Day 7 – Creag Dhearg to Inverness
Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here reporting on day 7 of our Great Glen Way hike. We had a good sleep overnight in the protection of the trees in our tent. The wind had been gusting in the pines but, our tent was well sheltered. It had rained a few times but only lightly. Today would see the hike concluded so we were keen to get back on the trail. After my dad made his porridge and a mug of tea, he packed our gear away. The tent was dry, for a change, but the weather forecast was for rain later in the morning. We had woken up early and the sun was just about to make an appearance. When it did rise above the horizon it was an amazing sight. It looked like the trees were on fire. A beautiful morning to hike.
We started the day by walking along the narrow winding path through the huge conifers. Soon, we joined the old drove road lined with moss covered dry-stone walls. We were surrounded by rowan trees and birch along this long straight track. The first distant views of the Beauly Firth were seen to our left letting us know that we had almost crossed the country. As we walked further along the forest track we passed Dunain Hill on our right before we were gifted with our first views over Inverness. I had a good run around as we entered a country park. The path undulated as we passed a pond with ducks swimming on the surface. Boy, would I love to have chased them. We had views of Creag Dunain Hospital, a large Victorian ‘mental’ hospital, ahead of us. We were on the verge of entering back into a large conurbation. My dad had mixed emotions as it is always nice to complete a trail but, it leaves a void when it is all over. The peace of the mountains and lochs was about to be swapped for concrete and traffic.
After passing through a small housing estate we dropped down the hillside passing a golf course. It was an eerie feeling as everywhere was deserted. It was early on a Sunday morning so, it was understandable, I suppose. The GGW was very well signposted as it turned left and right through houses and along roads. I spotted a flight of wooden stairs leading from a muddy path. I ran up them and at the top was an old friend. The Caledonian Canal. We followed the towpath until a diversion took us towards Whin Park. Massive reconstruction work was taking place on the canal’s locks. We passed the Botanical Gardens as we joined the path along the side of the River Ness.
We crossed a white suspension bridge that took us onto Ness Islands. The river was high and rushing fast towards the North Sea. A few other people were walking their dogs along with one or two tourists taking photographs. We were almost there and guess what happened next. Correct, the rain started to pour down. Why couldn’t it wait for half an hour? After leaving Ness Islands we walked along Ladies Walk and then climbed a flight of stone stairs between buildings. On turning left, there it was, the castle. Inverness Castle is the northern terminus of the Great Glen Way. The present castle was built in 1834 but evidence shows that a fort or castle has been on this spot, overlooking Inverness, since before the 11th century. A stone monolith marks the end of the GGW, similar to the one in Fort William at the start of the trail.
My dad took some time taking photographs of us in the rain. We were getting a soaking. The views over Inverness were worth spending a bit of time admiring before we left the castle. We moved on into the city looking for a dog friendly café that was open for business on a wet Sunday morning. We tried Wetherspoons and Platform 8 without any luck. Both of these places turned out to be dog unfriendly as were the staff. We spotted a small café opposite the railway station. It is called Coyote Coffee. My dad asked from outside if I was allowed in. The response was fantastic. The waiter rushed to the door, opened it for us and welcomed us in. We were wet and had a large rucksack but, we were made to feel so welcome. My dad had a lovely breakfast/brunch and I had a nice dry sit on the floor while I was fussed over. It was a lovely little independent coffee house.
It was time for us to move on. We were being picked up at noon by Kevin from Great Glen Travel at the back of the railway station. The rain had stopped at this point and we had a short walk around the area until Kevin arrived. He arrived on time and we jumped into the spotlessly clean and dry mini-bus. The drive back to Invermoriston passed by in no time and we were at the Bridge Suite again. We decided to have a short rest before we dealt with our unfinished business!
We still had a few miles of the Fort Augustus to Invermoriston section to complete. Fortunately, the accommodation is on the Great Glen Way so all we had to do was step outside and walk backwards towards the point on the trail that we had turned back at the other day. We didn’t physically walk backwards, that would be daft but, you know what I mean. We walked up the hill outside of the cottage until we met the path on the left leading to Fort Augustus. I had a run amongst the trees hunting out the birds and chewing sticks, as I always do. We chose to hike the low route as my dad was tired and the weather was dull and drizzly. The path undulated as it passed through huge conifers and later, birch and oaks, allowing glimpses over Loch Ness. We walked as far as Allt na Criche, the gushing waterfall, before we turned around to walk back to Invermoriston. Done! We had completed the Great Glen Way.
We spent the next night in the cosy warmth of the Bridge Suite before we were to return home the next day. My dad stopped a few times on the way home to take a few photographs and to grab a few snacks. It was a long day and I slept for most of the way.
It had been an amazing trip, so varied and scenic. We had a great time and loved every minute of it. It would have been a six day trip only for our short interlude due to the weather that turned it into a seven day trip. Thankfully, we were not in a rush. It is not a trail to rush. There is so much to see along the route and we definitely didn’t see everything. What a journey we had! Till the next time!