It was reasonably windy last night but my tent was fine. I slept OK but was a bit sore, which didn’t help (kept having to roll over when the bits got sore in one position). It looked like the river had dropped a little by the morning so I may’ve been able to camp on the other side and kept my feet dry.
I was up fairly early as I felt a little exposed so close to the track and houses. It was lucky I was as the midges were starting up as I was packing up the tent. Also, just after I set off I saw a farmer and two border collies already out and about at the farm down the road. I also saw a bunny rabbit here but thanks to the my inability to use my camera properly, I don’t have a decent photo (couldn’t get it to centre focus rather than multi focus and there was a gate between me and the bunny).
Just down the road were a group of cows on and around the road, including a mother nursing her calf right in the middle of the road, with couple of metres of road between her and the next cow! Being from the country, I know that cows can be dangerous, especially nursing mothers and those with huge horns! Eventually she moved enough to let me pass, rather than walking between them. I got lots of pictures of them while waiting!
This was a lovely, easy walking section with some lovely countryside and scenery, including a beautiful play of light across the hills opposite from the sun breaking through the fast moving cloud cover.
It was very quiet walking, with nobody else out. There were a couple of people at the Bridge of Orchy train station and I surprised one half asleep guy returning to his tent (in shirt and underwear) at the campsite on the other side of the Orchy river. It seems that most people here don’t get up early in the morning! This was an interesting place – about 10 tents all right next to each other. Some were identical so obviously part of an organised group, . . but still not my idea of fun camping! I’m out here to get away, not to be on people’s doorsteps even more than at home!
It had been a bit wet so far today, but the sun came out just in time for me to tackle the hill after the River Orchy. So, waterproofs off! Also, the midges were hanging around a bit so there was not too much stopping until I got to higher ground (where it was windy). This was a lovely walk through some woods, then out into open moorland. I took a slight detour up to a hill (Mam Carraigh) which gave me my first realisation that while a track may be a little muddy, stepping off the track is a whole nother world.
The track follows the railway line for a lot of this section (though a fair way away) and a bit later the Caledonian Sleeper came past (relevant as I know mum loves trains too). The previous night I was camped in view of the Allt Kinglass viaduct and have some nice photos of a train going over it . . . but you’ll have to wait for the galleries for that! The famous Harry Potter viaduct is a bit north of Fort William . . . maybe I can camp near that one next time!
I got to Inveroran just before 10am, thinking I might get some morning tea. The shop only opens from 10am-3pm?! There were some more campers at the bridge just past Inveroran (a recommended wild camp site), just packing up. What’s with these people? Just getting up at 10am?!
Round the end of Loch Tulla, through a gate and onto Telford’s Parliamentary Road (a later version to replace Wade’s Military Road). I’m not a fan of Telford’s Road. While it was flatter and lower down the hill than Wade’s (they could build bigger bridges by this point so didn’t have to cross the rivers as high up) it is cobbled, and incredibly hard to walk on! Interestingly, General Wade’s road, which I had been happily walking on for a few days, ran parallel and nearby but was almost non existent in sections like this where it was no longer maintained.
I walked along this road through the Black Mount area, trying to identify and name the hills around me from my maps (e.g. Stob a Choire Odhair, Meall Beag, Meall a Bhuiridh). This was an area of quite open moorland with amazing views (mountain after mountain) and colours (vegetation, . . and bogs!). Then I came to the River Ba. Wow. It is so beautiful. Sadly, my photos don’t do it justice. I sat down for a bit to air my feet and enjoy the view. A few other people stopped right next to the bridge, but I chose a rock further down the path in the wind . . . to keep away from the midges!
To the east of here is Rannoch Moor, which I had heard a lot about as an amazing expanse of wilderness . . . . but I must admit it was not as impressive as I’d expected. Possibly it would be more awe inspiring if I was closer, or maybe “huge expanses of wilderness” in a country the size of Scotland just aren’t as impressive when you’re from Australia (where we have huge expanses of nothing several times the size of the entire UK)?
Coming down of the high moorland I had my first view of Buachaille Etive Mor (which I’m climbing tomorrow). I was pretty scared. It is HUGE and looks unassailable. At least I would already be at ~180m (down from the 430m ASL on the moor today) so it would only be 860m climbing! There is a picture of it here.
I took a slight detour towards the ski cafe, thinking of getting some afternoon tea and possibly a shower there, then changed my mind and headed back down the road to the Kings House Hotel. The Hotel is very supportive of hikers (they get so many hikers and climbers) so they are happy for “wild” camping directly behind the hotel. I pitched my tent on the other side of the river directly behind the hotel, on the other side of the road to all the other campers – I’d rather be in view of the hotel than on the doorstep of other tents! It’s the first time I’ve camped so close to other people (other than the first night when they probably didn’t even know we were there) but it was a pretty good spot, protected by the hotel from wind and nice and flat. There were a lot of deer behind the hotel and they were wandering quite close to my tent but luckily didn’t eat or trample it. (There is a picture of my spot pitch in the same post as the Buachaille picture above)
I washed my feet in the stream, put my sandals and fleecy jumper on and went into the pub to kill some time (it was only 3pm but it was only ~4km to Buachaille Etive Mor so no point going any further tonight). I had some soup, cider and beer (I hadn’t had lunch), then waited for dinner time when I had some amazing local trout, whisky and then dessert – apple pie and the largest glass of port ever (the bar girl had never served port so didn’t know which glass to use or how much to pour!!). I talked to a young English couple in the hotel – he had really bad blisters and an infection in his feet so I offered first aid supplies, but in the end he decided to be stubborn and ‘manly’ and not use them! He could barely walk and I didn’t see them after this so I don’t know if they made it any further. After killing 5 hours, I finally went to bed!
I saw a lot of people on the walk today, including a lot walking a similar speed or slower to me. This was a change from the first couple of days with less people, but many faster than me. Maybe after four days of walking they’ve finally slowed down!! I also saw a couple of people that I proceeded to leapfrog for the next couple of days.
Today’s walk was probably the tamest section of walk – mainly large tracks and hardly any forest. However, looking back at the photos (which you’ll have to wait to see), it is also when I first got into the stunning open highland landscape – open moorland with dramatic hills reaching out of it on all sides. Also my first real encounter with proper highland bogs (especially when walking off-track) and with midges (albeit a mild case). I was getting a little concerned at how I was going to get across the north-west as I’d always heard that it was worse there than here for bogs and midges.