In the sixth century, the Irish monk, St. Colombo, was chilling out with his Pictish pals when he came across a burial taking place by the River Ness. It was explained to him that the deceased had been attacked by a huge water beast that dragged him underwater and mauled him to death. Colombo sent a follower (clearly as incredibly loyal and, arguably, stupid one) to swim across the river and, when the huge monster appeared, the saint made the sign of the cross and demanded the monster go no further. The beast recoiled and, as if pulled back by ropes, fled the scene.
Whilst lots of lovely praise and acclamaition was bestowed on St. Colombo, it seems he had only succeeded in driving the monster away from the river. These days she is far more well known to use the dark depths of the loch itself as her home.
The legend of the Loch Ness Monster may well be the most famous piece of cryptozoology in the UK, if not the world. Yet, there’s so much more to discover around Loch Ness that a cursed plesiosaur that just wants to live in peace.
The Loch Ness 360 is exactly what it says on the tin; a circumnavigation of the lake made famous by the resident cryptid. The trail shares the northern part of its route with the Great Glen Way between Inverness and Fort Augustus, then joins the South Loch Ness Trail for the journey back along the other side. At around 80 miles long and primarily on clear paths, forest tracks and lanes that journey between dense pine woodland, shoreside meadows, and ventures into the overlooking hills, it is a 4-6 day trail taking in the countryside around the loch.
Developed by Visit Inverness Loch Ness in 2019, the linking of these two established trails created a circular path that is used by trail runners, ultramarathoners and bikepackers as well as hikers. There are a couple of variations to the path where the traveller can take either a low route or a hill route, allowing for decisions to be made based on the weather, personal fitness or simply what sort of views you would prefer.
I had come off the Wales Coast Path the month before and wasn’t looking for an extreme challenge; but I did want some of those beautiful Scottish landscapes as soon as possible. Heading out in March, there would still be plenty of snow up on the mountains (though none was expected on lowland) and it still had the potential to be very chilly and rainy. That being said, the first days of spring are some of the prettiest of the year.
It was early in the hiking season, so chances were the path, especially the section shared with the popular Great Glen Way, would not be so busy yet, and perhaps I would have more of a chance to spot some of the more reclusive wildlife; mountain hares, otters, sika deer, woodpeckers and maybe even a plesiosaur.
I would be arriving just after 1400hrs on day 1, limiting the miles I would be able to walk that day. Fortunately the days are getting longer now, and with the sun setting closer to seven than to four I didn’t have to rush. I reasoned it would take me two and half days to reach Fort Augustus and then two and a half days back to Inverness.
- Day 1: Inverness to near Blackfold (5 miles)
- Day 2: Near Blackfold to Ruskich Wood (20 miles)
- Day 3: Ruskich Wood to Fort Augustus (16 miles)
- Day 4: Fort Augustus to Inverfarigaig (20 miles)
- Day 5: Inverfarigaig to Inverness (19 miles)
March is an odd month. It is often said to “come in like a lion, and go out like a lamb”. At any point within it you could have snow and ice, or you could have brilliant sunshine. I ultimately lucked out with the weather and it was generally bright and clear and never cold enough to be uncomfortable. At times it was fairly warm. This meant a lot of my list, which was a sort of slimmed down winter list, went unused. But it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Doing the Wales Coast Path over winter really extended the amount of time I’m willing to be disgusting for, and I was sorely tempted to just take the one lot of hiking clothes. Ultimately I decided against this for two reasons; firstly it is always advisable to have a dry set of clothes, especially in Scotland in the rainy months, and secondly; I would be taking the train home and it just seemed courteous to have a second set allowing me not to stink out fellow passengers.
A modification to the above picture and below list I had to make early on, was discarding the water bladder. Whilst it had still operated perfectly on my return from Wales, upon filling it up for the first time this trip it sprung a leak. This meant it was replaced with two 1L smart water bottles. Some people prefer this approach as it makes refilling far easier; but I found that I’m such a lazy hiker that without being nozzle fed water like a baby I simply do not drink enough and can’t be bothered to stop, or simply twist and reach, to obtain my water. There were far too many instances this trip where I found myself dehydrated despite having full bottles of water.
Anyone that has looked at my kit lists from my 2021 trails might notice that this tent weighs slightly more. The Big Agnes Flycreek HV UL1 was replaced with a Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1 after the Flycreek met her demise in the winds of a Pembrokeshire winter. RIP Phat Aggie; you were a little queen among shelters.
plus extra pegs
|2L Water Bladder||80g|
|Clothes:||2 x shirts|
|2 x leggings|
|2 x hiking socks|
|2 x liner socks|
|3 x pants|
|Hair ties and clips|
|Electrical bag:||Power bank x 2|
|3 x charging cords|
|Downtime:||Journal With stamps and pen|
|Miscellaneous:||First aid kit|
|3 x small binbags|
|Water purification tablets|
|Mini hot water bottle|
|Garmin InReach and Navigation Device|
|Base Weight = 9.15kg|
|Food bag:||Stove and fuel|
|Instant pasta meals|
|Instant noodle meals|
|Instant mashed potato|
|Tomato soup sachets|
|Pack Weight = 12.72kg |
(including worn weight and consumables)
- Loch Ness 360: Introduction, Itinerary and Kit List
- Loch Ness 360: Day 1, Inverness to near Blackfold (5 miles)
- Loch Ness 360: Day 2, near Blackfold to Ruskich Wood (20 miles)
- Loch Ness 360: Day 3, Ruskich Wood to Fort Augustus (16 miles)
- Loch Ness 360: Day 4, Fort Augustus to Inverfarigaig (20 miles)
- Loch Ness 360: Day 5; Inverfarigaig to Inverness (19 miles)
- Loch Ness 360: Information, Advice and Personal Reflections