Kinlochleven to Fort William – 16 miles
After a very pleasant night’s sleep it was time for breakfast. At the table there was so much variety of fruit, bread, jams, milk etc it was difficult to know where to start but I ordered, and had the best ever, smoked salmon with scrambled eggs.
After breakfast we said our goodbyes, headed back into town in early morning sunshine to buy our lunch from the local shop, then on to find the trail
which was pretty easy as it was on the main road out of Kinlochleven. The path led off up a steep slope into a forest
(you’ll notice that we continue to have an uphill walk after every breakfast —phew) and the ascent was severe enough to make us stop on several occasions but the bonus was that the views got better each time.
We walked on until eventually we joined the old military road leading to Fort William. The trail was good and wide with exceptional views.
We were heading along The Lairigmor, (The Big Pass at 1082ft) with Bein na Caillich (2502ft) one side and Stob Coire na Eirgine & Stob Ban (3274ft) the other, it felt awesome. There were many other mountains but too many to name. It was only other walkers on the trail in the distance that spoilt the solitude of the mountains. What with the weather getting warmer, the peace and quiet of the surroundings – this is what walking is all about.
We continued along the pass, taking photos and absorbing the surroundings. Steve would stop from time to time looking around and admiring the views saying, “Look at that, just look at that! It’s incredible!” As we went on we passed walkers having lunch, one couple setting up camp. Then from nowhere a trials bike rider came by slowly as there are many boulders and streams on the trail to deal with. This was the only disappointing part for me, otherwise it was a brilliant day for being out on the hills and he was probably a local rider. As we passed Meall a Chaoruinn (2941ft) turning the bend we could see Ben Nevis in the distance. It’s here we stopped for lunch, facing Lochan Lunn Da Bhra,
with boots off, cooling the feet. Several walkers past us saying “Hello” but we didn’t stay too long as the sun now was hot. We soon got underway passing another area where trees had been felled and it wasn’t long before we were in a forest so we had shelter for a while, tho’ not too long. As we reached a junction we met up with a group of German walkers having a rest. They were also going to Fort William and after passing pleasantries (they spoke good English) we continued into another forest heading closer to the base of Ben Nevis.
The trail led deeper into the woods, parts of which were steep, and as we descended to the bottom the path now led back up the other side of the hill, which was a little cruel I felt after so much walking. Eventually we got to the top of the hill to now be on a gravel track, wide enough to take a truck, heading towards Fort William. As we came around the bend there it was in the distance, Fort William
approximately 4.5miles away. Now we were walking away from Ben Nevis which we could view on our right and soon behind us. The day was so clear we could see the path and the rest of the zig zag right to the top. After more photos we set off down the steep track into Glen Nevis until we reached the road, turning left towards town. We were walking on tarmac, the first time for nearly a week. Alongside the road was disappointing as we were having to be careful of pedestrians, cars, cyclists and holiday makers. We eventually arrived at the original finishing point at the north end of town, took pictures
and then went on through to the new finishing point at the southern end of town by the statue of a weary walker.
It was here where Steve spoke to a chap wearing a Welsh rugby shirt, asking if he would take our photo alongside the statue. It turned out the Welshman was from Cardiff, not far from Steve’s home town. Photos taken it was time for a celebration drink so we found a pub and inside was a Dutch couple we had chatted to at various places we’d stayed at. We bought them a drink, but the gesture was not returned. (I reserve comments).
Now it was head back to our hotel which we had seen on the way into town, via a little Italian restaurant (The Stables) to check out the menu. At the hotel there was a friendly welcome but this time we had to make our own cup of tea before the final customary evening ritual.
Whilst having a pre-dinner drink at a local hostelry, the four Carlisle ladies arrived looking for somewhere to eat and decided to remain there. We set off to The Stables Restaurant which was busy but we were served quickly and to celebrate our achievement we had a lovely Italian meal and another drink or two. Then back to the hotel ready for tomorrow and the coach journey to Glasgow.
The next day on the coach we saw some people we had met on the walk & the Carlisle ladies all heading home.
It was funny to think that it would take the coach only three hours to do what had taken us eight days.
Whilst travelling I had chance to reflect on the walk as most people were quietly sleeping or gazing out of the window.
Overall, this is a good long distance walk with plenty of interesting sights, seeing the changes in the landscape from Glasgow where there are low line hills leading to mountains in the Highlands above 3000ft.
Another interesting point for me was the number of people we met on the WHW from other countries – Canada, Israel, France, Germany, Scotland, Sweden & Norway.
The weather for us was good, not too much rain and with some sun allowing us to take lots of photographs. The midges, although a nuisance, were not too bad but I would recommend being prepared. The other amazing thing is that although I am not fond of cows I would have liked to have seen traditional highland cattle as we didn’t see any. The Way is very well sign posted so there was very little need of any maps, but guide books did provide a lot of interesting facts.
I also enjoyed the solitude of being in the mountains. Although walking with a very dear friend we didn’t talk all the time, so there were lots of occasions to reflect and take in the views. The reality of returning to civilisation, with its hustle and bustle of everyday life, from the quiet of the mountains can be rather a shock to the system. If you have never tried a long distance walk, I can thoroughly recommend The West Highland Way and who knows – you may even be fortunate enough to encounter a real Scottish beastie!