Ever since reading the Outlander novels (they take place during 1700s in the Highlands), I’ve been obsessed with Scotland. What better way to reflect on the gorgeous landscape and daydream about being whisked back to a simpler time than by camping there? One of the most serene and picturesque walks in the UK, the Great Glen Way has been a major route across the country for hundreds of years, marked by a geologic fault line all the way from Fort Williams to Inverness. I started in the south and my rustic journey led me past ruined castles, quaint villages and crystal clear lochs. It was magical already.
Heading north, I first walked along the Caledonian Canal, a 19th century innovation that connects to Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and finally Loch Ness. The longest “staircase” canal lock in the UK, Neptune’s Staircase, built in 1811 was a really unique sight to behold. The technology didn’t quite fit into my idyllic 18th century backcountry fantasy, but there was plenty more trail that would deliver in that respect.
At about the midway point of the 117 km journey, I made it to Fort Augustus, a charming village of 700 residents, before reaching the great Loch Ness. Here I had the chance to scope out Nessie and also the iconic Urquhart Castle. The castle is mostly ruined, but was still a striking fixture on the bank of the loch. Dating back to the 13th century, it’s a wonder the tower still stands! I had a great time setting up photos among the crumbled ramparts and totally playing damsel in distress in my mind.
At Loch Ness I wanted to take a day to check out the local craft exhibits, the audio-visual presentations (extremely educational, especially for a geology nerd like me) at the visitor’s center, or even take a cruise on the water, but then it was back to the trail up to Inverness.
The walk took me five and a half days to complete, and I camped along the trail with most of the other walkers. The Leave No Trace policy requires that you clean up every little bit of waste that you create during your time on the trail, so be aware of that and your own physical limitations before you set off. Some folks take up to seven days to walk the whole route, but I think they probably spend a lot more time exploring the villages along the way.
I found a lot of helpful tips and info on greatglenway.com, especially section closures and diversions (which there are a couple of, at present), and with the help of my go-to rental company I had a car waiting for me in Inverness, so I could continue my tour of Scotland.
NOELLA SCHINK is a travel writer who loves finding gorgeous hikes wherever she travels. Her favorites have been of course the Great Glen Way, Abel Tasman in New Zealand and Green Gardens in Newfoundland.