This leg starts off with a long and unremarkable stroll along a road. Although there are some views over to the hills on the left, Loch Ness remains firmly out of view to the right. It slowly climbs before dropping at an increasing rate. After three miles a path drops steeply away downhill to reach a track that runs along the southern bank of the River Coiltie. This is followed to meet the A82(T) at Borlum Bridge over the river, and the main road is followed through Drumnadrochit to reach the visitor's centre in the village.
It is well worth considering taking an extended break in Drumnadrochit so you can visit Urquhart Castle, which is about a mile and a half away from the centre of the village. A good path links the village and castle, avoiding a long road walk.
2 hours 21 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 end of the surfaced road near the old fort at Grotaig, grid reference NH490237.
Join the road and turn right to start following it northeastwards. Along sections of the road a new path has been created that will undoubtedly be easier on the feet than the surfaced road. The first stretch of this path starts shortly after a little car park on the left. This parallels the road, with the road on the right and a fence on the left. The first stretch of path ends and dumps you back out onto the road. At NH501258 a second path leads parallels the road, but this soon ends. The road passes the little house at Woodend and starts to descend.
The trail leaves the road at NH510280, three miles after leaving Grotaig. Turn left through a wooden clapper gate to join a path; follow this as it curves downhill through woodland. It crosses a stream on a footbridge to reach a gate; go through this and follow the path as it curves to the right, becoming a track. It passes a series of bungalows at Clunabeg Lodge on the right before the gradient slackens. It crosses a bridge over a stream, with the bridge over the River Coiltie a short distance away to the left at NH503285.
Do not cross the bridge over the Coiltie, and instead turn right to follow a track east-northeastwards along the southern bank of the river. After 0.6 miles it reaches a road at NH511289. Continue straight on along this road, keeping the river to the left. After a couple of hundred yards the road ends at a T-junction with the A82(T) road, with a small picnic site on the left.
Turn left to follow the A82(T) westwards, immediately crossing the river at Borlum Bridge to reach Lewiston. Continue on as the road gently curves to the right to head northwards into Drumnadrochit; three-quarters of a mile after the bridge the road reaches a car park and visitor centre on the left at NH508298.
Places of interest
Dun Scriben Fort
Dun Sciben Fort is a vitrified fort situated just below Grotaig on the northern side of Loch Ness. Little now remains above ground level, although some walkers use it as a wild campsite.
location UID #318
Lewiston and Drumnadrochit
The two villages of Lewiston and Drumnadrochit are situated about half a mile apart on the northern bank of Loch Ness. When combined, they are the largest settlement on the Great Glen Way between Fort Augustus and Inverness, and have several pubs, hotels and a large shop. Drumnadrochit also has a large car park beside the visitor's centre, and a couple of Loch Ness-monster themed attractions.
location UID #319
Urquhart Castle is situated at Strone Point on the northern bank of Loch Ness, about a mile and a half east of Drumnadrochit. Built on the site of a much earlier fort in the early 13th Century by the Durward family, although it was later gifted by the Scottish Crown to the Grants. It had a wild and combative life, finally being destroyed to prevent it falling into Jacobite hands. The remaining ruins are situated in a magnificent location beside Loch Ness, and are well worth a visit, although hardly the most interesting castle in Scotland.
The ruins have a popular visitor's centre run by Scottish Heritage, built out of the same red sandstone as the rest of the castle.
location UID #320
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
Grotaig is situated at the end of a long road that has no public transport links. The only sensible way to get to public transport will be to link this leg with the previous one from Invermoriston.
Drumnadrochit has a bus stop 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.