After going out like a light at about 7 or 8pm last night I had the best sleep so far until about 11:30pm, then slept more normally (ie not as well) until 7am (a sleep-in, in my world). This was partly a sign of how tired I was but also that I was aiming for breakfast in Kinlochleven so didn’t want to get there before 9am in case everything was closed before then. It was still quite a long walk downhill into town so I’m very glad I didn’t try it last night. There were also still a lot of midges about, as I discovered when I was messing around in one spot too long trying to take pretty pictures of flowers on the side of the road! After that it was quick point-and-shoot photos only! The walk was on a reasonably quiet gravel road, dominated by beautiful forests, occasional views of town or the surrounding hills, and the hydroelectric pipes and infrastructure. These have a few leaks that may need to be looked at soon!
As I was coming into town a guy passed me with just a small day pack and asked if this was the way to Fort William. What?!?!? There were no towns within walking range (since dawn) back that way so I have no idea where he had come from!
I had scrambled eggs and a cup of tea at the Tail Race Hotel in town. I didn’t actually realise what it was named after (thinking it was some aeronautical thing) until I was showing mum the photos later and she referred to the hydro pipes as the tailrace! I was the only one in there, and the girl actually had to check with the chef that it was OK for me to have breakfast. They were both lovely though and I actually had to chase them down to pay afterwards! I could’ve just walked straight out.
I took a short detour in the middle of town to go and see the Grey Mare’s Tail Waterfall. The walk there was lovely, through shadowy green forest along soft dirt tracks, with ruined mossy stone walls and a rambling stream. To get to the falls themselves you had to put on a helmet and harness and cross a rope bridge. I didn’t do this, but did see a couple of guys going across. It looked pretty cool. The falls themselves were also very pretty.
It is quite a long walk up the hill out of town and I passed a few other walkers on the way, including one guy just about to break camp. One walker remarked “you’re a fast one” as I walked past up the hill. I don’t really think I am . . . I just don’t tend to slow down as much on the way up hills relative to other people. Quite often I just want to get to the top!!
Once over the top it was a VERY long (but picturesque) walk through a huge valley (Lairig Mor, or literally “Big Pass” I think).
Again, I was trying to identify and name all the hills around me from my map. Stob Ban was particularly impressive, and pretty.
I passed a lot of other people this day, many of whom I’d seen prior to my “day off” climbing Buachaille Etive Mor.
The walk goes through pine forest for the last part but luckily for me large swathes had been cleared, opening up much better views. Ben Nevis appeared for a while, dominating the view. It was covered in cloud though so it wouldn’t have been a good day to climb it.
I didn’t have any accommodation booked in Fort William so wanted to get there before 5pm to make sure I could find something. Having not left Kinlochleven until after 10am, with 25km from there to Fort William, I pretty much walked non-stop all day to get there in time. I only stopped to take photos, empty stones from my shoe and get food out of my pack. It was reasonably easy walking but still a long day and quite hard on the feet (hard packed dirt roads).
Even though I was hurrying, I still decided to take a detour to see the Iron Age Fort (Dun Deardail) on the hill overlooking Glen Nevis. It was well worth it. The views were stunning, of Fort William, Ben Nevis, Glen Nevis and the path back the way I’d come. Also, the climb and sense of excitement and adventure broke the monotony of the day’s road walking and put a spring back into my step. I even jogged some of the way down . . . until I twinged my back!!
It was a long downhill walk to Ben Nevis/Glen Nevis – again, luckily some pines had been cleared giving much better views. From near the Ben Nevis visitors centre it was a long walk into town along the main road. Two guys I’d seen on previous days passed me, both with just the standard “hi”. When they caught up with each other they struck up a conversation! I was feeling a little snubbed – why didn’t they want to talk to me?! A few minutes later they turned round and asked if I knew how far the WHW was, and after that I was involved in the conversation! Apparently I looked like a serious hiker, so maybe was a little intimidating . . . or just didn’t look inviting. We ended up walking into town together until one guy (a German, who was heading home tomorrow and back to work on Friday) turned off to his B&B. The end of the WHW is right at the other end of town so the other guy (a uni student from the US, with a big SLR camera and a pair of completely trashed borrowed shoes) and I walked all the way there then took photos for each other. He said it’s probably good for business to make people walk all the way through town! There was a bit of a line to take photos with the walker statue at the end of the way. Pretty sure I may’ve pushed in, but I only took 2s instead of standing there for 10 minutes to get the perfect photos! You can see that photo here.
Then it was back to the Tourist Info Centre where it was suggested that I wander up to a nearby street that has lots of well priced B&Bs. I did so, and there were a lot with vacancies. I was standing around tossing up which one to try when a lady came out of one putting her bins out. She looked nice so I asked if she had a vacancy for two nights. Yes, . . . but no laundry facilities. But only £28 per night! Yes please!! I could catch a bus to a laundromat tomorrow. I was pretty lucky because apparently a couple of hours later they were all booked out!
I showered (mmmmmmm nice) then headed into town to get some dinner. After looking at a lot of menus around town I went to the Ben Nevis Inn. It is a bit lonely sitting by yourself so I ended up sitting at the bar chatting to the staff, including a crazy rock climber who had heard of Wave Rock in WA and wanted to try to climb it!! I had an amazing dinner plus way too many drinks (people started buying them for me!) then one of the locals showed me an amazing almost hidden bar down a back alley (the Maryborough?) where they were doing karaoke. Some of these locals are really good singers!! Then it was home as quietly as possible to try not to wake everyone else in my B&B. A fun night to top off a long day and incredible trip (so far).
Today was probably the least interesting day so far. The Lairig Mor is about 8km long and very much the same type of countryside. The rest of the countryside (mainly plantation pine forest) is also reasonably similar, although was much nicer since some of it was cleared. I was also in a bit of a “just get there” headspace. That said, it was far from a boring walk and was a good day. It was just long and didn’t have the same stunning scenery and dramatic variation that I’d been spoilt by on previous days! It was also delightful to stand under a hot shower again!