Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Day 51 : Fort William to Invergarry

Tuesday 6th March 2007

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Distance Walked: 28.8 miles
Start Time: 8:37
End Time: 17:41
Elapsed Time: 9:04
Weather: Mostly wet and gloomy. Rainbows!
Distance walked so far: 1000.6 miles

Fort William is the self-styled “Outdoor Capital of Britain” but, in the same way that I’m the self-styled “Lord of Lingering Disappointment”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true. The town is certainly in an enviable position, wedged between mountain and sea loch, and, more importantly, it has loads and loads and loads of shops. I invest heavily in new socks to pamper my suffering soles and look for a Way out.

Just as the West Highland Way ends at one roundabout, so the Great Glen Way begins at another, sandwiched between a supermarket car park and a McDonald’s drive-thru. It leads out through miles of stained concrete houses before joining the Caledonian Canal at Corpach, where the multi-tiered lock system of Neptune’s Staircase allows the sea-going vessels to penetrate the inland waterway. It’s a huge canal, much wider and more imposing than any of the others I’ve encountered, but no more entertaining, particularly as the torrents begin to fall.

I should be used to walking along wet towpaths by now, but it still grates. At least there are sporadic glimpses of the diminishing, cloud-covered Ben, and the path is certainly smooth, but it’s a relief when the canal is left behind and the walk along the lazily-named Loch Lochy begins. Unlike with Lomond, here the path sticks closely to the shoreline, perfect for moments of quiet, if damp, contemplation, if that's your thing.

Heading up into the lochside forests, the seasonal lack of the dreaded Scottish midge is again a source of relief. They love the wet, wooded places, and they would love me too, but today my concern remains with the search for a bed for the night. Laggan appears to have been deserted, so I press on in failing gloom and falling rain, taking an annoyingly meandering cycle track which eventually drops down to Invergarry where, mercifully, I secure the last remaining room in the only hotel in the area. It’s a comforting kind of place, and I pad around bare foot trying to get my legs to bend, whilst the huge alsation eyes me suspiciously from his spot by the fire. Slowly, the feeling returns.

Song of the day:

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
“Wonderful Life”

We can build our dungeons in the air and sit and cry the blues /
We can stomp across this world with nails hammered through our shoes /
We can join that troubled chorus who criticise and accuse /
It don't matter much we got nothing much to lose /
But this wonderful life /
If you can find it

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