DAY 11: Drumnadrochit to Fort Augustus – 19 miles
I honestly don’t know what I do with my time in the morning, but even waking at 7am I was still late to check out at 10am. After sharing some huevos revueltos (scrambled egg) with Gise, then gratefully accepting a bag of chocolate cookies she gave me as a parting gift, I finally set off to find Nessy. I arrived at the side of the loch not long after, and stayed with the loch to my left for the remainder of my long day ahead. Much bigger than I had imagined (long and narrow) flanked on both sides with steep banks and alpine looking trees, the eerie loch itself remained very still, very grey and very monster-less.
Almost immediately I passed the picture-postcard Urquhart Castle… long queues put me off venturing inside, so I simply admired it from afar as I walked on by. Probably of all the roads I have walked, this had the potential to be the scariest in terms of crazy drivers, blind bends and lack of verges for me to safely walk on. All it would have taken is the weather to close in on me (as you would expect to happen in Nessy’s backyard) and I’d be in all sorts of trouble. But thankfully the traffic wasn’t too bad and again, I was lucky with almost perfect walking conditions thoughout the day with a mix of hazy sun and grey skies. With lots of regular lake viewing points on my left, tourists to chat to, waterfalls on my right to photograph and chocolate cookies to munch on… It was another really enjoyable day. Again I couldn’t get over how lush this area of Scotland is, the size of the trees and overall beauty of my surroundings.
Chatting to a guy this morning at the hostel – he had suggested I head to Fort Augustus today, which is the next main town at the bottom of Loch Ness and about 15 miles away. Sweet! He said there was a hostel there too, but recommended I book as being Saturday it is likely to be very busy. On route today – with lots of phone signal but no wifi – my mum helped by calling ahead to try book me a bed, but unfortunately they were already full. Still too much moisture in the air to attempt another night in my tomb tent, I resigned myself to try find a B&B when I got there. On double checking the map for myself however, I realised that Fort Augustus was actually a 19 mile walk which – if I’d left the hostel early this morning wouldn’t have been a problem – but after my lazy 10:30 check out… did I have the energy now, or enough decent daylight, to make it all that way?
The map indicated that there was somewhere closer – around the 15 mile mark – called Invermoriston, which appeared to have a hotel. I wouldn’t be arriving there until 4pm as it was so I prayed that this hotel or something else in the area was suitable. Approaching Invermoriston I spied a gorgeous looking building ahead so my heart sank when I realised it was the only hotel in this village and at £90 a single, way out of my price range. Not really sure what to do… I decided to get some food down me so at least I didn’t have that to worry about my stomach as well. Whilst eating my yummy smoked salmon sandwich and homemade vegetable soup, I was able to get online and suss out the situation. Yep nothing else for it but to break my rule of walking past 4pm, and continue onto Fort Augustus a further 6 miles away, where there would definitely be more options.
Almost as an after thought I decided to email the backpackers there in case they’d received a cancellation… I wrote that I was walking there now, and gave my mobile number just in case something turned up. Almost before I’d left the driveway of the hotel, I received a text from Kim at Morag Lodge, acknowledging my email but reiterating that they are full and, especially being the weekend, they are not expecting any cancellations. Praying the weather wasn’t about to take a turn, but getting my torch ready just in case, I begrudgingly set off on this final 6 mile leg. I’d hardly gone 5 minutes when my phone rang and it was Kim, telling me I am the luckiest woman on the planet as they have randomly just received a cancellations so there would be a bed waiting for me after all! Just knowing that put a spring into my step and the next 6 miles passed by without me even realising.
Very different from day 8 when I was forced to walk 19 miles in one day, I got to the backpackers at 6:30pm tired but with no serious aches and pains. And bonus, I ended up with an ensuite dorm room all to myself so easily claimed the double bottom bunk. After undoubtedly the best shower I think I have ever had, I grabbed a huge mug of tea and went to join everyone else in the hostel bar.