Thursday, 30 June 2016

Great Glen Way - Day 2 - Grrrr Midges..!!!


" Grrrr Midges...! "

Throughout the night I kept waking up to the rain bouncing off the tent, sometimes it was really heavy & other times it was light drizzle but despite this I had a great nights sleep.
 It had not stopped raining since I got off the train in the early afternoon yesterday at Inverness, nothing I can do about the weather so this morning I had a hearty breakfast of eggs & bacon, put the waterproofs back on, packed up & set off once more along the GGW to see what the day brings.

My first view of Loch Ness as the route up until now takes you more inland. 
Loch Ness is absolutely ginormous, it is a large deep freshwater loch extending approximately 23 miles in length, the loch is the second largest Scottish loch by surface area after Loch Lomond, but due to it's great depth it's the largest by volume in the British Isles. It's deepest point is 755ft-(230m) & it contains more fresh water than all of the lakes in England & Wales combined !

With the rain still falling & no sign of stopping I was hoping to see a mysterious creature down on the loch but Nessie was being as allusive as ever.

The route takes you in & out of wooded areas & along the loch side, here there was an interesting information panel telling the story of the 'Newfies' Canadians from Newfoundland who were here to work the forests during WWII.

The rain finally stopped for a short while & the humidity kicked in, it was really hot & sticky but worse still since the rain had stopped the dreaded Scottish midges were on a feeding mission & I was their dinner, it was ok when I was on the move but when I stopped to take a picture or a drink the little terrors were feasting on me !

Along the whole GGW route from start to finish the amount of old fires that were just next to the trail side I would come across was just unbelievable, I honestly cannot understand some peoples attitude to the outdoor code ! What makes anyone think that leaving this is ok ? It would of taken seconds to throw or kick the rocks if they were still hot back into the waterfall & the un-burnt wood too for that matter, but no they just decided to leave it here as an eyesore for other trail users !

A small clearing in the trees allowed a glimpse over to the ruins of Urquhart Castle.

Urquhart Castle is situated on a headland overlooking Loch Ness. It was approached from the west & defended by a ditch & drawbridge. The buildings of the castle were laid out around two main enclosures on the shore. The northern enclosure or Nether Bailey includes most of the more intact structures including the gatehouse & the five-storey Grant Tower at the north end of the castle. The southern enclosure or Upper Bailey sited on higher ground comprises the scant remains of earlier buildings.

The present ruins date from the 13th to 16th centuries, though built on the site of an earlier medieval fortification. Founded in the 13th century Urquhart played a role in the 'Wars Scottish of Independence' in the 14th century. It was subsequently held as a royal castle & was raided on several occasions by the MacDonald Earls of Ross. The castle was granted to the Clan Grant in 1509 though conflict with the MacDonalds continued. Despite a series of further raids the castle was strengthened only to be largely abandoned by the middle of the 17th century. Urquhart was partially destroyed in 1692 to prevent its use by the Jacobite forces & subsequently decayed. In the 20th century it was placed in state care & opened to the public.

So far along the GGW route I was very impressed by the amount of local information panels there were, this one telling the story of John Cobb & his attempt to break the world water speed record.

Some Highland cattle grazing, I don't mind them, they are a lot more placid than the normal coos that chase me all the time.

Arriving in the village of Drumnadrochit someone caught my eye cleaning windows & it was Adrian Shine who is probably one of the most famous Loch Ness monster hunters in the world.

It was a hive of activity around the visitor centre with bus loads of tourists from all over the world.

Around the corner from the busy visitor centre I quickly popped into the village shop where I could load up again with supplies & bought a couple of Scotch pies for my dinner which went down a treat, after fuelling up I filled my water containers, packed up my goodies to munch on later & ditched my rubbish from my last campsite in the bin before heading off again. 

More Highland cattle on the route & despite my fear of the dreaded coo I do like them just as long as they are on the opposite side of the fence from me !

The rain didn't stay off for very long & was soon chucking it down again but I suppose it was a bit of a relief more so when cycling through the woodlands as it got rid of the annoying midges.

It's hard to make out but there was the odd dead hardwood tree scattered here & there amongst the pine trees & each seemed to have really emerald green moss growing on & around them it looked really bizarre in an otherwise brown & dull pine forest.
I noticed a lot of signs saying 'No fires' along the route & I wondered if this was down to the irresponsible few that leave a mess behind them !

Out into the open again the heavy rain now a mere drizzle it was nice to see the warming yellow flowers on the broom bushes as I rode along, I could hear a cuckoo cuckooing too, I'd love to see one sometime, I hear them often but have never saw one before.

Next to the trail side I found this rustic honesty snack shack selling water, fizzy juice & the most amazingly delicious homemade baking. I bought a can of juice & a two rock buns which I can honestly say the rock buns were the best I'd ever tasted. The little snack shack was a real work of art, the quality of the workmanship was second to none the way it was constructed from a fallen rowan tree from the back of the owners house. Such is the quality of this thing I was thinking how cool it would look inside my house with a glass front on it as an enclosure for one of my snakes !
So if the owners of this little snack stop ever read this blog post I thank you for the rock buns & the snack shack was a nice thing to come across on an otherwise horrible & miserable day.

Onwards following the blue trail way markers I made a small mistake, the blue way marker above gave an option of direction & I wanted to take the high route which was introduced in 2014 following the direction of the hill path option I rode for a few hundred yards to see some signs advertising a pottery, it was then I noticed another sign at the pottery gate saying that the path I decided to take was a mountain path only & not part of the GGW.
 This could of easily been an avoidable mistake if I had bought the up to date footprint map but I didn't I bought the map before the high route was introduced.
 Turning around I went back to the way marker & followed the other route choice which after looking at it again it made sense as the GGW route had the route thistle next to it. Luckily I didn't have to go too far to find this out this was not the correct way.

Coming to another clearing & this would of made the perfect camping spot with great views down onto Loch Ness & the clearing was surrounded by trees protected from any strong winds. Obviously someone else had the same thought as the idiots have left their mess behind them the remnants of another trail side camp fire !

Riding through the woodland in the drizzle, the humidity was stifling & was hard going, although I was wearing waterproof gear I was soaking underneath with sweat.

Seeing an information panel up ahead it turned out to be a route choice, this is what I was looking for, left for the low route which would continue through the trees or right for the high route which takes you above the tree line & amazing views looking down along Loch Ness.

Taking the right hand path for the high route the trail followed a forestry fire road for a while & as I climbed the hill at an easily rideable gradient & slowly creeping up above the tree line the views looking down were starting to pay off.
Over the other side of Loch Ness I could see Loch Kemp above & behind the eastern side of Loch Ness.

The views looking down over Loch Ness were really moody & mystical with the low cloud dropping & lifting but unfortunately any chance of views further afield were disappointing due to the grey gloomy & dull weather.

Reaching the end of the forestry fire road there was a dry stone seating/viewing. An 'S' shaped design with a wooden bench on either side to sit & admire the scenery up & down the loch.
The seating area was well placed for a rest before tackling the trail which now took a turn up into more trees at a much steeper gradient & it was a case of pushing the bike as it was too steep to cycle up with all the weight the bike was carrying.

The steep climb went on & on & on !

Finally reaching the top of the high route out of & now above the tree line to find another dry stone seating/viewing area & although I was glad I'd got to the top I was disappointed for two reasons.

1/ - I could hardly see a thing, the rain had stopped but the cloud seemed to sink & swallow everything up, at times I could hardly see my hand in front of my face it was so thick, I was kind of gutted after all the hard work to get up here hoping to see some awesome views along Loch Ness & the Great Glen only to see nothing !

2/ - And even more infuriating was to find yet another fire pit someone has made & left behind them, but this one was the worst of all as the idiots who made this one thought it would be a good idea to destroy part of the dry stone seating area to create the stone circle to burn their fire in & then thought it would be clever to pull down more of the wall to cover the fire with once they'd finished with it !
You can see on the bottom picture the r/h/s of the seating area that has been pulled down & destroyed. I cannot believe that someone could do this, it beggars belief ! It's the wee things like this that makes these routes so special just like the snack shack I'd passed earlier in the day & the thought that someone has climbed up here to build this for people to have the use of to rest up & enjoy the scenery beneath & around them only for some total idiot/s to think it's ok to rip part of it down to build a fire with. Not only that they had left a plastic bottle & sweet wrappers lying around which was nice of them !
Honestly some people should not be allowed out their cage !!!

Wow look at those views !
The cloud kept rolling in & out but was not for disappearing altogether.  
This is the view I should of had !!!
(Picture courtesy of Google images)

A cool troll bridge I had to cross over, but I never saw a troll, it had more sense than me & was keeping out of the rain !

The route again head out into the wilderness out of sight from Loch Ness & now that the rain had stopped I was fearing another midge attack but it never happened thankfully & I'm guessing I was at too high an altitude for them, the low broken low clouds looked impressive rolling around & over the mountainous terrain.

The 'Viewcatcher' an interesting addition to the high route, the idea being like a photo frame & whatever angle you look through it frames a stunning view, brilliant idea.

Going downhill back in amongst the trees again & an information panel of the high route, for me the end of the high route & for people heading in the opposite direction the option of the high or low route.
No sooner had I stopped & got my camera out of my pocket the pain in the arse midges were on the attack again, how can something so small be such an annoyance !

A small deforested clearing opens up views down onto Loch Ness once more & down below was the village of Invermoriston. 
From my vantage point & looking at my route map the bottom picture was the route I'd be taking out of the village up the hill & forking to the left back into the trees, from here it looked fairly steep.

Arriving in the quaint little village of Invermoriston I payed the village shop a visit & bought some delicious pastries & a can of juice as well as water to fill my drinks bottles with. Outside the shop there was a picnic bench where I sat & ate a pulled pork pastry & a bacon & cheese melt both were equally delicious & went down a treat but while sitting there enjoying my food watching the world go by.
 Those bloody midges were doing my head in !
 So bad in fact that I went back into the shop & bought a packet of 10 cigarettes to get rid of the little nightmares, Iv'e not smoked in nearly a year & a half & these little shits drove me to it !

St. Columba's well.

The stunning & photogenic 'Old Bridge' with the river Moriston thundering beneath it.

Leaving the village behind I was glad to be under pedal power again to escape those f*****g midges & I was right enough that the hill I was looking at before dropping down into the village was steep alright & as I rode along I stopped at another information panel which turned out to be another route choice giving the option for a low route or a high route. 
I never really done my homework about the high route I just thought there was only one high route, turns out there's two parts to it. Disappointed with the views from the first part & since the weather brightened up a bit I opted to take the chance & climb the high route once more hopefully to be rewarded with cracking views, not only that I thought that if I was high up again I would be clear of the midges. 
So the high route it was !

This hill was steep, very steep & the information panel stated that the climb was a 330 metre climb to the top ! What didn't help was the fact that a good part of it was very straight so you couldn't really judge your progress very well.
What I was thinking while heaving my loaded bike uphill was how cool it would be to be on my Rocky Mountain bombing downhill in the opposite direction !

This climb was totally relentless & it was hard at some points to get traction pushing & pulling the heavy bike upwards while being eaten alive by midges, Iv'e never experienced midges this bad before I was just a banquet for them.
But finally my perseverance started paying off as the trees started to thin out & Loch Ness came back into view, the midge bites seemed to relent with altitude.

Now up above the tree line it was time to start looking for a suitable camp spot for the night.
I think some of the trail builders must be mountain bikers, look at these gap jumps ! :-)
No good on a heavy laden bike though.

Finding a great little spot next to a hill burn I pitched up for the night & I wasn't disappointed with the view.

While waiting on the water boiling I was looking down onto the loch hoping to see it's most famous resident but all I saw was this yacht. 

The loch side Tarptent hotel menu tonight was sweet'n'sour chicken & pasta followed by chocolate pudding in chocolate sauce then a freeze dried ice cream sandwich to finish off another great day..

Brilliant that the rain had finally stopped I could stretch my legs a bit & have a decent wash in the burn as I felt minging after all the sweat & toil that the day handed me & of coarse the midge bites.

After my meal it was nice to sit inside the tent looking out down onto the loch enjoying a mug of coffee before getting the head down for the night charging the bodies batteries for day 3 on the Great Glen Way.
Such a problem midges are here in Scotland that there is even a midge forecast, check out the link below...

Thanks for tagging along come back in a day or two to read the GGW day 3.