Day 6 – Kingshouse to Kinlochleven
Just a short day’s walk today – a mere 8 miles, which was a relief as my feet were still killing me from yesterday’s 20-miler. We still had the notorious Devil’s Staircase to climb though, so it wasn’t going to be an easy day by any means.
We set off slightly later today since it was a shorter walk, plus we’d had a few drinks the previous evening so weren’t really in any rush to set off.
“I tried to forget about any pain I was in, and just enjoy the magical landscape.”
The muscles in the back of my legs were very tense and sore after yesterday’s 20 mile hike, so I was hobbling and limping while we were packing up our equipment and getting ready to leave. The view of Glencoe is breathtaking though, so tried to forget about any pain I was in, and just enjoy the magical landscape.
My legs started to warm up a bit once we started walking, and after half an hour or so they felt much better. The path isn’t too difficult for the first part, but unfortunately it continues along next to the main road which means you have lots of traffic.
We reached the foot of the Devil’s Staircase after about an hour’s walking, and decided to stop for a proper breakfast, as we had only had a cereal bar before setting off. It was probably a good idea to have something a bit more substantial before tackling the staircase! We randomly bumped into our friend from last night and Rosie the dog, who had already been up Buachaille Etive Mor and back.
We were now ready to climb the Devil’s Staircase which is reported to be the hardest part of the whole Way – but to be honest it wasn’t that bad! I don’t know if it’s because our bodies were now used to the physical activity, or if it’s because I didn’t have my heavy rucksack to carry anymore, but the climb up Conic Hill on day 2 seemed much more difficult. It was still quite tricky though, and I was glad I had my walking poles to help propel me upwards.
“The view from the top was one of the best things I’ve seen in my whole life!”
We eventually reached the top, after seemingly endless switchbacks all the way up the steep hillside. The view from the top was one of the best things I’ve seen in my whole life! On one side we had Glencoe and Rannoch Moor where we’d come from yesterday, and on the other side were the Grampian mountains where we would now be heading, and where the finish line was now within reach.
We descended down the other side and could soon spot Kinlochleven in the distance, although it still took hours for us to reach there! It was actually quite deceiving as we thought we were getting closer and closer but then turned the next corner and realised we still had miles to go.
My feet were aching from yesterday and I had to keep taking painkillers every so often which definitely helped. The path diverted through some woodland for a while, and past the huge pipes which transport water to the hydro-electric power station.
We eventually reached the outskirts of Kinlochleven and I could barely walk any further. The 20 mile stretch the previous day had really taken its toll, so I was relieved the day’s walk was over. We stopped at the Tailrace Inn for some food and drinks and were amused at a sign advertising Setanta Sports (a TV channel which went out of business years ago).
We saw “John o’Groats” just leaving – it looked as though she was continuing on with the walk to Fort William. We never saw her again after that, so we don’t know whether she eventually made it all the way. Still can’t believe that someone would be able to walk all that distance on their own. Good on her though, hope she made it!
After our food we were refreshed enough to hobble over to the MacDonald hotel campsite, which had been recommended to us by our friend in the pub at Kingshouse. We were pleasantly surprised with the facilities on offer at the campsite – the camping area itself was very attractive, with a small grassy area and some picnic benches, wooden bunk huts, and a stunning view overlooking Loch Leven. There was also a bar for the campers and bunkers, separate from the main hotel, which had an excellent range of malt whiskies on offer.
We pitched the tent, had showers and relaxed for a while before heading into the bar to sample some whisky – I ordered a Glenmorangie which is my favourite. I really enjoyed the bar at the MacDonald Hotel. It was probably the only one on the whole Way where campers were made to feel as welcome as the hotel guests. Some of the other places we stayed felt as though anyone was camping was hidden away in a shed at the back.
We had arrived fairly early with it being a shorter walk, so we still had the late afternoon and evening to do as we pleased. We headed back into town and tried a few bars, including the one at the climbing centre where we got a beer and a juice for £2!!
This would be our last night in the tent tonight – it had served us well, but by this point I was just achy all over from sleeping on the ground. It also wasn’t doing my skin any favours as the sweat and condensation was causing me to break out. I was definitely looking forward to getting back into a real bed again, and fell asleep imagining the hotel room awaiting us at the finish tomorrow.