It wasn’t a new experience, but heading to Scotland on a sleeper train was new for me. Previously any trip to Scotland had been fast, just hopping on a plane apart from Lands End to John O’Groats cycle that certainly wasn’t quick.
I thought in many ways it would be less hassle traveling up by train. Easier to take an Ice axe and stove on a train rather than a plane. The idea of getting a train seemed even slightly romantic. The Ice axe and crampon would be required for Aonach Mor later in the week.
Arriving in Glasgow I didn’t hang around, I quickly jumped onto a train early that morning bound for Fort William (Visited before on the West Highland Way). 4 hours or so later I decided to jump off at Spean Bridge. Meeting a local couple, they pointed me in a direction heading out of the small town. Walking through woodland I was looking to spend a night in a bothy. This I quickly realized would not be possible that evening. I was walking up to Gairlochy crossing the swing bridge and walking up the west side of Loch Lochy. Walking into the early evening I met a fellow hiker trying to complete the Great Glen Way finishing in Inverness. We spent an hour or two walking together before we set up camp on the banks of Loch Lochy.
The camping options were not abundant and we ended up settling for a small patch of semi grassy semi rocky ground. By this point, the wind had dropped but the rain was steadily soaking our open bags through. We camped by a small waterfall that was feeding the impressive Loch. The water was refreshing to drink and much needed after the day of nursing my water bottle trying not to empty it.
Waking early and continuing up the side of the loch I stumbled upon a wild campsite. My thought drifted to an evening of a little more comfort but it wasn’t to be. I only really had one plan for the day and that was to locate a bothy I knew there was one not too far from me. As are neared the top of the Loch a couple pulled over talking to me about my plan. Having their local knowledge was useful and I decided to head up a short way to a bothy that was situated closer. They pointed me in the direction of the Glenbuck Bothy and off I went to find it.
Finding it on the map was one thing but shortly after crossing the Laggan swing bridge I was pushing my way through the forest up toward Greag nan Gobhar at 495 meters it shouldn’t have been too difficult but that day it was. The weight of my backpack and the previous day’s walking coupled with my lack of fitness was proving to be my greatest challenge. I made it up and over the relatively small Scottish hill where I encountered a fence defended by what seemed to be an ever-increasing moat cutesy of the persistent rain. I walked along the fence to a fallen tree, using the tree I climbed over the fence rather inelegantly dropping my camera in the water as I touched down on the other side.
It looked a bit like a building site. I thought I saw the bothy not too far away but as I got closer it was just some massive pipes stacked up. It was most probably a new hydropower scheme. I headed in the general direction north-easterly direction I was expecting to see the bothy at any moment. As the bothy came into sight to did the river and the steep banks guarding it. I walked over to it and considered trying to cross it, It looked a bit steep and I was tired. Checking my map I could see a path not to far down river. I arrived at the both around 4 pm and settled in for the night.
As night fell I was out of energy the wind and boggy ground zapped my energy for the day. I was looking forward to a night of semi-warmth. I looked around the bothy it was well maintained with furniture and two fireplaces. From the outside, it could have been a small farmers’ cottage but going in and looking at the visitor’s book not many people had stayed here recently. The night was cold I was on the top floor in the left-hand side room on my sleeping mat covered in my bivi bag.
The night was cold the bothy was high up and it seemed to even be colder than the night I had in the tent. Waking early I had a handful of dates for breakfast. I was running low on water so I started the march down to Aberchalder where I hoped to get a bus to Fort William. I set off in good spirits and walked down feeling good the sun was out I made good time and within an hour and a half, I had descended. I met a man who gave me some water and pointed me in the right direction for a bus. Waiting a while I gave up standing on the side of the road waiting for a bus that might now show up.
I continued walking I knew from previous conversations with a couple of locals that the main point the bus would go from would be Invergarry. It wasn’t quite the early finish to the day I was hoping for. Crossing the bridge and heading back onto the Great Glen Way I enjoyed my late morning hike through the woodland finally arriving with 15 minutes to spare. The walk took me about one hour and thirty minutes with quite a few breaks. I was tired and happy that I had made it. No time to stock up on food or water only to sit down on my backpack for 10 minutes. It was time to head to Fort William and a day out on Aonach Mor for some winter snow and some brushing up on my winter skills.