Day 6: West Highland Way(Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse)

…or The Day of the Moors….

I knew I was going to have mixed feelings about this day.  The 13-mile trek from Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse crosses Rannoch Moor.  It one of the highest rises on the journey and one of the bleakest spots.  Once you start the crossing at Black Mount, it is a straight 10-mile walk without civilization or shelter, and today the clouds were sitting low and the weather was looking iffy.  My mind went back to the day Carla and I crossed the North Yorkshire Moors in 2009 in pouring rain, thunder and lightening.  The journey had been very wet, tiring, long and a bit scary. So today I was feeling a little anxious.  But I also love the Moors because of their seclusion, openess, and wildness.  It would have been a real loss to the walk to miss them, and yet a taxi ride to the next stop was looking very tempting.  I kept fretting and checking the weather forecast.  I needed more information.

The odd thing about this trip has been the absence of Scots in service positions.  All our waiters, receptionists, or cashiers have all been Eastern European, often Polish.  Just three years ago in the Lake District, I would talk to a local and get a feel for the walk and weather conditions.  It was no different here and asking for help seemed a waste of time, but fortunately the South African receptionist knew the path and conditions, and I left feeling better and more prepared for the day.

The walk started with a quite simple hike of a few miles to Inveroran where we stopped for a brief cup of tea in virtually the only place there, the Inveroran Hotel.  After this the road takes you out to a conifer plantation and the start of the moors.  The weather held, and the cloud level rose.  The track was wide and dry and it was a straight easy path through the moors with enough visibility to enjoy the scenery.

On Rannoch Moor

The climb up was gentle, and it was only once we reached the 1490ft summit that the temperature dropped quite a bit, and the wind picked up.  The descent too was mostly gentle, and after just a couple of miles, we saw our next destination, the Kingshouse Hotel, in the far distance.  What a welcome sight that was!  Especially, as the wind and rain was starting to pick up.  Once we had climbed over the crest, the wind was in our faces and stinging our cheeks.  But the descent was reasonable and the Hotel rarely left our sight, egging us on.

The Kingshouse Hotel beckoning us from a distance

I liked the Kingshouse Hotel.  At 87 pounds night (and the only Inn not to include breakfast) it was expensive.  It was a bit shabby, and had a serious insulation problem.  The room was drafty and the bathroom was in serious need of repair.  But it was full of history and had stood at the edge of the moor for centuries for weary travelers like us.  The lounge had a coal fire and the views from the windows on all sides were spectacular.  We were literally in the middle of nowhere.  We had arrived in enough time to enjoy the sofas, catch up on emails and rest up a bit.

View from the stairwell

View from our bedroom window

Day 5: West Highland Way(Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy)

We had a leisurely start to this leg of the trail.  Its only about 5 miles, or about 2.5 hrs of travel.  It could be tagged onto the previous day, but we would have made it another long, exhausting trip, and it was time to take a much needed break.  The internet at the unspectacularTyndrum Lodge was suddenly working, and we took advantage for the first couple of hours, catching up on email and adjusting travel plans.  With such a short trail, we needed a late start so that we didn’t arrive at the next hotel too early.  So we headed out at around10.30am, just as the sky was starting to brighten a little.

The walk was easy on wide trails, taking us around the foothills and following the road and railway line for quite a while.  It was pretty, open country with more sheep than I’ve seen on this whole trip so far.

I particularly liked this spot by the river, sitting on a rock, taking a little break.

It was good to have enough time to really enjoy the view without worrying how many miles we still have to cover or how the weather would turn.

Arrival at The Bridge of Orchy was just a simple descent down into the hamlet.  There’s a station, a few houses, a post office, a church and a hotel.

The Bridge of Orchy Hotel was charming and comfortable.  A big contrast to the Bates Hotel from earlier the same morning, with a nice bathroom, a good restaurant and lots of nice little touches.  Of course, it was also twice the price.  But this was a reward hotel after staying in some cheaper places.  We had a nice dinner in the restaurant and an early night as the next day was going to be more taxing.