Day 13: Laggan to Fort William – 23.8 miles *longest day so far
Finally I was up and out by 9am. I would like to think that it was because I finally managed to get my arse in gear to get organised and out the door early. In truth it’s probably because I couldn’t get out of this smelly gloomy backpackers fast enough! Either way I’d had breakfast, sorted out a packed lunch and left a pile of camping gear with reception to lighten my load (will drive back up here with mum and Gail later in the week to pick up) before setting off at a reasonable hour. On what was to become my longest stretch so far. Turning back onto the Great Glen Way within a half a mile, today was pretty much a copy of yesterday, but in reverse.
The first few hours were spent walking through a thick wooded valley with low cloud and constant drizzle. With not much to see and with the accommodation issue still very much on my mind, I decided to make the most of the good phone connection I randomly seemed to have, to finally sort something out. Eventually – as is often the case – it meant throwing a bit more money, and a lot of charm at probably the most ideally situated hotel in the region, which previously was out of our price range. After phoning them, the upshot is they have offered to give us a bigger room, add a third bed, three breakfasts and actually charge less than the price of the original double. Still quite pricey but for our first two nights together, it will be lovely not to stress (on top of all the walking). Their final two nights… well we can all worry about that when they get here!
With that out the way, I could now simply relax and enjoy my day. Also helped by the fact that I was carrying 3 or 4 kilos less on my back. I managed to find a break in the drizzle to stop next to the loch for my packed lunch of half a jam sandwich, a baby bel, an apple and a kit kat! Haha more like the packed lunch of a 5 year old, it did make me chuckle. If I had to recommend one day of walking to anyone, it would be this one with the scenery and terrain constantly changing. The wooded valley gave way to a lake side path, small foot bridges taking you over streams and small waterfalls, before the final section – marking the end of the Great Glen Way – running parallel to the Caledonian canal all the way into Fort William. Well I say all the way in… what I mean is to the outskirts of town because for the first time I was dealing with a proper town so that little distinction actually made quite a bit of difference. Just as I thought my long walking day of 20 miles was almost done, it actually to took nearly another 4 miles to walk across town to my bed for the night. I had to really dig deep to make those last few miles, especially with that final hill.
So I was mighty relieved to see the smiling face of Edith opening the door when I finally arrived, as well as a home cooked meal of tart and salad. My second (successful) couch surfing opportunity, I was welcomed into Edith’s home (which in fact wasn’t Edith’s home, but that of her boyfriend who was away working) which was basically a student flat. And what a result, students who climb, ride, walk and ski throughout this area so the next few hours was spent giving me the low down on the West Highland Way, which begins here in Fort William. What to expect, where to buy stuff in town, potential places to stay on route. I was made to feel very welcome and given a big double room, which incidentally belongs to their house mate Cormac, himself a climber who has also been raising money for Nepal. Cormac was obviously more than happy for me to be stay in his room whilst he was away. With a big tomorrow as I start the West Highland Way, thankfully I managed a good nights sleep.