel the next day, but we weren’t too bothered so long as the rain stopped. Right then it seemed like the rain would go on forever.


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