West Highland Way 2: Tyndrum to Fort William


Tyndrum to Ba Cottage


The walk from Tyndrum to Fort William was brilliant. On day 5, I set out from Tyndrum to Inveroran. There was some light rain but nothing like the previous days. The route was very flat, and the only moment of interest during the early part of the day was when I had a run in with some cows. A gang of them had blocked the path and weren’t going to budge. Each time I eased closer, their eyes appeared to narrow, becoming all the more intimidating. This led to a 10 minute detour, but more importantly, cows have really gone down in my estimation. On the approach to Inveroran, the path ascends over Mam Carraigh, where the air suddenly became cold, the wind picked up and hail began to fall. Finally, it felt like I was getting some winter conditions.


 


In Inveroran, I saw the first deer herd of the trip, which in conjunction with the weather led to an increased feeling of wilderness. In Tyndrum I had been given a tip that there were some good wild camping spots further on from Inveroran, and as I was making good time, I decided to walk the extra 8 km to the ruin of Ba Cottage. Towards the ruin, I gradually ascended onto a snow covered track, and snow also began to fall from the sky. It was getting dark by the time I arrived so I quickly pitched my tent, now under moonlight. This seemed like a special place. Only the lower walls of the cottage remained intact, with crumbling stones surrounding it. A large group of munros were visible to the west, with the vast expanse of Rannoch Moor to the east. Only one other set of footprints had been visible on the track, so I had a real sense of being alone. It was fairly peaceful, but there were persistent winds and snow showers. I used this opportunity to start doing some night photography, although this proved difficult without a tripod. It was cold, but the cold doesn’t matter so much when you’re occupied with something. I typically like the sound of the wind against the tent, but that night I had to use ear plugs to get some sleep.


 

 


Ba Cottage to The Devil’s Staircase


I took my time setting off the following day. It was a beautiful, clear morning, the sky was blue and full of white clouds. I think I was still in awe of where I had spent the night. I was also happy that I’d walked an extra 8 km the previous day, so I was now ahead of schedule. I set off towards Glencoe, eager to set my eyes on the beast of a mountain that is Buachaille Etive Mor. Indeed, it was looking rather brilliant on this day, with its east face full of texture and drama. I stopped at Glencoe Ski Centre for a cup of tea and a cheese toastie, arriving at Kingshouse shortly afterwards. After the previous night’s wild camp, I was not content with camping down in the Glen. Although the hours of daylight were short, I decided to walk on up the Devil’s Staircase to search out a camping spot in the snow. Admittedly, I was unaware of the weather forecast for the evening, but it was very calm at the time and the sky was clear. If I didn’t find a good spot to pitch, I knew I’d end up descending down to Kinlochleven on the other side, and I was almost resigned to doing so, until I spotted an interesting ledge and decided to head further up the mountain. Higher up, the snow was thigh deep in places, and if you sink that far into snow it can be hard work getting back out! I pitched my tent on the ledge, again in awe of where I was and everything that I could see. I genuinely felt elated, and it was all the more special that that place in that moment was mine alone.


 

 


The Devil’s Staircase to Kinlochleven


The following day, I once again awoke to a still morning. It had been a cold night, and my sleeping bag hadn’t been quite up to the task. A few extra layers of clothing had made it more comfortable. I struggled to get my boots on, as they had frozen – I was literally wearing blocks of ice on my feet for the first part of the day. I knew that I was now far enough ahead of schedule that I could get to Fort William a day early if I wanted to, but instead I decided to enjoy being up on the mountain. I took my sleeping mat from the tent and sun bathed on the snow, before packing up and heading down to Kinlochleven.


 


Kinlochleven to Fort William


I arrived in Kinlochleven by 2pm and decided to stop at the hostel. I spent the evening in the pub with a fellow hostel-goer, some fish and chips and three pints of stout. The next day, day 8 of walking, I was out to finish the West Highland Way. The morning was crisp, there were low lying clouds in the valley, and some snow had fallen overnight. The route took me up into the cloud, following the old military road alongside the Mamores. I felt very lucky with the weather, and I cannot express enough how beautiful the mountains looked. It seemed almost alpine, and reminded me of being in the Alps as a child. Scotland is an incredible place with stunning landscapes and now when people ask me why I decided to do my walk at this time of year, I can just show them the pictures. The remainder of the walk to Fort William was a breeze, I had found my walking rhythm. I had one nasty blister that was taking a while to heal, but other than that, I felt ready for the Cape Wrath Trail.


 

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