Initially this leg follows the towpath along southern bank of the Caledonian Canal from Laggan Locks to the A82(T) beside the Laggan swing bridge at the southern end of Loch Oich. It then follows the eastern bank of the loch northeastwards, following an old railway trackbed and a military road for much of the time. Finally it leaves the railway and heads across meadows beside the loch, including one spot that has to be the best view on the entire trail. A short path than leads on to Oich Bridge, where the A82(T) recrosses the canal.
2 hours 41 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 Laggan Locks at NN285963, at the northern end of Loch Lochy.
Cross over the canal at either of the two locks to reach the towpath on the eastern side of the canal. Once there, turn left to head northwards along the towpath. When the path splits take the higher path that continues on top of a bank above the canal towpath. It enters a wooded area and climbs to quite a height above the canal; it finally emerges just before a wooden footbridge across a stream.
Cross the footbridge and follow a gravel path that leads north through trees for another half mile; it emerges from the trees and the path becomes rough for a short distance until it emerges out onto the A82(T) once more at NN299981, with the Laggan Swing Bridge to the left.
Carefully cross the A82(T) (do not cross the bridge) and turn right to join a private road; this soon curves to the left and passes the entrance to the Great Glen Water Park on the left. The road continues behind the park; as it turns to the left once more, turn right along a track that climbs gently up through trees. The track soon curves to the left, passing a disused railway bridge on the right before joining an old railway line at an old station, the platform of which is covered in trees.
Turn left and follow the old trackbed north-eastwards along the southern bank of Loch Oich. In one or two place rock falls have fallen onto the trackbed and the path climbs these mounds; this was obviously a long-term problem, as large concrete retaining walls protect the line from the hillside in places. After about a mile the path leaves the trackbed at NN314997 to the left, dropping down a short distance to join a path that runs along the course of General Wade's Military Road. This follows the loch's foreshore, with the trackbed in company above and to the right. It soon goes through a gate and continues on.
The path continues on along a sometimes-rough path along the foreshore, with some superb views towards Invergarry over Loch Oich. After a few miles near the northern end of the Loch the path becomes a more recognisable track and climbs steeply away from the foreshore before descending onto the other side of the trackbed; if you look carefully near the summit then you can see a turreted tunnel portal down to the left.
At NH338028 the track reaches a gate; turn left at the gate along a path that parallels a fence for about thirty yards, then climb some steps to reach another gate. Go through this to reach the southern end of a large railway bridge that spans the Calder Burn. Cross the bridge, and immediately on the other side turn left through a tall gate to join a path that leads off to the left; this doubles back on itself, with the burn and river on the left, before curving to the right to parallel the loch's shoreline.
The path then runs around the northern end of Loch Oich. Some superb views unfold from the northern end of the loch before the path turns to head north-northeastward alongside the canal. On the way it passes through another tall gate before heading out onto open grassland, with the canal to the left. After a short distance the path climbs up to a gate that leads onto the A82(T) beside Aberchalder Swing Bridge at Bridge of Oich (NH338035).
Places of interest
Laggan Locks takes the Caledonian Canal out of Loch Lochy and into the cut that leads for a mile and a half into the southwestern end of Loch Oich. In 1544 the Battle of the Shirts occurred between Clan Cameron and a combined force from Clan Fraser and Clan Grant. The Wikipedia entry has more information about the battle, but I for one am overjoyed by the descriptive names of so many Scottish battles - they are both intriguing and extraordinary.
location UID #311
The Fort Augustus railway from Spean Bridge
If you stand on the A82 near Invergarry Castle and look out over the waters of Loch Oich, you may feel that there is something missing on the steeply-sloping hillside opposite. Like so many other hillsides it is sparsely wooded, but it does not particularly distinctive. What it really needs is something to differentiate it from all the others, something active. A stream of smoke rising from a train, perhaps. Well, transport yourself back eighty years and it would have been a frequent sight.
The Invergarry and For Augustus Railway was a short-lived and not too successful attempt to create a railway line between Fort William and Inverness. The first stretch of line from Spean Bridge to Fort Augustus opened in 1896 but the company ran out of money, meaning that it was never extended along the shores of Loch Ness to Inverness. Unfortunately there was not enough traffic along the line from Fort Augustus to allow it to make money, and it closed to passengers in 1933 and freight in 1947.
The Great Glen Way follows the course of the line past the eastern shores of Loch Oich; there is no more smoke, and the only steam fogging the air will come from walkers' ears when they see the many trees that block the view out over the loch.
location UID #312
Oich Bridge carries the A82 over the River Oich next to the Caledonian Canal. The modern road bridges pale into insignificance when compared to the adjacent suspension bridge, built by James Dredge in 1854. It is a truly magnificent structure, and is well worth a quick visit if passing by. Dredge managed to make a superlative example of a bridge that perfectly fits its location.
location UID #313
The Caledonian Canal
The Caledonian Canal should have been one of Scotland's great engineering triumphs. Before its opening, any ship wanting to go between Scotland's two great cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh has to undertake a long journey via the south coast of Britain or a shorter but more perilous voyage around the north coast of Scotland. Many ships were being lost on this voyage, and the line of three large lochs that marks the Great Glen seems like an obvious route for a canal.
Unfortunately the lochs are freshwater and are situated at some height above sea level. This means that the work was much more expensive than would otherwise have been the case, and that the engineers tasked to survey the route did not have an easy task. For one thing it was not going to be a normal canal as it would be able to take seagoing ships. James Watt performed the first survey, and this was followed up by Telford and Josias Jessops.
As is often the case with civil engineering, both time and fiscal estimates were wildly optimistic. The canal took nineteen years to build, finally opening in 1822, and at double the cost. Unfortunately it was outdated almost as soon as it had opened; new sailing and (later) steam ships were too big to fit into the locks. Thus the investors in the canal made a massive loss.
However, their loss is our gain, and the canal still offers boats and small ships a short-cut across Scotland.
location UID #304
The Great Glen
The Great Glen is a feature unmistakable on any map of Britain. It follows the Great Glen Fault that incises a harsh diagonal line across the Highlands, from Fort William in the southwest to Inverness in the northeast. Various glaciations periods have eroded the fault and formed three large freshwater lochs - Loch Loch, Loch Oich and the famous Loch Ness.
Much of the Great Glen is surrounded by high ground, meaning that the glen forms one of the best low-level routes in the region; it is used by the busy A82 road between the west and east coasts and also the Caledonian Canal. Part of it was also used by the Invergarry and Fort Augustus railway line, which closed to goods just after the Second World War.
location UID #306
Transport on this leg is remarkably simpler than on the earlier legs, as both Laggan Locks and Oich Bridge have bus stops nearby on the A82(T), from where several bus services on the Citylink 919 route lead towards Inverness and Fort William.
As usual, Traveline Scotland is an excellent resource for planning public transport journeys.