LETJOG – Day 50: Tuesday 6 July – FORT AUGUSTUS to DRUMNADROCHIT (20 miles)
Today has been a day of forest tracks, low white cloud, conifers, and lots of water. The Great Glen Way out of Fort Augustus quickly gains height above Loch Ness on a well-made forestry track through dense evergreen forest, the waysides lined with a carpet of moss interspersed with vibrant ferns, foxgloves and grasses. Views of the Loch are occasional but spectacular as the path climbs, punctuated every half mile, or so, by the roar of raging torrents of water from the upper slopes.
Some images of the waterfalls and rivers – there were many more besides, and all this after an unusually dry June that has left Loch Ness at a record low level, according to some of the locals!
In planning today I was surprised to find it in my top half dozen day walks in terms of aggregate height gain, at well over 1,000 metres. There is the option of a high level route, and I took this option after Invermoriston for the views from above the tree line, following recommendations from other walkers over the last two days.
For the final five miles the Way climbed out of the forest and up to some scattered houses on a high level undulating lane, eventually descending steeply into Drumnadrochit. This new landscape, of moorland, pasture and, lower down, meadows, felt quite in contrast to the rather claustrophobic Great Glen. I say this because within the Glen the trees and clouds seem to encroach, and having walked for three days within this massive faultline, the valley seems to have a weather system of its own that has little to do with the surrounding region, or, for that matter, with the forecast. I enjoyed the experience, but would admit to being pleased to re-join once more the drier and more airy outside world!
And finally, a word on the fauna of the Loch Ness slopes. The dense stands of coniferous forests, especially those cultivated with non-native species, allow very little sunlight through their canopy. There appears to be very little animal life on the forest floor, aside from some impressive ant-hills along the sides of the path or where occasional shafts of sunshine reach the ground. Information boards in the area claim that the small stands of native pines within the forest support crossbills, red squirrels and pine martens, but I have not seen any of these on my three-day trek through the area. I have though, spotted some lizards, and the slow worm pictured below, as well as many insects – not all of them particularly welcome!