Great Glen Escape - Monster Hunting on Foot
You’ll be hard-pressed to find something more quintessentially Scottish than the Loch Ness monster herself (I’ve always liked to think of it as a she!) so I was excited to hear that I’d be walking the high route of the Great Glen Way this summer. Following the banks of Loch Ness, Scotland’s second-largest Loch and famous for all things Scottish, I’d have a clear and unobstructed view of the mysterious and famously dark Loch. Maybe I’d catch a glimpse of the big beastie myself?
I decided on the Great Glen Escape, a short version of the Great Glen Way that starts in the beautiful village of Fort Augustus and ends in the vibrant capital of the Highlands – Inverness. At 5 days and 4 nights, it’s perfect for those who are short on time and in my opinion encapsulates all the best bits of the Great Glen. We had the high or low route to choose from and I thought the best option for some great views and maybe a glimpse of Nessie would be the high route and it did not disappoint!
The trip starts off in Fort Augustus, a small village located along the Caledonian Canal and famous for its impressive locks. We arrived in the afternoon, just in time to check in to our lovely B&B and head off exploring. We spent some time having a wander through the village and along the canal. While small there are lots of cafes, pubs and restaurants to choose from. We made ourselves comfortable with a hot drink on one of the many outdoor seating areas along the canal and watched the boats navigate up and down the levels of locks. Keen to have an early night for our first day we had an early dinner in the Bothy pub (we opted for Haggis, neeps and tatties! We felt it apt to start off our adventure with a Scottish classic!)
The following day, I woke up feeling well-rested and excited to start my first day of walking! We were lucky to have a dry and sunny day to start us off and after a hearty breakfast, we got our boots on and made our way from Fort Augustus to Invermoriston. Taking the high route we walked 8.9 miles in total and starts off with a steep incline through picturesque woodland. We emerged from the forest and were rewarded with the most stunning views of Loch Ness from high above the trees and with it being the shortest walk of the trip we were able to take our time and take in the magnificent views. It was really amazing to have our picnic lunch from high above the forest, looking over Loch Ness with not a soul around, I didn’t want to leave! The last few miles were on a well-trodden path through dense forest as we made our descent into Invermoriston. The charming village of Invermoriston is home to a restaurant, a shop and a village hall. Make sure to book your meal at the Glenmoriston Arms in advance, it’s the only place to eat and can be very busy! There’s an impressive selection of both pub classics and fancy fare all in a beautifully decorated restaurant and bar, if you’re lucky enough to get some sunny weather, take a seat on one of their ‘Game of Thrones’ chairs in their lovely beer garden.
Day 3 took us from Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit and is the longest of the trip at 14.5 miles. This section starts off very similar to day 1 with steep climbs and descents along with magnificent panoramic views over Loch Ness before meeting the low route for some woodland trails. You’ll make your way down into the lovely village of Drumnadrochit. It’s home to a few cafes, restaurant and of course Nessieland! If you didn’t manage to spot Nessie on the way then why not stop in for a visit? It’s located at the top of the village (just follow the sound of bagpipes!) It’s a charming Kitsch tribute to ‘oor Nessie’! They have a wonderful screening room where you can take in a presentation with the history and folklore of Nessie through the years. There’s also a gift shop where you can buy some Scottish and Nessie themed gifts. We took the time to have a wander and stopped in their café for a cup of tea with homemade cake and to rest our legs after a long but rewarding days walk. For evening meals you have The Fiddlers Arms, a welcoming and friendly bar and restaurant serving only the best of Scottish food with an impressive selection of Whiskey. If you prefer something a little more casual and ‘on the go’ they also have the Fiddlers Food Truck where you’ll find classic staples such as Fish and Chips done properly! You can eat in their lovely beer garden or take it to go
The final day of walking will take you from Drumnadrochit to Inverness. The Great Glen Escape itinerary includes a transfer to Loch Laide turning the 20-mile day into a manageable 12.5. The trail is markedly different on this stretch as we made our way down into Inverness and is mostly flat and easy walking. The first few miles are farm roads, weaving around secluded farmhouses before we head back into woodland to spend the next couple of hours on a forest trail (Keep your eyes peeled for huge cep mushrooms, wild peas and elderflower!) We emerged from the woodland with a spectacular view over the city of Inverness, there’s a lovely community garden nearby along with a few benches overlooking the view, we took this opportunity to refuel and look out to the bustling city below us. After our quick pit stop, we made our way down into Inverness through quiet suburbs and into the city where we complete the walk at Inverness castle. Feeling very accomplished and pleased with ourselves we stopped by the Castle Tavern opposite for a well-deserved beer!
The following day we were due to head home but we couldn’t leave without exploring Loch Ness a little more and what better way to do that than hopping on a boat and sailing alongside the very route we had just walked! (Not to mention this was our last chance to spot Nessie) We chose the Jacobite boat tour and It’s a lovely add on especially if you fancy an extra day in Inverness. We joined the Jacobite Rebel at Dochgarroch Lock for the contemplation tour and had a lovely 2-hour sail of Loch Ness. There are lots of options for the trip where you can stop over for an hour or 2 at Urquhart Castle or if you’re strapped for time can opt for a shorter trip that bypasses the castle visit. The boat trip was spectacular and I would recommend it to anyone who has some time to spare in Inverness. You’ll sail to Urquhart Castle and back and the views were even more amazing from the water, it was a welcome break to relax the legs after a few days of walking! There’s a guide on board who talks you through all the sights of note along the way with some nice history tidbits and there’s a fully stocked bar and Costa coffee onboard where you can grab a wee dram or a hot chocolate to warm yourself up especially if you’re sitting on the top deck!
As we made our way back to Glasgow I felt a huge sense of achievement, I challenged myself and had the best time walking through the beautiful Great Glen while taking in the scenery of Scotlands most famous Loch. The Great Glen Escape is perfect for casual and regular walkers alike, if you enjoy a challenge and are looking for some beautiful views I’d strongly recommend going with the high route. The only disappointment of the trip was that I didn’t spot the elusive monster of the deep so if like me you’re out of luck and in need of your Nessie fix, I’d stick with Nessieland!