The West Highland Way – Part 4

The West Highland Way – Stage 6: Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse – 12.2 miles/19.6km

Day 6 and it was a beautiful morning as we stirred ready to leave the wooden cabin that we had been staying in by the riverside in the grounds of the Bridge of Orchy hotel. We had a perfect view of the bridge and the river which ran out of Loch Tulla from our cabin bed. I was eager for today’s stretch as we would be heading up past the lovely Loch Tulla and onto the wild and desolate Rannoch Moor.

Rannoch Moor is one of the most atmospheric, wild and beautiful places you can ever visit and we would spend most of the day trekking across it until we’d reach Glencoe the other most atmospheric, wild and beautiful place I know in Scotland.

This section of the trek is considered by many to be their favourite part and it was proving so for us. At first we climbed up from the bridge down at Orchy until we were eventually rewarded with magnificent views from a height looking down to Loch Tulla and across to Ian Fleming’s Scottish hideaway on the loch shore. Leaving the small settlement of Inveroran we gradually moved up towards the moor and joined the start of the military road across the Moor.

Rannoch Moor a wonderful, lonely and exposed place that was once covered by a giant icecap but is today covered in a bog. A mystical place of unimaginable beauty when the weather is benign, but a god awful place if the weather gods deem it so. There is no shelter and in bad weather, it can be incredibly exposed.

The gods must have been pleased with us as we were treated to the best weather one could hope for. In fact I had to roll up my trekking trousers in true british fashion as I melted from the inside out in the unseasonal heat as we walked mile after mile across the immense landscape.

Eventually and after a wee lunch break with feet now aching we started to descend into Glencoe. If you think Rannoch Moor is spectacular wait until you come across Glencoe!

One of the most haunting, immense, dramatic and otherworldly places imaginable. A place still tinged with melancholy dating way back to the massacre of the Clan MacDonald in February 1692 when the MacDonalds of Glencoe were killed by Scottish government forces, allegedly for failing to pledge allegiance to the new monarchs.

The brooding valley feels like it is still mourning its dead.

When entering the glen there is one mountain above all others that draws everyone’s undivided attention ….. Buachaille Etive Mor! Possibly the most photographed mountain in all of Scotland. I’ve seen it many a time but it never fails to impress.

Although we could see the famous Kingshouse Hotel some distance away down in the glen it appeared to take an eternity to reach it. But the mountain scenery was off the scale, so we didn’t mind too much although our feet were throbbing.

The original 17th century hotel at Kingshouse has now been replaced with a refurbished hotel, which provides unrivalled views of Buachaille Etive Mor and the surrounding mountains. We were looking forward to staying in such a grand place for the night. We would need all the rest we could muster because in the morning we would be tackling what many believe to be the crux of the route …’The Devil’s Staircase!’

Read more about our trip to ‘Bonnie Scotland’ in Part 5 of The West Highland coming soon ………


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