Glen Nevis Youth Hostel team member, Isabel, took on the Great Glen Way - a 79 mile route running from Fort William in the west to Inverness in the east - back in July. Find out if Isabel managed to compete her epic trek in part two...
Bidding farewell to Invermoriston was easy enough. There wasn't anything there for me now. The future, my hopes and dreams lay ahead up a zigzag forestry track that seemed to never end. At each corner I religiously checked my map to see how much progress I'd made, and was demoralised each time as the gradient lines hugged each other barely millimetres apart. It wasn't that I'd have to climb particularly high, just that the weight on my back and my beaten up legs were draining all the energy I had left.
It wasn't for nothing though; I was rewarded with stunning panoramas of Loch Ness as I reached the higher elevation. A Dutch couple up ahead of me were just packing up their camp. They'd chosen a beautiful spot nestled right in amongst the landscape. It made me resolute that my last night of camping would be spent in the woods, not close to civilisation as I'd camped before. One more night then the promise of the youth hostel's creature comforts. An actual mattress. The idea seemed like bliss.
The track ended and I joined a woodland path that spat me out on a grassy hillside above my destination: Drumnadrochit. It was only the early afternoon when I collapsed on a bench just within the town limits, but I was ready to go to sleep. Faced with camping next to a busy road, I decided to push on further a few hours later.
Up and up I climbed above Drumnadrochit, no longer enjoying myself in the slightest. I was exhausted and thirsty but I had no choice but to continue. Perseverance has its rewards though. When I eventually found water, I wasn't far from the most beautiful camp spot I could wish for. I donned my midge net and plenty of Smidge and began making camp. At the edge of a cliff looking over Loch Ness, I finally had it all. The view, the water, the gourmet meal of packet rice...
I stayed out as long as it could bear, the midges being so bad that I had to do the 'midgie midgie shake' in order to eat. This involved lifting the midge net just enough to fit a spoon in my mouth whilst shuffling along just fast enough to out manoeuvre them.
The sun rose the next day, something I'll always be able to count on regardless of anything else, and it was time for the final leg. I'd say this was the most interesting part of the walk, over a stunning moorland that was filled with patches of vivid purple heather and diversely planted forests. I met a group of Belgian scouts all fumbling with trangias, and it struck me how lucky I was to have all this on my doorstep. Most of the people I'd met had travelled from overseas just to appreciate this and I lived in it.
I passed through a kilometre of forest, trees hugging the path trying to swallow me up. Eventually I was spat out on the other side onto barren moorland once more, this time more agricultural, marking the approach to civilization. Tarmac thumped and bruised each foot as I laid them down, until the path began once more and I was back in the grassy moors. Not long now, I kept telling myself. It was a matter of hours. This seemed bizarre after all the miles and miles I'd walked, almost anticlimactic.
Up ahead of me a girl in a rucksack approached and it was like looking at a mirror image, another lone walker having their own personal adventure. I wished her all the best and this spurred me on, reliving my adventures of the past few days and wondering what would lie ahead for her.
After this stretch of woodland my goal was in sight, the city of Inverness sparkling away like some prize jewel to be claimed. Wilderness faded out gradually as I entered highland suburbia (still fairly wild, let's be honest) and the grass became bright chlorophyll green. An impressive wooden structure, named Great Glen House lay to my right as I trotted down the hill.
All the hillside ran out, I found myself next to a main road of all things, it was a shock to the senses to be back in a city, if you can call Inverness that, being so small as it is. Still, a little haven of greenery existed in the islands of the river Ness. Elegant metal bridges tied them together in a string, pulling me forwards. Pulling me with magnetic strength as I stumbled on.
Gone was my good rucksack posture from before, I was bent over and haggard. Pavement, hill, Castle. THE castle. The end of the road. One last burst of energy took over as I marched up the incline. Too much of a detour to use the proper entrance, I climbed the low stone wall and lunged forward to tag the monument stone with an almighty slap and a 'whoop'. Victory. A very washed out and sweaty one, but victory nonetheless.
View towards Inverness Castle - Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland
Before I started the walk I wasn't sure I'd be able to make it all the way. I'd had visions of having to crawl to a bus stop and ride home in defeat. As motivation I'd created a just giving page to raise money for a friend's charity called Bootstock, fitting name for the walk I'd just done. The charity helps to educate and improve the lives of children in remote parts of Nepal, where facilities are basic and education is seen as somewhat of a luxury.
I'd encourage others to walk the way, just do it in your own time and not under pressure. Enjoy all the glorious scenery that this stretch of Scotland has to offer, just stroll along and take it all in. For the most part, it is suitable for all fitness levels if you aren't carrying an enormous pack, with regular small towns to restock and refuel.
Inverness Youth Hostel
As a final note I'd just like to praise the showers at Inverness Youth Hostel. Four days of grime melted down the plughole and so did my troubles, at least for that moment. High pressure hot water cascaded down all around and I closed my eyes under its stream, standing static, but in my mind still pacing, pacing, pacing...
Well done to Isabel for completing the Great Glen Way - one of Scotland's four Long Distance Routes - we look forward to hearing all about your next adventure.
Find out more about Inverness Youth Hostel here: syha.org.uk/where-to-stay/highlands/inverness
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