The West Highland Way: Crianlarich to Tyndrum [Day 4]

This is a continuation of our journey through the West Highland Way. If you want to start reading from day 1, click here.

Our West Highland Way:

  • Day 1: Milngavie to Drymen 13.51 miles (419m elevation; 307m descent)
  • Day 2: Drymen to Rowardennan 15.28 miles (665m elevation; 815m descent)
  • Day 3: Rowardennan to Crianlarich 21.75 miles (1305m elevation; 844m descent)
  • Day 4: Crianlarich to Tyndrum 7.62 miles (431m elevation; 571m descent)
  • Day 5: Tyndrum to Kingshouse 18.85 miles (511m elevation; 434m descent)
  • Day 6: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven 8.70 miles (423m elevation; 659m descent)
  • Day 7: Kinlochleven to Fort William 15.76 miles (735m elevation; 737m descent)


Day 4: Crianlarich (Listen cree-ahn-larr-ik) to Tyndrum (Listen t(eye)n-drum)
Our day 3 along the West Highland Way was the most taxing. At 21 miles, several of which were hazardous and covered with mud, we were eternally grateful to have a short day from Crianlarich to Tyndrum. Most plans and maps will tell you to go straight to the Bridge of Orchy, but we could not get accommodation arranged for the one hotel in the area: the Bridge of Orchy Hotel. You pay a pretty penny for the privilege, but if that’s your plan, make sure to book way in advance.

2016-05-04 11.11.45
A flat first mile back to the path.

Our plan; however, let us start our day at 11a. It took all of our morning energy to crawl, stair by stair, down from our bedroom to pack up our belongings and get ready for the trek ahead. But John, our host at Inverardran Guest House, served us the most exquisite breakfast, complete with gluten-free toast. As we waved good-bye, he gave us a piece of advice.

2016-05-04 11.11.35
First mile was flat. But the next would be straight up.

When coming into Crianlarich, you walk through the Ewich Forest. Beautiful and lush, yes. Bumpy and steep, absolutely. He told us we could follow the motorway for about a mile and pick up the trail just beyond the roundabout. Using that mile to get our legs back, we passed many, many B&Bs, hotels, and guest houses. So, if you plan to stop in Crianlarich, I’d advice using Google Earth to see all of your options closer to city center (that is, if you’re not up for an extra half mile to Inveradran Guest House).

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The sign pointing down to Crianlarich, but Tyndrum was to the left.

After the roundabout, we found the trail head, and it was half a mile straight up to rejoin the West Highland Way. We tightened our grips on our walking poles and embraced the incline into Ewich Forest.

The forest was truly gorgeous. The pine trees engulfed everything, and seeing the felled trees made me question if anyone was around to hear them [insert laughter]. We passed creeks, waterfalls, and more thick trees. Looking around, we were reminded why we did this trip. After about a mile into the forest, the path turns into a massive descent.

2016-05-04 12.29.45
Stairs down wrecked havoc on our knees.

Our bodies were destroyed from the day-before excursions, so our knees were screaming with each step down. The 20-25lbs bags on our backs were really starting to take their toll. If we could change anything about our trip, we would have done a baggage service, even if just for our day 3. The steps down were so tall and rough that it felt like we had to jump from stone to stone. By the time we made it to the bottom, our legs felt like lead.

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No trains that morning, but apparently a common place to beg for transport.

We came to a lovely bridge at the base of the forest and took our lunch break. Just then, the earth shook. Air Force planes raced through the sky. At least, that’s what we assumed. It was so cloudy that we couldn’t physically see what caused such a loud ruckus, but nothing else could have possibly made that rip-roaring noise. It was otherworldly to hear such fierce rumbling in the quiet depths of the wood.

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We never realized how close we were to civilization with each turn.

We were about half way to Tyndrum at that bridge, and right across the highway we found ourselves on the Auchtertyre Farm, a working farm with dozens and dozens of sheep on the landscape. Dotted along the path were signs specifically for walkers to learn more about their surroundings, and it was quite nice to finally see some descriptions.

For example, as we approached the gates to the farm and home, we saw an ancient looking cemetery. There was a sign saying it was the Kirkton Burial Ground dating from the 18th century, but also inside are 7th or 8th century headstones. We stopped in our tracks and stared in awe. Can you imagine preserving headstones from the 7th century in your backyard?

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The Kirkton Burial Ground dating back to the 7th century.

Just across the pathway was a pile of rocks in the shape of a ruin, which turned out to be St. Fillan’s Priory, a priory from the 13th century which Robert the Bruce endowed. We were truly humbled to be casually walking on holy and ancient ground.

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What remains of St. Fillan’s Priory.

For those unfamiliar with Robert the Bruce, he was King of Scots in 1306 until he passed in 1329. He was one of the first warriors to battle the English for Scottish independence, and he is still considered a national hero today.

After walking through the farm, we did see a sign for the Holy Pool, but we were starting to feel our fatigue creep up, and even the promise of eternal youth kept us on our road to Tyndrum. But, if you have the wherewithal, the pool is a deep natural pool with healing properties. In order to be healed, you had to:

“…go to the bottom of the pool and surface with stones. They then had to circle stone cairns, now gone, and place a stone on each cairn. They were then stripped naked and taken to the church at the nearby priory where they were tied to the alter, or a straw covered plinth, or St Fillan’s tomb, with his bell either on their chest or suspended over their head for the night. If they had broken free by the morning, they were heading for a cure, otherwise the process was started again.”

The healing properties were used mainly for the mentally insane, but when a wild bull was thrown into the pool in the 19th century, it is said the pool lost its ability to heal.

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It’s a bit difficult to read the inscription, but it says, “The field of The Battle of Dalrigh 1306.)

Continuing on the path to Tyndrum, you follow a small river and come to a clearing with a sign notating this was where the Battle of Dalrigh occurred. After Robert the Bruce was defeated in a battle near Perth, his enemies, the Clan MacDougall, ambushed him on this spot in 1306. Many of Robert the Bruce’s men were killed and he, himself, went into hiding. It was two years later when Robert the Bruce avenged this ambush and defeated the Clan in The Battle of the Pass of Brander.

But the history didn’t stop there. Another half mile further, we came across a small loch: The Lochan of the Lost Sword. When Robert the Bruce was defeated at the Battle of Dalrigh, he angrily threw his sword, the Claymore, into the lochan. Legend says it is still there, but science and metal detectors say it’s not. Instead of searching for the historic relic ourselves, we sat on a bench and looked over the terrain just before the rain came again.

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So close!

It was only about 2.5 more miles before we found ourselves on the outskirts of Tyndrum at 230p, and we were relieved to see our B&B, Tigh-na-Fraoch, so close to the path. We dropped our bags and immediately went out and stocked up on much needed supplies. The Pine Trees Caravan and Camping Site has a very small shop on the grounds that offer cheap and shelf-stable goods. Finding gluten-free options there was tough, but thankfully down the road, The Green Welly had a multitude of foods.

The Green Welly is like a massive truck stop complete with gas station, candy shop, whisky shop, outdoor gear store, and restaurant. We were like kids in a candy shop, literally, staring at all of the goodies. We bought gluten-free snacks, and I had an ice cream in each hand. I was so ready for a sweet reward on this trip and I had no apologies. Licking my fingers, we walked through the whisky shop and saw walls and walls of different whiskies. We were so tempted to pick up the sample size of the Inebriated Newt whisky, but instead, we settled for Gatorade and went off to dinner at the Tyndrum Inn.

But no recovery meal is complete without dessert. Yes, I had two ice creams, but after a couple drams of whisky, all calories are created equal. The Real Food Cafe situated on the main road had one of the most inviting signs saying, “Gluten Free Menu,” so we waltzed in and found their dessert case of “award-winning chocolate cake.” It was a no-brainer as we settled in with a coffee and deliciousness.

Once again, we slept like babies, and this time the constant rain did not keep us awake.

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The misty mountains surrounding Tyndrum.

Stay tuned as we continue toward Kingshouse through the Rannoch Moor (a space so vast that you cannot help but feel small) and Glencoe, a valley with stories that inspired Game of Thrones.

The map from Crianlarich to Tyndrum.

Click the image to enlarge the map.

Helpful Links for the West Highland Way:

WHW Elevation Chart
An elevation chart for the West Highland Way.

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