|Day 59 – June 7||Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochlevan|
|Weather: Cloudy with showers||B&B: Failte B&B (£35)|
|Departed: 8:25 Arrived: 16:20||Walked: 7h 07m Rested: 0 hr 55m|
|Distance Today: 21.5 mi / 34.60 km||Total Distance: 945.4 mi / 1521.47 km|
|% Complete: ~ 81.71%||Pint of the Day: Raven Ale|
|GPS Track for: Day 59|
Today was a challenging 21.5 mile walk that included rain showers, the Devil’s Staircase and the arrival of the dreaded West Highland Midge!
For the past few days I’ve been hearing walkers mention the midges but I hadn’t seen a single one. That all changed today and in dramatic fashion when I ventured into the bunkhouse bog early this morning. I’d never seen a West Highland Midge before but within seconds I never wanted to see another. In Canada we’d call these No-see-ums and I do remember them from camping experiences I had in Ontario as a kid. There were clouds of these little blood-suckers and in the time it took me to answer the call of nature I had a dozen bites on my arms. I bid a hasty retreat to my room which was thankfully midge-free.
The hotel started serving breakfast at 7:30am and I was there when the doors opened. The continental breakfast was very good but not cheap at £7. It was going to be a long day so I loaded up on porridge, fresh fruit salad, toast, croissants, juice, coffee and an apple for later. The hotel was selling several midge repellents including Avon “Skin So Soft” which some people claim works while others, including those I asked, said it didn’t. I opted for a herbal spray called “Myrtle Bog” that was mixed with Rosemary and several other herbs. It smelled alright but I couldn’t help but think that I just spent £5 on a tiny bottle of something I spent two weeks plodding through on the Pennine Way.
I was on my way before 8:30 and began with the obligatory early morning climb. It turns out the best defense against the midge (other than sun and wind … of which I had neither) is to keep moving and this is what I did for most of the day. Once on top of the ridge behind the hotel I descended into a beautiful glen and emerged onto a quiet road near the Inveroran Hotel. It looked like a great little hotel situated in a stunning location … I wish I had looked into this as an alternative to Bridge of Orchy.
I followed the road until I crossed Victoria Bridge which spans a river that flows into Loch Tulla. I passed another hotel, “Forest Lodge”, but it appeared to have been abandoned. Here I picked up an old drove road that I would follow for several miles before rejoining General Wade’s military road. These old roads cross the massive Rannoch Moor and offer great views of some impressive Highland peaks. The skies brightened a bit after a brief rain shower and the situation appeared to be improving until I rounded the shoulder of Meall a’ Bhuiridh and looked up Glen Coe to see more menacing clouds on the horizon.
I passed the Glencoe Ski resort on my way down to join a minor road that crossed the A82. It was then a short walk to the Kingshouse Hotel where I took a brief midge-free break in the Climbers Bar. The walls were adorned with climbing photos and paraphernalia and a glass case held rock specimens from peaks around the world. It also included a massive jar of dead midges caught by something called the “Midge Muncher”. After my pint I set out on the military road once again, heading up Glen Coe towards the foot of the Devil’s Staircase. A local walker who I’ve met several times in the last couple of days told me its not as bad as it looks but beware the descent into Kinlochlevan (and he’s done it 20 to 30 times so he should know).Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t an easy climb but the old gent was right and I tackled it in one go (although I do admit to stopping to take this photo). I hadn’t really realized how fit I was until I started the West Highland Way. Part of this realization came by comparing my pace with other walkers and part of it is the realization that I can walk 15 miles, drink a pint and then walk straight up a hill that would have done me in on week 1 in Cornwall.
The view from the top was magnificent in all directions. There was a lot of cloud around but fortunately most of it was high and didn’t ruin the views. The descent from 550 meters to sea level was 5 miles in length and was hell on my knees. As the local walker said the climb down would be far more difficult than the journey up. About half an hour out of Kinlochlevan the heavens opened up and I was forced to quickly get into my waterproofs. With the shower raging I made my way down past the massive black pipes constructed to carry water from the Blackwater Reservoir down to the Aluminum plant in Kinlochlevan. The plant closed in 1975 and so the water flows out of the pipes and into a river that feeds the saltwater fjord called Loch Levan. The last time I was near saltwater was in Clovelly almost two months ago.
I’m staying in a great little b&b tonight and am looking forward to getting a good’s night sleep after two not so good sleeps. I have amazing views of a hill which I believe to be Meall an Doire Dharaich (just don’t ask me to pronounce it). Tomorrow I’m off to Fort William where I’ll have a two day break before tackling the Great Glen Way.