The Great Solo Cape Wrath Trail Adventure That Never Happened

… but how my Harry Potter fangirling was satisfied anyway.

I prepared extensively for the Scottish trip. I’d read tons of trail descriptions and copied multiple ones to my kindle. I was planning on completing the West Highland Way, which I did, and then hoped to do parts of the extremely difficult Cape Wrath Trail. The idea was to hike up from Glenfinnan to Morvich and then take a bus to Portree through Kyle of Lochalsh. It actually wasn’t a bad plan! Watching photos from the trail was additional motivation, as the landscape was simply stunning. But instead of the rough northern terrain, I ended up on the mild and kind of boring Great Glen Way.

When Cape Wrath Trail fell through, my Harry Potter fangirling nature was satisfied anyway. From Fort William to Glenfinnen through iconic viaducts, rain and bogs.
The stunning landscape in the area

So how did the Cape Wrath not happen?

First of all, plans are not the same as reality. I know that’s truism, but one we learn best through experience. West Highland Way hit me harder than I thought it would. When I arrived at Fort William, I was tired and nursing two nasty blisters on my feet. I was thinking about conquering Ben Nevis, but the weather was dreadful and I don’t like to climb high mountains to just make a “check” next to their names. I want to see far and wide! But when the air is milky white, what’s the point?

When Cape Wrath Trail fell through, my Harry Potter fangirling nature was satisfied anyway. From Fort William to Glenfinnen through iconic viaducts, rain and bogs.
Where are you, Ben Nevis?

HIking around Fort William and Glenfinnan in Scottish Highlands. awomanafoot.com

I spent two days in Fort William, resting, washing my clothes and checking out the town. The second day I climbed the small Cow Hill which provided nice views over the town and Loch Linnhe. All that time I was thinking hard and long what to do next. I was looking into all possible directions, checking buses, ferries and trains.

 

HIking around Fort William and Glenfinnan in Scottish Highlands. awomanafoot.com

When Cape Wrath Trail fell through, my Harry Potter fangirling nature was satisfied anyway. From Fort William to Glenfinnen through iconic viaducts, rain and bogs.
Even in such a weather, the view from Cow Hill was worth the climb.

Why would I want to do the Cape Wrath Trail alone at all?

It leads through the harshest and barren areas. It’s not marked and requires very good navigational skills. In bad weather, it can be unforgiving. But I was tempted; I thought I could do it. I kind of forgot the last time I was using a compass was in scouts… like thirty years before. But the photos I’d seen were just magical… I wanted to see it all so much!

So, after I completed the West Highland Way (which was great) it was time to ask myself the hard questions: Was I really up to it? Did I feel I needed to prove anything to anyone? Why did I really want to do the trail? Even if it was supposed to be just a few days on the southern part of it as a link to Skye, getting myself lost somewhere there was not the smartest thing to do. And I needed to be smart and realistic, as that’s the most important thing for a woman hiking alone.

So I compromised.

When Cape Wrath Trail fell through, my Harry Potter fangirling nature was satisfied anyway. From Fort William to Glenfinnen through iconic viaducts, rain and bogs.
Geeking out at the Fort William train station.
When Cape Wrath Trail fell through, my Harry Potter fangirling nature was satisfied anyway. From Fort William to Glenfinnen through iconic viaducts, rain and bogs.
Just look at that beauty!

My geeky trip to Glenfinnan

The walk from Fort William to Glenfinnan is the first stage of Cape Wrath Trail. A long part of it leads next to a road. I wasn’t really keen on doing that, so I decided to skip the first part and see what it’s all about around Glenfinnan. You might be wondering: why is she so obsessed to go there? Well, it’s the Hogwarts Express of course. Duh.

When Cape Wrath Trail fell through, my Harry Potter fangirling nature was satisfied anyway. From Fort William to Glenfinnen through iconic viaducts, rain and bogs.
View from the train’s window

The Jacobite train goes to Mallaig twice a day. It’s cute as a button and has a tiny Harry Potter shop on board. I’ve seen it multiple times and there were crowds waiting for it each day! I was considering feeding my geeky nature, but the tickets were just beyond my budget. I took an ordinary train, though (just about £7). It was very difficult to see the Glenfinnan viaduct, and I almost missed it!

When Cape Wrath Trail fell through, my Harry Potter fangirling nature was satisfied anyway. From Fort William to Glenfinnen through iconic viaducts, rain and bogs.
A walk up from the Glenfinnan train station to a view point

Hiking solo around Fort William and Glenfinnan. awomanafoot.com

The weather was still pretty awful, but I did my trek from the Glenfinnan station to the view point to see the viaduct. And it truly is something to be seen. It’s a rare moment when the human-made structure does not take away from the natural beauty but seems to enhance it. I was lucky that the next day the weather was superbly sunny and could see it in full glory.

Hiking solo around Fort William and Glenfinnan. awomanafoot.com

I moved on to walk to the Corryhully bothy. This one is an estate bothy and not run by MBA volunteers. It had electricity (a rarity!) and a fireplace. Great place to stop on your hike in the area.

Hiking solo around Fort William and Glenfinnan. awomanafoot.com

Up and up I went! To get completely soaked at Bealach a’Chaorainn

I dropped my heavy backpack in the bothy (it was still an early afternoon) and decided to do a bit of a walk along the Cape Wrath Trail, just to see what’s there. I still had some tiny thoughts about maybe doing it. After a mile or so it started raining more and more. The trail narrows and crosses multiple burns. Some were pretty easy to cross jumping over stones, some much less. At that point, it had been raining for four days straight and the streams were in spate. But I pushed on – I wanted to get to a higher point to just see “what’s beyond”.

When Cape Wrath Trail fell through, my Harry Potter fangirling nature was satisfied anyway. From Fort William to Glenfinnen through iconic viaducts, rain and bogs.
Well, that was a bit of an anti-climax…

I reached the highest point – the 471m spot at Bealach a’Chaorainn between two mountains. The climb seemed unending, the weather worsening… The wind was so strong the rain felt falling horizontally and at some gusts, it was hard for me to keep vertical.

If you think “that’s not too bad” wait, there is more.

When climbing higher, against all logic the ground was getting soggier and soggier. At the top of the Bealach it was simply a huge pool hidden beneath the grass. I tried stepping on big stones or rocks, but there weren’t all that many of them. What seemed to be a hard grass step was just a nice sponge filled with water.

Hiking solo around Fort William and Glenfinnan. awomanafoot.com

So, what did I see “beyond”? Nothing, but the milky fog and more rain. I hoped for some breath-taking views into the valley… nope. Talk about an anti-climax…

The funny thing was – at the top, there was an iron gate connected to the non-existing fence. It looked pretty eerie, especially with all that milky fog and horizontal rain.

When Cape Wrath Trail fell through, my Harry Potter fangirling nature was satisfied anyway. From Fort William to Glenfinnen through iconic viaducts, rain and bogs.
Don’t forget to shut the gate! It keeps the wind out 🙂

Hiking solo around Fort William and Glenfinnan. awomanafoot.com

I was completely soaked; my boots were filled with water from all the missteps I took right into bogs. The way down was no easy thing as well. Coming back to a bothy with a fire going on was just such a nice thing. I changed into dry clothes and tried to warm up. It was hard to believe it was August! I was sitting right next to the fire and was cold! My boots got soaked because the water went over the top in bogs and trickled down my completely soaked legs. I might have also miscalculated a few steps when crossing streams 😉 

When Cape Wrath Trail fell through, my Harry Potter fangirling nature was satisfied anyway. From Fort William to Glenfinnen through iconic viaducts, rain and bogs.
Drying my boots and getting warm by the August fire.

The next day I decided to stay in the bothy. I had to dry my boots and clothes. I was lucky – the day was beautiful and sunny. And hot. And the only dry pants I could wear were my black sweat-inducing rain pants. Oh, well, just my luck.

When Cape Wrath Trail fell through, my Harry Potter fangirling nature was satisfied anyway. From Fort William to Glenfinnen through iconic viaducts, rain and bogs.
The Corryhully bothy in the morning fog
When Cape Wrath Trail fell through, my Harry Potter fangirling nature was satisfied anyway. From Fort William to Glenfinnen through iconic viaducts, rain and bogs.
Drying my boots and other stuff

The big Harry Potter fangirling day

I went to the Glenfinnan station, checked out all the Harry Potter souvenirs (got myself a Ministry of Magic pendant!) and went up to the viewing point to join about two dozen of other people with cameras in hands. The view was just wonderful. I wish I could have run fast and taken photos of the Hogwarts Express the Jacobite from other vantage points, but I was happy anyway. Now that I look at the photos, I wish I climbed a bit higher – to have a better angle of the viaduct… Another reason to come back 🙂

When Cape Wrath Trail fell through, my Harry Potter fangirling nature was satisfied anyway. From Fort William to Glenfinnen through iconic viaducts, rain and bogs.
Here it comes! Take me on! Oh, too late, I guess…

I adore Harry Potter and was happy like a kid to be there when the train went by.

The viaduct was not the only thing worth seeing around Glenfinnan. There are the war memorial and lovely church as well. It is generally a beautiful area for walking.

Hiking solo around Fort William and Glenfinnan. awomanafoot.com

Hiking solo around Fort William and Glenfinnan. awomanafoot.com

When Cape Wrath Trail fell through, my Harry Potter fangirling nature was satisfied anyway. From Fort William to Glenfinnen through iconic viaducts, rain and bogs.
Glenfinnan

The bothy encounters

I spent two nights in the bothy. More is not encouraged. A gentleman who takes care of the area came by a few times bringing firewood and checking that everything was fine. During that stay, I met four different guys. Two stayed the night (each separate night) and two just stopped by for some rest on their trails.

When Cape Wrath Trail fell through, my Harry Potter fangirling nature was satisfied anyway. From Fort William to Glenfinnen through iconic viaducts, rain and bogs.
The bothy is simple but cozy. Enough for at least four people to sleep, with plenty more space on the floor

One was Czech, one Polish (but not living in Poland for more than 15 years or so), one English and one Scottish. It was fun to chat a bit, exchange experiences or fun stories. One of the lads actually slept on the bogs the night before, in the pouring rain. Poor him!

When Cape Wrath Trail fell through, my Harry Potter fangirling nature was satisfied anyway. From Fort William to Glenfinnen through iconic viaducts, rain and bogs.
The right side of the bothy. All of that stuff is mine b/c I’m messy.

The great thing was, even though it was far from any civilization, I felt safe. None of those men made any gestures or suggestions that would make me feel uncomfortable and I am still really grateful for that. Every woman hiking alone understands well how important it is.

The great adventure from the day before convinced me to leave the Cape Wrath Trail for another time.

Hiking solo around Fort William and Glenfinnan. awomanafoot.com

Hiking solo around Fort William and Glenfinnan. awomanafoot.com

 

I had to decide what to do next:  go to Skye right away or do something else first? Read on to find out!


When Cape Wrath Trail fell through, my Harry Potter fangirling nature was satisfied anyway. From Fort William to Glenfinnen through iconic viaducts, rain and bogs.

 

 

 

7 Comment

  1. […] my Cape Wrath Trail plans didn’t work out I had to make a decision about where to go next. I wasn’t planning on doing the Great Glen […]

  2. […] to new conditions: heavier pack, higher elevation, bad weather or recent illnesses. Be prepared to change your plans, finish earlier or cut short with no feeling of guilt. And ladies – remember that hiking can […]

  3. […] or pushed myself beyond what would be healthy or pleasant. Just read here about my adventures in failing at the Cape Wrath Trail and changing plans when needed. Taking this into consideration, I looked into trails that […]

  4. […] reason – there is no shame or guilt in changing plans; it’s a sign of sensibility and maturity. I’ve changed my plans more than once and it’s just something you do at […]

  5. […] Drying my boots in safe distance from the fire after my adventures around Glennfinnan. […]

  6. […] a minimum of distance (or you have no place to sleep) which is beyond your capabilities – choose a different trail. Don’t feel bad that other people run past you or do twice what you do in a […]

  7. […] the trail to make my stop at the Glen Nevis campsite, where I would spend three nights, resting, exploring Fort William and getting soaked. By the way – the campsite is huge, but thanks to it has amazing […]

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