The Journey
Southern Highlands
Great Glen
Road to the Isles
Invergarry to Lochalsh

Fort William to Inverness

 The Great Glen

Routes followed:
  • A82 from Fort William to Inverness via Spean Bridge, Invergarry, Fort Augustus, Invermoriston and Drumnadrochit
  • Caledonian Canal
  • Great Glen Way (79 miles)
  • Great Glen Cycleway (63 miles)
Alternative Routes:
  • B862 from Fort Augustus to Inverness via Dores
  • B852 from near Whitebridge to Dores via Foyers

The Great Glen, also known as Glen Mor or Glen Albyn, is a valley formed by a major fault that runs 105km/65 miles from Fort William northeast to Inverness. Along with the A82, running through the glen is the Caledonian Canal, which joins Loch Linnhe to the Beauly Firth passing through Lochs Lochy, Oich, Ness and Dochfour.

The A82 heads northeast from Fort William, alongside the railway line that soon splits - with one branch heading west to Mallaig and the other making its way to Glasgow. The road follows closely to the latter branch as far as Spean Bridge. At this point the A86 heads east into Glen Spean while the A82 continues northeast, alongside Loch Lochy to Laggan, where a swing bridge crosses the Caledonian Canal, and then runs alongside Loch Oich.

Alongside Loch Oich is the Well of Seven Heads, which was erected in 1812. In 1663 Alexander MacDonald, Chief of Keppoch, and his brother Ranald were stabbed to death. Two years later the Privy Council in Edinburgh issued letters of Fire and Sword against the murderers. The seven were hunted down, killed and decapitated and, according to legend, their heads were washed in the well at this point and then taken to be displayed at Invergarry Castle, which also stands alongside the loch. The heads were then sent to Edinburgh and set up on Gallows Hill.

About half way along Loch Oich the A87 heads west from Invergarry. The Caledonian Canal joins the loch at the south west end and exits at the north west end. The River Oich flows from the north west end to Loch Ness, running more or less parallel to the canal. The A82 crosses both the river and canal over a swing bridge at Bridge of Oich. A 150 ft suspension bridge, built c.1850, also crosses the river near this point. Designed by James Dredge, to his own patent, with massive granite arches at either end and double cantilevered chains.

The A82 continues its journey northeast through the Great Glen, heading for Fort Augustus at the southwest end of Loch Ness. About halfway between Lochs Oich Ness is Meall a'Cholumain, which, at 315m/1034 ft, offers great views of the Great Glen. In the 1840s engineers looked at possibilities for a railway line through the glen and, in 1903, this was opened from Fort William to Fort Augustus running along the east side of Loch Lochy and Loch Oich. However it was not successful and was closed in 1911, but reopened in 1913. Passenger services were suspended in 1933 and the track dismantled in 1947.

Travelling north along the A82 through the Great Glen from Fort Augustus the road passes along the western side of Loch Ness, through Invermoriston, then past Urquhart Castle and Drumnadrochit and on to Inverness. Before reaching Drumnadrochit, there is a memorial by the side of the road to John Cobb who was killed on the loch while trying to break the Water Speed Record.

The Great Glen Way is a long distance walk (73 miles/117 km) from Inverness to Fort William. There is also an 80 mile cycle route that uses parts of the walk.

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Copyright Scotland from the Roadside 2016