West Highland Way 7 – Kinlochleven to Fort William

Wednesday 15th August

[A walk undertaken in 2018 but written up during the Coronavirus lockdown in 2020]

A good night’s sleep and I felt better. I had thought a lot about today’s walk and planned ot push on but take a good rest every couple of hours to go the distance without flagging. I was also conscious that the B&B wanted me to check in at a fairly specific time (I can’t now remember what it was – between 4 and 5?).

It was raining, and during breakfast you could see it begin to pour and people running across from the cabins. Ah well, the forecast wasn’t good at all – heavy showers all day. I put on a thin fleece under my waterproof as I had felt damp yesterday and thought that would be more comfortable. I carried my overtrousers outside as put the bag in the baggage store (with only half a dozen goes to get the code to work ! I mustn’ have been pushing the buttons firmly enough). It only seemed to be spitting,, and as there was blue sky overhead, I shoved the overtrousers in an outside pocket and hoped for the best.

The Way zig-zags uphill on a well-made stony path, immediately opposite the hotel, and it gives views of Loch Leven and the Pap of Glencoe. The landscape then opens out into bare hillside. There was a good access road for a while, and you could see and hear construction on the next hillside – hydro scheme.

The Way is then the military road – well made, bumpy in places. I caught up with Anna from Denmark, who I had last met by Loch Lomond. she is solo walking and camping. I think she wanted to walk with someone for a while as she said she hadn’t liked Rannoch Moor as there was nobody around (which was why I had liked it!). We walked and talked for about 10 minutes then I took a break to sit on a bridge and have a drink and snack.

it wasn’t too long before I go to the old buildings at Lairig Mor which felt good as they are a landmark on the map and I knew I was making progress.

The rain held off. There were a few heavy spots, enough to make me put my hood up once, but nothing more. It was pretty windy here so no midges either. I was a bit amused to see someone wearing a cape – it blew about a bit in the gusts.

The Way goes through a wide valley with big hills on either side. The clouds were just on the hill tops, grey but not too threatening.

I got to the half-way point where you can take a quicker alternative down a road. I met Penny just after ths, having lunch on a tree stump with a view of a loch. funnily enough, she had felt exactly the same as me yesterday and had been psyching herself up for today’s walk, setting off in good time and promising herself rest stops in just the same way I had done!

A little further on came the only tricky route-finding section. A farm track/access road led one way and a small path went straight on, with no waymarkers in sight. Several walkers met here and consulted maps/GPS etc before agreeing it was straight on. The path was narrow and poorly defined and I had a slight misgiving, but then it widened again, and Ben Nevis came into view. It all fitted.

I pointed out Ben Nevis (peak under a cloud) to Penny and some Americans who passed as I sat down for lunch, enjoying the view.

The Way went up and down a few small hills rather more than I expected and a lot of the upland area of forest had been cleared, so it was hard to know quite where you were along the map. The view across to Ben Nevis gavea good sense of progress though as originally we had seemed level with the saddle, but you could see how we were losing height. Also the flowers reappeared. I don’t know if that was an indication of the height drop, or if they had sprung up once the forest was cleared.

Onto a forest road so it was easy walking all the way down to Glen Nevis. I didn’t look at the vitrified fort at Dun Deardail – I was tempted but decided to go on. I wanted to get to Fort William, and also to get there before the rain if I could as there were very black clouds and some spots of rain.

A level pavement in Glen Nevis was very strange. I had to stop and get my balance to feel how to walk on it! It was pavement all the way then, although I had thought there was a footpath – my memory must have been of one further up the valley by the visitor centre.

I had a sit down on a low wall, ate a muesli bar and took my boots off to air my feet before the final push. It’s a bit of a walk into town. I caught up with a couple that had passed me when I was having the break. They were walking with the bearded American I had seen on the first day and occasionally since. I told them to keep going through the town to get to the statue of the Weary Hiker. I was quite glad to be with them as I wanted someone to take my photo.

After worrying about getting here in good time, I was a bit early for my 4 p.m. check in – I think it had only taken me about 7 hours. I treated myself to coffee and a huge slice of millionaire’s shortbread in Wetherspoons – and then it started to rain! Well, it is Fort William!

For my last night, I had treated myself to a really nice B&B – Myrtle Bank – on the edge of town overlooking the loch. My room was in the attic up all the stairs again. No view of the loch but a lovely place to stay. I also treated myself to dinner at the Lime Tree – this did give me a view. Both highly recommended.

I woke in the night with my legs aching for the first time. Do they know it’s over and they’ve given up? Or had I pushed myself a bit for the long final day? I did ache a bit over the next week and I really should have done some gentle walks and had a hot bath.

Go Haggis collected me in good time the following morning and dropped me off at Glasgow Central Station. Again, I would recommend them also as a friendly, efficient and reasonably-priced bag carrying service.

Writing this up has been great. Enough time has elapsed for me to have forgotten little things that I put in my diary at the time, and I have really enjoyed looking back at the photos. Now I want to do it all over again and maybe tag the Great Glen Way on too!

West Highland Way 6 – Kingshouse to Kinlochleven

Tuesday 14th August 2018

(A walk undertaken in 2018 but written up during Covid-19 lockdown and restrictions 2020)

I slept really well in my ‘Hobbit house’ at Glencoe ski resort. I had already filled the kettle in the lodge so I boiled that for coffee and had a banana and breakfast bar as the cafe doesn’t open until 9 (in retrospect I had plenty of time to stay for a late breakfast …).

I wore my midge net for the first time to go to the shower block. Everyone on site is wearing one. The midges didn’t seem too bad until I went to the tap to fill my drinks bottle and there were swarms of them. However, as soon as I set off down the drive (about 8:30), there was a good breeze and no need for the net.

Across the road to the Kings House Hotel, currently being rebuilt. The bunhouse looks almost complete and the showers and toilets were open for the wild campers to use. The hotel itself looks like the structure is almost complete.

Kingshouse building works

There was low cloud and some drizzle but the occasional glimpse of blue sky gave some cause for optimism.

I followed the old military road towards Glencoe, making quite slow progress and taking many photos. Every time the cloud moves, it looks different! None of the WHW runs alongside the road itself – a path has been created a short way in over the verge.

As I began to head uphill it began to rain – as opposed to drizzle – so out came the waterproof trousers. I had already zipped the legs back on to my walking trousers this morning as proof against the midges.

A very large bird circled overhead and I have written in my diary that I thought it could well have been an eagle. Zooming in once I got home, I thought it looked more like a heron which I thought unlikely until I read that they can be seen circling high overhead in hill areas! I haven’t seen any deer yet, although other walkers have said they’ve seen them in the distance.

Not an eagle …

Although it kept raining – not heavily but proper rain – I idd stop to look back at the amazing views of the Buchaille Etive Mor and the head of Glen Coe. It would certainly be worth another visit on a better day!

Despite the rain, I sat down for a short break on the cairn at the top of the Devil’s Staircase. I felt rather damp and I wonder if my coat needs reproofing. I also rolled up the bottoms of my trousers as they were soaking up water off the path. They are a bit long, plus they could do with a belt to keep them up better!

Once over the ridge, the rain ease up a bit and did stop not long afterwards, which was a bit of a relief – psychologically as much as anything.

A fairly rough mountain path led down – nothing tricky. There was a glimpse of Blackwater Reservoir, which we had walked to many years ago on my first trip to Scotland! I took a photograph and I was glad I had as a thin mist came down quite suddenly (and it went quite quickly too).

I had a couple of short stops for a bit to eat, but again, midges began to swarm around, so I kept moving. The path became a rough track, steep and zig-zagged which my legs really felt, but it then got easier. There is quite a long trek into Kinlochleven after the first sight of the houses. You pass some small reservoirs and the huge black pipes leading to the aluminium works. I also passed, and photographed, a waterfall which I think is the one I had my picture taken at when I was 20 and we walked up to the Blackwater Dam.

My hotel, the MacDonald is on the far side of town, so it felt a bit of a slog, but on the positive side, the path out tomorrow is just over the road. I got here just before 2 (so I could have had a leisurely breakfast) but they let my have my room. They weren’t sure if the bags were there yet, so I didn’t check until after three when it was there and it was good to change into clean dry clothes.

I was really tired today – rain, up and down a hill, a long day yesterday – it all adds up. There was one point on the Devil’s Staircase when I thought about changing into dry socks, but I couldn’t be bothered. When I met Penny later the following day, she had been the same with waterproof trousers. In retrospect, I realised how tired you are the day after a hard day, even without particularly feeling it. There’s a lot in your head, not just your legs.

View from the hotel bar

West Highland Way 5 – Tyndrum to Glencoe Ski Resort (Kingshouse)

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!

West Highland Way 4: Inverarnan to Tyndrum

Sunday 12th August 2018

[solo walk in 2018, written up during Coronavirus lockdown 2020]

The hotel (Drovers Arms) didn’t serve breakfast until 8 on a Sunday, but I went down a bit earlier, thinking I could at least start on juice and cereal. Several other people had had the same idea. Staff were all ready and taking orders too. Good breakfast.

Drovers Inn

It had looked a bit damp when I first woke up and then began to rain properly, so I donned waterproof coat and trousers – it makes the rucksack lighter! Chatted at the door to a Scotsman who told me it was ‘dreich’ and did I know what that meant (yes). He pointed to the clouds to show it was clearing and it was only fine rain.

The Way leads along a good farm road for quite a way. You could hear the river below and you crossed several streams and waterfalls running down. I think you could hear the Falls of Falloch, but you didn’t get a view of them (we had visited them from the road on the far side of the river a few years earlier – definitely worth a look). As expected, the drizzle had mostly stopped, so the waterproof overtrousers came off!

There is a “sheep creep” taking the Way under the railway. I had heard about these but it was easy enough to get through by bending forwards slightly. The I could hear busy traffic on the A82 and was worried about getting across, but there’s a tunnel. This leads to the old military road, which was mostly good going if a bit rocky and uneven in places.

I seemed to get quite quickly to the Crianlarich turning which I reckon is about half way for today’s walk, and half way for the whole West Highland Way.

The Way then heads uphill into the pine forest. I didn’t see any of the red squirrels which are meant to be there,although there were plenty of eaten pine cones around. Also some interesting fungus. I drizzled on and off lightly, but the trees gave some protection so I didn’t really get wet.

Coming out of the forest near a railway viaduct, the Way crosses the road again. No tunnel this time, but the traffic was much quieter and it wasn’t a problem. It is now much more open with views to high hills, although the cloud was too low to see them properly.

I stopped to have a look at the remains of St Fillan’s Priory. They aren’t very exciting, but I didn’t want to get to Tyndrum ridiculously early. I met the NZ lady (Penny) there as well as she can’t get in to her B&B until 4 pm (I met her a few times over the course of today).

The last section seemed to be a long way. Looking at the map, I should have been prepared, but I had the idea I was “nearly there”! There were interesting things to go past though, such as the site of the Battle of Dalrigh and the Loch where Robert the Bruce’s sword is meant to lie.

An open space with a pillar marked an old lead-smelting area. People had built small columns of stones and I thought I’d add a pebble to one, which promptly collapsed! I put it on a smaller, sturdier one!

On the outskirts of Tyndrum there were a couple of people in the stream beside a caravan site. It looked rather as if they were doing some sort of river management, moving stones and earth but I found out later they were panning for gold or silver which can still be found there.

I arrived at By The Way hostel shortly before 3. It is a very nice place with a big kitchen/dining/sitting area. The West Highland Way runs immediately in front of the window, where I sat with a coffee and watched other walkers, some familiar, arriving in town.

I went into town and bought a few supplies for breakfast and lunch tomorrow, and then had lunch at the Tyndrum Inn. I found a small, free table and went to order food at the bar. A voice next to me said, “Is that Ruth?” It was Penny from NZ so she shared my table for dinner.

I felt a bit tired today – the legs felt heavy, and it felt hard to get going after a stop – although it wasn’t a hard walk and I took it fairly easy. I’m saving myself for the longest day to come tomorrow.

West Highland Way 3: Rowardennan to Inverarnan

11th August 2018

I set off from Rowardennan Youth Hostel reasonably early, after a cooked breakfast, ordered months ago when I booked. I didn’t really need it and there was a good selection for the continental breakfast. I took ages to check out as the woman ahead of me had ordered a gluten-free packed lunch for her suband and it hadn’t been done, so he receptionist and to go and chase it up – there was only her on duty. When it came to my turn she apologised profusely as she had thought the other woman and I were together.

The Way goes along the forestry road for a way. I soon met the American couple from yesterday heading towards me. The husband had lost a lens from his glasses and they were heading back to get a cab to”the next town” to see if they could find an optometrist to sort it out (on a Saturday). Good luck with that! You would think he would have a spare pair if he needed them that badly.

Shortly afterwards I came across two women – the woman I had followed out of Drymen yesterday who is from New Zealand and a younger German girl. They were debating the upper/lower paths. I said I was going for the lower as how hard can it be – the consensus seems that it’s not too bad, but it’s more interesting. They took the lower path too and it was lovely – a bit of up and down and some uneven parts, but views of the loch.

You then rejoin the forestry road which becomes a bit more path-like. I met two Scotsmen who asked if I was by myself and they said I was “tough”! They said it was “a fair walk” to the Drovers Inn, my destination at Inverarnan! I then came across a man camping on the loch shore who had a tick and thought I look the sort of person who’d know what to do! I gave him some advice that I had read (don’t squeeze or pull) but had no tweezers or tick-tool. It was something I had thought about bringing with me, but hadn’t got around to.

I reached the Inversnaid Hotel, again it was just before twelve, but I had some of my packed lunch sitting outside on the picnic tables. It’s a great place for coach parties by the look of it! I chatted to a few people here – you keep seeing each other every now and again.

The next section has a difficult reputation – how hard can it be? The answer is, not very. It’s the sort of footpath you’d expect at a lakeside, where you have to negotiate some rocks and tree roots. The bit over Rob Roy’s’ cave was a bit harder – I had to use my hands and scramble a step or two. There were easier stretches in between too so it wasn’t constant. It did, however, go on for a long way and I was willing it to end. It seemed to get a bit harder with the tricky bits closer together as it went on.

But, slightly less than two hours later, a lakeside beach signalled the worst was over. I sat on it and celebrated with the Mars bar from my packed lunch.

As the path rose, there were some good views back down Loch Lomond. The path didn’t widen out again but is more like a good footpath – not as wide or as made up as earlier, but good with boards across wet parts, stone ‘steps’ up the hills.

I could see power lines across the valley and a large sub-station. I remembered that this was marked on the map near the Drovers Inn, but I didn’t want to get too optimistic. Then I saw the campsite and realised I was there. It was good to get there and lie on the bed for a while, even if the room was up under the eaves up two flights of stairs [I realised as the week went on that the single rooms were always up two flights of stairs …]

It’s taken 8 hours for about 14 miles. Today, I haven’t’ looked at the GPS and it is the first time the batteries have died!

The Drovers Inn is staffed by kilted workers and has rather shabby tartan carpets. It’s full of rather quirky stuffed animals. It’s meant to be one of the oldest inns in Scotland or the most haunted. It’s a bit shabby but clean and comfortable. It’s good to have my own room, spread out, charge batteries, camera and phone without having to share sockets (it was rather crowded at the Youth Hostel last night). The dining room was crowded but I shared a table and had a very good and filling meal.

West Highland Way 2: Drymen to Rowardennan

Friday 10th August 2018

[Written up in 2020 from the diary I kept at the time]

A lovely day, with better scenery than yesterday. More interesting walking, but a bit harder and slower.

I had a great continental breakfast at Kip in the Kirk bunkhouse – explaining marmite to French and German walkers … – then I left at 8:30. There was a woman ahead of me on the road and as we went uphill to the forest – the first solo woman I have seen [I kept on meeting her and got to know her over the course of the week].

It had rained while we were having breakfast, but had cleared before I left. I had a think fleece on at first but soon took it off. The weather has cooled considerably after the heatwave of the past few weeks – thank goodness, as I was worried about walking in the heat. I saw the first wild campers in the forest – quite a few tents scattered along the route. As the forest cleared there was the first full view of Loch Lomond.

There seemed far fewer people out walking the Way than yesterday. I passed the family, having a break by a stream, and had a chat to a couple from Tennessee. I think we passed each other a few tiems yesterday. They pointed out the route up Conic Hill in the distance, clearly visible with a few bright rucksacks moving up the path.

It wasn’t especially difficult walking up the hill, although it was good to pause now and again. The views of Loch Lomond and the hills were amazing! I found a nice mound, free from sheep poo, to sit on for a break. The American couple arrived as I was about to leave, so I gave them they good spot!

It was quite steep and rough/eroded coming down – lots of steps – and lots of tourists coming up.

It was warm and sunny and I was thinking I really ought to put suncream on. I popped into the National Park Centre in Balmaha to use the toilets and then came out to rain! I went across to the shop and bought a bit of lunch – again, it was only 11:45 so a bit early to stop – and hoped it would go off. It did ease off a bit so I put my coat on and set off again, pausing to take a photo of the Tom Weir statue. No red hat today!

The path lead quite steeply through the woods to a great viewpoint, but it was still raining so I carried on. It cleared up in about 20 minutes or so when I had lunch on a lakeside beach.

The afternoon was much the same, through woods, sometimes the quiet road, with some short stretches beside or with glimpses of the loch. The woods were lovely – I had to stop and listen to the birdsong at one point. I saw a mouse or shrew under the grass at the side of the path, and a heron flew across the bay.

There was one big hill to cut across, not far from Rowardennan, with steps going up and up. I plodded up but a Spanish couple flew past me! Once at the top it had started to rain, so I had to put my coat on again. I did wait until the top of the hill as it was pretty warm work. I stopped a bit later on and had a break sheltered by the roots of an upturned tree and put my coat away. As I was sitting there, it began to rain again! I left my coat on after that even though it stopped raining until I got to the hostel at 4:15. GPS said 14.7 miles.

There are no midges, although I do have a small bite on my shoulder. There are midge screens on the dormitory windows, unlike the previous time I stayed here 20+ years ago, when I felt I was being bitten all night!

Slower walking today. I haven’t made an effort to hurry, knowing I didn’t need to, plus it was harder walking than yesterday. Nothing too bad, but tomorrow is the section that people complain about – let’s wait and see!

West Highland Way 1: Milngavie to Drymen

[Stuck at home in the Spring 2020 Coronavirus lockdown, taking the chance to relive a wonderful journey in the great Scottish outdoors, and fulfill those good intentions of writing it up! This is mostly written up from the journal I kept on the walk, with some later editing.

This trip began with the thought, “I’d like to do that one day,” then “I will do it one day,” to “I’m going to do it this year!” It’s a while since I have done a full week’s walking like this, and my first ever solo.]

9th August 2018

I arrived in mid-afternoon at Glasgow Central railway station and found the ‘Go Haggis’ van waiting outside. As it is the European Championships cycle races, lots of roads were closed, and they hadn’t been sure how close to the station they would be able to park. As it was, she had to drive the longer way round to Milngavie. A very pleasant lady – Audrey. The business is just her and her husband: he does the luggage and she does the transfers.

I stayed in a Premier Inn on the outskirts of town. I went out shortly after arriving but had missed the cycle races and the road behind had reopened. I picked up some food from the nearby Waitrose – fruit and bars for the journey – and had dinner at the Beefeater next door.

This morning, I felt like I fussed around a bit, working out what was to go in my rucksack, etc. I’ll have it down to a fine art by the end of the week. (I don’t know why it seemed difficult – with the luggage transfer, I really just need what I would sensibly take on a day walk! Nerves, I expect).

I walked into town to Tesco and had a disappointing muffin their Costa. I had intended to go to the Waitrose care – I should have stuck with the original plan … A taxi driver waved at me to show me I was going the wrong way (but I’m going to Tesco!).

An underpass lead to the pedestrianised town centre with the obelisk and archway marking start of the West Highland Way. There were a few people setting off when I got there, just after 9:00 a.m. and I do (slightly) regret not getting someone to take my picture [by the end of the week, I was far less shy].

Although the map shows the Way heading through town, it really didn’t feel like that, being a tree-lined path with little to see of the town. The path was very well made and level, easy to walk along. I overtook a few couples, and some overtook me. There always seemed to be somebody in sight.

The trees opened out as the Way passed Craigallian Loch, with some very new looking chalets nearby. There were also plenty of older chalets – I think it has long been a place to get away from Glasgow. A short walk along a road, through some trees and the view opened out to the hills around Loch Lomond and beyond.

The Way then followed the track of a disused railway – the Blane Valley. Again, easy walking, but a narrow track with banks on each side and no real good places to stop. I did eventually find a place to sit down for a drink and a banana.

It then turned out that the Beech Tree Inn was only a short way ahead. It was only quarter to 12 and too early for lunch so I didn’t stop, although plenty of people were taking advantage the log seats.

I did later wish I had stopped as the disused railway line continues with no really good stopping places, but then I came to a wide sunny stretch of grass and sat down there for lunch. I had just about caught up with the first solo walker I had seen. While I was eating, another solo man passed [I saw him again only once, but then met him in Fort William, where he took my photo at the end!]. After this, the walkers seemed to spread out more, and you couldn’t always see others ahead or behind.

The old railway ended near Gartness Bridge where I saw my first honesty box. I didn’t want or need anything though! The Way went for some miles along a country road – not busy, but with regular traffic passing. There were great views at the top of the hill with the first glimpses of Loch Lomond. Someone had some fun with signs such as ‘Slow Hobbits’, ‘Trolls Bridge’, etc.

Some way along this road I felt the need to check the GPS just in case I had missed a turning as the road did seem to go on for ages, but it was all very clear. In fact, where the turning was, there was an arrow painted on the road as well as there being clear waymarkers.

This brought me to the A811 near the roundabout from which the road led straight in Drymen. Kip in the Kirk was on this road, near the town centre. I was quite early – just after 2:30 – but the sign on the door said to ring the bell, so I did. I began to think I was there a bit too early, when the door opened and I was welcomed inside.

There is a light, spacious bunk room. I had a shower and changed, then was made tea and scones. Sue, one of the women who runs it, gave me lots of information even rang up to book me a table for dinner this evening at the (very small) Clachan Inn, which is meant to be the oldest pub license in Scotland. It was a lovely little town. I had a good dinner, chatting with an elderly man from the bunkhouse who was returning from walking the WHW, while a pipe band played on the green outside.

Wales Coast Path: Furnace to Aberystwth

1st November 2019 – 12.8 miles

We packed up our holiday cottage and left the car at the junction on the main road at Tre’r Ddôl, then walked north over the hills and on forest paths to our turnaround spot yesterday. We seemed to get there surprisingly quickly, although it would still have felt like a bit too far yesterday!

Back at Tre’r-ddôl, we had to walk along the roadside for quite a while. Many houses still had pumpkins and other decorations outside after Hallowe’en. We then cut down a small road between the houses and onto a lane, which looks like it has been drawn with a ruler, across the marsh. The first section ran across fields, then a lane next to a deep, recently dredged ditch. It wasn’t nearly as bleak or as open as expected, with trees running alongside.

We then got onto the marsh proper, which is Cors Fochno nature reserve. We did go out along a boardwalk to a viewpoint to see across the marsh. As we neared the far side, we met some ponies grazing.

Closer to Borth, the landscape became slightly more urban, crossing a canalised river, and a railway. From here, we could see north across the flat landscape to our holiday cottage on the edge of Ynyslas.

We sat on a promenade bench in a rather dull, grey Borth. The original plan had been to walk back from here to the car, but we decided to carry on to Aberystwth, which wouldn’t be much further than our circular route, and get a bus back. I am glad we did as it was a very good walk. The mileage might not have been very different but the nature of it was a bit harder!

We followed the road south out of Borth and up onto a headland. From here, it was up and down over headlands. Some had steps and many of the slopes were quite worn making for hard walking. It was quite nice to get to a landmark on the coast so we could see that we were making progress! Eventually, we got closer to Aberystwth and the inevitable holiday/caravan site with funfair.

One more headland to go … a few spots of rain came. Robby stopped to put on his coat and pointed to the blackness out at sea, heading our way, so I put mine on too. Within a few minutes, I was soaked, so put on my overtrousers too! Fortunately, we were now on the very outskirts of Aberystwth, so, pausing only to take a picture of the funicular, we headed straight for the bus station, and so back to the car.

Once at the car, we drove a mile or so up the road to a quiet and secluded car park for a complete change of our damp clothes for the drive home.

Wales Coast Path: Machynlleth to Furnace

31 october 2019 – 11.4 miles

We drove to Furnace and parked, then looked for the bus stop on the main road. We could only see one going the wrong way, so walked back to the other side of the village, strung out along the road. As we walked, a bus came, so we waved and it stopped! From Machynlleth, we walked through the town, stopping to photograph this house with a series of scarecrow-type figures outside, and uphill on the edge of the town. The whole of today was set slightly inland from the coast, on the hills.

It was a day of fairly constant, fine drizzle. A lot of the time, we were sheltered under trees so didn’t suffer too much. We walked for much of the first hour or so on quiet lanes. At the top of the hill, we saw a single sheep on the roadside, nuzzling at a bin, but it ran off when we were some way off. A man and his son came out of the house to ask if we had seen it as they prepared to go and retrieve it.

It was very easy walking on a good track through woodland, but not many places to sit for a drink. Eventually, we met up with a small stream in a narrow deep valley alongside. It went through some rather picturesque waterfalls and small gorges, but it was so steep that you couldn’t really get a photograph to do it justice.

We had planned to walk past Furnace, then head back on footpaths down to the village, but when we got to the area where this should have happened, the wayfinding was difficult, it was muddy underfoot going over small streams, and we didn’t see the path we had in mind. It had been difficult going and we didn’t fancy going back to hunt for a route. We kept going for another mile or so, by which time we had had enough – it was pretty damp! We stopped where the path crossed a road, and we walked back up to Furnace along the main road. It wasn’t too busy. We had a quick look at the eponymous Furnace before heading back to our cottage.

Wales Coast Path: Aberdovey to Machynlleth

30th October 2019 – 12.4 miles

We set off early from our holiday cottage and parked at the station in Machynlleth to catch the train back to Penhelig/Aberdovey. From here there was a steep narrow path between the houses leading up to the open hillside above the town.

This crossed a few fields, still heading uphill. Some work had obviously been done recently, putting in new gates. At the crest of the hill, we followed a tarmac road with no traffic on whatsoever. There were views inland towards Happy Valley, and over the estuary towards Borth and Ynyslas, where we could just make out the caravan site adjoining our cottage.

The easy walking continued for quite a while, from the tarmac road to a well made track, which gradually got slightly rougher until it became an impassable bog! We had to take quite a wide detour round this part, and that was still bog-hopping, reminiscent of the Pennine Way! Still, there wasn’t much of that really.

We then crossed to the far side of the main road, crossed a stream, realised we had gone wrong so crossed back … only a few hundred yards of detour. Then we headed uphill, past a small complex of houses which seemed to be holiday accommodation, and into woodland. Here we met the only other walker of the day! We then headed down to the main road through Plas Talgarth holiday village. We took a quiet road uphill out of the village of Pennal which eventually led to forestry land.

Again, it was a good forestry road, so easy walking, but it did seem to go on for a long time! The trouble with forests is there are often very few places to sit and so it turned out here, but we did find a place for a short rest. The guide book describes the next section as something like “a short, brutal climb” at the end of a long day. Actually, it was a bit of a relief to know we were making progress and to get off the forestry road (and it wasn’t that ‘brutal’).

From here, we could see Machynlleth in the valley below us. The track turned into a quiet road, passing a hillside farm where the sheep had truly impressive curly horns!

A short walk along the main road (no pavement or verge) brought us to the bridge and back to Machynlleth.