The West Highland Way & Great Glen Way

Walked in August 2010

Day 13 - Friday 27th August

Drumnadrochit - Inverness
21 miles

We woke at about six, and after nearly an hour we were finally ready to move out. It was cold again, and had rained for much of the night but we could see the Sun slowly rising and the banks of mist moving around trying to escape the valley. I ate two yoghurts with granola, a cereal bar and a delicious raspberry tart to set myself up for the day. I brushed my teeth, finished packing up and by 6.55am we were on our way, keen to get stuck into the last day.

We walked away from the campsite and back toward Drum and past the Loch Ness Experience and the Drumnadrochit Hotel, following the road in a circle until we were opposite the point where we’d started.

We could see the tents about a mile or so away as the crow flies and as we started climbing a hill we could also see Urquhart Castle looking out over the loch. We ascended through a forest with the views of the loch dwindling now and saw at least ten different types of mushroom by the side of the path, thought they could have been variations of the same species. Further on we found a nice view point to stop and have a break. I ate a cream donut and another cake, still keen to ensure I had plenty of calories on board for the last day. I had also ensured that I had plenty of water and other drinks too.

We soon reached a sign explaining that Canadian loggers used to work in the area (some time ago I think) and there were still traces of the activity.

The path then levelled out and headed in a long straight line, at the end of which was a small path leading to a play area and an eco-toilet which had grass on the roof and which apparently recycled human waste into fertilizer. Lovely. Darryl tested out the toilet, informing me afterwards that eco-friendly or not it was a mess and stank to high heaven. While he was inside a foreign guy walked over, first went into the cubicle next door, found there was no paper and then waited for Darryl to finish. I hadn’t the heart to tell him that Darryl was using his own supply of paper since there was none in his cubicle either, and when Darryl emerged the guy went in and came out straight afterwards looking disgusted and asking us both if we had spare paper. We both lied. He then shrugged grumpily, put his hands in his pockets and walked off muttering:

‘Thish shucks’ in a Scandinavian accent.

Back on the main path we crossed a road and then entered a rough, undulating area with lots of young trees and several signs advertising ‘tea, coffee and other refreshments.’ I’d read about this place before. We were now in a part of Abrachan Forest that had been bought in sections by different people after being sold by a big landowner, with the intention of conserving the area and promoting new growth. As we followed the trail the signs continued until we found the turn off that would lead to the Abrachan café and campsite, a small outfit in the middle of nowhere which had a couple of cabins, a pond and a gang of dissident chickens led by the meanest rooster you’re ever likely to meet. At first I was dubious about visiting the ‘café’ but Darryl really wanted a coffee, and I found myself easily persuaded.

After negotiating the distinctly bumpy ground around the site we sat at a small table by the pond and waited for someone to show up. A few minutes later a very friendly woman turned up and assured us the kettle was on so we gave her our order for coffee and waited a while, watching chickens wandering around pecking at the ground for seeds and corn that the woman had scattered earlier in the day, and the very alpha rooster strutting around and eyeing us with suspicion. The chickens were amusing to watch and they occupied us while we waited for our coffee. The rooster had a nasty, sharp talon on the back of each foot. The woman later told us that it felt as nasty as it looked. It had chased her once, then after getting in front of her had kicked back and punctured not only her Wellington boot and sock but also her leg, drawing blood. She said she had made sure to teach him who was boss after that experience though. Naughty boy.

After a while our filter coffee was brought to us along with some fingers of shortbread. Our hostess then went and shooed the rooster away from a chicken who had been making a lot of noise, claiming that he was always raping them! When she left us again a few moments later the rooster came over to us having probably noticed the shortbread. He eyed us carefully until we had finished the biscuits, then wandered off in a huff. Apparently both he and his ladies aren’t averse to pinching biscuits from visitors to supplement their largely seed-only diet. When our hostess returned we had a long chat with her about how she and her partner had bought the small tract of land from a big landowner who had forested pine trees. They had set up an eco toilet to convert human waste into fertilizer (like the toilet near the play area) so that they could reinvigorate the naturally acidic soil (made more acidic from the pine needles) to make it more nutrient-rich in order to support fruit trees. They had lost a number of trees in the last harsh winter and had only a couple of apple trees and a cherry tree left. We asked if they were making any money from their venture yet but she said it was difficult, although the café helped. It seemed they were happy enough just living there and getting stuck into various projects like building a fish pond etc. She also gave us some interesting info on midges (see below) and we stayed there for almost an hour just shooting the breeze and enjoying the break. They do offer camping facilities, but I would imagine it’s an odd place to camp since there didn’t seem to be a lot of level ground. The camping area may have been out of sight when we were there though. I would definitely stay there if I was in the area again since I couldn’t imagine a warmer welcome elsewhere. Definitely a highly recommended stop for walkers on the Great Glen Way. The coffee was also excellent!

We pushed on after our lengthy stop feeling pretty refreshed and eager to get past the halfway point of the day’s walk. After a brief toilet break just outside Abrachan Forest we saw two guys on the path behind us and recognized the two retired American chaps. It was a shame we hadn’t seen more of them during the last two weeks as they were a very interesting and friendly duo. They were having knee and blister problems (like most everyone else) and were as keen as we were to finish the walk. One of them mentioned he was from Iowa and I commented that this was where the travel writer Bill Bryson was from. We chatted about him and his books for a while as they were also fans. We parted company when they stopped for a rest, just after one had said to the other ‘any time you want to tell me we’re past halfway, just go ahead John.’ John said they were, regardless of whether they actually were or not I reckon. One of them had been a lawyer in his working life, the other an accountant. We never saw them again but presumed they had finished in good time not too long after us.

We continued on along a tarmac road seeing pretty rainbow colours in far off sheets of rain and a ‘Passing Place’ sign that was peppered with bullet holes. We climbed a small hill, moving to a path to the right of the road for the next stretch and soon came to a bench situated at a great viewpoint, making a great spot for lunch. Unfortunately it was already occupied by a walker, and though the idea of tipping him out was tempting, we walked on hoping to find a similar spot further on. We stopped at a couple of large rocks to fill up on calories. Flies bothered us a little but thankfully the midges were few and not particularly aggressive. We continued on now listening to my small radio which I had used every day on the trip and which had lasted on two AA batteries. With the radio tucked into an outside pocket of my pack we walked into another nice forest section, seeing a few pretty Fly Agaric mushrooms (red with white spots). It rained for a while so we had to put our waterproofs on, but it wasn’t too persistent, and before long we had our first glimpse of Inverness, spread out in the valley before us.

We walked down toward the outskirts of Inverness crossing a building site then passing an old building which used to be a Victorian mental hospital. We followed the way through a couple of suburban roads and across a park before reaching a leisure centre and nearby the Bught caravan and camping Park. We were still undecided about where to spend the night and whether to camp or stay at a hostel. It was a Friday night so it seemed unlikely that there’d be many spaces available at hostels. Darryl checked the prices at the site which were reasonable, then we walked back to the leisure centre and he waited there while I went across to the Inverness Floral Hall and Visitor Centre to find a phone. The staff there were so friendly and helpful that they actually let me in to their office and gave me a desk and phone to use! The woman there helped me find several numbers for hostels from the Yellow Pages and I rang around a few, but found that the one or two spare beds were in shared rooms.

I returned to Darryl and gave him the news. We decided to stay at the campsite after all. We only had one more night before getting back to a real bed, so we weren’t that put out, and the site turned out to be pretty decent. We pitched the tents in the large backpacker’s area, then decided to finish off the last section of the walk along the river to Inverness Castle, instead of doing it in the morning.

We walked along the River Ness and across a couple of small islands where we found a large tree that had been transformed into a rough sculpture of Nessie. We walked on into the town where we found Inverness Castle. We were very relieved to have finally finished, and thankful that we didn’t have another day of walking ahead of us. It was time to properly relax now. We left the castle and went off in search of the train station where we collected our tickets for the journey the next day. We then had a look around a few of the gift shops before finding a pub (The Gellions) where we sat down and had a couple of celebratory pints.

We went to McDonald’s to get some food then walked back to the campsite (briskly) in the rain, forgetting exactly how far it was. By the time we got back to our dry and moderately warm tents, the food was no longer hot, but at least it still tasted great. We showered and got ourselves sorted out for the night, looking forward to the train ride home the next day.

 

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