A day in Fort William = great. MWIS stating: “How windy? Westerly 45 to later 55mph, gust 60 t0 75mph on the summits in Lochaber” = not so great
So another day for low level walking. But that’s OK, as there are several lower walks I wish to do around Glen Nevis and Cow Hill, above the town. I planned a route to allow me to see some of The Ben (Ben Nevis, referred to simply around these parts as ‘The Ben’) – cloud permitting; to walk above Glen Nevis and grab a few geocaches; and get back to town to meet a friend off the 16.07 train from Glasgow.
Neil dropped me off at the visitor centre in Glen Nevis (before he headed off for a few hours work) and I set off walking along the the West Highland Way footpath heading up Glen Nevis. This part of the route is a wide, forest track and was surprisingly quiet. I had expected to pass some WHW walkers completing their final day, but only passed one guy for the hour or more on this section of the walk.
I plodded on, watching the hills across the glen (Meall an t-Suidhe, Carn Dearg, Ben Nevis and Carn Mor Dearg) repeatedly appear and disappear in the cloud. I was day-dreaming as usual and didn’t realise I was climbing a fair bit until I got to the steep hairpin bends, where the track rapidly gains 100m in a short distance.
My first destination for the day was Dun Deardail. The curved grassy rise here covers a vitrified fort and you can just see blocks of vitrified masonry poking through in places. According to the Forestry Commission the fort was probably built in the first millennium BC or first millennium AD, but the fort has not been archaeologically excavated or securely dated. In this position (at 333m), the fort would have been visible for miles and would have shown anyone venturing up the glen that this piece of land belonged to a particular clan and they were guarding it. If anyone is interested in learning more about the dun the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) page gives some details.
One positive about the high winds meant that by the time I’d had a cuppa and a bite to eat, not only had it stopped raining, but the clouds lifted off the Ben – for the one and only clear 5 minutes of the day.
I had originally planned to continue along the WHW path to make a circuit by walking through the forest to the minor road above Blarmafoldach. With the WHW being a wide track at this point I decided against this. I may return and do this by mountain bike some day. Instead I retraced my steps back north along the glen, stopping to leave a Bookcrossing registered book at the side of the track (weighed down with a heavy stone). The book, The Hills are Stuffed with Swedish Girls, is Richard Happer’s fictional account of walking the WHW and I hope the book is found by someone completing the walk!
When almost back at the visitor centre I left the WHW and struck off up hill on the Peat Track, which is called a track, but it is really a wee narrow path. The path leads sharply up the hiilside through the conifer forest. Just before emerging at the top I took a detour and followed a board-walk towards Outlandia – a tree-house artist’s studio, perched on a pillar between the larch trees. I had previously seen a presentation about this project during a mountain conference in Fort William and, to be perfectly honest, I was a little underwhelmed by the structure. Maybe it looks better in the summer when the larch trees are green with needles and there is dappled sunlight coming through the trees. Nevertheless it was an interesting detour and I found the tiny, wee geocache that was hidden here.
Emerging from the forest I continued straight ahead to reach the highest point on the track in half a kilometre. From here the path drops steeply down to Fort William and in years past this Peat Track was used for the folks of Fort William to access Cow Hill to cut peat to use for heating their homes.
I took the spur off the main path to go to the summit of Cow Hill (284m). The summit was a bit windy and with the cloud down on the Ben again I only stayed long enough to find the geocache and have a wee bite to eat.
Oops, I lied earlier, when I returned to the circular Cow hill path, I got another brief glimpse of the Ben without cloud.
Rather than drop down to the minor road coming from Blarmafoldach I continued contouring round Cow Hill on a path running about 120m altitude, near the power line. This well-used path is one of the main paths on Cow Hill, but is not shown on the OS maps. I shall try to add my GPS file of the path to Open Street Map project, if/when I figure out how to do so.
Photo taken on previous visit to Cow Hill
There are several paths from Cow Hill leading down into Fort William. I came into the town on a track that went past a reservoir, allotments and led to Plantation housing scheme, then through to the high street and on to the railway station. I was just in time to meet up with my friend, and Flickr contact, summonedbyfells. We had time for a chat and something to eat before he set off to walk the East Highland Way. Freddie no longer writes a blog, but he writes very detailed descriptions to his photos and as a keen walker he is worth following. See some of his photo records of his long distance walks and other walking, cycling and climbing trips. He plans to share photos from his East Highland Way walk later this week.