What I learned along the way

Great Glen Way Tips

Things I learned on the journey

Ferries

Lismore Ferry

I went on four ferries, but it should have been five! The first was the ferry from Oban to Lismore, the second from Lismore to Port Appin and the third was from Corran to Ardgour. All of these run seven days a week. The ferry from Camusnagaul to Fort William DOES NOT run on a SUNDAY, and that was the day I wanted to catch it, so I had to either wait till the next day or do a 22 mile detour round Loch Eil including 11 miles on the busy A830 (I did the latter). The final ferry was the one between Cromarty and Nigg and that only runs between June and the end of August (7 days a week).

Camping Spots

Loch Lochy Camp

I camped the first three nights. The first night was near Camusnagaul, near to the ferry terminal. There are no camp sites here and I found it hard to decide where to camp because the road goes along the shore and I wanted to be out of sight of it. Also there were quite a few houses about, and on the other side of the road were hills. I scouted a few places and eventually had to make a decision before it got dark! The place I chose was tucked away and reasonably flat.

The second night was the worst night - I camped next to the forestry track alongside Loch Lochy on a patch of grass. Again it was getting dark and I also had a puncture. With hindsight I should have stopped at Clunes. If I hadn't got the Camasnagaul ferry wrong I would have got much further that day so this would not have been an issue, but basically once you pass Clunes there is nowhere really suitable to camp until you get to Glas Doire which is a lovely wild camp spot right by the shore with a compost toilet!

Kytra Lock

The third night I took advantage of another wild camp spot at Kytra Lock which was busy with kayakers and had no toilet. It was right on the cycle path and had good flat ground for pitching.

The fourth night I was in a B&B in Inverness!

The wild camp spots are well worth knowing about - they are aimed mostly at kayakers but anyone can use them. I passed one at Moy, not far from Fort William, one at Glas Doire mentioned above, the Kytra Lock one I used and also one at Leiterfearn which was the best of them all - right by Loch Oich and lots of room and a compost toilet.

I didn't know at the time but you can get a key for £10 from Fort William or Inverness and use it to unlock all the toilets and facilites en route. Some of the remote toilets had been broken into so I was still able to use those but the facilities at Fort Augustus for example were only accessible with a key. You can find more information on the Great Glen Canoe Trail website (also applies to bikers and walkers!)

Terrain

Forestry Track

Mostly quiet roads and good tracks. I used a hybrid bike which was absolutely fine but a gravel bike would probably have been better. A mountain bike would also be OK but not a road bike mainly because of the section alongside Loch Lochy, but other short rough sections too. The hardest bit by far was the section out of Fort Augustus. I used the newish cinder track so that I could avoid the road, but in fact I found it impossible to ride up and ended up pushing my bike most of the way. The road would probably have been easier!

Water and Food

I always worry about this before I go off on any trips but in fact it was all OK. I had a bottle with a built in filter in it in case I couldn't find any fast moving water, and I also had a normal bike bottle and a flask. All the way up to Fort Augustus I had no problem finding suitable water supplies, especially in Ardgour and Loch Lochy where there seemed to be a stream rushing down every few feet! The only place where I nearly ran dry was along Loch Ness where there were remarkably few streams and rivers. I could have taken water from the loch if I had really needed to though!

Bike packing food

I took enough food with me for the first couple of days - some cold puttanesca pasta for my first night, enough muesli for three mornings, some hard boiled eggs, Merchant Gourmet lentils in tomatoey sauce and Batchelor's dried pasta which mixed together makes a great meal. Also lots of snacks like chocolate peanuts, homemade carrot cake (an absolute must for raising my spirits), cheese and Higg vegan pork pies. Also peppermint tea bags and some instant coffee granules.

I passed a Co-op in Corpach and there I bought some Oatly Barista milk, the weight of which was well worth carrying for my daily coffee and muesli!

After Corpach the next shop isn't till Fort Augustus. I didn't buy food there as I had enough to last me to Inverness. I also stopped at Foyers for a real coffee and sandwich.

Which camera to take

I really thought deeply about this and ended up taking my Fujifilm XT2 but actually with hindsight I would have left it at home and just used my iPhone 11 and small Ricoh GR. It was more weight than I needed to carry for the photos I took with it.

Kit

All of my kit worked perfectly well. It might not be the best in the world but it was what I had in the house and didn't need to buy anything extra.

Ballachulish

Bike - I have a Liv Rove hybrid bike which was relatively cheap (I got the cheapest version), is easy to ride and has good brakes. This is as good a recommendation as any! If I did another long trip I might consider getting a gravel bike.

Alpkit Soloist Tent

Tent - I have the Alpkit Soloist which is great - light, quick to put up, big enough to sit up in, enough room for quite a lot of stuff inside as well as a small porch for panniers/rucksack etc. The only downside is that if you put it up in the rain the inner would get wet, which was never a problem for my discontinued Coleman Cobra tent which I also love but which is a bit heavier and bulkier.

Sleeping Bag - I have a Robens sleeping bag which packs down quite small and is fine for spring/summer/autumn and I have used it in freezing temperatures but I had to wear a lot of clothes and I was a bit chilly! I also use a cheap lining bag from Trespass which works well.

Camping Mat - I bought a Crivit camping mat from Lidl a couple of years ago for £15, basically for a spare. Then my trusty Thermarest got a slow puncture which I can't find so I started to use the Lidl mat and I love it. It's the same weight as the Thermarest and just as comfortable (if not more so). Highly recommended and if they sell them again and I'm in Lidl when they do, I will buy another. However like many simple inflatable camping mats, there's no insulation in it so I will probably buy another one for winter.

Camping stove and mat

Stove - I have a MSR Pocket Rocket which is completely adequate for my needs! I use it with a mini Trangia saucepan/lid and it fits inside nicely. I didn't ever get on with the Trangia - it was possibly faulty or probably user error but the flame was always out of control and it was hopeless in the wind. 

Panniers - These are almost out of fashion these days with all the incredible bikepacking bags you can get now, but I have panniers and they carry a lot and they work well for me! I have the Ortlieb ones which are very tough,  reliable and waterproof. I also had a drybag with my tent and a few bits and bobs in which I attached to the rack with bungee cords and I took a small rucksack for my camera and snacks. I tried to go lightweight but in fact I used everything I took! Including a book Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane which again was worth the weight for cheering me up!

Maps - I took the Sustrans Oban to Inverness Cycle Route Map with me which was very useful and also used my Ordnance Survey app and Google Maps! The route is well signposted the whole way but it was useful to look ahead for camp spots/shops etc.

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