Monday 13th August 2018
[A walk done in 2018 and written up during lockdown 2020]
I had a quick breakfast in the hostel with a cereal and yogurt pot and a breakfast bar that I had bought yesterday, then set off just before 8 a.m. for the long day ahead. There was low cloud as I left so I wore a coat, but put it away again quite soon.
It was good walking along an old road/farm track running along the valley with the main road and railway following the same route. There was one point when you go over the shoulder of a hill and you can see road signs showing that you are leaving Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, and entering Argyll and Bute – it just felt different somehow. Apparently, you cross the watershed here, as I will several times today, and entered a different valley. It felt good, feeling the landscape.
A bit of light rain and drizzle came on as I headed into Bridge of Orchy. I debated going into the hotel for coffee, or boycotting it after the dreadful and hideously expensive experience in their bunkhouse 20+ years ago. I decided a good rest would refresh me and set me up for the next stage. Quite a few people that I have met this journey were already there. I was really glad of the rest, toilet and the coffee and delicious scone! (they no longer have a bunkhouse, btw!)
The way then heads away from the road, initially through forest and over a hill with a great view of Loch Tulla. I think it was on this stretch that there was a single male walker ahead or behind me. I kept slowing down to let him overtake as I wanted to enjoy the landscape and wilderness alone, but he kept slowing down too. I realised after that he was probably doing the same and trying to let me get ahead.
The Way heads downhill to Inveroran where the Inn looked very nice, but closed and far too early for lunch anyway! You then follow the road up to a car park at Victoria Bridge, then soon you are on the old drove road – or Telford’s Parliamentary Road, according to the information panel.
I had decided I would have lot of breaks today to keep me going for the 17-18 miles, so I stopped and sat on the wall of a small bridge, but straight away, I got pestered by midges! I slathered myself in repellent and set off, munching from a pack of oatcakes in my pocket as I walked. I tried to stop again a bit later on a similar bridge, but the same thing happened, so I resigned myself to very short stops. I then reached another bridge where there was a bit of wind and it was mercifully midge-free. Some German ladies were also sitting here and I think they were amused at me sitting down, looking a bit tired. They asked, “Are you exhausted?” and wanted to know how long I’d been walking. They were amazed to hear I’d come from Tyndrum, said they were impressed and wished me good feet and strength!
The walk after Bridge of Orchy was wonderful – big hills all around and a sense of remoteness. The clouds were low enough to cover the tops, and it felt quite humd, but it gave lots of atmosphere. They Guide book says something like there are no sudden, spectacular views, but it’s all of a piece and you are part of the landscape and it is part of you. It sounds pretentious, but that is exactly how it felt, with nobody in sight for much of the time.
After a while, it felt like the path kept on going upwards and you never quite seemed to get to what had looked like the top. Then there was a cairn on the hillside (is this the memorial to Peter Fleming?) and you started to descend. The main road across Rannoch Moor came into view. The book and map were in my rucksack so I didn’t check how far it still was to go, but told myself it could be some way yet. I looked up a the hills, as you are meant to get a good view of Buchaille Etive Mor, then I thought, “I’m sure that’s it, in the cloud.” Then I saw a square of trees in the vallely, which looked like Kingshouse, and looked up, there was a ski-lift on the hillside. Not far to go now! And it really wasn’t although the midges were a bit thicker here.
It was a bit annoying to have to walk up hill, on the drive. I have a microlodge (hobbit hut) and it’s fine. I had been warned by reviews and brought my own mug as they have a kettle but nothing else.
I went out for a shower and the midges had gone – it is a bit windier. I sat in the cafe with a view out of the window of Buchaille, which occasionally peeps through the clouds. As I was ordering my food, the German couple arrived and asked if they could share my large table with a view (the group originally sitting there had just left), then Penny came along too and ate with us as well.
I have read some dreadful reviews of this place, but really it’s not that bad if you know wat to expect (e.g. no cups). The lodge is basic but clean, and well set out with lots of sockets. You pay for the showers, but they are hot and efficient.
It took just over 8 hours to get here, which was my optimistic forecast. The walking felt good. The easier day yesterday stood me in good stead.In retrospect, I looked back on this as my favourite day, although on the way home, the lady from Go Haggis asked if I had had good weather – if you have bad weather here, it can be your least favourite day!