The following morning was ushered in by much quacking and other duck related activity. I don't know much about ducks or even what kind of ducks these were, but they were friendly and not at all bothered about being picked up, (a handy thing if you neglected to go to the shops before starting the walk.) As I lay in my new sleeping bag I could hear them waddling only inches away on the other side of the nylon, making pleasing little sooking noises as they did what ever ducks do in the morning. On rising, which is to say, crawling in a distinctly ungraceful manner out of my tent, the ducks had all gone. As soon as we started breakfast though, the noisy little freeloaders returned. Until that morning, I'd never been bitten by a duck, it was just as you'd expect, more amusing than sore. We gave them all we could, we even persuaded Craig (one of the young team) to lay down while we flicked bits of a left over roll at him, this he did willingly. The ducks clamoured over him pecking and jabbing with beaks, it was highly amusing, especially when a well aimed bit of roll landed on his crotch. While I wouldn't recommend doing this with, say; a swan, the ducks hardly troubled his ability to make more little Craig’s.
Our plan for the day was to walk from Gairlochy to Laggan Locks, a distance of 11 miles or so, this section wends its way round the southern shores of Loch Lochy passing an oddity known as The Fairy Glen. I visited this place last year with a friend; we both found it to be really very creepy, others invariably thought it was all rather sweet. Basically it’s a stuffed animal graveyard, in my eyes anyway. To others it’s a magical fairy land of mystical toys and magical tableaus, people passing through have added their own little touches. A tree has hanging from it several small smurfs, down by the water's edge a large doll (the kind you just couldn't sleep in the same room with) sits on a chair looking out over the loch. Meanwhile, over by, a huge teddy bear sits miserably drooping with moisture, one leg torn off while other bedraggled and abandoned toys look on with disdain. There are other things to look at, a tree with lots of kids shoes hanging from it, the visitor book (the twelfth) had mostly positive messages within which confused me, eventually a did see a note scrawled by young lad called Shaun, it said; 'this place is way creepy.' At least I'm not alone, if you're ever in the area, you should have a look, I'd be interested to know what you thought. (It’s on the road out of Gairlochy sign posted for the
, about a mile and half after Gairlochy itself. Don't go in the dark.) village of Clunes
Onwards from the Creepy Glen the route takes you through the hamlet of Clunes (a row of houses) past the Clan Cameron museum. It follows forestry roads above the shores of Loch Lochy eventually descending toward Laggan Locks. About a mile before it does, there is an official wild camp site, if you're looking to do a short overnight hike, this would be ideal, the loch side location is very pleasant indeed, plenty space for camp fires and tents, we sat for a while and skimmed stones for a while more. There is no water supply here and the loch water is not safe due to a blue green algae bloom. It’s ideal for younger groups, a moderately challenging walk from Gairlochy (taking in the Fairy Glen) then a night camping in the woods, if your kids aren't disturbed already, they should be after that.
Laggan Lock sits on the main road between
Fort William and Inverness so it’s a bit noisy, there are no ducks to entertain and crucially for us, no fire pit. Fortunately there is a pub on the canal at Laggan, which is to say, in the canal. The Eagle’s main boast is being the only floating pub on the Caledonian Canal, technically this is true although there are two other boats we know of (the Fingal and the Ros Crana) that also sell booze although only to those staying on board. It was very warm indoors and since I’d managed to drive my car over a massive boulder in the car park of where we were supposed to be staying the following night, I felt I needed a drink, and a burger, and another drink…
Later on when the young folk figured out where the leaders where and had plucked up the courage to come aboard (get me with the nautical terminology,) I have to say, they looked upon us with equal measures of reproach and general unhappiness. All I can say is this, the burger I had was horrid and the Scampi my fellow leaders had was of the poorest quality, while the young folk were outside in the cold preparing their dinner on the picnic table, we had this substandard faire forced upon us.
I’m not sure they bought that argument if I’m being honest. We had been sitting for quite some time watching the owner’s four year old daughter (an overly noisy child if I do say so) climbing around the bar and it hadn’t occurred to us that being under 18 years of age did not preclude lawful entry, so to speak.
That night was the coldest; with no fire pit it was impossible to keep warm. It didn’t seem to matter how much wine we drank (those of us of an age of course,) the beer jacket just never grew thick enough. Also, it had been a longer day so an early night was on the cards.
It was a damp night and because we couldn’t get the tent pegs properly into the ground, (to much rubble) our tents weren’t pitched well. Hike tents are finicky things, if you don’t pitch them just so; they leak. After we accept, generally they’re not practical for any long term living arrangement, for them to leak doesn’t add to their allure. And they don’t leak in an obvious way; the water seeps in. These tents slope away at the feet end, if the nylon isn’t tensioned just so, the inner tent tends to touch the outer fly sheet, (I know, bear with me and the camping terms.) As you sleep, the bottom of your sleeping bag pushes the inner material against the outer stuff and moisture slowly but inexorably begins to soak the bottom of your bag. Its even worse if you’re camping on a slope because unless you want to wake up with all the blood you possess in your head, you’ll elect to sleep with your feet pointing down hill, you invariably end up in an unhappy damp heap at the bottom of the tent.
I would challenge any one to say this is an acceptable arrangement. The alternative of course is to sleep in the canal toilet blocks but there are signs prohibiting this and to be honest, my reputation isn’t all that great to begin with, choosing to sleep in a toilet (even a warm one) I fear would erase the small sliver of integrity I have left.
Go to Pt 3
Go to Pt 3