This leg is particularly pleasant and easy. It follows the Calendonian Canal's towpath northeastwards, passing Cullochy and Kyltra Locks to reach Fort Augustus. A spectacular flight of locks takes boats down towards the southern end of Loch Ness in the town. Sadly it is the last significant stretch of towpath walking on the trail, as forestry tracks take over past Loch Ness.
1 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 on the A82(T) beside Aberchalder Swing Bridge at Bridge of Oich (NH338035).
Cross the road at the Aberchalder Bridge and continue on along a track with the canal to the left. This heads north for half a mile before reaching Cullochy Lock at NH341041. Cross the bottom set of lock gates to reach the western side of the canal and then turn right to follow the canal northwards, keeping the canal to the right. It starts to curve to the right, and two miles after Cullochy Lock it reaches Kyltra Lock at NH352067.
Continue on past the lock and follow it as it curves to the right and then the left to take a northeasterly course. After 2.2 miles the canal widens and reaches the top of the Fort Augustus locks. Here either side of the canal can be used to descend the short distance down to the swing bridge that carries the A82(T) over the canal in the centre of the town at NH378091.
Places of interest
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
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 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 relatively easy, as both Fort Augustus and Oich Bridge 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.