Rucksack Readers

Rucksack Readers => Great Glen Way, Fort William to Inverness, Scotland => Topic started by: JennieL on November 12, 2010, 06:59:44 pm

Title: How long is the Great Glen Way?
Post by: JennieL 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? ???

Title: Re: How long is the Great Glen Way?
Post by: Jacquetta 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 :o) 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!

Title: Re: How long is the Great Glen Way?
Post by: Jacquetta 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 :-[, 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  :-\).

Title: Re: How long is the Great Glen Way?
Post by: Jacquetta 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 (,5518.msg6361.html#msg6361).

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.

Title: Re: How long is the Great Glen Way?
Post by: Buggiba 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  >:(. There is, however, a natural break at the eco-cafe at Abriachan. Probably the strangest place I have ever been  :-\. 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.

Title: Re: How long is the Great Glen Way?
Post by: Jacquetta 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! :o 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.

Title: Re: How long is the Great Glen Way?
Post by: bsmyth 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!!

Title: Re: How long is the Great Glen Way?
Post by: sandrahal 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

Title: Re: How long is the Great Glen Way?
Post by: bsmyth 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.

Title: Re: How long is the Great Glen Way?
Post by: Buggiba 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.

Title: Re: How long is the Great Glen Way?
Post by: Jacquetta on April 10, 2013, 06:51:23 am
For the benefit of other forum users, Buggiba's main post on this is here (,5457.msg6254.html#msg6254). However, Buggiba, I don't think your Drum entry even mentions the Benleva Hotel, or have I missed it? ???

Does everybody have a copy of the Accommodation & Services Guide booklet? It lists Drum from pages 56-60 (including Benleva Hotel) and is also available as a download ( through the official website.

We used to post these out free of charge, but postage is now prohibitive: the booklet now weighs 160 g - nearly as much as a Rucksack Reader! :o

Title: Re: How long is the Great Glen Way?
Post by: bsmyth on April 10, 2013, 08:19:55 am
Hadn't read the report until now, but what a good and interesting report it is. Benliva - we had a couple of pints there in the evening but unfortunately didn't notice it on the way into Drum at about 3.30pm. As I recall Benliva is kinda hidden out of the way up a drive and in trees. The point I was trying to make is when you walk into the centre of Drum there were a few hostelries and licensed premises within a short distance of each other, none of which were open for selling beer at that time. Having just completed that day's walking, we weren't of a mind to wander around looking for a place as we were staying at the Fiddlers in the centre of Drum (it wasn't open for business either). To be fair we may have passed a place just as you come to the first properties in Drum (is that the Backpackers?) but we thought we would walk into the centre and not have a problem finding somewhere on a lovely sunny day in what we thought was high tourist season. There were plenty of tourists but no real ales available. Not that we were desparate (!!!!) but we ended up asking for a shandy from a cafe beside the village green and we got ... wait for it ... a tin of a famous lager (which tastes like nits p***) and a tin of lemonade and had to mix it ourselves. Wow. A great advert for Scotland's tourism. Even when desperate for some liquid, it didn't quite hit the spot.

Title: Re: How long is the Great Glen Way?
Post by: Buggiba on April 10, 2013, 01:36:34 pm
Hi Jacquetta, my Good Beer Guide to the GGW appears under a different heading on the forum and the Benleva is definitely mentioned. Bsmyth you are also correct. The Benleva Hotel is concealed off the main road and behind trees. Personally I would crawl there if I had to :). Not only is the Loch Ness Backpackers close to the route, it also has a licensed bar  ;D. I also recall there being another hostelry at the Lewiston end of 'town'. I cannot recall the name but I am sure it had something to do with Loch Ness or Nessie. Hope this helps.

Title: Re: How long is the Great Glen Way?
Post by: Buggiba on April 10, 2013, 01:40:24 pm
Just as an add-on I also have a good beer guide to the East Highland Way should anyone ever need it :-\.

Title: Re: How long is the Great Glen Way?
Post by: Jacquetta on April 10, 2013, 01:47:58 pm
Apologies, Buggiba, but you are alerting us all to the fact we are straying off-topic :(

For those who want to read about good beer, Buggiba's has posted about both the Great Glen Way (,5466.msg6257.html#msg6257) and West Highland Way (,5445.msg6201.html#msg6201).