Sunday, March 18, 2007

Day 53 : Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit

Thursday 8th March 2007

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Distance Walked: 14 miles
Start Time: 9:45
End Time: 14:02
Elapsed Time: 4:17
Weather: Sunshine and showers
Distance walked so far: 1031.8 miles

He could snap me like a twig. Of that I’m certain. And once snapped, he could toss me over his shoulder and cart me up to the top of Ben Nevis, like the people in his stories who carry pianos and fridges up to the peak, leaving them on the summit for the mountain rescue helicopters to winch down. He has so many stories, the genial owner of the Glenmoriston Arms, and he works through the full repertoire from his place behind the bar. Tales of runners who pelt up and down the mountains in thirty minutes, or who conquer twenty-four peaks in twenty-four hours. Ridiculous tales. Of non-stop five day stomps as a member of the Special Forces. These days he is a friendly hotel owner but there’s something steely within and, impressed by my efforts, he yearns for the day when he can once again take on a challenge like mine. He’ll run it, he says. Fifty miles a day. Easy. I don’t disagree. He could definitely snap me.

The section of the Great Glen Way from Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit may be relatively short, but it’s by far the hilliest of the trail, with countless switchbacks to test the patience. Once again, it’s the high path along the Forestry Commission track through the firs and, as yesterday, the glimpses of the loch below are rare and precious. It looks moodier today too. Meaner. The myth of the monster is, of course, ridiculous but, just as I can’t help but check for lurking ghosts when having a piss at night, I involuntarily keep scanning the surface for any sign of the beastie. To no avail, thankfully.

Regardless, the Way soon pulls away from the water altogether, concluding the day with some dull, pointless miles along the high back road before dropping down to the tourist hub of Drumnadrochit. What’s most peculiar about this choice of route is that it totally avoids the one landmark that would logically be the highlight of the walk, for the picturesque remains of Urquhart Castle are two miles back along the A82 from Drumnadrochit, two miles that are definitely worth retracing as the ruins are some of the most iconic in the country.

And they’re iconic because they confirm most tourist’s preconceptions. This is what Scotland means to them. A land of castles and mountains and water and clouds and, at Urquhart, they can capture the single photograph that includes all those things. It’s beautifully convenient. They come from all over the world to see it, stepping straight from their Nessie boat trip into the history and romance of the neatly packaged castle, balancing on the edge of the water. Tellingly, the shop and cafĂ© dwarf the size of the tiny museum at the Visitor Centre. This is a place of myth and merchandise, and I don’t really have any room in my pack for either.

Song of the day

“Nature Anthem”

I wanna walk up the side of the mountain /
I wanna walk down the other side of the mountain /
I wanna swim in the river /
And lie in the sun /
I wanna try to be nice to everyone

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