Trek Notes - Scotland

The Great Glen Way

The Great Glen Way

Three hundred and eighty million years ago, northwest Scotland was joined to parts of Greenland and Northern Norway. Plate Tectonics has changed all that and in the process the Great Glen Fault was created. The line of the fault was scoured by powerful glaciers up until about 8000 years ago, leaving a line splitting the highlands and leading to open water at either end (Loch Linnhe in the south west and the Moray Firth in the north east). Central to this is Loch Ness, 23 miles long and the second deepest Loch in Scotland -depths of up to 750feet.
During the late 1700s ideas were floated about building a canal to run through the fault, following Lochs Lochy, Oich and Ness, after all, they would only have to create 22 miles of man made canal as nature had already done most of the work. It was began finally in 1803 by two brilliant engineers: William Jessop and Thomas Telford and was opened in 1822 . It is the earliest example of nationalized transport in Britain, because the government wanted to create jobs in the Highlands after all the Jacobite wars - perhaps they thought it would keep their minds off politics! Along the canal you will find plenty of examples of elegant bridges and locks which reflect the early period of the Industrial Revolution.
The Great Glen Way basically follows the fault line, stretching for 73 miles and was opened on 30th April 2002 by HRH Prince Andrew. The tour starts at Fort William, near the foot of Ben Nevis (Britain's highest peak, which can be readily ascended if you choose to spend an extra day), follows the shores of the famous Loch Ness, and finishes at Inverness, Scotland's north-most city and the "capital of the highlands". Most of the walking is straightforward, along canal towpaths and forest tracks, but there are some more challenging sections on the last couple of days.

General Information

8 days (7 nights)

April to October.

Starting point
Fort William

End of tour


Please Note: the places described below may vary especially in the larger towns where we may not be able to book our usual places for your dates.

Night 1
We spend our first night in a large guesthouse, overlooking the River Nevis, and a mile north of the town centre. There is no restaurant here to eat an evening meal, although breakfast in the morning and coffee and tea throughout the day is taken downstairs. There are plenty of places to eat in Fort William and just across the bridge there is a large bar and restaurant.

Night 2
We stay overnight in a comfortable, family run guesthouse, set in its own spacious grounds, and located on the outskirts of the picturesque Highland village of Spean Bridge.

Night 3
Our 3 star Scottish Tourist Board hotel tonight is a fully modernized coaching inn from the Victorian era. There has been an inn on this site for hundreds of years. The out buildings which stand near the hotel date back to the 18th Century when the hotel was run by friends of Robert Burns, the famous poet. The menus are based on the finest of Scottish produce – beef, lamb, venison, game fish and seafood. Alternatively you can upgrade your accommodation tonight to the Glengarry Castle Hotel. A transfer is available to the hotel and back to the start point of the tour for tomorrow, plus dinner for an additional £70 per person. This hotel is situated on the shores of Loch Oich, which lies between Loch Ness and Loch Lochy in the heart of the Scottish Highlands.

Night 4
Tonight our guesthouse will be one of the many normally Victorian establishments in the attractive small town of Fort Augustus.

Night 5
This wonderful accomodation is just a short stroll from the beautiful and mysterious Loch Ness at Invermoriston. It offers arguably the best views of the riverside village of Invermoriston, which lies at the foot of the impressive Glen Moriston five miles north of Fort Augustus.
A comfortable glass-walled guest lounge also houses a full size heated Spa/Hot Tub available for guests use for a small local payment: with an attached pergola area for that quiet read or alfresco drinks, or just to wind down from your walk today.

Night 6
Your accommodation tonight was once the village church, it became redundant about 14 yrs ago and is now the home of Ross & Fiona Urquhart, who have transformed it into one of the most unique Bed and Breakfasts in Scotland.

Night 7
The hotel In Inverness will probably vary somewhat. There are many good guest houses that we use usually in quiet, but fairly central locations and sometimes bythe River Ness; just a few minutes walk from the town center, railway station, Eden Court Theatre and other attractions.

PLEASE NOTE: It is generally normal practice when staying in hotels that you check-in on or after 2pm and checkout by 11am the following morning. Guesthouses/bed & breakfast establishments are normally check-in on or after 4pm and checkout by 11am.


Day 1 Arrival in Fort William
There are only traces left of the original fort built to keep the dreaded Highlanders at bay. Today the town is the “Chamonix” of Scotland with a proliferation of outdoor shops, cafes, bookshops and bars to entertain you if you get in early enough. If you have an extra night here and you are an experienced hill walker, you could go and climb Ben Nevis, or you could take a boat trip to “Seal Island” to sea the Grey Seals loitering around.

Day 2 Fort William to Gairlochy
Today’s walk is very easy and is only 10.5 miles/17km which will give you the opportunity to do several side trips. The first one being Old Inverlochy Castle which is one of Scotlands earliest stone castles, built in 1260.Continue on with your walk before taking a short diversion to Corpach sea loch, with its lock-keepers’ cottages and pepper-pot lighthouse.You then head up to the Tow path of the Caledonian Canal following it past “ Neptune’s staircase” (a flight of 8 locks) to the small village of Gairlochy 10.5 miles/17 km. It is likely that you will be stayingat Spean Bridgewhichis another3.5 miles hilly walk. If this is the case, normally the guest house will beable tocollect and transfer you if you don’t want to walk.

Day 3 Gairlochy to South Laggan
12 miles/ 20km. A mainly easy walk today, but it does have two short steep ascents. You will be walking on a mixture of tarmac, forest paths and tracks, mostly shared with the Great Glen Cycle Route. Two miles after the start of your walk,you could take a side tip to Clan Cameron Museum and Cia-aig waterfall before rejoining the Way at Clunes, but note that the museum is only opening the afternoons.From Clunes all the way to Kilfinnan, you walk on forest tracks, you will get splendid views of Loch Lochy with the mountains behind. Arrive at South Laggan Locks. 12 miles/19km. Usually you will stay at Invergarry and your accommodation can normally collect you if you phonefrom the public call box there.

Day 4 South Laggan to Fort Augustus
An easy walk today 10.5 miles/17kms.The terrainis a mixture of tarmac, railway track bed, old military road, then a canal towpath.You will enter the Leiterfearn nature reserve, enjoying the wonderful ash, birch, elm and hazel woodland. If you have time you could walk up Meall a’Cholumain from Fort Augustus which is a great viewpoint. F. Augustus was largely built in 1729 as the hub of General Wades military road building programme to calm the highlanders after Culloden and there are 5 Locks at the center of town on the Caledonian Canal and several museums. There are some great restaurants here and you might get in with enough time for a short cruise on Loch Ness.

Day 5 Fort Augustus to Invermoriston
A harder day today 8 miles/13km with steeper ascents. You will climb through a forest of birch and pine, beside a stream and uphill to a forest track.You should get some dramatic views of Loch Ness at intervals through the woods. Walk through the village of Invermoriston with its little bridge built by Thomas Telford. The Invermoriston Hotel is a great place to eat and has around 200 species of maltwhisky. They also have great beer from The Skye Brewery. There are nice leafy walks down by the river.

Day 6 Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit
A moderate day of walking today with some steep sections. 14 miles/22km. There is quite a bit of undulation today, but hopefully you’ll be used to the walking now! For strong walkers in good weather you could ascend Meall Fuar-Mhonaidh from where you may get views from Ben Nevis all the way to Inverness. You can take excursions to Urquhart Castle(£6 entry) with commanding views over Lochness, café and an interpretational centre.You end up at Drumnadrochit, an attractive‘Green Village’ which hasa Loch ness Monster visitor’s center…or two!

Day 7 Drumnadrochit to Inverness
Today would normally be a long day :18 mile/29km, which is a bit beyond the scope of the tour especially if you want to see something of Inverness. So the tour is shortened by an optionaltaxi transfer taking you from the town to near to Loch Laide, famous for its very clean water. Descend then to Blackford and the Great Glen once again meeting the Caledonian Canal before reaching Inverness, a beautiful city of past and modern, although mostly Victorian.

Day 8 End of tour
After breakfast depart from Inverness. Or why not spend a day here visiting the Neo Gothic St. Andrew’s Cathedral and the Castle, the museum and art galleries at this Scotland’s Northern Capital. We would recommend that you visitFort George, the Clava Stones and Culloden which are all nearby.

Bed and breakfast on all days throughout your itinerary.Ensuite facilities where available.Luggage transfers from Inn to Inn.Full route notes and map package.

Extending Your Tour

Extra nights
are available anywhere along the route.

Suggested city-breaks in the same region

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