As regular readers of the Ordnance Survey blog know – we’ve been running a series of map reading workshops this summer. They’re taking us from Carmarthen in the west to Leigh on Sea in the east. Kirkwall in the north down to Exeter in the south. I’ve been at the majority of the workshops and they have given me the opportunity to see some parts of the British Isles that I’ve not been to before. Today for the walk of the week I want to share with you one of the walks that I did whilst out on the road for the workshop series.
Having done a workshop in the Nairn Bookshop the night before – I found myself with a couple of hours to spare before catching a return flight down south from Inverness. As it was a beautiful sunny day I decided to take myself on a walk through Inverness City Centre and down to the banks of the River Ness and head in a southerly direction.
I started my walk at Inverness Castle. The original castle on this site formed the centre of the ancient town in the sixth century – however much of it was destroyed by Robert the Bruce as he wrested the castle back from the English in the Wars of Independence. Today the castle is the home of the Sheriff Court. Whilst the castle may not be open to the general public – you do get a great view of the Ness from standing out the front of it by the statue of Flora McDonald - the Jacobite heroine. From here I walked down the drive of the castle and down to the banks of the Ness where I joined the initial miles of the Great Glen Way.
The Great Glen Way is a long distance footpath that was opened in April 2002 by HRH Prince Andrew, Earl of Inverness. It is a 79 mile route from Inverness to Fort William. To walk the entire route would take you 5 or 6 days with overnight stops in any one of the communities along the way.
After about a mile of walking along the river bank you come to the Ness Islands – a group of islands in the middle of the river that are public parks and incredibly idyllic. I wouldn’t blame any of you for wanting to stop at this point and just soak up the peace and tranquility that they offer. Despite the urge though to go no further than here – I did carry on through the islands. Following the path you cross bridges on to other islands and eventually cross over to the western bank of the river.
With the Ness now on your left-hand side you continue along the banks of the river until you come to Whin Park. This is where the Great Glen Way takes a right turn heading north. Instead of following it I took a stroll around the park and to the end of Whin Island. If you’re walking with children – the playground at Whin Park is the perfect reward at the half way point of the walk for them. there are climbing frames, a model wooden plane, swings and the all important ice cream kiosk to keep them happy!This is where I had to turn around and head back into Inverness. For those of you with more time that I had – I’d suggest that you follow the Great Glen Way further along the Caledonian Canal. For those of you who are following my lead – it’s a stroll back through Whin Park and back to the banks of the Ness. My return route kept me on the west bank of the river – passing Bught Park and then the Eden Court Theatre (a good place to see a pantomime at Christmas I’m told).
If visiting Cathedrals are your thing – make sure on the way back towards Inverness you pay a visit to St Andrews Episcopal Cathedral – built in 1869 with the intention of being one of the grandest buildings in Scotland, although sadly the funds ran out before they could complete the planned giant twin spires.
Continuing past the Cathedral brings you back into the centre of Inverness and the Ness Bridge. If you have time to spare – you could visit the Scottish Kilt Makers Visitor Centre and see the outfits worn in the Braveheart and Rob Roy films before buying yourself a kilt.
Crossing the Ness Bridge brings you back near enough to where you started. With Inverness being a busy hub for the Highlands – where you go from here is up to you. Sadly for me from there I had to head to the airport but with the desire to one day return.
Have you visited Inverness and the Highlands? Have you walked the Great Glen Way? Share with us your tales of your adventures in this part of Bonnie Scotland.