West Highland Way Revisited – Part 3 Tyndrum to Kingshouse

A fairly wet and miserable start to day 5 of our WHW. It cleared up later in the morning, leading to a wet afternoon. But by that time we were safe, warm and dry in front of a wood burning stove at the Bridge of Orchy hotel. We (JF and I) stopped off at the Green Welly store for provisions and watched Tony, Ecky and Maggie stroll past the WHW path signpost deep in conversation. As we came out of the store, they were up the road some way and appeared to have stopped, to be scratching their heads and looking around for the path. We thought they might have been taking another route. Later, around lunch time, when we met up in the bar of the Bridge of Orchy hotel, they admitted it had become a bit of a habit of theirs to walk past the first WHW signpost, at the start of a day, and become temporarily lost.

This was our shortest day at 11km, according to the guidebook. It was easy going on well maintained paths and tracks. We started walking about 9.45 and arrived about 13.15. As we left the Green Welly there was an array of impressive wood sculptures. I was particularly taken by the one of an owl.

The landscape was open and the views quite spectacular. We were in the same valley as the road and the railway track along the Orchy Glen and this photo shows the view into Auch Gleann with its impressive railway viaduct

The WHW has a few walkers’ tunnels under the railway line. They are generally only about 1.5m high (5ft) so are quite tricky to walk through with a backpack. This is an example from this days walk

Maggie caught up with us before we reached the Bridge of Orchy and, after we had been sitting in the bar for a short while,Tony and Ecky arrived. They had a meal and left to walk on another 5km to reach their hotel. We had booked into the bunkhouse but could use all the hotel facilities so, after showering etc, we retired to the large comfortable hotel lounge with very plush chairs and settees and a roaring wood burning stove, to write diaries and read some Sunday papers. We had the lounge to ourselves until around 5pm when a large party started to arrive to celebrate one of them completing all the Munros that afternoon; quite an achievement. I got chatting to one of the party and found that he had achieved that feat and the Corbetts as well!

Tracy and Andrew were staying in the hotel proper and we met up with them and Maggie for dinner. The food was good but portions could have been larger. I had belly pork with asparagus and assorted mashed veg.

The bunkhouse was very comfortable. We were in a room with 3 bunks, one unoccupied. I had a good night despite the noise of banging doors.

Next day was about 20km to Kingshouse. Maggie was anxious because she needed to catch a bus at Kingshouse before 4pm to take her back to Glasgow and thence to the airport and Ireland. JF and I were very confident we would make it easily so she walked with us all day leaving just after 9. The morning was wet and, in full waterproofs, we were pleased to take a break at the Inveroran Hotel before starting off across Rannoch Moor. The weather soon improved and we had showers and bright intervals for the rest of the walk. 

The track was good and we made excellent progress, stopping for a brief lunch near Ba Bridge with its fantastic angular rocks. We saw a large herd of red deer in the distance but, otherwise, few signs of wildlife. The moor is a real visual feast spoilt a little by electricity poles and a distant view of the A82.

On our way down into the valley, at the end of the walk, we decided to make a small detour and visit the cafe at the ski lodge. We arrived there just after 2pm. Maggie discovered that there was an earlier bus due at 14.50 and she decided to take this one and sat down with a big cake and a drink. The cafe has very large panoramic windows and you can see clearly down to the road about 1km away and further on down into Glen Coe. At about 14.40 Maggie decided to go for the bus and we watched her start off down the road. Within a few minutes we spied her bus emerging from Glen Coe some miles away. She was never going to get there in time and she started to run. By this time a crowd had built up around the window in the cafe. A minibus left the cafe car park and stopped when it reached Maggie. It gave her a lift down the road,to the junction with the main road. It arrived seconds before the bus and she got on the bus. The cafe erupted with cheers and high fives.

After all that excitement we finished our drinks and strolled across to the Kingshouse Hotel stopping now and again to admire the view. This is the classic view of Buachaille Etive Mor JF and I arrived at Kingshouse Hotel to find 5 red deer grazing around the car park. Kingshouse is a pinch point on the WHW. There are few alternatives for accommodation nearby although the ski centre has just built some comfortable-looking camping pods and is due to build more in the near future. I was afraid, like Rowardennan Hotel, they might be exploiting their unique position and the service would be poor value, but not so. The accommodation was less expensive than others on our trip and the food and service was good. It was also one of the few places we stayed that seemed to be predominantly staffed by Scots.

We had a good meal in the bar (veal casserole) with Andrew and Tracy who arrived later, and a couple of pints of Autumn Nuts brewed by Grampian Brewery. We also met a couple from Berlin who were doing the WHW and camping. We had nodded to them a few times before but this time got to talk at length. After a few days of backpacking they had decided to use the luggage transport to take their camping gear for them.

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