August 13 – This morning we bid adieu to Fort William, and set off to follow the Great Glen Way, which runs northeast for 78 miles to Inverness.
The trail starts at the ruins of old Fort William, built in 1690:
We looked down on the ruins of Inverlochy Castle in the distance.
We walked for a while through the suburbs of Fort William, until we reached the Caledonian Canal. The canal takes advantage of the geological fault that runs across the country up to Inverness. It was built in 1803, and has 29 locks. The first eight locks are called Neptune’s Staircase.
We continued to walk for the rest of the day on the canal towpath – perfectly flat. How nice to have no mountains to worry about!
We only met one other walking couple today. Quite a change from the busy West Highland Way!
Before we knew it, we arrived at the bottom lock at Gairlochy, our end point for the day. There is no place to stay here, so our guesthouse host Cameron picked us up and drove us to Spean Bridge, four miles from the trail, where we will be returned after breakfast.
We had dinner at a local restaurant. I was happy to see chicken on the menu – we’ve been eating mostly fish or beef. Chicken Balmoral turned out to be a chicken breast stuffed with – you guessed it – haggis! Very tasty, in a spicy pepper sauce with plenty of veg.
The Scottish food we’ve tried so far has been much spicier overall than we expected; a pleasant surprise. Glad to find so many surprises here.
August 11 – Fort William is a quiet city on the bank of Loch Linnhe. It marks the end of the West Highland Way, entrance for the climb up Ben Nevis, and the beginning of the Great Glen Way, which we will start hiking in a few days. For some of us, it was the fort commanded by the evil Black Jack Randall in the Outlander books. Here’s what it looks like today. There is a pedestrian shopping street:
We had the opportunity to eat some traditional Scottish foods while we were here: Scotch broth (with carrots and barley just like my Grandma made it), Scotch pie (a minced beef and spice pie with a soft crust) and Scotch eggs (a hard boiled egg surrounded by sausage meat encased in bread crumbs). All delicious.
We also finally tried haggis, which is sausage made of sheep’s pluck (heart, lungs and liver) cooked with onion and oatmeal in a sheep’s stomach. It tastes sort of like liverwurst – an acquired taste.
There are pretty churches here:
There is a Highland Museum with lots of old stuff:
A grassy town square with lots of folks and dogs enjoying the 70 degree day:
In 1911, a local car dealer drove a Model T up Ben Nevis. He and his car are commemorated on the town square.
We walked a bit north of town to see the old Inverlochy Castle, built in 1270 on the bank of River Lochy, and captured and burned by Robert the Bruce in 1307. It can be viewed from all sides, but is fenced to prevent visitors from climbing on the old crumbling walls.
Here’s an old painting of the castle we saw in the museum:
August 10 – This will be our last day on the West Highland Way.
Another sunny day – this time with midges! We were warned to expect these little black biters throughout the hike, but today was the first time we encountered them in significant numbers. We applied our Smidge bug spray, then ended up putting on face nets. Haven’t worn these since Wisconsin!
The last few miles of the day were spent walking through the outskirts of Fort William – the first town of appreciable size we’ve seen in weeks.
Here is the original end of the West Highland Way. As we were positioning ourselves for a selfie, who should arrive but Angela – our third time bumping into her. She took the pic for us.
We walked into the center of town to find the statue that marks the current end of the trail.
So now we are in Fort William, where we will remain for a few days rest. Our B and B room has a lovely view of Loch Linnhe that we can admire as we recline in our very comfy bed. Life is good.