This morning we headed up to the main Bridge of Orchy Hotel from the bunkhouse in good spirits for our breakfast. We were well over halfway now, and I was pleased to see the rash on my legs improving after a couple of applications of hydrocortisone cream. After breakfast we picked up our packed lunches from the bar – sandwiches and pasta salads – and set off up the hill into the forest. It was slightly overcast, and a break from the blazing sun was certainly welcome.
I had never done this section of the West Highland Way before. Last year we had to stop at Bridge of Orchy because my legs were so painful, and in 2004 we were behind schedule and had to take a bus up to the Kings House Hotel.
Although it was overcast, walking through the forest it was really muggy. When we came back out into the open. The path here passes over the wide, flat bealach between Màm Carraigh and Ben Inverveigh, high above Loch Tulla.
The views from up here looking down to the Inveroran Hotel at the end of Loch Tulla and towards the hills beyond were fantastic, even with the haze taking the edge off things.
As we got up to carry on walking, it started to rain. Not too heavy, but heavy enough for the jackets to come out for the first time. This section continues along the road for a short while as it crosses the Abhainn Shira before joining the old drove road over the Black Mount.
The rain didn’t last for long, so the jackets soon came off again, much to the relief of everyone as it was so muggy. The old drove road was tough to walk on, the hard-packed surface very unforgiving on the feet as it stretched out ahead of us.
So we were soon ready for a rest and a bit of lunch. There was a problem however. There seemed to be a lot of midges about. The conditions were ideal – it was warm and damp, and we were crossing the boggiest part of the West Highland Way.
I do quite a lot of walking, and I’ve seen quite a lot of midges, but nothing had prepared me for this! As soon as we stopped, swarms descended on us. We had plenty of repellent on and they didn’t seem to be biting too much, but the sheer numbers of them crawling all over us was so annoying we carried on further to find a more suitable spot. Which we thought we’d found about 20 minutes later.
A few rocks by the side of the track on a raised knoll looked an ideal picnic spot, so we took off our bags and opened the pasta salads. And were swarmed once again! Behind the knoll was Lochan Mhic Pheadair Ruaidhe, a veritable breeding ground for midges! Gail really didn’t like the midges and had had enough by this point, storming off towards the horizon with Gregor trailing in her wake.
Me and Mark decided to persevere with the pasta salads, our arms a seething black mass of midges. We decided to eat and walk in an attempt to get away from some of the airborne pests. Mark and I hung back to take photos, never standing still for too long, and doing a lot of swatting of vicious insects as we walked towards Meall a’ Bhuiridh in the distance.
The path crosses the River Bà, which was little more than a trickle after all the hot weather recently.
We could barely see Gregor and Gail by this point such was the speed that Gail had set off at! We continued on, stopping from time to time to take more photos. The midges were annoying but they weren’t going to spoil our enjoyment of this beautiful but remote area. Eventually we caught up with them, just before we rounded Gualann Liath Ghiubhais and got our first glimpse of the impressive Buachaille Etive Mór.
As we started to descend towards the main road, we realised that the midges had all but disappeared. We stopped for a late lunch (it was about 4 o’clock by now) on the bridge over Allt Molach, but we were only a couple of miles from our destination for tonight, the Kings House Hotel. We’d walked more quickly today than any other day so far – midges proving much better than me at getting everyone to walk fast!
Enjoying the novelty of arriving so early (relatively) we all went for showers and met up in the bar for a few ales before tea.