Yes, 247 miles so far as I sit here at the hostel in Crianlarich writing this. I think that’s about a quarter of the way – or at least, I’m going to assume itis – and that deserves a celebration, so I’m having a bottle of Irn Bru as I write this, and in a little while I’m going to go and make some pasta. Boy, I know how to party.
As the astute amongst you will have noticed, I’m now on the West Highland Way, though I’m actually more on-and-off the Way as I go down, trying to find a route that avoids various accomodation bottlenecks. So, Wednesday was back on the road – the A82 this time – going from Fort William to Glencoe on a day that I was actually glad to be on the road. Sure, it was raining on and off, and I got rather wet, but at least I wasn’t 300 metres higher up tramping over tough terrain on the way to Kinlochleven.
Thursday, though, was perhaps my favourite day of walking so far. For a start, it fitted into the best pattern for walking – uphill in the morning, downhill in the afternoon, with a pub in the middle for lunch – and the weather was good, the threatened rain holding off for most of the morning, then when the clouds started going away in the afternoon, it didn’t get too bright to burn me or too hot to walk comfortably in. The morning was a fantastic walk up from Glencoe village to the Kingshouse, steadily moving upward but at the sort of incline that’s comfortable rather than punishing. Besides, I had to keep stopping just to admire the scenery as the glen went up the sheer sides or disappeared down another long green avenue into mist, each turn of the road or path revealing something new, and always the temptation to turn around and see just how far I’d come. I then joined the West Highland Way for the first time at Altnafeadh, and did the quick three mile traverse of a small hill, stopping occasionally to gaze down Glen Etive as it was revealed before stumbling into the Kingshouse like many weary travellers have done before me. How many of those also had the venison sausages with mustard mash for lunch I don’t know, but I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who comes after me – tasty and filling, yet not too heavy to stop you from having an afternoon’s walking on it.
The afternoon wasn’t entirely downhill – there was an uphill section to start with, going past the White Corries ski station, but that was relatively short, and worth it for the fantastic views of Rannoch Moor and the Black Mount it revealed. But from there, it was a steady descent across the moor, but like the morning, not too steep as to be troublesome, but enough to let you know you’re moving downwards. And it’s even more fun going downhill when you go past heavy-footed people walking uphill past you, their eyes focusing past you on the slope they still have to ascend. Though when the last one of them had gone by, I realised I was all alone on the Black Mount, and there was likely no-one within a mile or two of me – even the road was a couple of miles from the path at that point. It was quite amazing to be that isolated, even in the Scottish wilderness, though I did tread a little carefully after that moment of awareness as I knew help might be a while away if I was to slip.
But, I made it to Bridge of Orchy safely, and after that 24-or-more mile trek yesterday, went for a much shorter 12-mile trip to Crianlarich today, just to give my body a bit of a break before I head for Loch Lomond tomorrow. In a week I’ll be in Edinburgh, and in two weeks, I should be leaving Scotland behind and entering England. I guess that’s progress, of a sort.