The Great British Walk

A personal record of my three month walk of the full length of Great Britain from north to south with written journal and photographs. Tracklogs for GPS units and for use with Google Earth are available for download for each stage.


Stage 16: Cluanie Inn to Invergarry

Statistics and Files
Start: Cluanie Inn Finish: Invergarry Distance: 23.1 miles (37.2 km)
Time: 10-12 hours Climbing: 706 metres Rating: Strenuous
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Loch Cluanie
Statistics
Start: Cluanie Inn Finish: Invergarry
Distance: 23.1 miles (37.2 km) Time: 10-12 hours
Climbing: 706 metres Rating: Strenuous
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

Summary

A second day of arduous road walking and with my feet being not good from the start it was tough going. I did not feel too bad walking along Loch Cluanie but once I was past the Hydro Electric station at the end of the loch I slowed my pace to make things as easy on my feet as I could. At least the stage saw me to the end of walking on the roadside for some time. There were compensations to the difficult walking with excellent views from the Pass of Invergarry to the Five Sisters of Kintail and also Beinn Sgritheall, Ladhar Beinn, Meall Bhuidhe and Sgurr na Ciche.

(Note: My walk of the Cape Wrath Trail was a part of my Great British Walk from the north coast of Scotland to south coast of England)

Stage Report

I walked 23 miles on this stage of my journey to make the link between the Cape Wrath Trail and the Great Glen Way. It took me ten hours to do so and during the walk I saw lots more stunning sights. I also suffered more excruciating pain in my feet; 23 miles was overdoing it for a single stage of the walk, particularly when carrying a 16 kilo backpack and definitely when the feet are already suffering the rigour of a very hard walk.

Sunlight piercing cloud over Loch CluanieSunlight piercing cloud over Loch Cluanie
Loch CluanieLoch Cluanie

After the pounding my feet took yesterday I woke up and after fighting my lethargy I tried to rise from bed and stand up. When attempting to put weight on my feet I fell back on the bed. The feet had throbbed in want of rest throughout the night so I should have expected this reaction from them. Ouch was my immediate shriek. My right heel was so tender. After gingerly shuffling for a soak in the morning bath I applied second skin repairs, donned two pairs of socks, put on the boots, lightly tied them and then I stood up. Comfortable enough to stand I went for breakfast in no discomfort. Afterwards, on settling my accommodation bill I chatted with a gentleman from York who was looking at a map of Scotland on the hotel reception wall. He was considering climbing to cross the Five Sisters of Kintail ridge. I wished him well in his challenge. He wished me well on mine. Then I was on my way.

Waterfall on Allt Coire nan ClachWaterfall on Allt Coire nan Clach
Dam at the east end of Loch CluanieDam at the east end of Loch Cluanie

The first eight miles of the stage were achieved by following the A87 east as it meandered with the curves of the waterside along the northern edge of Loch Claunie. Remarkably I was feeling good. The roadside verge was generously wide and even. After a tenuous start warming my feet up and bedding them into the effort of the day I gathered pace. remarkably the second skin treatment and additional precautions had worked and without the accompaniment of pain I completed the eight miles of walking along Loch Cluanie in three hours.

River CluanieRiver Cluanie
Loch LoyneLoch Loyne

I was very pleased with myself when I reached the Scottish Power Hydro Dam at the eastern end of Loch Cluanie. Things were going very well and I was heartened by my progress. I knew the job was not done though and with still having a long walk to Invergarry I did not dwell for long on the milestone of seeing Loch cluanie behind me. I kept going. Another mile after passing the Hydro-Electric Station at the end of loch Cluanie I turned off the A87 road for had I continued following it I would have ended up in Inverness. I was now following the road called the most beautiful road in Scotland with a famous viewpoint called the ‘Map of Scotland’.

Memorials Chairns near Loch LoyneMemorials Chairns near Loch Loyne
Beautiful landscapeBeautiful landscape

The first four miles of the ‘Map of Scotland’ road did not promise much. It featured a laborious haul uphill but during the climb there was one of those occasions you only experience on a long distance walk. I had just passed the Dam of Loch Loyne when I came to a roadside lay-by. A camper van was parked in the lay-by and two ladies were looking at the view across Loch Loyne. As I reached them thy turned to say hello. I returned the greeting and we continued to chat about the lovely surroundings we were each enjoying. When the learned of my intentions to keep walking until I reached the south coast of England they wished me luck. Then they offered me a Banana to help me on my way which I scoffed down. The tuck was nice, the meeting with the ladies even nicer. A little further up the road the view across Loch Loyne to the mountains to the west including Aonach air Chrith at a towering 1021 metres high was heightened further. The satellites of Aonach air Chrith were also very impressive to behold. And yet there were more thrills ahead. At the top of the pass were masses of tiny Chairn at the roadside. Hundreds of them, some of up to 100 small rocks but most of 10 rocks or less.

Cooling downCooling down
View over Loch Garry to LochaberView over Loch Garry to Lochaber

As I walked away from the roadside memorials I reasoned that people must come here and make their own personal cairns because of the exquisite view. I looked over to the most stupendous panorama of mountains in the distant west. All the fine peaks of the Knoydart were in view and it was magnificent. I reckon I could see the Five Sisters of Kintail now twenty miles distant and also Beinn Sgritheall, Ladhar Beinn, Meall Bhuidhe, Sgurr na Ciche. There were many more and perhaps I was also seeing the Black Cuillins of Skye. They were directly in the view west that I was looking toward. I stood for quite a while taking it all in.

While the views were gorgeous I kept on reminding myself about the reality. I had still ten miles to walk, all downhill but ten miles all the same. I had already walked thirteen and with my feet less than 100% I was beginning to feel the strain once more. I walked for a good mile looking for a watercourse to cool my feet in. For stretch after stretch of tarmac I found nothing. When I did find water I walked straight in. Phew.

Loch Garry and the highlands of Glengarry ForestLoch Garry and the highlands of Glengarry Forest
Scenery near Munerigie WoodScenery near Munerigie Wood

As compensation for the resurgence of pain I was walking downhill and into Glen Garry which was sensational. So picturesque with a stunning green valley, sublime loch side and mountains galore near and far. For the first time on my walk I could see the Nevis range with the north facing tops still covered with patches of snow. It was yet another WOW moment of my walk and the view I was promised was every bit as good as the expectation. I came to another lay-by, this one full of vehicles. None were occupied, all the travellers were out in the fresh air looking out at the view. Of course they were.

I still had four miles to cover after the viewing spot on a gradual descent into Invergarry. Despite the wonderful views my feet were now telling me enough was enough. I had done 19 miles and as I was when nearing Cluanie Inn yesterday, I was cursing myself. I was also slowing with every step.

Arrival in InvergarryArrival in Invergarry
Invergarry HotelInvergarry Hotel

The thought of a hotel, food and drink, shower and a warm bed spurred me on down the final agonising miles to Invergarry. It took me two hours to hobble four miles downhill so much was the pain. When I eventually arrived I was euphoric. I had arranged with Lil to book the Invergarry Hotel which she did and having arrived at the hotel I checked in. Alas I had no bath to relax in this time so I forced myself into the shower, hardly able to stand on my bare feet. In fact I showed slumped onto the floor. I cannot describe the agony nor the relief when I had done. But after drying myself and resting on my bed I rallied.

In the hotel bar later I tried to call Lil on my mobile but I could not get a signal. A member of staff told me exactly where to stand outside in order to receive one. So I went outside and made the call. Lil answered quickly but the Midges were quicker. As we spoke I was been bitten and bitten. I waved my free arm while we talked but my pathetic defence had little effect on my assailants. They won. Lil conceded I had to go. Back in the safety of Invergarry Hotel I enjoyed a lovely meal. Soon after the meal I retired and fell asleep on hitting the pillow.


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