I was there, after my graduation, looking at the tent just built up in the backyard of my house. One spends years studying and working hard to get a good grad and at the end need to do something to free himself. That’s how i decided to go to Scotland. I just wanted to feel free and with that I mean, REALLY free. I spent days looking for the most suitable and cheap equipment: a warm sleeping bag, a light tent, a 70 litres backpack, stoves and a camelbag. It was my first trip as a backpacker and a hiker. And i was alone. I was ready to take a walk on the Great Glen Way!
The trail consists of ca 120km, and goes from Forth William to Inverness, along the lakes Loch Lochy and Loch Ness. My journey started in Edinburgh, where i landed with a cheap flight from Milan. There I spent the night in a nice hostel near the train station.
Early in the morning for ca 17£ I got my train ticket to Forth William. On the ticket it was written Your journey starts here.. and i felt really happy. The train trip was amazing, and i really suggest to you to take that. You will see a gourgeous landscape and you can prepare and get in the mood for the walk!
I arrived at midday, and I decided to eat something before starting the trail. Forth William is a really small and nice city, I can clearly remember my excitement while walking down the streets. I just stopped to listen to a musician (Do not forget about him!) playing Harvest Moon. And with this song in my ears i put my first step on The Great Glen Way. I walked 20 km in 4 hours,feeling like i was on the top of the world. The beautiful Caledonian Canal was on my left and the sun was warm… But as everyone knows, the weather in Scotland is like a whimin kid… and suddenly it started to rain…I hurried up and I planted my tent at the Gairlochy Campsite. I wasn’t trained to walk for so long with 25kg on my back.. I was so tired that i couldnt even eat..i just had a shower and went to sleep.
On the second day i walked to a nice 3 side shelter at the Glas-dhoire trailblazer rest. I tried to light a fire but the wind was howling so bad that i decided to just hide myself into my sleeping bag. the shelter was near Loch Ness.. and during the night it was really cold and foggy.. I should have planted my tent, cause i was almost freezing… I whished so bad that the shelter had 4 walls instead of 3… But anyway i survived, and in the morning I put my feet again on the trail.
Let’s talk about the trail: it’s really beautiful. You’re there, walking beneath the trees, and you can sometimes see the lake down there on your right. I was completely alone, no other footstep stirred.
By the way it was also really hard to me, not trained at all.. so, i decidet to take a variation of the trail and walk to Invergarry, in order to sleep there and, maybe, find a bus to Forth Augustus. Obviously it wasn’t so easy..
Invergarry is a small village, with a Castle situated on Creagan an Fhithich which means “the Raven’s Rock”, overlooking Loch Oich. A part from that there is absolutely nothing. I mean, there were few B&B, but they were a bit expensive, also I couldn’t find The InfoPoint.. In addition to that it started to rain. I ran to a busstation to shelter from the rain.. and there I met a nice guy from Munich, Christoph (I hope I wrote it right)..While we were there waiting a kind and funny woman stopped her small car and tell us to jump in. Since 20 years she lived not far from Fort Augustus, but was born in London. And that’s how i managed to arrive to Forth Augustus, where I spent the night.
The village is really nice and alive, and i could stock up on food in a supermarket (If you like it you should absolutely buy the smocked salmon whisky-cured produced in Achiltibuie the best i’ve ever ate!).
The journey continued until Alltsigh, where you can also find a small hostel. I walked 21 km..and i felt every one of them. But there you can walk down to the lake and take a deep deep breath and relax.
Unluckily in the morning i didn’t felt very well, my back was hurting so much (I have problems with my spinal column since i was 12) that i decided to take the bus 919 to Drumnadrochit, where i found the Backpackers Hostel. I left my backpack and i took a walk in the village center and in the lovely woods that surround it, adorned with anise and forget-me-not.
As you may know, near Drumnadrochit you can find the Urquhart Castle, overlooking Loch Ness. You can visit it until 19 o clock.. By the way i decided to wait a bit more and jump the gate. It was amazing. I was completely alone, walking in the castle ruins, surrounded by the evening lights. It was fascinating and sweet and exciting at the same time.
An then, finally INVERNESS.
I walked 30 km and i was almost fainting while planting my tent. I couldn’t even properly walk. A fast check up showed that my feet weren’t in the best conditions, and also my shoulders were marked with wounds due to the backpack. Still I was happy. Really, really happy. A kid ran to me saying “it seems you’ve been walking for ages!” and her surprise was even more when i told her that i came from forth williams. Kids are funny 🙂
The path to Inverness cross different landscapes, there are timber woods, steep hills, and brushwoods meadow. On the way you will find Abriachan (it has also a campsite) where you can have one of the best soup you’ve ever tried. It’s homemade by the woman of the Abriachan EcoCampsite & Cafè, and it’s served with cheese, bread and butter. A delicious load of energy. While i was saying goodbye she looked at me and smiling said “Girl, you seem to have the whole world on your back!”. And somehow it was true.. i wasn’t particularly good at choosing what to bring with me that time 😀
But at least i did it. I was in Inverness.. and guess who was the first person i met? The guy who played the guitar in Forth William! Crazy, isn’t it? His name is Jamie McLaren Marshall, and you can meet him somewhere across Scotland, but he’s based in Inverness. He played another Neil Young song “the needle and the damage done” and i felt home.. I spend 2 days in Inverness. It’s a beautiful city, as you can see from the pictures. There is a nice castle, but what i suggest you to do is to take a walk in the green garden near the River Ness. Oh, and don’t forget to take a walk in the city center late at night, you will see a lot of fluffy bunnies!
It was time for me to get back to Edinburgh, were I arranged to meet with a dear friend of mine that flight there directly from Italy. We spent a weekend together and I was very happy, after all these days spent alone walking. We had dinner in a small pub with haggis,a traditional scottish dish (a sort of pudding containing sheep’s pluck mixed with spices, oatmeal and others… i know that it looks creepy but it tastes good!)
The next day we visited the city and took a whisky at the Scotch Whiskey Experience (ok I have to admit that i just had a liqueur made with whisky and honey). We also had a nice walk to Holyrood, a nice park hoverhanging Edinburgh on its east side. I wanted to try a nice tearoom i saw in the city, but it was closed, so we just went to a pub and have dinner with fish’n’chips…and obviously a fresh and delicious beer 🙂
- Sheepshaggers Gold Beer
- You have to try a Black Isle Beer
- You have to try Haggis at least once in a lifetime
- The soups at the Abriachan Campsite
- The Achiltibuie Whisky-cured smoked salmon
- Bruadar Liqueur (it means dream…and it is)
- Bunnahabhain Malt Whiskey Beer
TIPS &FUN FACTS:
- In scotland there is freecamping, apart from a place near garlochy. that’s why there is a campsite.
- In some periods of the year (not in May, when i was there) there are midges. A lot of midges. You better check the midges forecasts and anyway be prepaired with repellent spray and an afterbite balm.
- Great! you found a 3sided shelter! you better not put just your sleeping bag inside. It can be really cold and windy and foggy during the night. Don’t be lazy and built up your tent 😉
- As always it’s hard to find methylated spirit for the stove.. In italy we sell it in every supermarket but anywhere else you can just buy it into sport stores that sells camping equipement.
- In the middle of Inverness, you can se bunnies if it’s late enough in the night
MUST SEE LIST:
- Edinburgh and the Holyrood Park
- Forth William
- Drumnadrochit and the Urquart Castle
- Inverness and its park
- Loch Ness
- The whole great glen way!