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.
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.
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.