We had planned to get good early starts to maximise day time riding and allow a little chill/exploring quota if required. This plan was already off to a bad start, soon porridge was eaten, bags were packed again and we were on our way. Our day started easy as we descended the remaining section of the Corrieyairack Pass, Fort Augustus nestled below us. The high speeds blowing the last of the sleepiness out of us.

A little jaggy bush lined track along the side of a wall had me wishing I was wearing gloves but soon dropped us off into Fort Augustus. Our planning had been poor as we had not considered that we would arrive at 8:20am on a Sunday so the shops were running on lazy religious times.

Second breakfast could wait till Invermoriston and we continued with the ride, picking up a steep trail that took us into the woods and onto the Great Glen Way which looks down on Loch Ness. Stu and I cruised along enjoying dappled sun and the odd view of the water. We cleared the Glen Moriston shop of hot sausage rolls and restocked our snack bags.

The climb up to Loch ma Stac was dispatched without too much trouble. Ominous clouds started to roll in as we rode out onto the rocky loch shore. Previous reports had noted that this section was unavoidable slow going due to its rocky nature and boggy surroundings.

But with a little persuasion and finesse we managed to keep our wheels turning as we lumbered over the difficult terrain. A rather alien like desolate landscape, I felt that my Karate Monkey was now some sort of a lunar rover carrying out its missions exploring this land. There were other alien tracks in the sand that looked fresh, possibly our friend from yesterday had passed us and was leading the way or there were other HT550 adventurers where making their pilgrimage.

We reached the mysterious building that marks the end of the loch. Once a pleasant fishing retreat on a little island it is now a ruin reattached to the shore. I poked my head in for a look. Graffiti on the walls showed that it had served as a bothy although now the floors were missing and it would only serve a purpose in the most grim of situations. We put our jackets on as the wind had picked up and the rain was looking as if it would be hanging around. Luckily this wasn’t the case and as the track became more established we whizzed out the clouds soggy grasp and back into the warmth.

Wide fresh hydro tracks allowed some outrageous dusty speeds and a little turn off along the side of a field ran past a little bothy. Looking in a bit of a forgotten state, we were surprised to be greeted with a cosy little living room setup. It wasn’t time for us to stop and we continued to Cannich and lunch.

Our timing at Cannich was poor as we rolled up just as the majority of a French tour bus were ready to make their purchases. Lunch was picked, we queued and sat on a bench watching the passengers making their way back to the bus, fully stocked up on fresh bread and wine. We hadn’t planned to stop so long and as we were just about to leave an old chap came over and wanted to talk all about our bikes and tell us about his old motorbike.

More gravel stretched ahead and other than the wind catching our frame bags and trying to force us off the track this was gravel grinding gold. We made our way across the wide open landscape, the temperature was perfect and the pace comfortable.

A building approached in the distance, a Scottish Hydro cement store now turned bothy. Now fitted with garden furniture yet still maintaining all its original cement store charm, what it lacked in comfort it made up for in location. If the weather was poor you would be thankful for this simple shelter.

A rather James Bond like dam appeared and signalled the end of the gravel. We had made Contin before the shop closed which was lucky as I was running low in food and would have had to resort to gnawing on the deer legs that we found littering the trail.

The day had got away from us and it was decided that we would have an early dinner and try to make good time to our next bothy. This is were I made my first mistake, completely underestimating how much food I would require as I didnt properly consider that this would be the last food stop for 170 miles. Our spirits were high and even a puncture couldn’t break the mood. Luckily it sealed itself and with a quick top up of air and I was rolling again.

In a steady rhythm we pedalled through forest and glens. Along rivers and loch shores. And as the miles clicked over we started looking forward to the prospect of reaching the bothy in the light and ticking off a second successful day. The light was now golden and the ride along the River Carron felt like the perfect end to the day.

Except it wasn’t the end of the day and the track to the School House bothy just dragged on and on. Light was fading fast and my self-sealed puncture had decided to begin leak air again. On and on, darker and darker, softer and softer. The goal now was to simply arrive at the bothy without needing to stop. On arrival both classrooms were occupied and rather than pick a room and interrupt the residents, the two of us squeezed into a little middle room. Sleep now, worry about possible punctures tomorrow.

Strava activity here.

1 thought on “HIGHLAND TRAIL 550 DAY 2”

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