Day 8. Inverness to Drumnadrochit, 21 miles.
After a wonderful rest day in Inverness with Becky which featured a spa, a lovely croft dining experience for two and repeatedly slamming my skull as hard as I could against a brick wall until the grey matter oozed from the cracks (aka a heated discussion with a genuine flat earther) I was ready to set off on the Great Glen Way, a 74 mile track which runs along the Great Glen faultline from Inverness to Fort William. But in lieu of a scathing breakfast judgement, let me briefly recap on our run in with a flat earther from the day before.
It was a lovely sunny afternoon, I was consciously aware of both our orbit around the sun as we moved from early afternoon to late, and of the universal force of gravity, as my feet hit the hard pavement below. We were returning to our Airbnb and, to my joy, saw that the flat earth shop I previously mentioned was not only open, but practically pouring out into the street. A man with truly impressive neck hair caught my searching eyes as I viewed his odd arrangement of meme posts and Internet-assembled philosophies and asked me what I thought of his whack-a-mole theories. I was painfully aware of the old adage, "never argue with an idiot, they will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience", but nonetheless could hardly resist witnessing this special kind of crazy first hand. I should say at this point that I'm an open minded guy, and I think it's genuinely important that if your beliefs don't harm others then you should be able to believe in whatever fiction you like. However this man had "vaccines cause autism" posters up in his wall, a viewpoint that not only reeks of stultifying pig-ignorance, but also genuinely harms those who depend upon herd immunity as well as endangering those children whos parents are naive enough to buy this particular brand of nonsensical thinking.
I was at once both amazed and impressed at the sheer depths of his cognitive disability. He genuinely believed that planes were deploying chemtrails to subdue the populace, that the moon landings were faked, that 9/11 was staged (I mean, that one's a 50/50...), vaccines caused autism, gravity was only a theory and that evolution wasn't proven. I advised him that I had seen the curvature of the earth from planes on numerous occasions, to which he replied that he had heard from a pilot that they use a special kind of glass on passenger plane windows to ensure the masses are kept ignorant. Initially I rather enjoyed the encounter, but I quickly became concerned for humanity, then a little ashamed. Here I was openly mocking someone who was simply trying to apply the scientific method, however far he had strayed from the path. Inquisitive thinking is generally a good thing, but when it challenges scientifically-derived facts that improve conditions for humanity it becomes a genuine problem. Still, I left the encounter with melancholy, feeling as though there was a scientific mind lost to lunacy, rather than feeling elated that I had trumped the fool with sense. Worse still, the shop was full of like minded people, likely brought together not so much by their refutation of sensible scientific principles, but more by their own feelings of misalignment towards a society which may have marginalised them.
Anyway, I had 21 miles to cover. Feeling both rejuvenated and hungover I left Inverness, sad to leave Becky behind, but secure in the knowledge that I would see her in Glasgow, just 9 days away. Almost immediately my achilles flared up, angered by the harsh concrete paths of Inverness that followed the river Ness to its monster-laden source.
The tidy streets of Inverness soon gave way to forest paths that steadily rose out of the capital of the Highlands. I thought it would be a cracking idea to get lost in the woods with barely 3 miles of the Great Glen Way covered despite it being the best signposted path I've ever come across. After a very tedious climb I had to double back and (very gracefully) cut cross country to rejoin the path. With my achilles tendon feeling like, well, the actual Achilles' ankle after he'd been shot by Paris I was beginning to have serious doubts about whether 21 miles was possible today, but I bravely limped onwards.
I soon found the absolutely excellent Abriarchan Cafe, deep in the woods and completely isolated, which has been open 365 days a year since 1999 without fail. The wonderful couple there bought me down the thickest chicken broth I've ever seen, a cheese board and a huge pot of hot, loose leaf tea. I felt healed after wolfing down the rustic, hearty food and was soon back in the woods, hopping to Drumnadrochit.
The miles slowly, but surely, passed by with little to note after my refuel, the occasional cloud of midges had to be swatted away as I plodded through the forestry commission, but otherwise very little to note for this section.
Finally Loch Ness itself swept into sight, and what a sight it was. As every single local in Inverness will tell you free of charge (and without you even having to ask), Loch Ness could hold all of the water in every lake in England and Wales with room to spare. I'm never sure what exactly to say in response to such an odd brag. Most of the time I go with the standard, "hmm, oh that's very interesting (nodding enthusiastically)", but sometimes at the end of the day, when I've had a couple and the Loch Ness fact has been bought up yet again I'll go with the old, "Where were you on May 1st, 1707 mate? Remember the Act of the Union? Technically, technically, that Loch belongs to the Queen." I never get any further than that, as I usually get punched in the mouth, which is a real shame as its a proper filibuster. Oh well.
After here it was a simple matter to follow the A road into Drumnadrochit, 21 miles closer to Land's End, my achilles had warned up in the second half of the day and better yet, a cooked breakfast tomorrow at my B&B. As if that wasn't enough I got a free whiskey at the Loch Ness Hotel (on account of knowing where Cambridge is), and there were lambs bouncing around everywhere in the fields surrounding my B&B. Not a terrible end to my first day on the Great Glen Way.