This year I am delighted to be teaming up with the Scottish Youth Hostel Association (SYHA) and joining in on their campaign to encourage people to go on a #SYHAdventure. In 2015 they are inspiring people to try something new or to visit places in Scotland they have never been before, each month they will also have a theme to give people ideas for activities, places to see and key events based around a stay at one of their hostels.
The theme for March is walking and I chose to head to their Glen Nevis hostel which provides a multitude of walking options for all abilities and is conveniently situated at the foot of Ben Nevis, the UK's highest mountain, for those wanting a more challenging experience.
I opted to follow two very contrasting walks, the first taking me through the start of The Great Glen Way and the urban environment of Fort William and the second journeying into the heart of the imposing natural surroundings of Glen Nevis itself.
DAY 1 - The Great Glen Way, Fort William to Banavie (4.5 miles each way, easy walking)
When you visit an outdoor haven like Fort William, flanked by mountains and a loch, it would be all to easy to head for a hike in the wilderness and ignore the urban pathways that weave through the housing estates. In fact had it not been for The Great Glen Way signpost and thistle markers encouraging me along I would have been guilty of this myself.
The Great Glen Way was officially opened in 2002 and spans 79 miles between Fort William and Inverness, the stretch I did was ideal for an easy stroll and exploring the area around the town.
Instead of dismissing the route I decide to follow the first part of this long distance walk from it's humble beginnings at the remains of the fort the town was named after to the famous Neptune's staircase in Banavie, approx 4.5 miles or 9 miles return, although you can walk as far as you feel comfortable and will still be rewarded.
After approx 1.5 miles I reached Old Inverlochy Castle, with just a slight detour off the route I arrived at the ruined remains of this former 13th Century stronghold. Abandoned in 1654 this was previously one of the most important castles in Scottish history and makes an interesting stopping off point. Retracing my steps and crossing the wooden Soldier's Bridge, the path soon leads you onward alongside the shore of Loch Linnhe with a picturesque Highland landscape opening up all around.
I was fascinated by the looming, hulk of a decaying old fishing boat standing upright in the rocky beach ahead. Making my way down for a closer look at this sad vessel I felt dismayed that it appeared so unloved and I'm sure the rusty old parts strewn across the shingle were not doing the environment much good either.
As I was busy taking photos of the towering craft, the sunbeams appeared from behind the clouds and lit up the rusty red timbers, giving the old lady a momentarily new lease of life.
Continuing the short walk to Corpach and the Caledonian Canal, the route follows the canal towpath towards Neptune's Staircase, with it's 8 locks rising up like well engineered stepping stones. Several years ago I sailed down the length of the canal and as I passed the places I had moored for the night and the tricky locks I had negotiated I smiled at the memories of what I still consider my best ever Scottish holiday.
I decided that this was a good point to head back to Fort William and with Ben Nevis continually towering in the distance my bed for the night at the foot of the mountain was calling.
With historical sights, picturesque backdrop and the opportunity to admire the engineering triumph of the canal, I found this route provided both variety and an interesting introduction to the area.
Guest Post by Glen Moyer
Many thanks to Glen Moyer from the USA for providing this guest post about Monarch of the Glen Country. Glen was inspired to visit earlier this year after watching the TV show and went on to write a travel blog about his time exploring many beautiful parts of Scotland. I was lucky enough to meet Glen on his travels and I'm delighted that he has written this blog about the place that originally awakened his passion for Scotland. Even if you have never watched the show, this area is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the country and Glen has included many suggestions for making the most of your time here.
For fans of the BBC drama “Monarch of the Glen”, like me, no tour of Scotland is complete without a visit to “Glenbogle” and the surrounding “Monarch Country” in the Scottish Highlands. Of course Glenbogle is fictional, but Ardverikie, the house and estate where the drama was filmed on location for 7 ‘seasons’ from 2000 to 2005, is very real.
Ardverikie is the historical home of the Clan Macpherson but through various circumstances ownership passed to Sir John William Ramsden in 1867. A family company of his heirs continues to run the estate today.
This present day version of the house is the 3rd, begun in 1870 and completed in 1877 after fires destroyed the first two. Long before it served as a television studio and fictional home to the MacDonald clan, it very nearly became a royal residence. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited here in August 1847 and fancied the house but not the Highland weather (or the pesky midgies) and so later purchased Balmoral as a royal Scottish residence instead.
“Glenbogle” was originally created by Sir Compton Mackenzie in his 1941 novel “Monarch of the Glen”, on which the TV drama was loosely based. It was the show’s creator Michael Chaplin who selected Ardverikie Estate and the region around it to serve as Glenbogle House and the village of Glenbogle for the BBC.
While the TV drama concluded filming and last aired (excepting reruns) nearly a decade ago, the hit series still enjoys a loyal worldwide fan base so Ardeverike draws visitors year round. Unlike many stately homes in England, Ardverikie - the house and the whole of the estate – remains private and as such is not open for public tours. This will no doubt surprise some fans should they arrive unawares. Still there are ways for fans (“Boglies” as they call themselves) and non-fans alike to gain access…
A couple of months ago I posted this photo on social media with the caption 'Everyone should touch the top of a Scottish mountain at least once in their life'. It proved pretty popular and I thought I'd let you into a little secret about how it was taken and how much easier it is than you might think for you to take the same photo.
The photo was taken in Glencoe and the mountain I'm 'touching' is Buachaille Etive Mòr (the great herdsman of Etive). Probably the most photographed mountain in Scotland, most images are taken from the ground but how much more impressive would it be to go home with a photo like this instead?
if you want some pretty majestic Scottish mountain shots like these without the effort of climbing an actual mountain, here is my cheat's guide.
Glencoe is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Scotland and as most of the attractions in the area are natural rather than man made visiting them is free. I've listed 5 of my best recommendations which should provide you with some very special Scottish moments and memories.
Go for a Walk
It might sound obvious but I have seen a countless number of people parking at the roadside and taking a quick photo of the mountains before jumping back in their cars and heading off at speed. If this is your idea of sightseeing or ticking Glencoe off your bucket list then the rest of this article probably isn't for you!
You don't have to be a mountaineer or experienced hill walker to explore the low lying paths that criss cross the glen, although the higher routes should definitely be left to the experts. Heading off the main road is the only way to experience the true haunting atmosphere and towering scale of this magical landscape.
A pleasant circular walk through woodland brings you to signal rock, the alleged place that the signal was given by the Campbells to begin the Glencoe massacre. Whether truth or legend it all adds to the mystery and folklore that captures the imagination and makes Glencoe much more than just a place of natural beauty.
The WalkHighlands website is an excellent online guide to walks all over Scotland including Glencoe. The Wild About Lochaber website gives more info on the walk to signal rock.
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