Fort William to Gairlochy Back to Great Glen Way index Laggan to Fort Augustus

The Walk

This second section of the Great Glen Way lays entirely along the northern shore of Loch Lochy. Roughly a quarter of the distance, as far as Clunes, is on road; the remainder of the walk makes use of forestry tracks. The walk is coincident with the Great Glen cycle route so expect to meet plenty of cycle traffic, but fortunately the motor traffic on the Gairlocy to Clunes section is very light.

There's an upper and lower (lochside) track through the South Laggan forest. The Way is ultimately meant to follow the upper route but it is not yet continuous, so for now it's necessary to follow the lower route. To be honest there's little to choose between them, apart perhaps from a slightlu superior view from the upper track. It's also mooted that there will eventually be a lakeside path between Gairlochy and Clunes, avoiding the road walk. There is no accommodation along this section and virtually no opportunity for camping, except possibly at Bunarkaig. There's a youth hostel at Laggan, a mile or so beyond the end of the day's walk. The seasonal tea room at Gairlochy, and the Scot II (a former pleasure boat now permanently moored at Laggan and operating as a tearoom and pub) offer the only opportunities for refreshment, and there are no shops of any kind. The regular Fort William- Inverness bus route passes Laggan Locks , but there's no public transport to Gairlochy so to get there it's necessary to walk the two miles from the commando monument up on the main A82. This makes the day quite a long one so check the bus times carefully before setting out.

Walk Statistics:
Length: 11.4 miles / 18.4 km
Total ascent: 986 ft / 300 m
Total descent: 981 ft / 299 m
Estimated time: 3 hrs 48 mins

Map: OS 1:25000 Explorer 400 (Loch Lochy & Glen Roy)

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The road to Achnacarry

Having made your way to Gailochy by whatever means is at your disposal, walk across the swing bridge and turn right, to stroll along te road to Achnacarry. This is a winding, single-tack road and is pretty well hemmed-in by forest on both sides, but fortunately there is very little motor traffic.

The first view of Loch Lochy at Bunarkaig Bay

Loch Lochy lays somewhere to your right but you don't actually get to see much of it until a good mile and a half into the walk, when the road comes close to the lochside as it begins to curve around  Bunarkaig Bay. The view is not at all bad from here and you can see pretty nearly all the way down Loch Lochy, which is getting on for nine miles long. The road curves around to the left. After a further mile of road walking you reach a road junction at a couple of cottages; here you're on the outskirts of Achnacarry. There's not a lot to Achnacarry and the bulk of it lays nearly a mile along the rad to the left. Achnacarry House is the seat of clan Cameron, and there is a clan museum here, though it has somewhat restricted opening times. During World War Two the house was the training base for Britain's commando unit and the regime here was both spartan and gruelling. You've no doubt already seen the commando memorial four miles away on the A82 above Spean Bridge. 


River, house and loch at Bunarkaig

Continue along the road to the next cluster of cottages. This is Bunarkaig, where the river Arkaig joins Loch Lochy. It's a very picturesque spot. The Srkaig is one of Britain's shortest rivers, having journeyed here for barely more than a mile and a quarter since flowing out of Loch Arkaig. This loch occupies a remote corner of the Highlands, stretching for some eleven miles to the west; the glens that radiate beyond it give access on foot to the famed wild area of Knoydart. My guidebook to the Great Glen Way states that wild camping might be possible here, by the banks of the river, if you first ask permission at the adjacent estate cottage.

The loch shore at Bunarkaig and the road to Clunes

From Bunarkaig continue along the road for a further mile to Clunes. The road continues much as before, twisting, rising and falling, bounded by forest and playing hide-and-seek with the loch shore. There is a little scope for off-road walking here and there but most of the paths off to the right lead to fishing spots and are dead ends. Your best bet is to avoid them and stick to the road.


The road at Clunes:  starting out along the forestry track;  looking back

At Clunes the main road swings off to the left , where it reaches Loch Arkaig in a mile and a quarter and then runs along its north shore for eleven miles before finally petering out. The section between Clunes and Loch Arkaig is known as Mile Dorcha or the Dark Mile, apparently from the days when it was hemmed in by beech trees. We turn right and pass through the small cluster of cottages that comprises Clunes, to reach a car park.

A forest track leaves from the far end of the car park, and forks into two almost immediately. The "official" Great Glen Way is scheduled to follow the left fork, which becomes a forest track running generally 300 ft above the lochside from here as far as Kilfinnan near the end of the walk, but at the time my guidebook was written there was a discontinuity in this track. It may have been made good by now but I've not been able to find any updated information. Until this news is forthcoming select the right fork, which becomes a parallel forest track running more or less along the loch shore. Make your way along it, and keep going straight on for eight miles.

Clunes Forest

The route through Clunes forest

There's not a lot to say about the next few miles. You follow a ribbon of gravel through the trees, with plenty of views up, down and across the loch. The occasional curves and gradients add interest in the form of changing vistas, otherwise this section could be described as monotonous. The rift valley nature of the Great Glen is at its most obvious here; a ruler-straight ribbon of low ground bounded by twin slopes cloaked in forest.

Clunes forest

Loch Lochy is nearly a mile wide and no doubt your gaze will be drawn to the far side from time to time. The main A82 road runs along the south shore and you will doubtless spot plenty of traffic along it. Among the few prominent buildings on the far side are Invergloy house, Altrua and Letterfinlay Lodge. The Corriegour Lodge Hotel lays further along. The name of Letterfinlay is the Anglicised form of Leitir Fhionnlaigh, the name of the single long ridge that forms the uplands on the south side of the loch. On the far side is the secluded Glen Gloy.

South Laggan Forest

The upper forest track

At some indeterminate point Clunes Forest merges into South Laggan Forest. The discontinuity in the upper track occurs here. The slopes up to your left are those of Meall na Teanga, one of the Grear Glen's two Munros; the other is Sron a' Choire Ghairbh (Shoulder of the Rough Corrie), its immediate neighbour to the north. The two are seperated by the high pass of the Cam Bhealach, which on this side of the hills follows the course of the Allt Ghlas Dhoire. Where this stream crosses our track and falls into the loch is the ruin of a cottage named Glas Dhoire.

Loch Lochy from the upper track

The Cam Bhealach provides a relatively easy ascent route to the two Munros from the upper track, and it was on a climb of  Sron a' Choire Ghairbh in 1997 that I took the series of photos along the upper track seen here. In truth there is little to choose between the two routes save that the view from the upper track is a bit more extensive. From the ruin of the cottage you have two miles to walk to Kilfinnan and three miles to Laggan Locks at the end of this section. This stretch is pleasant enough, particularly if the sun makes an appearance. Both tracks feature occasional passing places, and on the lower track these usually double as viewpoints and rest stops. Although hardly ideal they do provide the only opportunity for plonking yourself down off the track for a refreshment break so if you see one that looks half decent, use it.

The lower track through South Laggan Forest


The characteristic dome of the Creag nan Gobhar, which stands above Laggan to the south, draws ever nearer and you should now be able to spot the boats drawn up at the northeast end of the loch not far ahead. The upper and lower routes converge and shortly afterwards the trees suddenly open out to reveal a world of pastures, fences and gates, plus a scattering of cottages. This is Kilfinnan.

The Great Glen Way approaching Kilfinnan

Most of Kilfinnan consists of two clusters of  holiday chalets, which although are Alpine in design seem to sit perfectly within the Highland scenery. Kilfinnan farm and Kilfinnan cemetery are passed just before you cross Kilfinnan Burn, after which you meet the road network once again. There's an open section before you reach the second cluster of chalets. You've now passed Loch Lochy proper and the water to your right is known as Ceann Loch. A narrow neck of land jutting out from Kilfinnan farm marks the change.


Immediately past the second cluster of chalets turn right onto the side road leading to Laggan Locks.

Laggan Locks

Track to Laggan Locks;  Ben Tee

The road you just left runs out through North Laggan to the main road at Loch Oich a couple of miles further on, but here we cross the locks to reach the main road direct, at South Laggan. The locks here raise boat traffic to the level of the short stretch of the Caledonian Canal joining Loch Lochy to Loch Oich; laying as it does across the watershed, it's the highest level of the canal. You'll see plenty of boats moored here. Just east of the locks on the south side is the permanent mooring place of the Scot II, one of the boats that used to operate pleasure cruises up and down the Caledonian Canal. The Scott II is now one of the few refreshment opportunities along the canal, operating as both a tearoom and a pub.

A short track runs from the boat moorings out to the main A82, where you'll find a bus stop. The Fort William - Fort Augustus - Inverness bus calls here but be sure to check the times before you start out. Youth hostellers and bed-and-breakfasters will want to walk on a little to South Laggan, about half a mile along the road to the northeast.

    Citylink bus times Fort William - Inverness (.pdf document)

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This page last updated 26th March 2006