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 5: Tyndrum ( t(eye)n-drum) to Kingshouse
Our short day to Tyndrum really hit the spot. After 21 miles through Loch Lomond, 8 miles to Tyndrum was a dream, and we had a full afternoon and evening to recover and relax. Our B&B, Tigh-na-Fraoch, could not have been in a better location (right next to the path and a babbling brook), but they also served the most unique breakfast we had yet: fresh trout from the river. After an exquisitely restful night, and the fluffiest towels I have experienced in years, we were ready to tackle another long day.
At 740a we said our goodbyes and hoisted our backpacks back on for the first stretch toward Bridge of Orchy. In my previous post, I wrote that in most guides Bridge of Orchy is the next main place to stop, but there is only one hotel in the area. By the time we booked our accommodations in February for our week in May, it was completely booked. But these first six miles were wide open, engulfing, and just stunning. There are only so many words in the English language to describe what we saw, and sadly, our cameras cannot do it justice.
On this stretch, you follow old military roads that are parallel with the major highway. I will say that when investing in long walks or hikes, proper shoes are paramount. I bought a pair of Solomon Approach Shoes, which were perfect. I adore them. But Jeff bought some very heavy Karrimor shoes that gave him several blisters and no relief from the rock road. So, if you take anything away from my story of the West Highland Way, it is to spend the money on good shoes, and break them in appropriately.
As we meandered through the glens surrounded by massive mountains (or bens), we casually stepped over puddles of water that collected on the paths. But one puddle caught my eye because there were dozens and dozens of tadpoles swimming around. Of all the wildlife we had seen on the trails, tadpoles were something I hadn’t thought I’d see. It was amazing!
We made it to the Bridge of Orchy and took in the sights of the tiny village. The highway you follow for those previous six miles is the dividing line in the Way, so you have to watch carefully as you cross the road. Cars come flying by, but once you cross, you’re back into proper woods and wilderness. But just about 3 miles later, we found ourselves looking over Loch Tulla and the Inveronan Hotel. This 17th century hotel is the only thing that sits between Bridge of Orchy and Kingshouse, so I do recommend stopping in the Walker’s Bar for a quick rest and bite.
No chefs are on site until 12pm, but they do have some random muffins and sausage rolls if you get there a bit early. We took full advantage of the small space and filled up our bottles in the outdoor tap. But it was really amazing to be sitting in such a historical relic overlooking a loch filled with fresh salmon.
We were 9.5 miles into the day and were ready to conquer the Rannoch Moor, a massive grassy and boggy stretch of land at 50 square meters. This moor marks the official beginning of the Highlands of Scotland, and when you first come across them mirroring the blue sky and snow capped mountains, it truly takes your breath away. This stretch of the Way has been described as lonesome, and I completely understand now. We had so few walkers with us during our entire week that even the smattering of fluorescent jackets were swallowed instantly by the moorland. If ever you want solitude, this is where to go.
This moorland continues for a good long while, and the rocky path did start to wear on our poor bones. Off to the sides of the path, walkers formed an alternative path through the grass giving relief to our feet, but it did make you more cautious to not fall into the marsh.
Two miles from Kingshouse, the hotel is visible giving a bit of hope. We continued on past the Glencoe Resort, which is about 200 meters off the path, and bee-lined it to the hotel. After close to 19 miles, we were fatigued and ready to put our bags down. But before we could do that, we had another major highway to race across Frogger-style. With wider lanes, we had to quickly hobble across, but once we did, the hotel was within grasp.
We arrived and checked in just before 5p, and our room could not have been more perfect. The windows faced directly out to Glencoe Valley and the sunset. Granted, we didn’t make it to the sunset because we fell asleep early that night, but the changing clouds and sun rays falling over the landscape were breathtaking.
Kingshouse Hotel has an interesting history. In 1746, British troops were housed there (thus “King’s House”) following the Battle of Culloden, which was the final confrontation of the Jacobite uprising. The charm of the hotel was not lost on us complete with retro signs and homey furniture. Our room did not have a private bathroom, but battling our neighbors for the shared two bathrooms was never an issue.
During our research for the trip, I saw the King’s House Hotel offered my favorite Scottish meal on their dinner menu: bangers and mash. I was so excited and waited all week in anticipation. But when we arrived, they said the online menu was outdated and they no longer offered the dish. Crestfallen, I looked over my other options and wound up having the best steak I’ve ever had.
The whole bar was convivial and happy as a group of German hikers got together and sang Happy Birthday to their comrade and everyone in the room joined in. Whether it was delirium from the day or the alcohol flowing in the bar, everyone was laughing, joking, and just in an all-around good mood. It was a nice way to end our day 5 before heading off to Kinlochleven the next morning.
Stay tuned for more tales of the Way including the Devil’s Staircase, hand tans, and billiard games.
Click each image to enlarge the maps.
Helpful Links for the West Highland Way:
- The Official Site for the West Highland Way
- Bridge of Orchy Hotel
- Inveroran Hotel (complete with “Walkers Bar”)
- Glencoe Mountain Resort (ski lift and place to stop, but just a mile from Kings House Hotel)
- Kings House Hotel
- Travel-Lite Baggage Service for WHW