The Wild-West Highland Way #6

Saturday 3rd May
Kingshouse to Kinlochleven – 9 Miles

The sun was streaming through the windows this morning when we woke up. I made my way into the conservatory that is part of the breakfast area, and marvelled at the view. The tops of the mountains had mist streaming off them like spindrift, almost emulating Everest. I was almost uncomfortable by the window in the heat of the Sun, but I wanted to sit here and just stare at the panorama. Shortly I was joined by Colin, and we were fed a very good breakfast, including a bit of haggis, by Eileen.

After eating, we spent a few minutes chatting to five female guests. They showed interest in the walk we were doing, so I said I would send them a copy of the diary when I had finished writing it. I’m always the same, and got so involved in the conversation that I forgot the time. Colin nudged me and said “Come on bruv’, we’ve got a bus to catch,” and, turning to the others he ‘tutted’ and said; “I don’t know – he faffs about like a woman!” We said our goodbyes, and thanked Eileen for her great hospitality, and set off to catch the bus back to Kingshouse. Instead of walking right down the road again, we crossed a field and walked down the main A82, which was much quicker. If only we’d have known this last night!

The trip back up Glencoe was indescribable. I just didn’t want the journey to end. All this crammed into one special place. It really does have to be seen to be believed. You could fire off a roll of film just on the bus trip back to White Corries. All too soon we reached the stop we needed. We alighted and walked the short distance to the hotel to meet up with Erik and Malc’. We were surprised by the coolness of the breeze as we walked up to the hotel. While we were waiting, Colin did his good deed early by giving some of his sun block to a redskin we met. Obviously the good weather was catching people out, but fancy coming to a mountainous area in spring, with no sun protection!

Presently, Malc’ and Erik arrived and they had put my camera to good use, getting several shots of the deer that morning. We passed behind the hotel and followed the tarmac road back towards Glencoe and the start of the Devil’s Staircase. Just before we got to the start, we noticed a humorous sign at the side of the road. There was a ruined cottage, Altnafeadh, with a sign saying ‘parking for residents only’ outside. We climbed the stile on our right, and began the climb with the fearsome name.

Malc’ and Erik watched as we dragged our poor bodies up the incline, heavily laden with our sacks, and pity got the best of them and Erik asked if we would like to swap loads for part of the climb. We really thought they were serious at one point! I declined with an heroic wave of my hand: “We’re made of sterner stuff, we’ve carried them this far, eh Bruv….?” As I turned to seek agreement from ‘Mr Ruffty-tuffty’, I saw to my horror that he was swapping sacks with Erik. I took a photo so he could never live it down, turned, grunted and pushed on.

Actually, the climb isn’t all that fearsome and we soon reached the top. By now the weather was perfect and we could see the (again) most spectacular panorama of mountains ahead. The Mamore range figured largely, but there was the “unmistakable hunch of Ben Nevis”. Where?

Not wishing to seem thick, I said “There’s the Ben then,”

“Where” said Malc’.
We all admitted we couldn’t make out which “unmistakable” hunch was the right one. Luckily a chap appeared with a map with a topographic top and we just held it up against the view and all said “oh, THAT unmistakable hunch!!”

We spent a good while taking pictures and generally enjoying our situation before setting off on the downward slope to Kinlochleven, which we could see in the valley. On the way down, we noticed the sound of motorbikes. There was some long-standing competition going on, a motorbike trials up the hillside, and we could see the riders making their way up the side of the huge pipes which come down the hillside from the Blackwater Reservoir to the aluminium works at Kinlochleven.

The path down is rocky and treacherous with a large sack on, but by far the most stunning views are to be had here. Every mountain top is now clear of cloud, even The Ben, and each way you turn it takes your breath away and again I think of the people that have passed this way in bad weather and missed all of this loveliness. Today it was just perfect. A lovely stiff, cool breeze, strong sunshine and air so clean it should be bottled and sold. It really did feel great to be alive. I realised now that, even though tomorrow’s weather forecast was for rain, I didn’t care. Nothing could now spoil the experiences we were having today, and had had over the last few days. I could see down Glen Nevis, I could see the Ben, and I was determined that nothing would stop me from going up it.

We carried on down the long, winding track, with me lagging behind. I kept stopping to take photos, but I was also enjoying the solitude of walking alone for the moment. It made me very contemplative and reflective on how good everything had been, and still was. Weather I couldn’t have ordered, companionship in the form of all the people that we had met over the walk, and my own brother, who might as well be my best friend. He’d been super company. I couldn’t pick fault with anything he’d done over the days. Not even a cross word had passed between us. We’ve had laughter, we’ve walked quietly when we wanted to, and we’ve had the fun of the two stooges as well! That just really put the icing on the cake. I really hope to walk again with Malc’ and Erik. I don’t know if we will, but I would like to.

We stopped for lunch about halfway down. We got the binoculars out and surveyed all the surrounding mountains and also watched the trials going on. Malc’ and Erik decided they would like to see more so, a little later on, we parted company and they set off towards one of the stages and we carried on towards Kinlochleven.

When we reached Kinlochleven, we were very early so we popped in to the Tailrace Inn (named after the water out fall from the Aluminium works) for a quick pint, and went across to the weather bulletin board. I wished I hadn’t! The forecast for tomorrow was for heavy rain – all day! To tell the truth, I really wasn’t bothered, as the trip so far had been so brilliant that I felt completely fulfilled. We made our way up to ‘Edencoille’ guesthouse, where we were to stay that night, and were pleasantly surprised. A nice room, with colour telly, a little sink and tea and coffee making facilities.

At about six o’clock, we went downstairs with the intention of going out to buy a bottle of wine, as we had been invited out to dinner with Ian and Anne, friends of Colin. The trouble was, we got talking to Mr and Mrs Robertson, who run ‘Edencoille’, and found them full of information about the local area, history and where to walk. They also told us that the Aluminium works, which seemed to be the life and soul of the village, was to close in about three years. Colin and I had likened the village to a pit village, and soon tourism would be all that was left for Kinlochleven.

Before we knew it, Ian turned up and we were whisked away to his caravan, which was pleasingly parked by a Loch. On the way out, we saw Heath, Bart, Malc’ and Erik. I hung out of Ian’s Jeep window and shouted some good-natured abuse to them. The look on their face as we were chauffeured past was a picture. We arrived to meet a busy Anne, creating some wonderful smells, and awaited the feast. Unfortunately, the weather took a turn for the worse and it chucked it down for about half an hour! However, it didn’t dampen our appetites, and we devoured the spaghetti bolognese that Anne prepared for us. I hadn’t had any pasta since the beginning of the trip, so it was a real treat for me. We all had seconds of sweet as well, but we put that down to all the weight we must have lost walking!

After the meal, Ian kindly took us back to Kinlochleven via the opposite side of the loch so we could see the different aspect. We did a short recce of the local pubs to try and see if we could meet up with any of our fellow travellers, but found none at all, which was very disappointing. We made our way back to ‘Edencoille’ and turned in to dream of Ben Nevis and the end of the walk.