One of the drawbacks of travelling alone is complying with the “make a note of your table number and then order at the bar” setup which appears to be the norm in this neck of the woods. Yesterday evening, I made a note of my table number, ordered my food at the bar and returned to find a jacket hung over one of the chairs at my table. I sat back down, and a few minutes later a man came up and gave me a quizzical look. I explained that I’d ordered food for that table… it turned out that so had he, and as the bar was relatively full, we agreed to share.
As it turned out, he was also walking the West Highland Way, though from North to South as he was doing it as a follow on from the Great Glen Way, and finishing it would mark his completion of all 19 National Trails. There’s no bling, but you can get an LWDA certificate and your name on a website. Thank goodness I already have my obsession sorted, otherwise I might be tempted.
After yesterday’s teeny tiny run, I fancied something a little more substantial today. The hotel I’m staying in tonight is a little way off the trail (I left my planning to the last minute and everywhere is full) which gave me three options. I could bail out after 11 miles and catch a bus from Glencoe Mountain Resort to my hotel, bail out after 13 miles and ring for a cab from Kinghouse, or leave the trail at Altnafeadh and run an extra 7 miles from there to the inn. I packed a bus timetable, taxi numbers, money and maps for the detour and hit the trail.
It was stunning*. The view from the Bridge of Orchy set the bar high, but after a short section climbing through the forest, we** emerged onto an open hillside with a tempting little climb up to a nearby cairn which offered great views of Loch Tulla. After dropping down into Inveroran, we were treated to views up the glen, and we then climbed slowly up onto the wide open expanse of Rannoch Moor. Just before Glencoe Ski Resort, a large cairn comes into view just to the west of the way, which is apparently a memorial cairn for Peter Fleming, who died on the moor in 1971. The positioning is inspired, and if you yield to temptation and hike the short distance up to the cairn, you are rewarded with a sweeping view of the moor which is absolutely stunning.
At the ski resort, I paused for a cup of tea and debated about whether to stop or carry on. The bus, which only runs every two hours, was due shortly, but the weather was glorious and I was feeling good. As my next decision point was only 2 miles further on, I decided to move on. Taking care to look for traffic as I crossed the A82, I pootled onwards. Although there hadn’t been too many steep bits today, some of the surfaces are a little rocky and most of the climbs are loooong, so I was only averaging about 15 minute miles. That said, it was barely lunchtime by the time I reached Kingshouse, so I threw caution to the wind and committed to the extra 10 miles. The first three were still on the trail, and I made good time… then all bets were off.
The simplest option would be to run alongside the A82, but it’s a fast road with no foot path, so that appealed not in the slightest. The map suggested that there was also a track, possibly the remains of the old military road, which zigzagged across the main road and which would keep A82-side walking to a minimum. I checked my map to find out where I would first meet the track and set off. It turned out that “track” may have been overselling it just a touch. Intermittent narrow stony path joining expanses of boggy ground with the occasional bootprint and bent piece of grass. After half a mile, my feet were soaking and by the time I cut across the A82 for the first time I was questioning the wisdom of my decision. I crossed the A82 again and my eyes lit up. Track! Genuine, dry, hard packed track. I grinned and broke into a run.
The rest of the detour was relatively uneventful. There were a couple of short bits along the A82 and another boggy goo-fest, but there were also long stretches of good path and some more lovely views.
I think today may have been the best yet.
* I have the photos to prove it. What I don’t have is wifi, so they aren’t leaving my phone.
** Me and everyone else walking the way today.