Fastpacking the Great Glen Way
In May 2017, Josephine Anselin set out on a three-day solo fastpacking trip from Fort William to Inverness, running 79 miles (121km) coast to coast through the Scottish Highlands. Usually treated as a long-distance hiking route, the Great Glen Way is one of many trails suitable for back-to-back running days as it winds its way along canal paths, lochs and forest tracks.
In an attempt to take a break from the emotional rollercoaster of job searching, I travelled from Aberdeen to the west coast of Scotland. I needed a reset and knew that a few days running along lochs, canals and forest trails would help me reboot.
Accommodation booked and waterproofs packed, I made my way to the stone monument marking the official start of the Great Glen Way. Time to begin my long-distance run to Inverness.
Day 1 fastpacking: running from Fort William to Laggan
It felt great to be back on the trail. It had been over two months since my last fastpacking trip, and I had missed the sense of freedom I experience on these types of journeys.
After a few kilometres through quiet neighbourhoods, I spent the rest of the morning following the Caledonian Canal. The flat terrain and straightforward navigation allowed me to completely switch off. The sun was shining as I raced against boats in the canal, the miles flying by.
I had hoped to stop for a coffee at Gairlochy. When I arrived, I realised that it was a scattering of houses rather than the bustling village I expected. Nevermind. Instead, I took a short snack break in the sun and carried on into the woods towards Loch Lochy.
I followed the thistle-shaped trail markers along the forest track, catching glimpses of the water from time to time. The path soon rejoined the shore of Loch Lochy. I considered going for a dip, but noticed the dark clouds in the sky and decided against it. The shaded, soft forest trails offered perfect running terrain and before I knew it, I’d reached the end of the loch.
I arrived in Laggan early afternoon. After checking into the Great Glen Hostel, I headed to the ‘Eagle’ boat pub for a well-deserved fish and chips dinner.
Day 2 fastpacking: running from Laggan to Drumnadrochit
The second day was a long one, so I decided to leave early. When I set off on the trail the sun was still rising, the air was crisp, and a blanket of fog hugged the looming peaks. Running along the canal in this peaceful morning atmosphere put a big smile on my face.
After a few kilometres, I reached the shore of Loch Oich and followed the path along the water all the way to Fort Augustus. This was by far the largest village I passed since leaving Fort William; it even had a supermarket! I bought a takeaway coffee, stocked up on a few snacks and rejoined the trail.
I decided to take the ‘High Route’ between Fort Augustus and Invermoriston. It’s hillier than the low-level alternative but it offers stunning views over Loch Ness, which are worth a few steep climbs. I headed into the forest and followed the undulating path, stopping every now and again to take photographs over the loch below.
Around midday I reached Telford Bridge in Invermoriston; a perfect lunch spot. I sat on the stone wall and ate bread rolls, bananas and chocolate, which are the three main food groups on any of my fastpacking trips.
With a full belly, I headed back into the forest to Drumnadrochit, my final destination for the day. Along the way, I decided to take a small detour to Urquhart Castle on the shore of Loch Ness. I had wanted to visit this castle for a long time and wandering around the ruins after a 50km running day felt hugely rewarding.
Day 3 fastpacking: running from Drumnadrochit to Inverness
After a hearty Scottish breakfast of tea, porridge
and toast I set off for the last stage of the Great Glen Way. The sun
was out for a third day in a row, a rare occasion in Scotland. I was
even beginning to regret packing my waterproof gear!
The day started with a short stretch along the road. After a short uphill I caught a last glimpse of Urquhart Castle. The trail took me through a pine forest and then across open moorland.
I felt grateful for being able to experience this type of mini adventure. The trip was a last-minute decision with no time for training, so I was not sure how my body would react to the long back-to-back running days. But the kilometres flew by without any pains or aches. I enjoyed the views so much that running up and down the winding trail didn’t feel like an effort at all.
Before I knew it, I could see Inverness in the distance. A tram track along the Caledonian Canal took me all the way into the town center and up to Inverness Castle, the end of the Great Glen Way.
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