Life of Karen

Day 11: Spean Bridge

Miles walked: 12.5

imageThe day started chilly and grey with the clouds sitting right down on Lake Linnhe but were beginning to lift by the time we started out in the morning. We had to walk about 1.2 miles through Fort William just to get to the beginning of the Great Glen way. The Great Glen Way follows the a natural fault line from coast to coast across Scotland through the Great Glen, from Fort William to Inverness. It is about 79 miles long and We plan to walk this in 5 days.

imageThe GGW passes through the suburbs of Fort William and then through the floodplain of the River Lochy. Just before crossing the river, we came to Inverlochy Castle. Inverlochy Castle was built in 1290 and quite a lot of the ruins are left. We strolled through and around the castle, even finding a geocache here!

As we crossed the Soldier’s Bridge spanning across the River Lochy, we met a man and his grandson who were waiting for the train to pass on the parallel rail bridge. We then realized that we could hear the steam engine on its way and we all waited for the train to pass. We were in the right place at the right time!

From there, the trail led to the streets, passing through Caol, a large housing estate. The roads led back along the banks of Loch Linnhe and to the beginning of the Caledonian Canal. As we passed through this area, we walked by a Shinty Pitch (Field Hockey Field) where a game was about to start. The boys were probably around the ages of 10-15. The game was started with a Scotsman, in kilt, playing bagpipes. As we walked along the canal, the path looped back around to the other side of the field so we were able to see the game getting started.

imageThe rest of the walk for the day was a gravel path along the Caladonian Canal – the towpath, actually. This section of the Canal was built in the 19th century (1803-1822) by Thomas Telford. The rest of the canal also includes Loch Ness, Loch Oich, and Loch Lochy (which we will be walking by later this week). There are 29 locks, 4 aquaducts and 10 bridges that are associated with the canal. As we walked up the towpath, we came to Neptune’s Staircase which is a series of 8 locks raising and lowering ships a total of 64 feet elevation over 180 feet distance. Unfortunately, there were not any ships passing through the locks at the time we were there.

imageFurther along the canal, we passed by Moy Bridge – the only original swinging bridge over the canal still in use today. The Moy Bridge remains hand operated and there was a “canal man” standing by to work the bridge if needed. It is only used for local farm traffic today.

From here, we followed the towpath another few miles to Gairlochy, a small village with it’s own lock, swing bridge, B&B and campsite. We found Adrian, Allison and Sandra waiting for us. Allison and Sandra had ridden their bicycles along the towpath and Adrian had driven up to wait for us.

imageFrom this point, Adrian ferried us all to the Commando War Memorial. The statue and remembrance area were built in memory of the officers and men of the commandos who died in the Second World War 1939–1945. The statue faces Ben Nevis and overlooks the Commando’s training grounds. As we drove from Gairlochy to the memorial, we noticed many civilian and military men and women walking along the road with full packs. We found out that this was a charity event and each person was walking the distance, up and down the hills, for a total of 30 miles with 50 pound packs.

We then drove into Spean Bridge and settled ourselves into the B&B, Distant Hills. We had a fabulous dinner at Russell’s (about a 1/2mile walk back into town from the B&B) then most of us gathered in the sitting area for some trivia questions and answers.

Tomorrow, most of the group is walking to Laggan Locks. I have decided to take another rest day as I was having trouble keeping up with the group today despite the flat terrain. I am quite proud of what I have done so far – just over 100 miles in 9 days! Not too bad!

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