HARP’s HEART Walk Day 5

Post date: May 17, 2019 1:15:46 PM

We woke up well rested to another glorious day, and managed to clear up camp a bit earlier, as we knew we had a minimum of 13 miles to cover today, and it looked like it was going to be a hot one!As we headed eastwards along the Great Glen Way toward Drumnadrochit we were treated to some amazing views of Loch Ness, and as we climbed uphill we could see across the Loch to Foyers, this actually gave us a view of where the military road ran after its realignment in 1732. It also gave us a fantastic view of the Foyers Aluminium Works which was one of very very few sites in the Highlands to be bombed by the Germans during the Second World War. The first raid in Spring of 1941 missed the target, however in September of that year a twin-engine Heinkel bomber dropped two bombs on the factory, one did not explode, however the other did and two men were killed as a result.

As we approached the small village of Gortaig we passed the foot of a rather steep hill which houses Dun Scriben hillfort. As archaeologists we are both big fans of hill forts, but unfortunately there was no access up the hill from where we were, so we were unable to investigate. The site has apparently been excavated but very little information about the site is available. From photographs that we had seen previously, there is evidence of some more modern dry stone walling around the fort and some of the walls are still fairly visible.

As we passed Gortaig, the Great Glen Way mostly followed a modern road, uphill through heathland, and past some small farms.

There was very little shade but we were very grateful of a lovely little honesty kiosk where we could take on extra water. Our morning hike continued into the afternoon until we started a steep descent into Drumnadrochit, where we stopped for a well earned lunch and rest after 8 miles in the heat. And the rest was well needed before the remaining 5 miles of the day.

As we left Drumnadrochit and headed back towards the shores of Loch Ness, we got our first views across to the dramatically situated Urquhart Castle, one of the Highlands’ most well known and most pictured historic sites! A fair deal of archaeology has also been carried out around the castle and finds range from prehistoric, to an abundance of medieval finds and beyond! The castle was founded in the 13th century and passed between the Scottish and English throughout Scotland’s Wars of Independence. It was then down to the Scottish Crown and the Lords of the Isles to fight over it before it was granted to Clan Grant early in the 16th century. The castle was garrisoned by Government troops during the first Jacobite Rising and was blown up as they left in 1692.

There is also another St Columba connection here! Adomnan, Columba’s biographer, wrote that this was the place where St Columba encountered, Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster! Columba is credited with saving a young local’s life after using him as bait to lure out the monster, which had just killed another local man! There’s also historical evidence for a Pictish fort/high status site near the castle, and the recovering of a Pictish broach from excavations in the castle seem to support this!

This part of Loch a Ness is also the location of Temple Pier and where John Cobb became the first man to travel on water at over 200mph. Unfortunately it resulted in tragedy as the vessel crashed, killing Cobb.

As we left Drumnadrochit we had to take on a steep, and continuous climb of 1000ft away from the loch, which again provided us with some stunning views. The heat, blisters and climb soon took its toll however, and we were looking forward to making camp.

Before that however, we passed the site of a former Canadian lumber camp, with the Newfies setting up camp here in 1941 to help climb up away from the loch we came to an area of forestry that was home to a team of Canadian lumberjacks who helped providing timber for the war effort during the Second World War, to help harvest timber for the war effort. There were over 2,000 lumberjacks here, who became a part of the local community; another example of how that conflict seemed to reach every locality.

We finally made our target mileage and were able to find a flat enough camp to set up for a much need rest before the final descent towards Inverness tomorrow!