The way the accommodation is spaced out on the West Highland Way, combined with the terrible weather, meant we hadn’t been able to catch up with our original schedule and were still a few kilometres behind. Normally this wouldn’t have mattered and we could have added an extra day on the end, but we’d promised to be back in Glasgow on Saturday for a flat-warming. So we took the difficult decision to cheat slightly, and got the bus from outside The Bridge of Orchy Hotel past Loch Tulla to the entrance of the White Corries ski centre, unfortunately missing out the Black Mount which I’d been looking forward to.
A 15 minute bus ride had now got us right back on schedule, although we felt more than a little guilty about not walking. Crossing the main road, we rejoined the West Highland Way and soon reached the iconic Kings House Hotel with Buachaille Etive Mòr rising in the distance.
After passing the Kings House Hotel the path turned so that we were walking straight towards the magnificent Buachaille Etive Mòr, guarding the pass of Glen Coe.
The path follows the edge of the main road for a while.
But then as the road curves round to enter Glen Coe, the path heads north and up the infamous Devil’s Staircase. We paused at the bottom to eat our sandwiches, and then set off up the steepest part of the West Highland Way, just as the heavens opened. After a long and painful climb, our bags seeming to get heavier and heavier with each step, we reached the top and stopped for a moment to catch our breath opposite Beinn Bheag.
Luckily it was pretty downhill all the way from here, although the wind and rain made sure it wasn’t too easy a walk. The open moorland changed to forest again, and we found ourselves on rough vehicle tracks presumably built for the various aluminium works high above Kinlochleven. The descent into Kinlochleven seemed to take forever, our weary limbs driving us onwards. Unfortunately we were staying on the north side of Kinlochleven so had even further to walk than we’d anticipated, and when we did eventually get to the Macdonald Hotel we were ready to drop.
We were staying in the cabins out the back of the hotel rather than in the hotel itself. On first sight they resemble luxury garden sheds, but once inside they are snug, comfortable and well equipped. And the views along Loch Leven are just stunning.
After a quick change of clothes, we headed up to the hotel for a drink, and then ventured into the village to see what Kinlochleven had to offer. Kinlochleven is the friendliest place. As we walked through the village, a boy of about 10 cycled past and said hi, then as we crossed the River Leven two old guys also said hello. Our first port of call was the Tailrace Inn, home to good ales and microwaved food. We were served what has to be the fastest pudding ever (no, not scone), the apple pie arriving just 60 seconds after ordering!
We decided to seek out a new pub, and moved on to the Antler Bar, a place of curious charm. Clearly not having been decorated since the 1960s save for the disco spotlights in the ceiling, it was certainly a place of character (and characters). We were made to feel very welcome by the locals, and entertainment was provided by the resident cat which attacked an English tourist who’d been aggravating it, and was then sat on by a young lad playing pool. Who got the bigger fright was difficult to tell.
That was enough excitement for one day however, so we headed back to the cabins, although we did pop back into the Macdonald Hotel’s bar for a nightcap, all the time being watched by the most depressed fat goths you’ve ever seen.