I get off the bus at a Euston bathed in dawn light, having got  up at 4.30. England has been toasting over Easter and the warm sunny weather looks set to continue for the second long bank holiday weekend on the trot.

The Virgin pendolino rockets off but it is still a long, long journey.  Most of it not too close to my walking route but, as the train sweeps by, I get a glimpse of the golf ball, which I walked past last year, perched on the top of Dun Fell.

And, after changing in Glasgow,  the little train picks up my route again at Crianlarich where there is a chance to get off.  The Swedish biker sitting opposite me with his tiny little daughter take a walk about, and then we are off again, passing walkers on the West Highland Way between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy, a stretch I had completely to myself in January.

Finally, we get to Fort William. I haul my heavy pack on to my back (It is only a 25 litre rucksack but it is overstuffed with gear and about a hundredweight of breakfast bars) and set off. 

I could get a bus a few stops to where I finished in January but I decide it is not worth the wait, so repeat the stretch to the old distillery and the roundabout where the familiar road goes off to Glen Nevis.

Fort William is not the most scenic town in the Highlands and this is not the prettiest way out of it.  But at least I have Ben Nevis for company, and for once I can see the whole of it as what clouds there are are very high.

It seems a long stretch to the A830 which immediately crosses the River Lochy. Now that is scenic, even if I am on a bridge over a fairly busy road. A straight road too  though the views back of Ben Nevis are getting better all the time.

I see a cyclist, who has been on the pavement, divert down a tiny path through some scrubby trees at the side and follow him onto a little path.

After a while I run into a couple of kids on bikes and then the path turns into a small road with houses. 

In turn this leads me to Neptune’s Staircase, a series of locks on the Caledonian Canal.
I make use of the handy toilets and admire a fine yacht before setting off again.

It is not entirely clear from my map which is the best way to go as there seems to be a path on either side of the canal, but I opt for the southern one which is a more substantial looking track.

I have two options for getting back to Fort William where I plan to take advantage of Anna and Al’s hospitality again. There is a bus at 6.30 from Spean Bridge which I have not a hope in hell of catching, but there is another one at about 8.00 which I should have no problem with, at least if the bus stops at the Commando Monument and I don’t have to walk all the way to Spean Bridge.  

Or I can hitch if need be.  There is an unfortunate few kilometres between Garelochy and Spean Bridge, that I do not need to do for the walk but do need to cover to catch the bus.

Well, we will see. The walk is pleasant and, as I am walking beside a canal,  remarkably level for a walk in the West Highlands of Scotland. I keep getting glimpses of Ben Nevis, looking more impressive all the time as I am now seeing the awesome cliffs of its north face.

Last time I was here was in a canoe.  My nephew Jethro and I paddled and my mum walked on the path beside us.  Jethro had twisted his ankle just before coming on a walking holiday and so we had to find other things for him to do than hill walking,  and canoeing the Caledonian canal was one  of them.

To be honest, it is a bit of a dull paddle,  a mostly straight reach with very regular banks on either side. But as a walk it is delightful. There are lots of flowers. 

The gorse has come out in a blaze of yellow,   I pass some wood anenomes,  a sure sign of spring,  and there are regular clumps of primroses.

Willow warblers wobble in the scrub and, at one point, a goose flies by. Greylags seem to be taking over the Highlands and Islands.

In all it is very pleasant.  Except for one thing.  Whilst I was pretty sure that the 6.30 bus was not practical I was confident that the 8.00 bus would be easy enough to catch. But my progress has been slower than I expected.

Either I have underestimated the distance or I am walking more slowly than I anticpated. Perhaps the weight of the pack is handicapping me?  Whatever the reason, I am not as far along as I should be and 8.00 is looking less and less certain. 

Actually, the bus is sometime after 8.00 but I don’t want to stop and get the timetable out to check as it won’t change anything.

Instead I try to up my speed a bit, as I pass the Loy sluices.

A little later I get to the swing bridge at Moy.

And the walk gets even better as now I am sandwiched between the canal and the wide River Lochy. It really is beautiful, and a pity that I am scurrying a bit as the time ticks by.

At least I see the locks at Gairlochy ahead,  two boats, one very impressive and brightly painted, signalling the end of today’s leg.

The end of the leg but not the end of the walk.  Spean Bridge is something like five kilometres away. I hope the bus stops at the commando monument but it is not mentioned on the time-table.

I get barked at in Garelochy but it is a tiny place and I am soon on a small road, the River Lochy still beside me and continuing to impress.

After Mucomir Farm the road starts to rise.  There has been no traffic at all but once I pass a campsite a few  cars pass, going my way. 

And then, as I am grinding up the hill as fast as I can,  one stops in response to my thumb.

“I’m going to Fort William but Spean Bridge would do fine,” I say.

“No bother, I am going in to Fort William myself, “ he replies.

He is a policeman, going in to start his shift, who (he informs me) never gives lifts to strangers.  He drops me by the police station, not just in Fort William but at the right end for me.
Now I just have to drag my pack up the long hill to Anna’s house, where a shower, wine and some delicious stew is waiting for me.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Canoeing the caley canal- something I'll have to do (I presume you can hire canoes) It might be boring, but remember it starts in Inverness and you go through Loch Ness and that other loch.

    Enjoyed your photos. Look forward to seeing the rest.


  2. Spencer said...

    I am a bit short of internet time at present so these posts are works in progress, I will try to polish them up later but for now apologies for mistakes and formatting infelicities.

    You used to be able to hire canoes from a place near Neptune's Staircase. I did not see any though so I don't know if you still can.

    I am not suggesting that the whole canal and loch system would be boring, far from it. Just that, as canal's go, the section to Garelochy is a bit monotonous. Because the banks are high you see a lot more of the surrounding countryside walking than you do from canoe level, where you mostly see the canal banks.  


Copyright 2006| Blogger Templates by GeckoandFly modified and converted to Blogger Beta by Blogcrowds.
No part of the content or the blog may be reproduced without prior written permission.