We awoke to a wild and windy day, Tuesday’s shower still continued and was more intense. During a cooked breakfast, the hotel owner told us the BBC news had reported flooding, road closures and landslides caused by the storm in Scotland. It was definitely a night to spend in a comfy hotel and not in a tent camping rough on the moors.
|Another distraction during breakfast was caused by Chris spotting a stag wandering past the dining room window; the owner didn’t bat an eyelid. I guess when you live there for years you get used to the garden wildlife just like we do with the smaller visitors we see. From our bedroom window we watched more hinds as the stags rounded them up close by. One stag even walked along the road and set off up the signposted WHW path.|
The week’s shower was getting even heavier and for the first time a gale force wind was helping the water find ways into our waterproofs.
Before setting out on the week’s walk, I hadn’t expected so much rain but hoped for just a little on Rannoch Moor to add to the wild feeling of the place. We were treated to that in abundance as we crossed the wildest, most remote and exposed section of the walk. Route finding in this wild landscape proved easy, we followed the well made track which was an old drovers road laid over 300 years ago. Half a mile of road takes the WHW from the hotel to Victoria Bridge then on to Forest Lodge through ancient Caledonian Forest.
Gaining height the path emerged on the open moors, it’s a wonder how people managed to live up here and build the road in such wild environs.
It was reputed as an area so remote that escapee prisoners would head for here to hide. The police would go and look for them, sometimes finding them and sometimes recovering their bodies after exposure had taken its toll.
Torrential rain flooded the path and every burn, wrapping the hillsides in a web of white ribbons. It flooded into our waterproofs and boots as well; rain driving off our hoods was so loud it sounded like someone was trying to stuff a crisp packet in my ear. En route, many bridges crossed these burns, each with their own tumultuous waterfalls. All the falls were worth photographing and our camera was soon wet.
Half way across the moor is Ba Bridge crossing the river Ba flowing from the massive Coire Ba, an area we had considered for wild camping when planning our walk. Thankfully we didn’t need to spend an interesting night there. East of the path, vast expanses of soggy peat and pools lead away over the horizon. Anyone leaving the path here would soon be mired in impassable black peat softened by relentless rain. Even in the summer when a dry peat provides a stable surface to walk on it has still been possible for people to canoe across most of the moor. The Black Mount estate is owned by the Fleming family. We passed the highest point of the day where a stone monument was built as a memorial to Peter Fleming the travel writer and brother of Ian Fleming the James Bond author.
Paddling down a streamy path from the moor into Glencoe the A82 came into view. Gales were getting stronger, funneling up Glencoe as we passed Blackrock cottage. The Kings House was only another half mile and by now we were so wet we just waded through the deep puddles and flows in a final dash to the hotel. Some of the hotel’s staff had been sent home early because of the weather and warnings of more to come. Staggering at what felt like 45° bent into the wind, we stumbled dripping wet and soaked through into the Kings House, one of the oldest inns in Scotland. The receptionist smiled and asked if we’d had a good walk as though such arrivals are commonplace which given the history of the hotel they probably were. The boys had really red cheeks, their jackets had kept them dry but ours gave up trying shortly after we set off. Helen had water running down the inside and outside of her clothes. Wild weather, rugged landscape and the serious nature of the remote route made this the best day of our walk. Unusually considering the rain and wind, the cloud was high enough to occasionally see the top of the iconic Buachaille Etive Mor. We took a few photo's in the ever changing light and bought a couple of post cards which do the view more justice than our pictures. The Buachaille, who’s name is Gaelic for the big Etive Heardsman stands watch over Glen Etive and Glencoe. Such a shapely Munro is a magnet for climbers as are many of the other Glencoe hills. These hills are relatively young by geological standards and are still pinnacled (e.g. the magnificent Aonach Eagach or "Pinnacled Ridge" which encloses the north side of the Glen) and rugged because they have had less time to be weathered smooth like older hills such as the Cairngorms. The angular nature of the hills helped Glencoe and the Kings House hotel establish a key place in Scottish climbing history.
The hotel was built in the 17th centaury and was used after the battle of Culloden to barrack troops for King George III giving it its name if Kings House (not King’s House for some reason). An army officer was conscripted into running the hotel which didn’t turn out to be as easy as he had been led to believe. Consequently, the new owner turned to smuggling salt and whiskey which was far more lucrative and he was able to buy a large farm and retire after only ten years. The customs officers in the area were said to turn a blind eye to the smuggling as it wasn’t worth the risk of intercepting even a small shipment. Since then the inn has improved and proved to be a comfortable and popular place, quiet now but fully booked for the coming weekend.
Once changed into clean dry clothes we wandered downstairs to a large, empty lounge heated by a crackling open fire.
Two walls of the lounge were taken up by massive windows one offering superb views of The Buachaille and the other of Meall a Bhuiridh. We sat here until as darkness fell when a heard of deer strolled across the car park. Chris and Mark counted two stags arguing over eighteen hinds. Apparently, the hotel staff leave vegetables and bread out for the deer and the hinds have become so tame they will take food out of your hand is you remain still enough. Stags are more temperamental especially as they were rutting. Over in the bar we tucked in to meals selected from a menu that was conspicuously rich in venison dishes. We chatted with another walker while the boys had a long game of pool then we retired back to seats by the fire in the lounge.