The West Highland Way – Part 4: The Good Bit (Tyndrum to Kinlochleven)

Breakfast in the Real Food Cafe set us up well for the day ahead. Back at the hotel we shouldered packs and grabbed parcels to drop off at the Post Office – although we could have simply walked up the main road from the hotel, we still had to do the bit of trail through Tyndrum, so decided to kill two birds with one stone.

The main problem with this was Crom Allt – a low but wide burn winding through the terrain to the west of the built up part of the village. I hopped across without any problem, breaking my own policy of always sending the person with the shorter legs first. Paul didn’t fare quite so well.

Parcels dropped off and the fresh items for lunch purchased, we hit the trail following the old military road parallel to the A82. The views started to open out and all was good.

Under the railway and then across Allt Kinglass. An easy walk into Bridge of Orchy where we stopped off at the picnic area for lunch and a brew.

Not in any hurry now as we’d done most of what we planned to do today, we set off unhurriedly for the climb through the forest and over Mam Carraigh. At the top a cairn and then down to a lone tree where the Inveroran Hotel came into sight.

The hotel itself seemed to take an age to get closer, as is often the case when you’re looking forward to stopping for the day. It was all shut up (it was a Monday, so this is standard on my walks!), but even worse the drinking water tap had its top missing – the bit that you actually use to turn the tap on and off. Useless.

It didn’t matter much though – we weren’t going to be short of water – it just would have been nice to have some guaranteed quality in it. We pootled along to the bridge and the grassy areas each side of the road, fancying the one on the right as it afforded a bit more shelter. We were largely pitched up before the rain came.

4 guys turned up later and went for the other side of the road. We found out later that they’d had a stag right up to their tents. On our part we had a deer loitering around on the riverbank in front of us. In fading light, and with a clear aversion to being photographed, it was difficult to capture…

The night was one of rain, and lots of it. I didn’t remember the advice that this spot could get waterlogged until the next morning…

Emerging from the tent, there were puddles perilously close . I’d chosen the spot where I’d lay both well and badly at the same time.

A casual start saw us away for 09:30 with an easy walk along the road to Victoria Bridge. Then we hit the old drove road which according to the panel just ahead informed us was the work of Thomas Telford, seeing if he could do better than the military had.

Once more the terrain opened out, the hills wreathed in low-hanging cloud. Very atmospheric, but with intermittent rain and a bit of a cold breeze, keeping going was the order of the day.

We called a rest at Ba Bridge, and got ourselves down on the slope below the path to get a bit of respite from a cool wind. Brew time. The 4 guys got a bit of a surprise arriving at the bridge and looking down over it, and then later realising we were there.

It wasn’t a long stop as we were lured by the promise of another early finish, and specifically beer. The next stretch brought us out to the western end of Rannoch Moor.

And the opening out of the views revealed a classic West Highland Way picture. Ahead we could see the Kingshouse Hotel – our destination.

We hit the road to the Ski Centre and turned right, passing Ba Cottage.

On the other side of the A82, all we had to do was follow the track to the hotel whilst enjoying the view of Buachaille Etive Mor.

We headed for the back of the hotel to pitch, concerned about how much space there was and the fact that we weren’t first there. But we needn’t have worried – none of the people ahead of us had opted to camp – they all seemed to be in the bunkhouse (probably sensibly). We had our pick of the spots, although that’s not saying much. It was tricky to find space for two tents on flat, non-boggy ground. Somehow we managed it and headed into the hotel for some grub.

The walkers bar was closed due to a function, but in the main, much nicer, bar we stumbled into the function itself – it seemed the other bar was shut mainly for staffing reasons than using the space itself. We tucked into vastly overpriced fish and chips with a pea fritter that I really didn’t like, while we watched the surreal sight of the two brides heading outside for photographs in the lashing rain and wind. The entertainment seemed to consist of a guy with a guitar playing a song from the Jungle Book and attempting to make trumpet noises without an actual trumpet.

As we headed for the tents, a stag in the car park, right up close.

As I settled down to a long night in the tent, people in kayaks floated past in front of me.

I woke to strengthened winds and heavy rain. One of those situations where you decide to stay right where you are until things abate. Eventually though, I could take it no more and decided to pack up and make a dash for the hotel for some proper shelter. I huddled alternately by the door of the walkers bar and in the public toilets until Paul joined me.

As we hit the trail, the weather didn’t seem as bad – it was certainly tolerable. Along the military road towards Buachaille Etive Mor, it was about 4km to Altnafeadh. A huddle under some trees before we set about tackling the Devil’s Staircase.

We climbed up, the path not too bad, but the unrelenting nature of it being a bit of a stamina test. A couple of times, I found myself out of sight of Paul so stopped to make sure he was still coming up, and hadn’t just dropped dead.

As we climbed, the views below became more dramatic with sunlight piercing the moody clouds.

Over the top and a long gradual descent into Kinlochleven, stopping to chat with people we encountered – we were now very much on that part of the walk where everyone’s schedules start to synchronise.

We were a bit early for the hostel but were able to check in. Unfortunately we had one of the less good rooms with no windows except in the bathroom. And I can tell you we really needed the ventilation. Dinner in the Tailrace and then a bit of chilling out in the kitchen / common room area before bed.

I’d be tackling the next section solo, and it was long and I had a deadline…

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