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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Day four- Fort Augustus to Ruskich Wood
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.
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.
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.
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.
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