Our Final Days

West Highland Way-Scotland

Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse

Part III

Day 6, 7 and 8

A beautiful day for walking and a route said not to be too harsh providing the weather is good, so we are off to explore. The night before we enjoyed our stay at the Bridge of Orchy. Hotel. Rested and eager to discover new surroundings. This route promises to offer up viewpoints and Lochs of interest such as the Loch Tulla which is the first one along the way which we followed for approximately an hour. This section of our walk from the Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse is an untamed and remote area which still offers a pure and vast wildernesses and one of the last in Europe.

While relaxing after dinner, at The Bridge of Orchy Hotel, we had a pleasant conversation with a very charming young lady from Germany whose name was Helga. I did not attempt to speak in German with her as my knowledge of her language was very basic, and she spoke in perfect English. She said that she was also walking the West Highland Way, so we shared the progress we had made to this point.

After we enjoyed breakfast, the following morning, Brian and Chris shot off at their usual gallop. Simon caught a bus to our destination at Kingshouse, and I proceeded at my usual amble or crawled alone…dawdling as Simon put it!

The path crossed over the River Orchy and then started a steady climb up to Inveroran two (2) miles away. I had just stopped for a breather by the Inveroran Hotel when lo and behold who should be coming along but the German woman, from the night before that we had met…Helga. Well, who was the lucky one now? Two is company and three is a crowd and this time I had company! I felt as if I were a schoolboy again enjoying the conversation of a lovely woman. It was unfortunate that her finance was unable to join us.

Photograph Source: Rannoch Moor

Chris Combe from York, UK [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

We decided that since we were both walking alone and were about to reach the very isolated area of Rannoch  Moor, it would be a good idea to continue the rest of the walk to Kingshouse, together. Soon, we arrived at Victoria Bridge to enjoy its exceptional view of the river. This was an ideal place to stop and have a sandwich from our packed lunch provided by the hotel. On entering Rannoch  Moor, we were rewarded with great views of Black Mount and Loch Tulla. The track was part of the Old Military Road, meaning we could maintain a good pace which is unusual for me. But, I could not let myself down by falling behind Helga, who was a faster walker.

Photograph Source:

Johnny Durnan / Loch Tulla from carpark/picnic area GR308449.

Loch Tulla

This is a small loch near the Bridge of Orchy and Glen Coe located in Scotland and in the central highlands. Salmon are the fish to be found in these waters, some of which are bred locally. It lies north-east of the Inveroran Hotel, a popular West Highland Way stop  off point close to the Bridge of Orchy, where we stayed the night before we began this route.

After our lunch, we next arrived at the bridge over the River Ba with even more awe-inspiring scenery. We passed the nearby Ski Centre in Glen Coe, to arrive at our destination, the Kingshouse Hotel, in perfect time much to the surprise of the others and to my delight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photography Source: Kim Traynor CC BY-SA 3.0 

(https:creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

In the morning, after an early breakfast, the four of us set off for our next destination, Kinlochleven. Simon could not resist the temptation to join us as he was intrigued by the idea of ascending the Devil’s Staircase. The summit of which was the highest point in the entire walk.

For the first part of the journey, we headed along the old military road to Altnafeadh towards Glencoe, the scene of an infamous massacre.

An interesting tidbit of history but a fascinating area. The Massacre of Glencoe 13 February 1692 following the Jacobite uprising of 1689-92. An estimated 30 members and associates of Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were killed by government forces billeted with them, on the grounds they had not been prompt in pledging allegiance to the new monarch.

 

The Massacre at Glencoe

I wanted to share this remarkable history with you about a famous battle that knowing about could change how you feel when in the area. History has always appealed to me, and why when I know it, I can see the places I visited so differently or imagine what it must have been like. Being close to where the massacre took place, it seems appropriate to share a bit of history with you.

First, for those that do not know, a glen in Scotland is a Scottish term meaning a deep narrow valley in the highlands which is U shaped. That area is formed from an ice age glacier about 7.8 miles long and the bottom or floor being less than 0.43 miles wide and narrows abruptly at the Pass of Glen Coe. So, looking at the photograph, perhaps you can imagine the massacre that happened there. 

This is an overview of Glen Coe’s beauty to the right and below shows just how steep and rocky it is.

 

GLEN COE MASSACRE

It was February 13, 1692, in the Scottish history of the treacherous slaughter of every Glen Coe MacDonald clan member was ordered by Archibald Campbell, 10th earl of Argyll to be carried out by his soldiers. After reading about the massacre in detail, my knowledge of such a hideous crime was refreshed and saddened me to reread history so distasteful. So, I will try to share it with you in a way that summarizes it. However, I encourage every person to read and then realize how lucky we are to now live in countries where an opinion can be expressed. Or if you chose not to pledge allegiance to a particular leader, you will not be in fear of reprisal and hopefully not be slaughtered. All for the reasoning that they had not been prompt in pledging allegiance to the new monarchs, William III of England and II of Scotland and Mary II.

This was a senseless loss of lives which are still differing in detail  depending on which article you read. However, it appears to agree that over 800 soldiers led by two different heads (400) in each troop, were ordered to carry out a secret mission to kill and burn down every MacDonald clan member for not pledging their support. No questions asked. The soldiers were to remove livestock and burn down barns, burn down every house no matter who was inside them killing anyone they saw. 

The history is recorded as:

On February 12, 1692, Lieutenant Colonel John Hill issued orders instructing Lt. Colonel Hamilton to take 400 men and block the northern exits from Glencoe at Kinlochleven, which is a village located in Lochaber, in the Scottish Highlands and lies at the eastern end of Loch Leven (s a sea loch situated on the west coast of Scotland. Orders for another 400 men from Argyll’s Regiment under Major Duncanson would join Glenlyon’s detachment in the south and sweep northwards up the glen, killing anyone they found, removing property and burning houses. FYI: Colonel Robert Duncanson was a professional soldier from Inverary in Argyll now best remembered for his involvement in the Glencoe massacre. (Wikipedia) Records show it that 38 were killed though the MacDonald’s report 25 deaths. Records also show that a written command from Duncanson to the officers read: See that this be putt in execution without feud or favor, else you may expect to be dealt with as one not true to King nor Government, nor a man fitt to carry Commissione in the Kings service.

I hope you enjoyed reading a bit of history that took place very close to where my walk was located. Feeling the anguish of knowing how power can get out of control is such a hopeless emotion. But, now to move on to my destination!

From Altnafeadh we started the long climb up The Devil’s Staircase which is marked by a cairn at the top. This was a very suitable spot for a well earned rest and a chance to admire the view of Buachaille Etive Mor, a famous Munro. Some people’s rest is longer than others but you know by now how I dawdle so Brian and Chris soon headed off leaving Simon and myself behind. As you can see, this was no easy set of stairs! I truly must advise you here is where your hiking boots are everything for -your transportation to the top so be sure you have them for this journey.

Devil’s Staircase, is quite tough hiking and with it is a 5 mile descent some of which is tricky. The name Devil’s Staircase certainly earned its name originally by the soldiers who were part of the road building program of General Wade and likely agreed of its name by every walker or bicyclist that has ever climbed it. I read that the soldiers disliked this trail of stairs after hauling building materials up that stretch of the road-not a well spoken about job! But the workers from the Blackwater Dam who chose to visit the local pub at the Kingshouse Hotel also echoed the same regard for the Devil’s Staircase! I was amused but felt sorry for the workers when I read some did not make it back up the staircase after indulging too much at the pub especially in the cold winters night.

Now, I hear that the states have a Devil’s Staircase in Colorado, Wyoming and several other states so I do plan to visit one of them in the future. I wonder what they will be like but the one in Wyoming I have heard is at the top of the Tetons which is 9,711 foot elevation while the one in Scotland is much lower. It should be a piece of cake! (In my dreams) Kidding aside, be sure to sit still long enough to take in the most spectacular views of the view of Rannoch Moor and Buachaille Etive Mor behind you.

The next part was a descent onto moorland. That was the good news. The bad news was that it started to rain quite heavily just as we were looking for a place to eat our sandwiches. As luck would have it, about a mile down the track, we  came across an abandoned cottage which provided us with shelter. But, it rained for most of the way into Kinlochleven so there was no further stopping to admire the view, although we finally did have the sense to put on our waterproof clothing! Kinlochleven is a village located in Lochaber, in the Scottish Highlands and lies at the eastern end of Loch Leven. To the north lie the Mamores ridge; to the south lie the mountains flanking Glen Coe. Wikipedia

We met up with Brian and Chris at a pub called The Tailrace Inn where we had a delightful pub meal and a few drinks while waiting for the rain to stop. The sensible thing to do, then off to our lodgings and then to bed. What a day and we certainly earned our right to a good nights sleep.

The Tailrace Inn is a 6 bedroom inn set in Kinlochleven which nestles at the head of Loch Leven, regarded as one of Scotland’s prettiest lochs. The village of Kinlochleven is surrounded by stunning Mamore Mountain range and scenery and boasts an abundance of beautiful walks. The West Highland Way passes through Kinlochleven and ushers out directly opposite the tailrace inn in the centre of the village. Courtesy of: https://thetailraceinn.co.uk The Tailrace Inn’s website.

The last day and the longest was Day 8. When Simon saw the distance he decided this was definitely going to be a rest day. Chris decided that he would accompany me all the way and Brian, who was remarkably fit, wanted to finish first. That was certainly okay with me and I enjoyed the idea of Chris’s company.

After breakfast, we set off by crossing over to the north bank of the River Leven followed by a steep climb. I was hoping it was not going to be like this all the way. We were however rewarded with a great view of the village Kinlochleven below and Loch Leven. The Leven catchment has been much- modified to serve the Aluminium industry that was once the economic heart of this area. The river flows out of the Blackwater Reservoir, a man-made waterbody constructed in the 1900’s to provide hydroelectric energy to the Aluminum smelters. The hydro scheme is still in use today, although the smelters closed in 2000. The outflow of the hydro is in the village of Kinlochleven, rejoining the river just before it flows into Loch Leven. Information Source:

http://www.lochaberfish.org.uk/river-leven-coe-information.asp

Chris then told me that the rest of the walk was relatively flat. I wish he had told me that before the start of the climb, but he is a natural joker like my son. You will see however that later, I had the last laugh! The way now opened out onto Lairigmor which was fairly easy going and known as The Great Pass which runs between the mountains. It then veered off to north east along the right side of a small dry valley. Chris’s young dog which was not fully trained and was not on a leash, became excited when she saw some sheep on the other side of the valley. For some unknown reason and best left known to only herself, she decided it would be fun to chase them.

She shot off across to the other side of the valley  having a head start on Chris. What happened next was like watching a comedy on television. The dog chases the sheep which of course scatter; Chris chases dog, but cannot see where it is going, because she is at the bottom of the valley while I am directing him which way to go and trying not to laugh my  head off.

Eventually Chris came back with his dog, looking pretty knackered. So who had the last laugh then ? On a more serious note, I found out later, that if a farmer finds that a dog has been bothering  his sheep he has the right to shoot it. We were lucky there was no farmer around. Needless to say the dog stayed on the leash for the rest of the walk. I forgot to tell you at the beginning that this sweet innocent dog had proven her trustworthiness when she wanting to do something for herself. So, at the very start of our walk she showed us how headstrong she would be. That silly dog jumped into what must have looked like a cool place but it was a water spot full of mud and she began to sink. Chris pulled her out but then threw her into a stream to wash away the mud she was covered in!

After our near disaster the rest of the walk was relatively uneventful. We made our way through a forested area and arrived in Glen Nevis where we followed the main road alongside the left bank of the River Nevis. Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in a Britain challenged us to climb it but it was one challenge too far.

Photograph Source: Thincat [Public domain]

The popular mountain attracts an estimated 100,000 ascents a year around three-quarters of which use the Pony Track from Glen Nevis.[3] The 700-metre (2,300 ft) cliffs of the north face are among the highest in Scotland, providing classic scrambles and rock climbs of all difficulties for climbers and mountaineers. They are also the principal locations in Scotland for ice climbing.

As the highest point in Great Britain, and the highest of the Munros (Scottish mountains over 3,000 ft), Ben Nevis is a hugely popular hill to climb. It is 1,344 metres (4,409 ft) above sea level, and the start of the walk really begins right by the sea so you’ll walk every foot of those 4,409. Wikitravel

River Nevis Photograph Source: Toby Thurston [Public domain]

The river flows through Glen Nevis and on to the town of Fort William[

Simon texted us and said he would like to finish the last few miles with us so we met him at the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre. Finally after walking 96 miles we reached our destination in Fort William where we sat down on a seat next to a bronze statue of a fellow walker. Exhausted, but mission accomplished!

Fort William is a major tourist centre, (Ben Nevis) with Glen Coe just to the south, Ben Nevis and Aonach Mòr to the east and Glenfinnan to the west, on the Road to the Isles. It is a centre for hillwalking and climbing due to its proximity to Ben Nevis and many other Munro mountains. It is also known for its nearby downhill mountain bike track. It is the start/end of both the West Highland Way (Milngavie—Fort William) and the Great Glen Way (a walk/cycle way Fort William–Inverness).

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_William,_Highland

 

If there is anything you want to suggest as a topic, for my blog, then please share those ideas with me, by E-mailing them to: C.Ambrose.MamieAuthors@gmail.com  

Until We Meet Again!,

Chris

Chris Ambrose, Author 

70 is the new 50`

My Boots Are Made For Walkin

No matter what Life throws at you, 

it’s where Giving Up, is Never an Option!

 

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