Day 5 – Tyndrum to Kingshouse
I was quite nervous about today’s walk we had been averaging around 14-15 miles per day, but today’s walk was going to be 20 miles – eek!
We thought we’d better stock up on Compeed and painkillers, and someone had given us a tip to avoid the Green Welly shop in the middle of town, as it’s overpriced. So we continued on to Brodie’s Mini Market, which you pass on the Way just as you’re leaving Tyndrum. It’s run by an 80-year old war veteran and was a great find, as we found the stuff we needed much cheaper! Plus Mr Brodie himself seemed like a lovely man.
The path leading out of Tyndrum isn’t very exciting as it follows the A82 for a bit, so you don’t get much of a view. We also passed the local graveyard and were confused to see only one gravestone. I suppose in such a small village you don’t get many deaths!
The path started to divert away from the road and traversed the hillsides, and we could see the huge outline of Ben Dorain towering above us. The road evened out after that and crossed some open plains so we were able to pick up the pace, arriving in Bridge of Orchy by around 10am.
We just had a quick break on the benches outside the hotel, and ate some of our packed lunch, before continuing on. We passed over the river Orchy, and the wild campsite on the other side, where it looked as though people were just waking up.
“Near the top of the hill was covered in gorgeous brightly coloured heather, which inspired me to burst into song”
There’s quite a steep climb out of Bridge of Orchy, but I was on a roll by this point. My huffing and panting from earlier in the week was long gone, and I practically skipped up the hill. Near the top of the hill was covered in gorgeous brightly coloured heather, which inspired me to burst into song – “Across the hills o’ burning heather, Dumbarton tolls the hour of pleasure, A song of love that has no measure, When Jeannie kneels and sings tae me.” – From an old Scottish song, Dumbarton’s Drums.
We reached the top, and the view was amazing, overlooking Loch Tulla.There was a cairn on top of the hill, which is essentially just a large pile of stones. These were used in ancient times to help mark out pathways, or for burial sites and memorials, and it’s traditional to place another stone on top as you pass. Someone had placed a charity fundraising t-shirt on the pile, for the 1989 Hillsborough disaster (96 people were crushed to death at a football stadium). It read “Justice for the 96” and had a picture of a man who I assume was killed in the disaster. Again I felt a tear in my eye, as I had for the man who was killed on the side of Loch Lomond. We added another stone onto the cairn, and continued on.
We descended down the other side of the hill, towards the hotel at Inveroran, and passed someone coming up the other side. He cheered us on, saying “not long to go,” and seemed surprised when we mentioned going for a beer, as it wasn’t yet noon. “A beer before lunchtime?!!”
The Inveroran Hotel was one of my favourite stops on the whole way. The bar was very old fashioned with wood panelling and red carpets, and probably hadn’t changed in decades. There was also a mural painted on the wall showing a map of the whole West Highland Way, and had little cartoon figures depicting the various stops along the way. It was great to see how far we had already come; and we could also see that by the end of the day we would have completed three-quarters of the whole course!
The next stretch was going to be difficult though – 10 miles over Rannoch Moor with nowhere to stop or shelter.
As we left the hotel we passed a plaque commemorating Thomas Telford (1757-1834) who was a civil engineer and was famous for creating roads and infrastructure projects across the whole of the UK. The path of the West Highland Way actually uses one of the original paths constructed by Telford, which is still in use after hundreds of years.
As we started walking on Telford’s road we soon began cursing him as the path was very stony and cut up through the soles of our boots, giving us blisters. The roads may have been great for horses and carts, but not so great for people to walk on!
“At one point I even had blood running down my legs!”
As we moved onto Rannoch Moor, we were suddenly being attacked on all sides by clegs (horseflies) which came jumping out of the trees at us. At one point I even had blood running down my legs! The path passes by two or three thickets of pine trees where they tend to lurk, but once we got into open space it wasn’t too bad as long as we kept on moving.
We had to take a break eventually though, as I wanted to check out the damage to my feet from Telford’s path. I was already wearing a Compeed to cover a previous blister, but I found that the blister had spread to cover half of my foot. It took another two Compeed to cover it up again! I also had to take a few painkillers, as my feet were really beginning to hurt.
Christine and her husband passed us, although they were walking about 20 yards apart and both were listening to headphones. We wondered if they’d had a fight and weren’t talking! We passed them again further up the path though, and everything seemed fine.
The path seemed never-ending, and we were really beginning to struggle. The scenery was gorgeous though, and there was still some snow left over from winter on some of the highest peaks (this was now July). I kept a close eye to try and spot any sort of wildlife, but all we saw were giant furry green caterpillars on the path.
We finally came to the top of the crest and were rewarded with an amazing view into the valley at Glencoe below. We could just make out the Kingshouse Hotel far off in the distance, so this gave us the extra boost we needed for the final stretch. It still took another hour to get down the hill though and reach the wild campsite next to the hotel.
We headed straight to the ‘walkers bar’ located at the back of the hotel. There was another bar inside the hotel, but was for guests only, so we wouldn’t be allowed in. We ordered some food and had a drink, before heading across the river to set up our tent. I was so exhausted I fell asleep in the tent for an hour.
Later on we headed back over to the bar and spent the evening there. Got talking to a few of the other campers – some were doing the West Highland Way, and others were just hillwalking in Glencoe. We ended up sitting with a guy from Paisley, and his dog named Rosie, and he gave us a few pointers of the best places for hillwalking. After a few drinks we limped back to the tent on sore feet from the day’s walk.