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Trail talk: Facilities on the Great Glen Way

The Great Glen Way stretches from coast to coast across Scotland. It would be an excellent introduction to anyone tackling a first long distance trail, aided by the provision of many facilities en route for those walking, cycling or paddling. This blog is a purely personal glance at those seen, unseen, or passed by Three Points of the Compass in November 2021.

Sign on Great Glen Way pointing out one of the Trailblazer Rest sites
Sign on Great Glen Way pointing out one of the Trailblazer Rest sites

I backpacked the Great Glen Way over six days and was a little surprised at just how many facilities were encountered on this trail. Far more than I have experienced on any other UK hike. This may encourage those wanting to experience a longer hike, but who are uncertain about roughing it ‘too much’. Do note however, what is listed below is not exhaustive, simply mostly what I noticed or photographed. Said facilities could be added to or removed in the years that follow.

My account of six days on the Great Glen Way can be read here:

The Great Glen Way can be walked in either direction. Walking from Fort William to Inverness keeps the worst of weather on the back and is the direction I chose. The trail can be walked over four to seven days, I took my time and found that six days was just right for short November daylight hours. What follows is an image heavy account of what may be encountered on each of those days.

Key pack sent from Scottish Canals
Key pack sent to me by Scottish Canals. This includes helpful phone numbers and a simple map showing what facilities may be found at what location, far more than I show here as some are accessible to paddlers where the foot trail has wandered off inland

Highly recommended is to take advantage of the key provided by Scottish Canals. This provides access to the Caledonian Canal toilet blocks and the composting toilets at the Trailblazer Rest sites. The key can be rented for £10 from two locations. The key can also be returned to those locations afterward however I posted mine:

  • Corpach Sea Office, Corpach, Fort William, PH33 7JH
  • Caledonian Canal office, Seaport Marina, Muirtown Wharf, Inverness, IV3 5LE

I chose not to risk an office being closed and ordered mine over the phone for expedited delivery to my home address prior to leaving, costing an additional £2.50. Ring: 01463 725500

Fort William is a great place to start the Great Glen Way. It has good rail and bus links, plenty of accommodation including budget options such as a backpackers hostel and Travelodge. I have used both and they are fine. Lots of restaurants and gear shops for those needing to stock up on gas canisters etc.

Cotswold Outdoors, west end of High Street, Fort William
Cotswold Outdoors, west end of High Street, Fort William. Next door to Travelodge
Regatta, budget gear and a seemingly perpetual sale
Regatta, budget gear and a seemingly perpetual sale
Nevisport is a Fort William institution. Well worth a visit, if only for a weather report and the cafe
Nevisport is a Fort William institution. Well worth a visit, if only for a weather report and the cafe. Not far from the railway station

Day one- Fort William to Gairlochy

There is a handful of shops at Corpach but nothing should be required here as Fort William can still be viewed behind and across the loch. There is potable water available here as well as a w/c and shower, however it wasn’t until Banavie, while exploring the series of locks on the Caledonian Canal that I stopped in to see what facilities are provided by the rented key.

Facilities located at the top end, far bank, of Neptunes Staircase, Banavie.
Shower, w/c and drinking water at Banavie
Shower, w/c and drinking water at Banavie
Moy Swing Bridge would make for a very short day out of Fort William. There are no facilities here beyond a pitch for a couple of tents and a bench, which makes an ideal lunch halt
Moy Swing Bridge would make for a very short day out of Fort William. There are no facilities here beyond a pitch for a couple of tents and a bench, which makes an ideal lunch halt
Gairlochy us a good first night's halt
Gairlochy is a good first night’s halt
They are referred to as 'wildcamp' sites, they aren't of course. Pitch for up to six tents under the pines on far bank
They are referred to as ‘wildcamp’ sites, they aren’t of course. Pitch for up to six tents under the pines on far bank. Gairlochy
Facilities block at Gairlochy. Note outside water tap, accessible even if you don't have a key
Facilities block at Gairlochy. Note outside water tap, accessible even if you don’t have a key
Washing machine and drier (charge), pan wash, potable water, charging facility. Gairlochy
Washing machine and drier (charge), pot wash, potable water, charging facility. Gairlochy
Free hot shower facility on the first nights halt at Gairlochy
Free hot shower facility on the first nights halt at Gairlochy
Seperate ladies and gent at Gairlochy
Separate ladies and gent facilities at Gairlochy

Day two- Gairlochy to Laggan Locks

Glas-dhoire is a Trailblazer Rest site, oft used by those paddling the Great Glen Way. I did briefly pause there but it is only an hour away from Laggan Locks that may suit people more as the facilities are not quite so ‘basic’. The Eagle is a floating restaurant at Laggan Locks, locked up and out of season when I was there.

Compost loo at Glas-dhoire
Compost loo at Glas-dhoire
Great Glen Way passes immediately by the lochside Glad-dhoire Trailblazer 'wildcamp' site
Great Glen Way passes immediately by the lochside Glas-dhoire Trailblazer ‘wildcamp’ site on the shoreline
Learn 'Leave No Trace'. You have no business being on trail unless you do
Learn ‘Leave No Trace’ principles. You have no business being on trail unless you do
Facilities at Laggan Locks
Facilities at Laggan Locks
There is room for around five tents at Laggan Locks
There is room for around five tents at Laggan Locks
Facilities block sits right beside the canal lock at South Laggan
Facilities block sits right beside the canal lock at South Laggan
Ladies, Gents, w/c, sinks, showers and potable water at South Laggan
Ladies, Gents, w/c, showers and potable water at South Laggan
The Eagle is a floating bar and restaurant moored on the Caledonian Canal at Laggan Locks. Strictly seasonal, it was closed when Three Points of the Compass hiked the Great Glen Way in November
The Eagle is a floating bar and restaurant moored on the Caledonian Canal at Laggan Locks. Strictly seasonal, it was closed when Three Points of the Compass hiked the Great Glen Way in November

Day three- Laggan Locks to Fort Augustus

Leaving South Laggan the Caledonian Canal is followed for just a mile and a half, past the Eagle, to Laggan Swing Bridge where a decision has to be made. Whether to cross the bridge and carry on via Invergarry (which has a shop), or to keep to the south shore and follow the trackbed of what was once the Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway. Following the old railway passes little beside a Trailblazer Rest site. Not far from the swing bridge is the Great Glen Water Park that has a seasonal cafe though I have no first hand experience of this facility. Further on, there is space for up to three tents at Aberchalder Bridge but no further facilities.

The beautifully situated Trailblazer Rest site at Leitirfearn sits on the shore of Loch Oich and has space for at least eight tents
The beautifully situated Trailblazer Rest site at Leitirfearn sits on the shore of Loch Oich and has space for at least eight tents
The Great Glen Water Park, advertised here as Active Outdoor Sports, is at South Laggan and offers up a cafe
The Great Glen Water Park, advertised here as Active Outdoor Sports, is at South Laggan and offers up a cafe
There are basic facilities at the Leitirfearn Trailblazer Rest site
There are basic facilities at the Leitirfearn Trailblazer Rest site
Facility at Leiterfearn sits right alongside the path and above the shoreline
w/c facility at Leitirfearn sits right alongside the path and above the shoreline
Compost w/c at Leitirfearn
Compost w/c at Leitirfearn
The stretch of canal from Loch Oich to Fort Augustus has little beyond a couple of benches and a basic campsite at Lock Kytra
There is space for a maximum of three tents on the far side of Lock Kytra
There is space for a maximum of three tents on the far side of Lock Kytra
Fort Augustus is at roughly the halfway point on the Great Glen Way and has accommodation, pubs, food outlets, shop and public w/c
Fort Augustus is at roughly the halfway point on the Great Glen Way and has accommodation, pubs, food outlets, shop and public w/c. There are also Scottish Canal facilities at the locks- Washing machine, shower, potable water and w/c
Morag’s Lodge is affiliated to the SYHA and has most facilities that a hiker requires and at a budget price. It is located just metres from the Great Glen Way
Morag's Lodge. Clean and simple accommodation at Fort Augustus
Morag’s Lodge. Clean and simple hostel accommodation at Fort Augustus

Day four- Fort Augustus to Ruskich Wood

I never visited the location, but the the low level route out of Fort Augustus passes close by a camping anf glamping site at Invercoille
I never visited the location, but the low level route out of Fort Augustus passes close by a camping and glamping site at Inver Coille

Leaving Fort Augustus the trail now climbs the slopes and there are no more canal or loch side facilities to be enjoyed. Leave No Trace principles should be followed. The first day sees more opportunity for excellent wild camping sites than the second but it isn’t particularly difficult on either day to find a suitable location but it is likely that there is only space for a single small tent. As with the preceding days, small burns are frequently encountered and drinking water is not a problem though some form of filtration or chemical water treatment should be carried and used. It is only six and a half miles to Invermoriston where the Glen Rowan cafe enjoys a good reputation. In common with other facilities on the Great Glen Way however, it should not be relied on. It was closed when I passed by.

There are plenty of wildcamping sites. Especially on the first day after leaving Fort Augustus
There are plenty of small wildcamping sites, often with water nearby. Especially on the first day after leaving Fort Augustus
Trailside wildcamp in Ruskitch Wood
Trailside wildcamp in Ruskich Wood

Day five- Ruskich Wood to Abriachan Eco-Campsite

Leaving Ruskich Wood, there is a small tearoom at the Loch Ness Clay Works pottery however I never visited it. Many walkers have commented on the welcome they have received there. Possibly I should have called in but I hadn’t been walking for long that morning and had Drumnadrochit in my sights.

The village store & tea room is just one of a couple of options at Drumnadroichit
The village store & tea room is just one of a couple of options at Drumnadrochit. Beside food, there is also a w/c in this cafe
decent lunchtime fare at Drumnadrochit Tea Rooms

Much of the woodlands at Abriachan are community owned and many woodland walks have been laid out, maintained and signposted. There is an eco-toilet facility at a community picnic site. Further on there is a tap providing drinking water. Keep an eye out for it, I walked past it without noticing it. No problem however as I stopped in to the Abriachan Eco-Campsite and Cafe.

Turn off to the Abriachan Eco-Campsite and Cafe
Turn off to the Abriachan Eco-Campsite and Cafe
Camping amongst the trees at the Abriachan Eco-Campsite
Camping amongst the trees at the Abriachan Eco-Campsite
Facilties are basic but should not come as a surprise at an eco-campsite
Facilties are basic but should not come as a surprise at an eco-campsite
Breakfast at the Abriachan Eco-Cafe
Breakfast at the Abriachan Eco-Cafe

The Abriachan Eco-Campsite and Cafe is little more than a clearing in the woods, however the owners do their best to make visitors welcome and provide excellent fare. Their Lemon Cake draws visitors from afar however I contented myself with an overnight camp at their site (£10) and one of the best breakfasts I have ever had on any trail (£15). Be aware, facilities are basic here and may come as an undeserved shock for some, however it is a step up from a simple wildcamp elsewhere.

Probably the best breakfast to be found on the Great Glen Way
Probably the best breakfast to be found on the Great Glen Way

Day six- Abriachan Eco-Campsite to Inverness

It is only an eleven mile walk from the Abriachan forest to Inverness where just about anything required can be found. From budget accommodation, to plentiful food outlets to good travel links. There is a final Scottish Canals campsite inside the fence at the Seaport Marina (up to 4 tents) with washing machine, shower, potable water and w/c. I didn’t bother with that location, preferring a low cost stay at the Royal Highland Hotel next door to the railway station ready for an early train the following morning

Mixed Grill at The Caledonian, Inverness High Street
Mixed Grill at The Caledonian, Inverness High Street
Slàinte Mhath
Slàinte Mhath!

6 replies »

  1. Thanks – an enjoyable and informative read. I’m starting the GGW on 29th April 22 but it’ll be 5pm before I set off from Fort William. Ideally I’d like to wild camp near to some facilities (I don’t think I’d make Gairlochy given my late start). Any suggestions of a good stopping point 5 or 6 miles in? thanks!

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    • The whole canal is a scheduled monument and camping isn’t allowed along its length, other than at the designated spots. So it could be that someone would take a dim view of your pitching up. The first of the provided facilities on the canal is at Banavie but as far as I recall there is nowhere to camp there and it is a fairly busy location, boats moored etc. Beyond that it is nine miles to Moy swing Bridge and a good wide pitch for canalside camping, but there are no facilities. Other than that, you could tuck yourself away somewhere near Inverlochy Castle, but that is only a mile into the trail and you will need to be away before the early morning dog walkers. Near that is an official campsite at Camaghael, but I have no experience of that. If using the provided facilities is important to you it may be best to enjoy a first night in a cheap hotel in Fort Bill and get away for a whole days walking in the morning. Enjoy your walk

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  2. Thanks that’s very helpful, I might try the Camaghael campiste. At least it’ll knock off a few miles from day 2!

    Liked by 1 person

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