Photo from Glen Dessarry on the Cape Wrath Trail

Cape Wrath Trail: Day 1 – Glenfinnan to Sourlies Bothy

Today started quite well. I had actually managed to get a little bit of sleep on the sleeper train and had rolled into Fort William at 10am. It was likely that I would have to wait until midday for the next train to Glenfinnan, so I thought I would detour to the supermarket and pick up some odds and sods that I didn’t really need.

As luck would have it, I passed a couple asking a taxi driver how much a return journey to Glenfinnan would be. I jumped in (to the conversation not the taxi) and asked if I could join them and split the fare with them. They agreed and at that point I jumped into the taxi.

It turns out these two were on a crazy mission to visit all the train stations in the UK. They were off to Glenfinnan to film the Jacobite/Harry Potter steam train going over. They would then have to return to Fort William to do the same journey by train. Madness I tell you. There are easier ways to get places.

We chatted away in the taxi and when they asked what I was doing I told them about some of my own slightly daft challenges for charity. When we got out of the taxi they refused to let me put money towards the taxi, as they had been crowdfunded and needed to take the taxi anyway. That was really nice of them. Perhaps I shall invite them to do some crazy race the train type challenge with me when I get back.

Ahead of schedule, I slacked off and had a quick cuppa in the information centre before heading to the Glenfinnan Monument. The statue of a lonely highlander here marks the start of the ill-fated Jacobite uprising. To me this seemed a better place to start a journey than Fort William, which at the foot of Ben Nevis, is a good place to serve as the end of the West Highland Way.

I was soon back and past the concrete viaduct, which is much prettier at a distance, and was finally starting my walk through the rather damp highlands. It was exciting to be on an adventure, walking along good paths, observing being observed by a stag. I was making great progress right up until the point that I wasn’t.

Halfway through the next glen I had stepped in bog right up to my knee. That had been disappointing; I’d now have one boggy leg for ages. I realised that this was a stupid thing to think as soon as I thought it. As I descended towards Glen Dessarry and Glenn Pean, I slipped. Now I didn’t slip once or twice, but four or five times, each time comically onto my arse.

I’m not usually the sort of person that falls over a lot. I don’t have friends or work colleagues who sit around and say “oh here comes Phill, I bet he’ll fall over in a minute.” But here I was slipping down the boggy downhill slopes in the rain.

Next I would find myself knee deep in bog. So much for having one boggy leg. This was problematic, not least because I had a 20 kg rucksack on my back and falling forward into the bog would have been both messy and a rather difficult situation to extract myself from. As it was, my escaping this situation was successful although possibly not particularly dignified. From the bog I reached a forestry track which I followed because it was a nice path and going in vaguely the right direction.

My aim had been to make it to Sourlies Bothy, on the basis that I was already wet and inside the bothy would hopefully be dry. A bothy is a previously abandoned cottage or farm building, now managed by the Mountain Bothies Association, they provide for walls and a roof for those wandering the mountains who are in need of such things.

I knew I wouldn’t be alone in the bothy, I had been tracking some big heavy footprints in the mud. I found their owners, two slow moving Czech hikers who were also aiming for the bothy that night. The path along this stretch was a meandering narrow track through the bog. On the parts where the ground wasn’t boggy the rain had turned it into a stream. My feet had been wet for a large part of the day and I suspected they were not going to be pretty when I took my socks off at camp.

The bothy was full of Czechs drying their clothes. I almost reminded them that bothies were not meant for use by large groups of hikers, but I didn’t have the energy and much preferred some solitude. I was actually much happier with the spot I camped at nearby.

Alone in the dusk, I ate, brushed my teeth, checked my feet, and then fell asleep into what was probably my best night’s sleep in months.

Photo from Glen Dessarry on the Cape Wrath Trail

Today I learnt: Toenails are important. My missing right toenail left me with a big sore right toe, particularly on the downhill. My soon to fall off big left toenail fared little better – the bits of my toe determined to keep that nail attached to my toe are rather sore. I suspect that my feet aren’t fully recovered from the 75 mile run that I did a couple of weeks ago.

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