Travel Report: The Great Glen Way, Banavie to Gairlochy.
They say that The Great Glen Way in Scotland is one of the world’s most spectacular hiking routes. Stretching over 118 kilometres, this long distance path connects the southwest town of Fort William and the northeast cathedral city of Inverness. To conquer it in full there are nine stages to tackle. Furthermore, each leg offers up some of Scotland’s most dramatic landscapes!
Luckily for me, one of these sections lies right on my doorstep whenever I come to visit my sister in the village of Banavie. After long, tiring periods of blog work, I’d come out here every day for an hour or two. Sometimes I’d be jogging, other times it would just be a leisurely stroll. Either way, I’d always be plugged into some radio or music. Above all, The Great Glen Way gave me a much needed opportunity to switch off, get the blood pumping and connect with nature.
I usually cut into the path at the back end of The Moorings Hotel. Here, I cross one of the bridges spanning The Caledonian Canal at Neptune’s Staircase. Within a few minutes I’m deep into the glorious Scottish countryside on a leg of The Great Glen Way that runs from Banavie to the isolated hamlet of Gairlochy.
The Great Glen Way, Banavie to Gairlochy.
It takes just over two hours to walk to Gairlochy and there’s certainly lots to enjoy along the way. Sailboats and canoeists glide by on the canal. It’s also a popular horse-riding track for families living on local farms.
Moreover, it won’t be long before you’re exchanging a cheery “hello!” with a local dog walker. Or a respectful nod with a solo hiker. And yet, in my experience, the path here rarely approaches anything that could be described as busy.
If you’ve got time on your hands, there are a number of opportunities to branch off the main path and discover some side roads and forest tracks. One of these leads to Shengain Aqueduct, an ashlar stone structure that allows the narrow Shengain Burn to flow under the Caledonian Canal.
Two of the aqueduct’s three arches span the burn, while the other one can be tackled on foot and (just about) by car. The track leads to a tiny hamlet with a few homes and a farm guesthouse.
Shengain Aqueduct also appears in the song Your Back is a Great View by the Scottish rapper Brian Jamieson. Featuring none other than my sister, Natalie Lynch, as co-vocalist!
Back on the main path to Gairlochy and this charming little house never fails to make me smile. I have often fantasised about what it would be like to live here, right on The Caledonian Canal.
The Great Glen Way, Banavie to Gairlochy.
Look out for the Loy Sluices, a feature of The Caledonian Canal that channels excess water off towards the nearby River Lochy.
You know you’re getting close to Gairlochy when you reach Moy Swing Bridge. This cast iron structure became part of the canal in 1821, having been assembled in North Wales. Although there are a number of swing bridges along the Caledonian, this one is unique.
Basically the lock keeper has to open the south part of the bridge first and then row across the other side of the canal to open the other part. It’s quite something that this is still the protocol in 2019. It certainly attracts the attention of hikers and tourists, who stop to watch and take photos and videos.
A little further down lies Gairlochy Bridge, a former meeting point for British Commandos. Back during World War II new recruits would gather here for the back-breaking seven mile march to the Commando training depot at Achnacarry. A memorial board marks those days with a quote from the book Castle Commando by Donald Gilchrist.
“There was a lot of moaning and groaning as we formed up. Then we marched off, flanked by instructors. The piper was playing a tune that would have made the dead get up and march”.
Finally, Gairlochy itself is good for a twenty minute wander. Around one hundred people live here and some of the little cottages and farmhouses are about as idyllic as you could imagine.
Gairlochy is also home to a camping ground, a B&B and a couple of holiday homes. A pretty but largely unloved graveyard is worth a look too, although most of the gravestones are illegible. From Gairlochy, hikers can head onto the next stage of The Great Glen Way, Gairlochy to Laggan.
Like this? Please do check out more of my articles from the village of Banavie.
For more on the region, see my articles from across The Scottish Highlands.
To delve further afield, you can also take a look at my travel articles from all around Scotland.
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