The clouds of yesterday evening have pretty well disappeared. Just a wisp here and there.  I walk down to town with Anna who is going to have a leisurly breakfast with the friends who also stayed with her last night, before they head off for the Knoydart Festival.   

I have a tough day ahead of me and the sound of driving over to Mallaig to catch a fishing boat across to Inverie to listen to some music in the sunshine sounds immensely appealing.  Dragging my heavy pack over a hill, rather less so.
But that is what I have in store.  And at least the day is shaping up to be beautiful. Most of all, I could be stuck in a London completely taken over by that bloody royal wedding.
I get the bus and ask if they drop at the commando monument. “Not officially,” the driver says with a wink.  Soon I am headed out along the same road that the policeman brought me down to Fort William last night.

Garelochy to Inchlaggan in a larger map

I hop off at the monument. Getting up from my seat I notice something out of the corner of my eye. My wallet has fallen out of my pocket. It has my money, my cards, and my bus and train tickets home in it.  Noticing it before I get off the bus to head off into the edge of nowhere, is very, very lucky.

The bus drops me and I take a couple of photos of the monument before heading off.  A couple of cars pass and I stick a hopeful thumb out. The third, a shiny new van, stops.  An amiable guy from Northern Ireland who is taking a few days to walk in the highlands takes me back to Garelochy.

I take a couple of photos of the locks and then run into him again as he has parked just the other side of the canal, so I ask him to take a photo of me.

Finally I set off on today’s leg to Inchlaggan.  I have a slight problem immediately. My map is an elderly 1:50,000 Landranger (34).  Not only is it short on detail (over time I have got used to the 1:25,000 OS maps that I have been using for most of this walk) but it is so old that it misses some important features.  In particular, The Great Glen Way has been established since this map was surveyed and there are some footpaths that avoid the road.  I miss a bit but then catch the next section.

The road is not busy so it does not matter much but it makes me wonder what else might have changed.
Anyway the walk is lovely. My pack is heavy and the straps are digging into my shoulders.  It is already warm. But the sun through the birch and other trees and glimpses of Loch Lochy are delightful as is the birdsong all around.

I am approaching the Mile Dorcha (dark mile) of planted conifers and already I am seeing fine, unusual specimen trees.

The loch widens as the path wanders by the shore of the bay by Bunarkaig. 

The footpath rejoining the little road just before a hamlet.   There is a private road to Achnacarry which looks as if I could walk down it as it goes to the Clan Cameron museum, but there is another marked beyond a church.

I opt for the latter, wishing I had a newer, larger scale map as what is going on here is far from clear. The track to the church seems like it goes into someone’s back garden.  But once past that I reach the church, and the way before is clear.

No one is about as I take the track through some woodland and then across some open fields.
I can see Achnacarry house in the distance, the home of the chief of Clan Cameron if I remember correctly.  

A friend of Anna and Al’s is the caretaker there and I met him on my previous expedition, but there is no sign of him or anybody else today.

I pass the museum, which is not open yet. And carry on along a track with lots of warnings that you cannot reach Loch Arkaig this way.  I assume that they are for drivers of motor vehicals not walkers and carry on.

I reach the bridge of the River Arkaig with no problems except that the bridge itself seems to be rotting rapidly.  However, I cross without mishap.

Another,  smaller bridge I then pass looks about to collapse altogether. But fortunately I don’t have to cross that one. 

Instead I make my way onto the small public road and turn right, walking back towards Loch Lochy for a short while.

There are a couple  of people looking over a bridge in front of me. But they leave and get into a car and drive off, so I have the picnic area to myself when I get there.

I had not really noticed that there was a waterfall where my path leaves the road to climb up Gleann Cia-aig.  But there is and it is a spectacularly beautiful one.  Perhaps not as impressive as usual, today as the water levels are very low (later, Anna tells me that this one makes an appearance in the film Rob Roy).

Living willow has been woven into a fence to screen the picnic area from the road, and I stop for a bite to eat and cup of tea.  This reminds me of the stop I made on the old railway path between Northampton and Market Harborough more than a year ago.  There is something lovely about a well constructed picnic site that feels as if it was made especially for you.

The day is about to get much tougher and  I know it.  Partly this is because the path has to climb up to a high pass at about 400 meters, but also because the  tracks and paths marked in the forestry are confusing and don’t seem to make much sense.

Again I wish I had bought a 25,5000 map.

But I didn’t and it is too late now.  I set off and it is predictably tough.  I have done no real walking for the past three months and my pack feels very heavy.  It is hot amongst the pines too, with no hint  of a breeze getting through these trees.

And the tracks bear absolutely no relation to those marked on the map.
There are blue pegs here and there but whether they mark some way or have been put there for some sort of orienteering or mountain biking event,  I have no idea.
I climb. Stop to drink water. Worry that I am getting through it fast.  Every time the path forks I try to work out where I am but the map is more confusing than helpful.  I should be wakling parallel to the gorge, but of course you cannot do that half the time.

At one point a small path heads off up the gorge whilst the main track dog-legs back.  I hesitate. Check the map.  Deciding that the small path looks more like my way I take it for fifty meters or so before it peters out altogether.

Backtracking I try the main path which does dog-leg back shortly, but then it winds off again.  I start to get disorientated. I seem to have been walking forever.  I should get the compass out of my waterproof (in my back pack like my fleeces and more or less everything else) but then I realise I can work out my rough direction from my shadow.

Eventually I persuade myself that I must still be going in the right direction. There is no other gorge that this can be, dropping away to my left, even though it feels as if I should have reached the end of the forestry way back.

But eventually, I do come to a break, a gate and open hillside to my left.  The forestry continues as does the track, so I just take a look to reassure myself before returning to the track.
And, soon enough, this takes me to the end of the plantation.

I take another break, drink most of the rest of my water, and head off again. The path is indistinct but I soon come to a bridge that is marked on the map and which allows me to pinpoint my position with more confidence.

There is a ruin marked too which will give me certainty.  But it is hidden over a spur of Meall an Tagraidh, the hill that I am traversing the lower slopes of, and I plod on what seems like a long time before I see it.

But at last it appears, and so does what I have been expecting to be the biggest barrier today.

On the map it is flat. My path, such as it is, ends at the ruin of Fadden.  There is another path marked on the map that takes the lower slopes of Sron a Choire Ghairbh which is facing me.
But no path is marked on the almost completely flat land in front of me. Nearly half a mile of nothing much.  But I know that flat,  in this sort of country, means boggy.

I start to pick my way across it, very glad of my walking pole which I can use to prod the ground in front of me to test it. Still my feet plunge into viscous mud every now and then.
I realise that I have got very lucky for the second time today. Spotting my wallet before the bus drove off was one. The fact that I am crossing this bog when it has not rained for weeks is number two. My feet are getting wet even with it being so dry. What it would be like after a few days of rain does not bear thinking about.

Eventually I get across the flat stuff and the ground starts to rise a little, and then I find the path marked on my map. Or one in a similar position, anyway.  A lochan allows me to ascertain that and I trot  on. Hot, and thirsty now, but glad I have got over the flat and trackless waste.
I see some trees in the distance, which must be the start of the extensive forestry above Loch Garry. I am a bit surprised. All day (and yesterday) I have been making slower progress than I had estimated, and those trees look too near.

I guess that they must be big and I resign myself to walking towards them for what seems like forever and think about the water situation.
I am really thirsty, with a long way to go, and only a very little water in the bottle which I am saving for the direst emergency. It has to be time to fill up from a stream.

I am not too worried about liver flukes, a friend who studied molluscs has assured me that they need a snail which you don’t get in peaty conditions as these are too acidic.  Still there might be other nasties around and, if you have to drink from streams fairly low down then you would prefer them to be fast flowing.

Everything is so dry here that even the mountain torrents are sluggish trickles. Still, I need more water and so resolve to get some from the next biggish mountain stream which is marked on the map ahead.

The trees get closer quickly, contrary to expectation. Contrary to reason, actually.  But I hit the stream and drink some cold water, which is delicious, and fill up my water bottle.
Something is just not right. The topography marked on the map, and forestry, just does not look like reality.  There should be a wide, funnel shaped opening in the trees but I am just not seeing it.

After some thought I decide to head downhill to the main waterway at the bottom of the Glen, Alt Lochan Fhudair. This goes through the middle of the funnel on the map and the path goes alongside it for a while.  And there is only one main waterway at the bottom of the glen. So  whatever bogs I might have to contend with at least I will be on the right track.   And I am too knackered now to risk getting lost.
 At the edge of the fairly mature looking conifers I head downhill towards what must be the river (though I cannot really see it). There is an old fence,  bits of wire trying to trip me up in the heather,  but as it is not marked on the map this is no help.
But then I have my third stroke of luck of the day.  I have not seen any people since the bridge by the waterfall, hours ago.  But I hear voices behind me.  Turning I see three mountain bikers emerging from the trees.

I give them a shout and they tell me that this is the right of way. That it leads to a hut that I can see on my map.  I trudge back up hill.  There is a post, with yellow arrows, one pointing back the way that they came from.  The one facing the uphill, has long gone, so it looked just like an old fence post to me.
But from this direction it is obvious.  Without the bikers emerging at that moment, I would have missed it.
This is great but there is no correspondence with the map at all.  I plunge into the forestry. It quickly becomes apparent that this is a right of way and not a track, or even a path.  And dry conditions or not, it is very boggy. My damp feet get wetter as I grind on as fast as I can.
A few mountain bike tracks are all there is to show the way, for the most part. But from time to time there is a post with arrows. Enough to keep me on the track.

Now I know where I am.  I can tell from glimpses of the way ahead and the hill to my right.  The forestry bears no relation to that marked on the map.  It may look well established but it must have been planted after the map was surveyed.
Great, I know where I am.  Not so great I am really, really tired.  The straps of my bag are stripping my shoulders raw, and I still have eight or even nine kilometres to walk.
Super dry conditions or not, the rides between the trees are still soggy in places, something that a frog demonstrates as I pass it.   But at last I see what I have been looking for, a notch in the hill to my left and a little river,  the Alt Bealach Easain, which means I have finally arrived at the funnel I was looking for half an hour or more ago.
There is a whole village of ruins, mysteriously not marked on the OS map, but I am confident about where I am now as the mountainside above me and the hills in front will not have changed. I head downhill and soon the path becomes a track.
A little further down there is a pile of wood and van.  An elderly man is picking about in the wood and we exchange greetings, though he seems a bit startled to see me.

The track leads me down to the hut and another,  bigger track of to the west.  I stride on, it is getting late.  I had some hopes of getting a meal in the Tomdoun Hotel, but the later it gets and the more exhausted I become the less likely it is that I will feel  up to the walk.
At least this is easy going on a good track and I know exactly where I am.  The map has started to behave itself again.

I have to grind up a little rise but then it is downhill to the hamlet of Greenfield. An opening in the woods tells me that I am getting close.

Approaching Greenfield a farmer is working with sheep.  We exchange greetings and then on and I am through, and back into the forestry for a spell until I come to more houses at Torr na Carraidh.  

This is just a scattering of houses by  a bridge that spans a narrow section of Loch Garry, and gives me access to the road.
The sun is low in the sky now, and  Loch Garry looks lovely through the trees.

The bridge looks lovely too because it means I am getting near to Inchlaggan.

The road I come to is a small one that goes only to a few villages and eventually to Kinlochourn.  What is unusual about this is that it is so long for such a small road serving so few people. My entire walk tomorrow will be on it.
But today the two or three kilometres to my bed and breakfast are more than enough for me. At least the cars are few and are not driving manically.

And there are some good views, here and there, of the forestry and hills beyond that I have just walked through.
Wending through birchwoods,  new spring foliage almost lime green in the setting sun, the road is actually lovely. Or would be if I was not too tired to really appreciate it.
My feet hurt and I am absolutely knackered.  I have done this bit of road journey by Google street view when I was checking to see exactly where the bed and breakfast was, and so I am delighted to see the “zebra crossing” stripes over a small bridge and then, round the corner, the sign for my bed and breakfast place, which is called Curlew Cottage.
The last hundred metres or so is up a very steep hill.  But I have a huge room and a splendid bathroom,  and before long I am soaking in the bath.  A trip to Tomdoun Hotel is quite out of the question, but I have a left over sandwich, and make a start on my breakfast bar mountain, and drink tea and tea and tea until I am properly hydrated.
But it is not just water that my needs.  I am so tired that, as I lay on the bed, my body is seems to positively swallow inactivity..   Not merely doing nothing but actively drinking it in.  Perhaps what I am feeling is my body recovering. More likely it is purely illusory result of no longer having to walk. But it feels like I am sucking rest into myself.
Certainly,  I am too tired for Dawkins.  There is a TV in the room.  Is it late enough to be safe yet, I wonder?  Perhaps not but there must be something else on some channels.  But I can only get BBC  and all there is on that is a couple of figures who look like animatroinic figures in wedding costume shuffling up the aisle of Westminster Cathedral.
I try a few times but cannot get anything else.  There is nothing  but BBC 1 and its animated cake decorations.
I really am too tired for The Blind Watchmaker.  There are some books in the room but, to my taste anyway, it is the reading library from Hell. Geoffrey Archer through to Danielle Steele by way of.  But there is Pompeii by Robert Harris, which delivers me from the twin horrors of Dan Brown and the Royal Wedding. 



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