Kinlochleven to Inveroran – The West Highland Way – Day 2. 19 miles from Kinlochleven. The Devils Staircase to Glencoe. Rannoch Moor to the Inveroran Hotel.
In May, Lady Lynne, our friend Jen and I completed the 96 miles (154Km) West Highland Way walk North to South from Fort William to Milngavie in 6 days. This is our day by day recap of that walk.
Kinlochleven to Inveroran was our second day walking The West Highland Way. Make sure you’ve read the first day, Fort William to Kinlochleven – The West Highland Way – Day 1!
It wasn’t a late night for the three of us in Kinlochleven.
The weather forecast for our next day’s walk from Kinlochleven to Inveroran was for it to be dry until 3pm. Then after it would rain.
Based on that forecast we planned for an early 8am start. That would mean we would get the majority of the second day’s walk completed, arriving at The Inveroran Hotel when the rain was forecast to start.
It was a good plan……..
Kinlochleven to Inveroran – Day 2
After a hearty breakfast of boiled egg rolls and tea, we left our cabin at The MacDonald Hotel. We walked through the village of Kinlochleven and took the old military road heading upwards.
As the weather had forecast it started off dry. It wasn’t hot and sunny like the previous day but it wasn’t cold either. Anyway we all soon worked up a heat climbing beside the pipes which carry water down to the Kinlochleven Hydro Electric power station.
The power station was the first major hydroelectric project in Britain. It was built by the British Aluminium Company Ltd to supply power to its smelters at Kinlochleven. The scheme continues to generate electricity, though the Kinlochleven smelter has closed. The power station also still retains some of its original machinery.
At the top of the road we meet the pumping station where the pipes to the smelter start the high pressure build up for the turbines in the generating station below in Kinlochleven.
After the pumping station, the old military road meanders east for about a further 5 miles towards Glen Coe. With stunning views to the North of The Mamores.
Having just climbed for a good solid 2 hours from Kinlochleven to reach this section of the path it’s nice just to be able to take in those views.
The path then turns westward allowing views of the Blackwater Reservoir.
The reservoir is 13km long and was created behind the Blackwater Dam. Unfortunately the dam can’t be seen but it is possible to walk to. The dam itself was completed in 1909. It was built nearly entirely by hand and is almost a kilometre across.
The reservoir and the dam were built to provide water to generate the enormous amount of electricity at the Kinlochleven Hydro Electric station that was needed to operate the aluminium smelter.
The Ring of Steall is a fantastic climb of 4 Munro’s in one day. I recall traversing the route a number of years ago. It was an amazing day. One that I’d be happy to do again in the future.
We had all walked at our own pace for this part of the walk from Kinlochleven. I decided to pause here to wait for the ladies to join me. I thought this would be a good place to take a break and maybe have a quick sandwich. It was reasonably sheltered from the wind and there were plenty of rocks about to sit on.
No sooner had we sat down than it started to rain. It was 11.30. The rain had come 3 and a half hours early!
We managed to grab a sandwich and quickly get all our waterproofs on. It didn’t look like this was going to be just a shower.
With our full waterproofs on and prior to descending the zig-zagging Devil’s staircase to Glen Coe, I took this shot of the ladies with Buachaille Etive Mòr in the background.
Buachaille Etive Mor is one of the most famous of all the Munro mountains.
It has a pyramid like form when seen from the A82 road and travelling towards Glen Coe. That form makes it one of the most recognisable mountains in Scotland. It’s frequently depicted on postcards and calendars. In fact I have a large picture of it hanging in my office at home!
Descending the Devil’s Staircase was decidedly tricky. Not because of the rain though. It was extremely busy with people hiking up it.
Those people were the ones doing the more popular South to North route of the West Highland Way as opposed to ourselves who were doing it the other way around.
We gave way to those hiking up it. Most of whom had their heads down to avoid the rain and were concentrating on their footing on the path. So they didn’t see us coming down anyway!
I think you can tell from the picture above that Lynne wasn’t a particular fan of this part of the route! 😆
The name “Devil’s Staircase” came from the soldiers who were employed in the road building programme of General Wade. As you can imagine, the carrying of road building materials up that stretch of the route was not popular!
The name was further engraved in history when the workers building the Blackwater Dam chose to go to their nearest pub, the Kingshouse Hotel to spend their wages.
For many, the walk back to the Blackwater Dam from the Kingshouse Hotel proved to be more difficult than they had thought. Especially in the harsh weather that this area is famous for. On a cold winter’s night, the devil often ”claimed his own“ and many perished attempting the journey.
From the foot of The Devil’s Staircase (Alltnafeadh) it’s roughly then a 3 mile trek to The Kingshouse Hotel. The route follows much of the busy A82 main road, but on a set path. Fortunately that means you don’t need to walk on the road.
The Kings House was built by the British Army in the 18th century. It is said to be one of Scotland’s oldest licensed inns. You can read about some if its history on the information board displayed there above.
Normally this would be an excellent stop for a plate of hot soup and a quick pint. However……..
At this time The Kingshouse Hotel was being completely refurbished. Only the original part of the 18th century building (above) is to be retained.
The hotel extension, built in the 1960’s has been completely demolished. This is to make way for a new hostel and 80 bedrooms.
We managed to find shelter under a tree where the military road crossed the River Etive. This was one of the main reasons why the hotel was built here. We ate our lunch watching with fascination all the building work that was still going on. Despite the rain.
After The Kingshouse Hotel (or lack of it) Buachaille Etive Mòr is now behind us. Here we began the long and final 10 miles walk over Rannoch Moor.
This section of the West Highland Way from Kinlochleven to Inveroran can be terrible in bad weather. It’s completely desolate with no shelter from the elements.
It also happens to be my favourite part of today’s walk! You may find that strange. However, I just love the complete isolation and bleak landscape that we walk through. It’s kind of challenging in a way, if you get what I mean?
Rannoch Moor is a vast area of around 50 square miles (130 km²) of boggy moorland in the west of Scotland. It is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. It was also designated as a world heritage site in 1976.
At the start of the 1800’s, the early military roads began to fall into disrepair. Work was needed to upgrade those routes especially as commercial traffic and the flow of goods south to markets had increased.
Commissioned by parliament in 1803, Thomas Telford went on to build many new roads in Scotland between 1804 and 1824. This is one such road he built that we walked on.
The information board (above) on this particular part of the route from Kinlochleven to Inveroran gives information on how the road was constructed.
Proper bridges were built to take the road over rivers as well as the road having a proper surface to protect horse and carriage.
This road was in full use as the main public road to Fort William until 1933. It is still kept in good condition for access to this estate, the Black Mount Estate and for walkers on the West Highland Way.
Because this road is in such good condition we made good timing. We completed the 10 miles in about 3 and a half hours.
Since leaving Kinlochleven early that morning, other than our initial climb, the rest of the day’s walk was more or less downhill.
The only disadvantage about walking on this road was the hard surface. Though necessary for Land Rovers, it was still quite sore on our feet!
The rain did not let up all day since starting earlier that morning. Whilst we were dry in our waterproofs, we were also extremely hot and sweaty.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, there’s no shelter on this long stretch. With the ground being wet there was also nowhere to sit too.
Longing for a seat (and a pint!) we were all grateful for reaching Victoria Bridge. From there, there’s less than a mile to go to The Inveroran Hotel.
We paused just briefly for this photograph before getting into the dry and welcoming environment of The Inveroran Hotel.
I’d previously stayed at this hotel and had loved its remoteness. The hotel has all the facilities you need. We had booked a family room which gave us plenty of space and an on-suite recently modernised bathroom.
One facility it does not have however is WiFi. I’d forewarned the ladies that Wi-Fi was not available here, being in the middle of nowhere. So there would be no Facebook!
But who needs Wi-Fi anyway when you’ve got a well stocked bar? And a restaurant with a menu featuring a great selection of Scottish home cooked food!
We thoroughtly enjoyed some liquid refreshments (local Ale’s) at the bar. Then we changed into more comfortable clothes and ate our excellent dinner heartily.
Then it was off to bed to get a good sleep. This was much needed to be able to prepare ourselves mentally and physically for the next day’s walk which was to be our longest, at 21 miles!
So folks that ends Day 2 Kinlochleven to Inveroran. Check back soon for Day 3, Inveroran to Inverarnan or better still subscribe by following the instructions below!
If you enjoyed reading this then you might also be interested in reading about our other walking adventures. Check out our 84 miles coast to coast Hadrian’s Wall Path walk across Britain.
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