Day 7: West Highland Way(Kingshouse to Kinlochleven)

Setting out from Kingshouse in the morning

This was to be our second shortest day: only 8.5 miles.  Its known for the steep climb called the Devil’s Staircase, which takes you up and over the ridge between Kingshouse and Kinlochleven, across a mountain saddle with expansive views, and down around the valley to Kinlochleven town.

Again, we delayed our departure from the hotel for a while to avoid arriving to early at our Kinlochleven hotel.  The weather report was very good (for Scotland) offering light cloud cover all day with a promise or two of sun later in the day.  Despite this, it is difficult not to pack the rain gear away as you quickly learn what a difference it makes to the journey if its there when you need it.

We left around 10am, and headed up the U-shaped valley that had been partially obscured by clouds on our arrival yesterday.  We also got a much better view of the pyramid shaped Buachaille Etive Mor, which had been visible from almost every window during our stay.  The path to the Devil’s Staircase is easy across fairly open moorland, and is over quite quickly.  Before tackling the climb, we took a few minutes to rest and take in the moors across the way.

Taking a break and looking at the view across the valley before climbing The Devils

Climbing the Devil’s Staircase is easier than it sounds, although no breeze.  I puffed and panted plenty and took lots of rests, but I could tell my lungs were in better shape than just a few days before on Conic Hill.  The ascent took about an hour.  At the top the descent starts almost immediately, but slowly, across a particularly pretty saddle which offers views of mountains and moors on both sides.  I really liked the stepping stones across the streams.

In the far distance, in what looked like just around the next mountain, you could see a small corner of Kinlochleven town.  It seemed like a fairly simple journey now, slowly down the mountain and around the next foothill into the town.  We were wrong.  It was still another 2hrs of descent, broken only occasionally by some more climbing.  We descended, and then descended some more.  There was a particularly long portion of very steep descent that seemed to go on for ever, which gets progressively harder on your legs by the minute. I waddled into Kinlochleven really desperate from some tea and break.

Getting a closer look at six huge water pipes that carried the water from the loch to the old smelting factory

We killed an hour in the local pub, drinking tea and waiting for the clock to roll around so we could arrive at our next B&B, Edencoille.  It was a 4-star accommodation with bathrobes, heated towel racks and a reputation for excellent food.  Probably the nicest B&B we stayed in during the walk.

For the last part of the journey you just follow the water pipes down (and down) into the town

We had dinner in Kinlochleven that evening.  The guide book had dissed the village for being an eyeshore “the ugliest on two thousand miles of Highland coast” and pointed out the now closed aluminum smelting works that had provided work for the town.  It wasn’t ugly at all, and quite charming actually.  Sure, all the houses had been built by the factory and all looked the same, but they were freshly painted with hanging flower baskets and people took care of them.  I could show the author a great deal more ugliness than that.

Tough, short day.  One more to go tomorrow…..

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