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Early rise to capture beauty of Loch Ness 360 Challenge route on run along the Great Glen Way from Inverness to Drumnadrochit


By John Davidson


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Gavin and Alison continue along the track as it descends to the minor road to Abriachan.
Gavin and Alison continue along the track as it descends to the minor road to Abriachan.

The Loch Ness 360 Challenge is getting closer, so I finally got round to continuing my recce of the full loop. Having previously run the route from the start at Dores up to the Tomnahurich Bridge in Inverness, it was time to leave the city and head down the north side of the loch.

For many people, apparently, the thought of running from the Highland capital to Drumnadrochit is quite outrageous! For those of us who love a long run, it’s wonderful to be out on those quiet trails and enjoying such a beautiful location.

I planned to get going early one Sunday morning and, having arranged to meet a couple of friends who were accepting of the alarm call, we headed off shortly after 6.30 in the morning.

It was fresh but dry, with a hint of blue sky suggesting the day could turn out nicely – even though the weather forecast suggested otherwise. For running, it was ideal.

We headed along the canal towards Kinmylies and turned left down some steps, following the blue marker posts which lead under General Booth Road and past the new golf course to a steep path known locally as ‘Nurses’.

There was no rush as we had plenty of miles to go, so we made our way up the brae slowly, conserving energy for later in the morning. Past Great Glen House, the route goes behind a couple of houses to climb again, steeply to a gate on the right. Most local folk tend to cut the corner here and head straight up the field ahead, but I was sticking to the official Great Glen Way route and turned right.

John, Alison and Gavin at the viewpoint near the reservoir.
John, Alison and Gavin at the viewpoint near the reservoir.

The path zigzags a little to a great viewpoint with the masts on Craig Dunain – a favourite target for hill runners – straight ahead. We continued past the reservoir and under a pylon to reach a gate, where the nature of the route changes.

This is part of an old drove road and would once have been the main thoroughfare to the south. Old walls on either side show their age, one barely visible in parts due to the build-up of moss over the centuries.

Lichen drips from the trees and the air is wonderfully clear; you can’t help but be transported to another world here. We reached the old drovers’ stance in good time, pausing at the ruins of what might have been an old inn on the route.

After passing through a clearing, the Great Glen Way reaches Blackfold, where it crosses a track to climb again on a well-made path. The morning sun was lighting the Scots pines beautifully and as we continued along this lovely section, we noticed a beautiful ‘sun dog’ effect in the sky.

A 'sun dog' effect in the sky from the moor beyond Blackfold.
A 'sun dog' effect in the sky from the moor beyond Blackfold.

Alison and Gavin were planning to return from around this point but the glorious morning was too tempting and they continued along the tarmac as we hit the road and continued, enjoying a fine view to Ben Wyvis.

At around Ladycairn, they decided it was time to turn around and head for home – while I continued for Drumnadrochit. We would end up doing a similar distance overall, but I had the logistics worked out to meet the family at Drum and get a lift home.

A couple more miles of tarmac and it was back into the forest to pass the eco campsite and café at Abriachan on a lovely narrow trail through the trees. Across the minor road, the route continues into Abriachan Forest, past the car park and on forest tracks that skirt behind Carn na Leitire.

There’s a bit of a climb here but I knew that it was the last biggie of the route, so I just kept plodding up. As you drop to a gate at Corryfoyness, there is a lovely bit of track through the heather-clad moor – this is a section I love running as it feels so far removed from everyday life that it’s easy to just smile and enjoy being here.

John is going solo now as he passes Corryfoyness.
John is going solo now as he passes Corryfoyness.

Soon I reached a large gate, and the track continues through an area of forestry works – where you soon get you first glimpse of Loch Ness on this entire section! It looked stunning from up here and I paused at a viewpoint to prolong my time out in the peaceful surroundings.

At the end of the track, a long descent begins – though it does have a few short climbs initially – on a beautiful surface made up of soft pine needles along with a few rocks and roots. It’s a delightful section to run and, having only ever run this route in the opposite direction, I was loving going downhill as it twists sharply before emerging at a gate with a view over the bay to Urquhart Castle.

A nice path with a few too many gates leads over the access track to the Tychat estate and out to the roadside about a mile or so north of Drumnadrochit. From here it was just an easy jog along the pavement to the village.

As I approached the car park at the Loch Ness Hub, my wife and children were just walking back from the park and rushed to meet me – perfect timing on a run that was the perfect way to start the day.

The narrow path as you turn towards the village with Urquhart Castle visible across the bay.
The narrow path as you turn towards the village with Urquhart Castle visible across the bay.

Route details

Inverness to Drumnadrochit on the Great Glen Way

Distance 18 miles / 29km

Terrain Paths, tracks, minor road, hilly, pavement section alongside trunk road

Start/finish Tomnahurich Bridge, Inverness / Loch Ness Hub, Drumnadrochit

Map OS Landranger 26; OS Explorer 416

The second part of the Loch Ness 360 Challenge route heads out of the city and down the Great Glen

The track beyond Blackfold in the morning sunlight.
The track beyond Blackfold in the morning sunlight.

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