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Great Glen Way

Perfect companion: 5th edition of our popular waterproof guidebook, extended and revised in 2014/16 to cover the High Route and other updates
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| | |-+  How long is the Great Glen Way?

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Author Topic: How long is the Great Glen Way?  (Read 29903 times)
JennieL
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« on: November 12, 2010, 06:59:44 pm »

Excuse me if this question sounds basic, but how long is the Way?  The excellent guidebook I got from Rucksack Readers says it's 73 miles, but the Footprint map I bought at the same time, from the same source, says 77 miles and somebody told me it might be more.  What length is it, exactly? Huh
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Jacquetta
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« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2010, 04:43:33 pm »

Hi Jennie
Great question – but almost unanswerable!  Unless you can persuade somebody with an accurate trundle-wheel or GPS to walk continuously down the centre of the entire route without stopping or deviating for food, sleep or calls of nature, you have to accept that all figures are approximate.  The larger the scale of the map you consult, the more wiggles and bends the route seems to have, and the longer it appears.  It's very hard to measure route length accurately.

The figures we give in our guidebook (Table 1, page 6) for a five-day walk (Fort William, Gairlochy, Fort Augustus, Invermoriston, Drumnadrochit, Inverness) show section mileages of 10, 13, 18, 14 and 18 miles respectively (16, 21, 29, 22 and 29 km), with a total of 73 miles/117 km.  These were supplied to us (back in 2000 Shocked) by the Great Glen Way Management Committee and we don't actually know how they were measured, but we suspect from a GIS system held on computer at large scale.

Your post reminds me to ask the present management for an update.  Footprint mapping is normally reliable, and the team has a consistent method for deriving their distances.  An extra 4 miles is 5% more than 73 miles, and worth investigating.  Thanks for your question!
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Jacquetta
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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2010, 10:45:44 am »

Update from Auchterawe: Lynda Dodd, who is the Route Manager, tells me they have recently undertaken a trundle wheel exercise and measured a new length of 78.95 miles, confirmed by their GPS.

Clearly this suggests that the 73-mile figure which they've always (up to now) quoted in their official publications, and which we adopted in various editions of our guidebook Embarrassed, is an under-estimate.  The Footprint map measures its length overall as 77 miles, which is closer to the 79-mile distance.

After all the fuss that was made early this year about the West Highland Way getting a mile longer, it turns out that the real story of 2010 is that the Great Glen Way is 6 miles longer (or maybe 4, depending whom you believe  Undecided).
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Jacquetta
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« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2013, 11:48:56 am »

Now that I've had detailed discussions with several cartographers about how they measure the section distances, and with the LDWA about why the trundle-wheel exercise is prone to overestimate, I want to publish what we think the real distances are. To complete the walk in 5 days (Fort William, Gairlochy, Fort Augustus, Invermoriston, Drumnadrochit, Inverness) you would have to cover 10.7, 12.7, 19.1, 14.5 and 20.0 miles (17.2, 20.4, 30.7,23.3 and 32.2 km). That gives two days that are too long for many, if not most, walkers.

The implications are serious: it's easy enough to split the 19-mile (31-km) middle day by overnighting at South Laggan (making for a 12.7/10.2 mile split). But the final day is a much harder challenge. There used to be a B&B at Rivoulich, but I can't find any sign that it still operates. So unless you are happy to camp at Abriachan, the only obvious option seems to be staying two nights at Drum or Inverness and using a vehicle to pick you up and drop you somewhere on the road, e.g. at Blackfold. A more radical option, mentioned in the guidebook, is to take a boat from Drum to Foyers and walk to Dores along the south shore of Loch Ness. This gives two days of walking about 10-12 miles each, but it isn't the Great Glen Way! A further option is the subject of a separate post: see Fingal of Caledonia.

Note that the above figures replace those given on page 6 of our guidebook (Table 1, page 6) which show section mileages of 10, 13, 18, 14 and 18 miles respectively (16, 21, 29, 22 and 29 km), for a total of 73 miles/117 km. We had been misinformed by official sources.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2013, 06:00:41 pm by Jacquetta » Logged

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Buggiba
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« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2013, 08:20:32 pm »

The 20 miles on the last day is a problem, just as the last day on the WHW, 18 miles, has to be undertaken in one go. My recommendation, for what it's worth, is to start early. Not only is the stretch the longest, it is also the most arduous, with the highest point of the entire walk being just outside Drumnadrochit. There is no canalside path on this stretch  Angry. There is, however, a natural break at the eco-cafe at Abriachan. Probably the strangest place I have ever been  Undecided. When we did this walk in 2012 we were actually walking by 0520 hours and arrived in Inverness at about 1445 hours, so you can see it does take some doing but it is not impossible. Bearing in mind 2 of the 3 of us were over 60 years of age it is not insurmountable.
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Jacquetta
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« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2013, 06:58:12 am »

Starting early is good advice, always, but walking by 5.20 am is a bit extreme for most! Shocked Bear in mind that people look on it as a holiday, and if they are staying at a B&B they won't get cooked breakfast before 7.30/8 unless they have negotiated it ahead. Some hosts will leave a cold breakfast out the night before or supply a packed lunch instead and I've often used both methods.

But I don't think this problem applies to the West Highland Way because almost everybody makes the last day (if heading north) Kinlochlevel to Fort William and I think that is only 15 miles (or maybe 16 by the time you have walked into central Fort William) and I'm not sure how you made it 18 miles unless making a diversion or two?

Anyway, your last day heroic schedule on the GGW simply underlines (for me) that even fit, determined walkers face a real challenge on that day, and those who wish to enjoy, as oppose to endure, that stretch should think hard about alternatives. Just my opinion.
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bsmyth
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« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2013, 08:54:59 am »

Thought I would add my "tuppenceworth" for what it's worth. My friend and I walked GGW in 2006. My recollection of the last day, Drumnadrochit to Inverness was we left about 9ish and arrived at Inverness 3.30ish. There is a long but not difficult climb out of Drumnadrochit through forestry land some of which was felled, with nice views back down Loch Ness.

Our two abiding memories were the lengthy tar-bashing section after the forest which unfortunately takes you away from the loch, and what seemed an interminable walk from the outskirts of Inverness (the old mental hopsital which has now been redeveloped I believe) before eventually reaching the castle. Yes, the longest day but comfortably doable within normal walking hours. It was just that parts of the route were so unremarkable and unmemorable (or memorable for the wrong reasons), particularly compared with the fantastic scenery of earlier sections.

However don't be put off by that as it is a great week's walking through a beautiful part of the country. You also have the inevitable end of walk celebrations to look forward to and enjoy!!
« Last Edit: April 06, 2013, 05:30:15 pm by Jacquetta » Logged
sandrahal
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« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2013, 10:47:02 am »

It's good to read a positive report about the last day, and I'd like to add to it, from first-hand experience and as a local, living in Drumnadrochit. The road-bash across the Abriachan plateau does take you away from the loch but as compensation you should have fantastic views to the north and north-west where, at the moment, the hills are snow-covered and Ben Wyvis looks truly alpine.  The walk from Craig Dunain has some good features: a brief reunion with the Caledonian Canal and the full traverse of the Ness Islands, a delightful green oasis in the old part of Inverness.  And then there's the very rewarding view back down the Great Glen from the end at the castle: truly a great walk.
Sandra Bardwell
« Last Edit: April 07, 2013, 09:30:09 pm by Jacquetta » Logged
bsmyth
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« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2013, 08:23:02 am »

I gladly stand corrected, Sandra ... an important correction to what I said. Yes, the views to the north and Ben Wyvis are excellent and I agree about the last mile or so via the canal and river being picturesque. I think by that time we were getting a bit weary and thinking our celebratory pint was never coming which slightly coloured our thoughts on that section.

As I recall, there is a cafe on the canal to river stretch for a cuppa which gives a nice perk up before tackling the last mile or so. If I remember, it was quite a new facility with some gardens or something similar near some sports fields. I would certainly recommend the walk. It has very good variety throughout.

Sandra: I hope the licensed premises have sorted themselves out in Drumnadrochit? Difficult to get a good pint at 3.30pm in early June.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2013, 08:34:46 am by Jacquetta » Logged
Buggiba
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« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2013, 10:24:35 pm »

Hi bsmyth, I just wondered if you have read my report on hostelries we visited along the route in 2012? The Benleva Hotel in Drumnadrochit is excellent and open all day.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2013, 06:43:42 am by Jacquetta » Logged
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