West Highland Way – Kinlochleven to Bridge of Orchy

A few weeks ago my walking buddy Danny told me about his mate Allan. He wasn’t an experienced walker and was going to tackle the West Highland Way for charity. The charity isn’t a well known one –LMBBS, but is close to home for Allan as his two sons suffer from a very rare and complex condition called Laurence Moon Bardet Biedl Syndrome. Danny was hoping that we could accompany Allan on a stage of the West Highland Way as he was going to be doing the full 96 mile walk on his own over five days. So a plan was hatched and we agreed to join Allan on the Kinlochleven to Bridge of Orchy stage. A mere 22 miles. The longest I’ve walked so far is around 9-10 miles so it would be…interesting to say the least.

Allan, Steve and Danny

The trip to Kinlochleven from Glasgow was long. A 3 and 1/2 hour train journey from Glasgow Queen Street to Fort William followed by a 22 mile taxi ride to Kinlochleven. That train journey was so slow – thats 107 miles covered in 3 and 1/2 hours. Still – we got there and the three of us hit the sack pretty quickly as it had been a long day already and there was a lot of ground to cover tomorrow. One snag – we couldn’t get hold of Allan. No answer when we called or sent a text. The next morning and there was still no reply. We had a not so great breakfast which was pretty cheap although did include local produce – assuming the freezer compartment of the local Iceland counts. Incidentally – no black pudding. It ain’t a full Scottish if there’s no black pudding.

After a 15 min walk we turned up at Allan’s hotel – we all had a bit of the fear – would he be there, had he lost his phone, was he injured? Thankfully he was there but had a nightmare first day which saw him walk 30 miles instead of 14. Ouch. Looking at his photo’s it was also pretty scary. Thankfully he was up for cracking on so just before 09:00 we started on the next stage. The weather was pretty good – a bit cloudy but dry and not too cold. In fact after 20 mins I ditched the jacket. A couple of hours in and the sun was out and it was getting warm. By lunchtime it was t-shirt and shorts weather.

We were doing the West Highland Way in the reverse direction. Most folk do the walk from Milngavie to Fort William which means the wind and rain are usually on your back instead of in your face. So it was a walk up from Kinlochleven to the top of the devils staircase. This gave us some great views but also meant that after the first 5-6 miles the rest was pretty much downhill as the major climbs were out of the way. We soon reached the magnificent Buachaille Etiv Mor and after posing for photo’s cracked on to the Kings House for some welcome lunch.

Ian at Buachaille Etiv Mor

It took just under 4 hours to do the first 10 miles but we still had at least another 12 to do. The afternoon walk was on flatter terrain with most of the paths in petty good condition. It also took us through Rannoch Moor which is pretty featureless to be honest so we upped the pace and stopped less for photo’s. The banter kept us going so the time flew by and before we knew it we had around three miles to do and it was 16:30. At this point my leg’s were starting to hurt in particular my right calf but it’s fine today so no lasting damage done. It was also starting to cool down in the breeze but despite putting on sun cream I had a bit of sunburn. Quite surprised but it was a warm and sunny day in parts.

RunKeeper - West Highland Way

By 17:30 we were at Bridge of Orchy Hotel and ordering a well earned dinner. Food here and at the Kings House was excellent for the price – highly recommended. Top marks to RunKeeper which tracked the whole walk. I thought we kept a really good pace for the day which averaged out at just over 20 minutes a mile which considering we walked the height of a Munro is excellent for us.

A great day all round capped with a slow train journey back to Glasgow although most of it was in daylight and it really is an amazing part of the world. Surprised I’m not more sore today – small blister, a bit burnt and general muscle tiredness. I also must learn to pack lighter as my backpack was stuffed and weighed a lot – really started to dig in at the end of the day.

I’ll end the post with a small request which I never really do. Allan is doing the whole of the West Highland Way for a really good cause. It would be great if you could show him some support so please visit his Just Giving page and give what you can.

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