This leg is the first on the trail to have any appreciable ascents or descents. The trail leaves Fort Augustus and crosses the River Oich on a bridge. Soon afterwards it follows a looping local road uphill, before descending back down towards the main road.
A steep climb follows uphill along a path through the forest to track a track; this contours the hillside before another path heads downhill towards the A82(T) once more. It does not join the main road, and instead takes another track that heads back uphill, the height allowing occasional expansive views across Loch Ness. A long and fairly level walk follows through the trees, with few chances to escape down the hillside to the road.
A recent short-cut has been created to allow walkers access to reach the bridge over the River Moriston; if this is unavailable then a long diversion needs to be made along the old route along forestry tracks along the glen, before returning along the road at its base.
It is well worth taking a few moments in Invermoriston to explore both of the bridges, including Telford's magnificent double-arch structure that springs out of the rock, and also the rather tiny St Columba's Well beside the road.
4 hours 52 minutes
Map of the leg
Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format.
This leg starts off at the swing bridge on the A82(T) in the centre of Fort Augustus at NH378091. At the bridge turn left to follow the A82(T) as it crosses a bridge over the River Oich and passes the tourist information centre on the left. Shortly after the road curves to the right, turn left up a surfaced path with fences on either side; this soon ends at a road called Bunoich Brae. Turn left along this road as it climbs uphill and swings to the right to descend back towards the A82(T) at NH380100.
The road crosses a small stone bridge over a stream just before it ends at the A82(T); do not cross the bride and instead turn left to follow a path that leads off uphill through woodland with a trickling stream to the right. It crosses a footbridge over the stream and continues steeply uphill until a forest track is met at NH378102.
Turn right and follow the forest track as it heads eastwards, with Loch Ness and the Cherry Island Crannog visible to the right through the trees. After 0.8 miles it descends from the hillside to go through a field gate; on the other side the track becomes surfaced. This heads on to approach the A82(T) on the right. At a track turn left and immediately pass a car park on the right at NH390107.
Follow the track as it curves to the right past the car park and immediately crosses a bridge over a stream. The surfacing soon ends as the trail continues uphill along a well waymarked forest track, passing a field gate on the way. It climbs and falls northeastwards along the western bank of Loch Ness for nearly four miles. At NH423152 it joins another track coming in from the right; turn left and join this wide track as it heads uphill. It starts to curves to the left to head away from the loch, with Invermoriston a short distance away down the hill to the right.
Annoyingly the track does not descend immediately but contours around the hill for a mile. At NH413166 a gravel path leaves the track and starts to descend slowly down the hillside (the cycle route continues further inland along the track).
However, the path is sometimes closed due to fallen trees. If this is the case then follow the alternative cycle path that used to carry the trail before the short-cut path was created. Continue along the track as it continues to climb as it heads northwestwards before starting to slowly descend through trees; after a mile it ends at a T-junction with another track at NH401173. Turn right to head down this track; it goes through a deer gate and continues on, becoming a surfaced road.
At NH415167 the main path comes down the hillside from the right to meet the diversionary route along the road. Continue along this road as it heads south-eastwards for 0.7 miles, passing scattered houses on the left to reach the bridge which carries the A82(T) over the River Moriston at NH419165, on the outskirts of Invermoriston.
Follow the A82(T) as it heads northwards for a short distance until a car park is reached on the right at NH420166.
Places of interest
Fort Augustus and the old fort
The town of Fort Augustus nestles at the southern end of Loch Ness, about halfway between Fort William and Inverness. It was a small settlement called Kiliwhimin before General Wade built a fort at this strategic point immediately after the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion. A small village grew up around the fort and this flourished even after the fort was abandoned.
The fort was sold on to Benedectine Monks who founded Fort Augustus Abbey in 1876, which they later converted into a school. Sadly this closed in the 1990s, and the site is now privately owned.
Fort Augustus village is dominated by a flight of lochs that takes the Caledonian Canal down into Loch Ness. There are several shops, and accommodation is provided by many B&B's and hotels, all of which are ideal for walkers on the Great Glen Way. Nothing is finer than sitting outside a pub beside the locks, supping a pint whilst scrawling on postcards and watching boats slowly rising and falling.
location UID #314
Loch Ness possibly has to be the most famous location in the entirety of Scotland, eclipsing even Edinburgh Castle in the public's imagination. Just the statistics are mind-blowing: it stretches for nearly 23 miles from Fort Augustus in the southwest to Inverness in the northeast; it is over 1.5 miles wide and is an incredible 230 metres deep. It contains more freshwater than all of the lakes in England and Wales combined.
Yet these figures are not why people visit. It takes a certain something for a place to develop a mythology, and Loch Ness has mythology in spades. It is far from the remotest place in Scotland and the scenery, although grand, is far from the best the country has to offer. So why is it so popular?
The answer is a little sighting made in 1933.
The A82 main road follows the northern shoreline of the loch, whilst the southern shore is much less accessible and quieter for much of its length.
location UID #315
The Loch Ness Monster
The Loch Ness monster is a mythological beast which, like the Yeti, has managed to become an international phenomena. A monster was first reported in the seventh century by Saint Adomnan of Iona, although this was in the river rather than the loch itself. There was a long gap before the next believable sighting, when George Spicer and his wife saw a strange creature cross the road in front of their car. Other on-land sightings were seen until 1963, after which they have all been in the water.
Many photographs have been taken of the monster over the years, but some have been proved to be fakes or suspect whilst others are too grainy or inconclusive. I am a great sceptic and am all too aware that the human mind is exceptionally able at making connection between arbitrary events (just think of the Rorschach test), and it is all too easy to dismiss most of the sightings.
I am not alone. Most scientists believe that the Loch Ness Monster does not really exist; that even the lake's vastness is too small to feed and hide such a large beast. Yet knowledge of science is irrelevant as you stand next to the shore and find your gaze roaming hopefully across the water, looking for odd ripples and wondering, for a moment, what lurks underneath.
A great deal of tourism around the northern shore of Loch Ness depends on the mystique around the monster, and it is possible to buy Loch Ness Monster tea-towels, shirts and even, God forbid, Tam o' Shanters.
location UID #316
Invermoriston and St Columba's Well
Invermoriston is a small village nestled on the northern bank of Loch Ness. Sitting amongst forested hillsides around the mouth of the River Moriston, it is perhaps most famous for the fantastic twin-arches of Telford's bridge over rapids on the river. The bridge was completed in 1813 after a rather prolonged construction; it was replaced by the modern bridge nearby in the 1930s, leaving the magnificent structure traffic-free.
St Columba's Well is very easy to miss; it is situated in a little hollow right beside the main road in the village. It is rumoured (and can be little more than a rumour) that local druids placed a curse on the well, and St Columba defied them by drinking from it.
The village has a hotel, the Glenmoriston Arms Hotel, a post office and a large free car park.
location UID #317
Transport on this leg is relatively easy, as both Invermoriston and Fort Augustus have bus stops on the A82(T), from where several bus services operate each day on the Citylink 919 route lead between Inverness and Fort William.
As usual, Traveline Scotland is an excellent resource for planning public transport journeys.