Our Walk Across Scotland.
- The plan was to walk across Scotland from Fort William to Montrose using
traditional hill tracks and drove roads. This meant avoiding tarmac as much as
possible. This also meant that to get from Laggan to Kingussie, a days walk
along the road, took three days over the rough. In the event, because of foot
problems caused by persistent damp and the fact that we arrived in Kingussie
three quarters of an hour before the bus to Glasgow left, we failed.
Friday, 31 May, 1996
- We left Glasgow on the 15:30 bus to Fort William in glorious weather and
arrived at Fort William at about 18:15. A quick change into boots in the shelter
of Safeway, it was very windy, and then a slow march up Glen Nevis aiming for
the Youth Hostel. Fortunately the Glen Nevis camp site appeared before we
reached the Hostel and as it was cheaper, and we were there, we pitched on the
site in the shelter of a hedge. After a magnificent meal of sandwiches we spent
a night disturbed only by high winds, heavy showers and people chasing their dog
Saturday, 1 June, 1996
- Heavy showers greeted us at dawn but we managed
to pack and load up without too much drama. Just as we left the camp site we met
a contingent from the 7th Belgian Para. who were heading for Aviemore. We picked
up a forestry track to avoid the road up Glen Nevis. By this time the weather
was a mixture of sunshine and heavy showers which were falling as snow on the
tops as it was quite cold. I abandoned the idea of overtrousers but Lesley,
wisely as it turned out, didn't.
- There was quite a bit of
water about but we made good progress up the glen
with some very good
views now and then through the trees.
- At the car park at the head of the road we overtook the Para., some of whom
were looking a bit tired. We roared through the gorge, leaving them far behind,
to be confronted by
Steall Falls. The going from here on became
increasingly rough and waterlogged. The showers also increased in intensity and
frequency. We soon found ourselves alone and at the watershed we became hemmed
in by a very swollen burn and a raging river. While we were trying to find a way
over either of them a very fierce hailstorm battered us and we decided to pitch
the tent despite it being only early afternoon. During the pitching plates of
coagulated hail were sliding off the tent inner and when, finally, we were able
to open up pools of icy water littered the inside. We mopped up as best we could
and climbed into our sleeping bags to try to get dryer and warmer. Lesley read.
I had my usual afternoon doze. After a lovely meal of cuppa soup and pasta we
had a relatively calm night. We were, however, six kilometres behind our planned
target. If things didn't improve this could be serious.
Sunday, 2 June, 1996
- The morning after the storm the water level in
river had dropped by about a foot and we were soon on
our way, although that way was trackless and extremely wet. Looking back we
could see that Ben Nevis and the
Mamores were covered in new snow. We slowly
descended, following the river, and by about 11:00 had reached where we should
have camped yesterday.
- We stopped for a mid-morning break by
rapids and plastered various blistery bits. The
weather was now improving and lunch at the foot of Loch Treig was very enjoyable
in warm sunshine. It was here that we caught up with the Para., but they
disappeared ahead of us as we approached Loch Ossian. A short stop two thirds of
the way up Loch Ossian for afternoon tea and then onward to overtake the Para.
just before Corrour Lodge. Navigation around the lodge was a bit tricky but we
led the Para. to safety and found an idyllic campsite beside the river. The
Para., looking exhausted, disappeared up the glen.
- Ben Alder,
framed in the tent entrance, could only enhance a
delightful meal of cuppa soup and pasta but we were still about six kilometres
behind our target. We were lulled to sleep by the sound of the river.
Monday, 3 June, 1996
- The weather forecast was not good. The sky was grey, the cloud lowering and
the wind rising. We set off up the glen and just before the steep climb to the
bealach between Ben Alder and Aonach Beag the rain started. It rained and rained
and rained. The wind was so strong that Lesley had difficulty negotiating the
summit of the bealach. It also got very cold but the wind was blowing from
behind us which was a little help. We stopped at Culra Bothy, fortunately open,
at about 13:00 and brewed up our spare cuppa soup. The Para. had spent the night
there it said in the visitors book. There was also time to get a bus from
Dalwhinnie to Glasgow it said in the Citylink timetable. Despite low morale,
brought on by our cold damp condition and the appalling weather, we decided to
carry on. Gritting our teeth we headed for Loch Pattack. The weather eased a bit
and by about 15:00 the rain had stopped and things were looking a lot brighter.
We had to ford two rivers but this wasn't a problem and at about 17:00, in
steadily improving weather, we pitched the tent, still about six kilometres
behind our target. After a great meal of cuppa soup and pasta we were again
lulled to sleep by the sound of the river.
Tuesday, 4 June, 1996.
- The next morning was fine and sunny with a
slight suggestion of showers. We were soon on our way and crossed the first main
road since leaving Fort William, the A86 at Kinloch Laggan. The weather
continued to improve and by 11:00 we were feeling in need of refreshment. The
only store for miles around was closed so no ice cream. We pressed on and by
lunch time we had reached Spey Reservoir. After lunch we made great progress up
the Markie Burn but things got a bit fraught when the track disappeared and we
had to wade through deep heather for about 1 km. Crossing the burn was also
quite difficult but this was accomplished by 15:30. We then had a steep 300m
slope to surmount. We hadn't been looking forward to this but amazed ourselves
by doing it non-stop in less than half an hour. The gradual descent to Loch na
Lairige was extremely pleasant and we found a very good camp site along side the
Crom Allt about 3 km north of the loch. We were now only about 3 km behind
schedule. After a very good meal of cuppa soup and pasta we were lulled to sleep
by the sound of the burn.
Wednesday 5 June, 1996
- We had a potentially disastrous problem. Lesley's Goretex boots were not
drying out and she was suffering from the modern equivalent of Trench Foot.
Already a large hole had appeared between two of her toes and when she removed
her boots the midges fled! Unfortunately I couldn't. We were nearly a days walk
from the nearest road and a day and a half from Kingussie. We decided to carry
- The weather looked a bit grim but the forecast was promising. As we had
camped at nearly 650m the first part of the morning was down hill to the
abandoned Sronlairig Lodge at a crossroads of glens. We turned east up the slow
climb alongside the Glenmarkie Burn, stopping for lunch at a ruined croft. At
the watershed I went up to my
knees in a peat bog but the sight of the
lochan, just just beyond, made up for it. The weather
had improved a lot and cold sunshine helped us down beside the River Eskin. The
views were superb and the
- Over afternoon tea by the river we discussed taking a short cut but as it
meant a 300m steep climb we decided against.
- Just before Coignafearn Lodge (not abandoned) we turned south up the Elrick
Burn and found, with some difficulty, a suitable camp site. The wind started to
gust very violently and while we were eating a delicious meal of pasta and cuppa
soup I was supporting the inside of the tent with my shoulder. Between gusts we
managed to rotate the tent through 180 degrees, which made it slightly more
stable, but the violence of the gusts separated by short periods of complete
calm was quite nerve racking. The wind dropped at about 02:00.
Thursday 6 June, 1996
- After a false start, which lost us seventeen minutes, we continued up the
Elrick Burn for 4k before heading south-east over Bruach nan-Imrichean where we
stopped for a breather. The views were tremendous with the Cairngorms not far to
the south, and very far away to the east, Ben Nevis, below which we had started.
- The photograph of the baby grouse didn't come out. The photograph of the
deer that died in childbirth, with its mother, was not taken.
- When we hit the
track which led to Kingussie at about 12:30 we were
firmly on our way back to civilisation. We walked in to Kingussie at about 14:24
with just enough time to grab an ice cream before the Glasgow bus arrived. We
had carried everything that we needed to survive for six days on our backs for
120 km. All we had to do now was to sort out feet and then come back to
Kingussie to carry on from where we'd left off.
- Photographs © Alan White and Lesley Williams, 1996
- Last updated 12:30, 10 September, 1998