This leg is a short but surpisingly pleasant walk. Originally the trail followed the B8005 road, but diversionary paths have been developed both above and below the road for the first half of the leg. Stretches of this woodland path give some pleasant views across Loch Lochy.
Many people leave a little time out of this leg to visit the Clan Cameronm museum at Achnacarry, three-quarters of a mile away from the road. If so, plan the trip carefully as the museum is not always open; fortunately a sign on the trail states when it is open.
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.
From Gairlochy Bottom Lock at NN176841, turn right to cross the swing bridge over the canal and continue along the road. As it curves to the left, turn right to head uphill along the B8005 road in a north-easterly direction. Pass a road junction on the left and shortly afterwards at NN177844 turn left along a gravel footpath. This climbs uphill slightly before curving to the right to contour through the woodland above the road. The path soon descends back to the road at NN181848; as it does so turn left along the road for about five yards to reach a Great Glen Way trail marker that points downhill to the right.
Turn right and follow the path as it descends to the shoreline of Loch Lochy; it then follows the shoreline northeastwards. The path underfoot is often gravel, and it crosses four footbridges as it winds, climbs and falls. Despite these changes of direction the path is easy to follow. One and a half miles after leaving the road the path curves to the left away from the shore, climbing uphill to rejoin the road at NN185867.
The road winds around the hillside through a forestry plantation, gaps in the trees giving tantalising glimpses of the southern reaches of Loch Lochy. After a third of a mile at NN183870 pass the junction with the road which leads up to Achnacarry, then immediately cross a bridge over a pretty stream. Continue along the road for half a mile around a little bay to cross a bridge over the River Akraig at Bunarkaig. About a mile further on the road crosses the Allt Bhan burn at Clunes. Shortly after the bridge it passes three wooden houses on the right and curves sharply to the left at NN200886; here turn right to join a forestry road.
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.
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.
Loch Lochy is the southwestern of the three lochs that dominate the Great Glen. It is nearly ten miles in length but only a mile wide at its widest, where the River Akraig drains into it. It is notable for its 70 metre depth, which belies its origins as a fault.
The River Lochy flows for nine miles from the southwestern end of the loch into the sea at Loch Eil, near Fort William. The makers of the Caledonian Canal eschewed the shallow and winding river, instead choosing to create a new cut to the north.
Achnacarry is situated on a relatively flat expanse of land beside the River Akraig, which flows for just over a mile from the eastern end of Loch Akraig into Loch Lochy. It has traditionally belonged to Clan Cameron, whose lands span the surrounding area.
It was the site of the Stand-off at the Fords of Akraig, a near-battle in 1665 that settled a 360-year disagreement between the Cameron and Mackintosh clans.
During the Second World War the Clan Cameron handed over the land to the British military so that soldiers could perform Commando training. The Commando Monument at nearby Spean Bridge commemorates the men who trained to fight in the area.
A museum, the Clan Cameron Museum, is situated in a suitably rustic whitewashed building about half a mile off the Great Glen Way. It is well worth a visit if your happen to be passing whilst the museum is open.
Public transport on this leg problematic. Shiel buses run an irregular service 512A between Gairlochy and Fort William, calling at Bunkaraig House (twenty minutes walk from Clunes); this is far from frequent. Most people wanting to start at Gairlochy will be faced with a 2.5-mile walk along the quiet B8004 to reach the A82(T) near Spean Bridge, from where coach and bus services run back into Fort William.
For this reason most people will connect this leg with the next to Laggan, which is much closer to the A82(T) and has better transport links.
This leg is mentioned in the following web pages:
Gairlochy Holiday Park
Old StationP: 01397 712711
Grid ref: NN189835 (56.907292,-4.976447)
Spean BridgeP: 01397 712 919
Grid ref: NN195810 (56.885353,-4.96479)
Aonach Mor Hotel
Spean BridgeP: 01397 712351
Grid ref: NN208839 (56.911345,-4.944609)
GairlochyP: 01397 712778
Grid ref: NN187837 (56.909263,-4.979682)
Distant Hills Guest House
Spean BridgeP: 01397 712452
Grid ref: NN227818 (56.893884,-4.912761)
EarendilP: 01397 712548
by Spean Bridge
Grid ref: NN185838 (56.909465,-4.981887)
Gairlochy Holiday Park
Old StationP: 01397 712711
Grid ref: NN189835 (56.907081,-4.97627)
Inverour Guest House
Roy Bridge RoadP: 01397 712218
Grid ref: NN226819 (56.894218,-4.914113)
Spean BridgeP: 01397 712365
Grid ref: NN221816 (56.89131,-4.922454)
Old Pines Hotel
Spean BridgeP: 01397 712324
Grid ref: NN205827 (56.900414,-4.949491)
Riverside Lodge Gardens
1 Lodge GardensP: 01397 712702
Grid ref: NN221817 (56.892697,-4.922819)
Springburn Farm House
StronabaP: 01397 712707
Grid ref: NN208839 (56.911512,-4.945323)
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