Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Great Glen Way - Day 1 - Rain Rain Rain..!


" Rain Rain Rain...! "

My chosen long distance route to cycle this year is the 'Great Glen Way' starting off in Inverness on the east of Scotland at the Moray Firth following the way marked route down to finish Fort William at the head of the sea loch Loch Linnhe on the west coast to the Firth of Lorn. The GGW is a fault line known as the Great Glen Fault, geologically almost splitting Scotland in two. The route is a maritime highway as sea fairing vessels of a certain size can essentially take a short cut right through the middle of the country from east to west or vice versa.
The route runs along side the world famous Loch Ness, Loch Oich & Loch Lochy each connected by the Caledonian Canal which was constructed in the early 19th century by Scottish engineer Thomas Telford. 
The canal runs some 60 miles from northeast to southwest, only one third is man made the rest being connected by the above mentioned lochs.
The GGW total distance is 77 miles long & is one of a growing number of long distance routes in Scotland. The route could be done in a day or two no problem but I like to take my time & enjoy the sights & scenery & treat the journey like a holiday tourist.

So let's get going along the Great Glen Way...

Getting off the train arriving in Scottish Highland capital of Inverness to horrendous weather, it was pouring with rain, a fairly strong wind & unseasonably cold for the time of the year & my first thoughts were what am I doing ! But I knew the weather was going to be rainy & just wanted to get on with it anyway, sometimes Scotlands scenery can look it's very best in the bad weather with dramatic looking clouds above the craggy mountains & moody hills so I was quite optimistic to what the next four days would have in store for me.
The route starts/ends at Inverness castle which sits on a cliff overlooking the River Ness. The red sandstone building evident today was built in 1836, it is built on the site of an 11th century defensive structure.
Spying a bus with hoards of Asian tourists getting off making their way to the castle I quickly took the obligatory pre route photos of the journey starting point before heading off along the Great Glen Way.

Following the easy to spot blue way marker signs I set off & was soon riding along the banks of the River Ness.

The riverside scenery was absolutely beautiful & it was hard to believe that this was in a city, so much greenery & the huge river had a sinister looking beast slithering it's way out onto the riverbank, don't forget this is the River Ness which comes from Loch Ness...!

Arriving at the road/canal crossing swing bridge of Tomnahurich bridge where the bridge can be swung around to allow boats to pass through.

Leaving the hustle & bustle of the city behind slowly climbing upwards & if the weather was fair I would of had great views looking down to the city & beyond to the Moray Firth but unfortunately the most interesting thing I could see was the Craig Dunain hospital, established in 1864 to accommodate 250-300 psychiatric patients, now a derelict building with plans to convert the former hospital into housing.

The smells cycling along this section of the route were absolutely amazing & really strong with the dampness as the rain poured & poured not for letting up.
This section of the route followed an ancient drove road for driving cattle to & from market.

Loads of old birch trees & boundary walls covered in thick moss which kind of gives you the impression that not much light gets through the tree canopy & that it's a soggy & damp place most of the time, it was definitely that today !

Pushing on & I came to a clearing of felled trees & it was absolutely hammering down with rain which I hardly noticed while riding through the birch forest.

Up until now I was impressed with the amount of trail way markers which are always a piece of mind that your on the right track.

Not too sure what these stone pillars are for, they were a few hundred yards apart & both had the same inscription chiseled onto them. I could read the top word no problem which said 'Dochga' & the bottom word looked like 'Broch' but I'm not sure as it was hard to read. I can't seem to find any information about it, Dochga could be a place & a Broch which is what the bottom word looked like is prehistoric stone tower, so possibly there was once a broch around here somewhere now long gone who knows ?

The off road track merges with a small country road for nearly 3 miles which wasn't too bad as I never saw one car just a couple of GGW walkers going in the opposite direction.

A way marker pointed me through a gate into a young mixed species woodland of birch & pine, part of the Abriachan forest, the trail through the woods was a single track & as I was riding a bike & slightly higher than someone walking I was brushing through the low hanging branches which in turn expelled the resting water on them down the back of my neck which was quite refreshing !

Along the track were loads of these signs advertising a cafe & campsite within the woodland, I never saw the cafe or campsite but did see the signs pointing to the trail leading to it, I decided to give it a miss as I was only a couple of miles where I'd planned to find a decent wild camp spot.

Crossing a road onto a forestry fire road I continued on my way passing a tree felling landing site.

Climbing uphill with no real effort involved I was a little surprised to say the least when I discovered this way marker stating that this was the routes highest point. I'm not too sure if this is still the case since the addition of the GGW alternative high route which was introduced in August 2014. 

Amazing how nature reclaims everything back, this pile of logs which have not been picked up from forestry work have now become their own little ecosystem with lichens, mosses, fungi & even little pine saplings growing from the rested limbs.

Reaching my target mileage for the day I was looking for somewhere to pitch up the tent, there were plenty places to hang the Hennessy hammock but with the non stop relentless rain I wanted to be in the tent at least that way I could move about inside it unlike the hammock but I was really struggling to find a good spot, hard rocky uneven ground, tree stumps, ditches & waterlogged heather patches were proving to be a nightmare scenario, so onwards I went hoping the perfect pitch spot would soon be presented.

Exiting the pine forest onto an open moorland a warm sigh of relief came over me as I knew that I had a better chance of finding somewhere suitable to camp for the night. I found this old derelict farm at Corryfoyness & nearby scanning around I found the perfect spot to camp for the night a few hundred yards from the creepy old farm buildings & next to a raging torrent of a hill burn.
Putting the tent up quickly & going inside to get dried off & dry clothes on felt brilliant. It had not stopped raining once since I arrived in Inverness & being inside the tent nice & dry listening to the rain pitter patter on the tent skin was quite hypnotic it was just a pity I was trapped inside as normally I like to pitch up then explore the area around my home for the night & prepare a small bonfire but not this time I was just happy to be in out of the rain.

After a coffee I was ready to get some dinner on the boil & the choice menu at the Tarptent hotel tonight was some delicious chicken tikka & rice followed by treacle pudding in golden syrup & my campsite favourite treat some freeze dried choc chip mint ice cream...superb it all was too !

Contented with a full belly & grateful to be out the rain I finished my day by listening to some music while studying the map of the journey I'd taken today & planning my campsite & refuelling locations for tomorrow then finally playing on my phone catching up with the family & keeping up to date with the usual social media nonsense ! It was great to have internet in such a remote area.

 The day started off pretty negative when I arrived in Inverness to heavy rain, wind & quite cool weather thinking to myself what the hell am I doing this for in this weather but I find that if you keep the mind positive & strong even in rubbish weather you can have a great day out enjoying Scotlands finest scenery, not that I took many pictures of the scenery today as I didn't want to risk damaging my camera with the water but many more photos were taken in the coming days.

So that's that for day 1 on the GGW hope you enjoyed it, day 2 will be posted up in a day or two.