Breakfast time in hostels always serves as a rejuvenation process. All the stories being bantered around, where people have been, where they’re going, modes of transport, maps, smartphone instructions, travellers’ advice, email/address exchanges. Exhilarating! Coupled with a decent feed of carbohydrates, without any aches or pains, I’m ready for day two of The Great Glen Way , Drumnadrochit to Fort Augustus. My next hostel is planned to be MORAGS LODGE LOCH NESS, cusping Loch Ness near to Urquhart Castle. This is one of the many hostels around Lochness shown on this map of bunkhouses near Loch ness.
It’s a blowy, rainy morning requiring the shelter of a heavy rainproof coat. Once again there are large section of the route along the road. Although a small B road, there is enough passing traffic requiring the need to step aside allowing traffic to pass by at regular intervals. A cafe/pottery shop has been well sign posted for some miles. Sure enough, tucked away just off the main path is the advertised cafe. So a couple of hours in the walk I decide to take a break. There is vast array of pottery plates, cups, figures, emblems, symbols, either for sale, sold, or awaiting collection. The owner doesn’t want to chat, he serves up eggs on toast (again) promptly, if in somewhat of a functional manner. As a couple of cyclists arrive I leave. I’ve clipped on my back pack, hit my walking stride when around the corner come two ladies pushing their bikes. This is easy to work out, the previous gals have sent a hit squad.
“Oh hi, do you know if there is a cafe near by?” asks assassin one. I pause, taking a quick check of their panniers. I don’t see Kalashnikovs or rocket launchers. “You see”, adds assassin two, “we lost our bearings back there and we aren’t sure if we’ve passed it or not”. Obviously a story concocted back at headquarters. Assassin two unclips her helmet. I’m thinking arm to arm combat is forthcoming. I decide to test their credentials “In fact the cafe is about a 100 meters past those trees” I tell them, not diverting my eyes from the hit squad for a second. “Oh that’s really lovely thank you very much, we are ready for a drink”. Re-clipping her helmet, they both straddle their bikes and gently push off. “Bye, and thanks again”. They wave, I wave back. Yep the helmet probably had a camera and radio transmitter. Target identified.
The next part of the walk is challenging, for my little legs, very challenging. When the maps description says steep, it doesn’t say steep for the next hour or so. By the time I’ve reached Invermoriston I’m having an internal debate whether to find a hostel, or carry on to Fort Augustus as planned. I stop at the local village shop, buy food and drink, find a bench to sit on, eat and deliberate. I’ve checked my map and checked with the shop assistant, distance is approx six miles into Fort Augustus, by road. Feeling refreshed and not wanting to be defeated I decide to carry on. It’s late afternoon, plenty of light, the rain has stopped. Come on, get going enjoy the walk I tell myself.
Two hours later, I’m still walking, up hill. The scenery is breathtaking, and the steep hills are doing just that, taking my breath away. This is a lung busting section. Although there is now a light breeze I’m drenched with perspiration. This is called the high route of the walk, for obvious reasons. I’m now following a mountain trail, Loch Ness to my left, with hills and greenery as far as the eye can see to my right. In the distance I can make out what I believe to be the top an end of this never ending climb. I calculate I’ve still 15 to 20 minutes of inclines to endure.
When I finally arrive at the top, I unclip my backpack, finishing off my remaining food and water. I try, but know it’s impossible to take in the panoramic vista of Loch Ness and the surrounding beauty with a smartphone camera. But what a sight, unbelievable views. There isn’t a living soul around, hasn’t been for over three hours. Undoubtedly worth it, but a beast of a climb.
From here the path sweeps and meanders downhill into the distance. However I know I’ve still at least another hour of walking before I reach my destination. I’m tired. My feet hurt, my shoulder straps hurt and I’m consoling myself with the fact that I should be grateful for the opportunity to see what many people won’t experience in their lifetime. Yet that little Pinocchio type voice taps me on the shoulder with a reminder…”Er, all this would have still be here tomorrow if you stopped at Invermoriston”. Point taken. Just what I needed rationale and logic.
Monuments to view, plaques to read and bridges to cross take me into what surely must be the final phase as I enter a wooded area. From differing paths I’m about to bisect with what looks to be a local/casual walker. My first question turns me into a child on a long car journey, “I am I there yet? I ask him of Fort Augustus. When he says just over a mile, he will never know just how close he came to getting kissed. He asks where I travelled from today. When I tell him my start and end point he simply states “It’s a long way isn’t it?” I nod and smile. His statement doesn’t need a response. I’m pleased to have a companion even if it is for just 20 minutes. We shake hands and he tells me how to find the Hostel. I’ve now been on my feet for nine hours. Yes i’m tired and a little concerned how my body will react in the morning.
Morag’s Lodge has a reception area which greets guests in the style of a hotel. In my daze of tiredness I am processed efficiently. Information, instruction, payment and a swipe card that gives me entry to my room. Once showered I go in search of a late evening meal which is supplied by a local pub, just in time before the 9pm food ordering curfew. Returning back to the Hostel quite a few folks are returning from an evening boat trip on Loch Ness. They are excited from the trip, I’m operating on autopilot. Although the bar with it’s buzz and chat looks inviting, it comes a distant second to my bed, ’cause that’s where I’m heading!