The West Highland Way & Great Glen Way

Walked in August 2010

Day 10 - Tuesday 24th August

Gairlochy – Laggan
15 miles

Rain, rain, rain. . .
I was conscious at 6am, the time we had proposed to wake up and get moving, but because of the endless rain and its depressing effect, I couldn’t motivate myself to actually get going, so I dozed until 8.30 when I started packing up, deciding it was time to leave Camp H20 regardless of the rain. Darryl was also on the move and had packed his tent away shortly after me. I had breakfast of a cereal bar and a banana and we finally started walking at about 10am.

We walked the mile or so back to the canal, seeing two guys standing in the middle of the river fishing on the way. We crossed a bridge over the canal and started up a long forest path that followed the shore of Loch Lochy. The rain persisted but did ease off as the morning progressed, much to our relief. It turned out that we did have enough food to keep us going, and luckily the going wasn’t too hard. Having a bit of forest to walk through also made a difference. More canal walking may have become very tedious very quickly, especially in the rain.

After a while we turned away from the loch and into a small wood, where I noticed something odd to one side of the path.

It looked like a small statue of a fairy by a bowl containing coins. As we looked around we noticed other odd things like a strange wooden nose stuck on a tree, and other strange little ornaments arranged in the foliage in small tableaus. We left the path and walked into the trees to see how many other weird arrangements were hidden about us, and were astonished at the sheer magnitude.

There were tiny shoes arranged in a train formation with the legend: ‘Chattanooga Shoe-Shoe’ painted on a piece of wood next to them. There was a synthetic Christmas tree in a clearing with garden gnomes arranged in a circle around the base as though they were worshipping it, and everywhere there were soft toys and ornaments, many just hanging from trees but many more sitting together having tea parties etc. At first it was a little creepy. The forest seemed to be almost in the middle of nowhere and we wondered if some crazy person lived out there and arranged the toys like that to entice people in. I made sure I took photos and video and as I reached the other end of that section of the forest I was relieved to find a visitor’s book and a small, laminated sheet of paper that explained the whole thing was the work of a local artist. A lot of people, including school parties had left very positive comments about the unusual installation. My opinion turned a hundred and eighty degrees and not long after we left the magical little glade I wished we could go back and take more photographs. As it was, even though I had two cameras with me (one of which doubled as a camcorder) the pictures didn’t come out particularly well. A good photographer with a much better camera would have found heaven there.

Leaving the unexpected art exhibition we found a small bridge over a stream. Fallen trees and rocks were swamped with moss and overall this was probably the most attractive of all the wooded areas we passed through, and there were quite a few of them. We walked on and soon came to Bunarkaig, more or less at the time when the rain seemed to have eased up altogether. There were several very big houses at Banarkaig, most of which seemed to have been recently constructed and awaiting occupants. It was a lovely place to live, and the wealthy people who owned the properties seemed to have spent their money wisely.

After Bunarkaig we came shortly to Clunes where we turned to walk past several cottages and follow a turning to the right which led to a car park and the continuation of the way along another lengthy forestry track which eventually led to the end of the loch at South Laggan. The road reminded me a lot of the route leading from Rowardennan on the West Highland Way that hugged the lower slopes of Ben Lomond. There were dense trees to the right of us, but to the left the hillside rose a few hundred feet, populated sparsely with trees, many of which had been felled. Several waterfalls tumbled down to meet the path and continue beneath it, and moss covered almost everything to be replaced later by clover. We saw some wild campsites along the way and overtook a couple of groups of walkers, one of which (a man and his two daughters) we would encounter again later.

After some top-level plodding we came to Laggan very keen to rest our weary bones. We could have stopped at the Eagle barge to buy some snacks or a drink, but we decided to walk on along the Great Glen Way, then detour to the main road and walk back a short way to the Laggan Youth Hostel. I waited outside while Darryl went in and made enquiries (he’s getting good at it now) and watched a few guests come and go. When he returned Darryl said there were beds available but we would have to share a room with other people. We didn’t really want to do this, so we opted to camp outside on the grass instead. The Sun started to peek through the clouds at around 3pm while we were pitching, which made us tentatively confident about the weather for the next day.

The woman at the hostel said we were welcome to use the hostel facilities, so it seemed like a pretty good deal. We showered and bought some food from reception to make our dinner. Darryl cooked up some cheesy pasta and beans and then some noodles. We read magazines in the common room for a while then made some tea and sat on the sofas to relax. There were quite a few people milling around including the father and two daughters who looked generally exhausted and fed up.

We returned to our tents at about 8pm to chill out before sleep. The traffic on the road nearby was quite noisy, but it couldn’t stop us from getting to sleep.


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