Following my evening return to the trail yesterday, and the late dinner, by the time I hit the sack I was quite weary and my plan to complete the blog before turning in was a non-starter. Thus if I was to keep to my writing schedule an early start was needed. The alarm roused me at 7:30 and for the next hour I recalled the wonderful adventures of Tuesday.
Breakfast at 8:30 was a joy of crunchy nut cornflakes followed by a ‘full Scottish’. Now, in the past I’ve not been a huge fan of black pudding but that came to a dead stop this morning. It, and the rest of the breakfast of sausages, bacon, beans, fried eggs (of course) and tattie scone, were completely delicious and really set me up for the 23 miles I was due to knock out during the day. The 2 Scots ladies I mentioned yesterday appeared for breakfast just as I was leaving and we talked for a while about their plans for the day. They were due to spend the night at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel some 21 miles away. In light of their experience of the past 2 days they had thought to get a taxi to Crianlarich and walk from there thus saving about 7 miles. Following discussion they decided instead to take the taxi to Tyndrum leaving themselves just a seven mile walk. Of course they could have done more but they really needed a less stressful day. We agreed to look out for each other at Bridge of Orchy and with that I bade them farewell, picking up my packed lunch on the way out. It was 9:35.
Retracing my steps to the Beinglas campsite I turned left onto ‘the Way’, now heading due north. The weather was perfect. Following a little rain overnight the smell of the undergrowth and dark soil was intense and heady.
The sky was clearing and a little watery sunshine was peering through the remaining cloud. There was no breeze. Once more the feeling of freedom and sheer ‘joie de vivre’ gripped me. Within minutes I was catching people but not just blasting past. Instead I would always greet people with a cheery ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’. If they responded, which was almost always the case, I might chance a comment on the weather, or the state of the track, or something similar. If they seemed happy to chat then maybe we’d talk awhile before I’d make my excuses and move ahead. I met all manner of people today. Couples, mixed groups, and single sex groups, and even the occasional singleton. I bumped into the Kiwi couple again as they were packing up their tent and stopped for a chat with them. There was a chap on his own who had intended to climb a Munro but in light of the weather decided to do a leg of the WHW instead. There was a group of 4 men, 3 Swiss and a Scotsman who worked together in Geneva but had come to walk ‘the Way’ as a group. There was the group of 3 guys in superman t-shirts on a charity walk. The French chap sat on the parapet of a little bridge trying to direct his lady partner with hand waving signals to a geocaching site. Two ladies sat on a bench by a river taking lunch. Another chap advised me most solicitously that my intended hotel for the night was haunted. I could go on. My point is the walk is not just about the walk, glorious though the walking is. Nor is it about the views, splendid though they are. I am increasingly finding it is about the people too. The shared sense of adventure and struggle. The common aim and common ailments of sore feet. The common appreciation of nature’s beauty. The common enjoyment of a liquid reward at a pub along the way.
After a while the closeness and steamy atmosphere of the woods gave way to more openness. The cinder path was wide and with rising ground to my right and meadow to my left I pressed on. Despite dark clouds gathering from time to time none made serious inroads to the decent spell of weather.
After Carmyle Cottage, beyond which the route crossed under the single-track railway through a tunnel in which I encountered a group of 4 middle-aged men embarrassed to be caught taking ‘selfies’, the route deteriorated. The old military road was a mess of mud and rocks, too small to walk on but too large to walk between. This was uncomfortable walking and I was pleased to reach a section that had been renovated even though I normally prefer natural tracks.
A short time later as we approached Crianlarich around 7 miles into the day the route once more entered dense forest and took a turn to the left towards Tyndrum. The next 2 miles or so was predominantly through dense humid woodland and the grass to either side of the path was richly green. While I didn’t see any animals larger than beetles and the butterflies were less in evidence there were still many birds and their songs were a joy to witness. Eventually the path left the woods and went under the railway viaduct and crossed the A82 into open farmland.
After crossing the River Fillan bridge and marvelling at the beauty of this wide fast flowing waterway and the view to the right of the majestic Ben More (1174m) and Stob Binnein (1165m), both of which I climbed 2 years ago, the remains of St Fillan’s priory could be seen. Nestling moss green and overgrown in an ancient copse to the left of the path this priory was not built by St Fillan, a Christian teacher from Ireland, but was erected in the 13th century in memory of him after his sainthood. The building, some 50m long, was endowed by Robert the Bruce in 1317. Thee is an 8th century graveyard nearby.
Continuing through open countryside with the heat of the burning sun moderated by a cooling breeze I took a lunch of a ham sandwich, Mars bar and an apple by the side of the River Fillan around a mile before Tyndrum. Reaching the village at 13:30, 12 miles and 4 hours after leaving Inverarnon, I felt it was time for a break and at just the right time the Tyndrum Inn, a substantial yellow and black painted building set back from the road presented itself. Strongly of the belief that such opportunities should not be wasted I availed myself of the hospitality of said establishment to complete yesterday’s blog. Truth be told I would have left sooner than the hour spent inside were it not for meeting several groups of walkers who arrived after me but with whom I had chatted earlier.
Nonetheless at 2:30 I escaped and took the clearly marked trail to Bridge of Orchy. From here at last I could see the mountains. This was big-sky territory and it was all blue, contrasting wonderfully with the fresh green of the mountains themselves. Road noise from the A82 across the valley to my left was an annoyance but nothing could spoil this wonderful view.
Once more following an old military road and with Beinn Dorain the perfect conical mountain beckoning me forward I once again found myself wanting, nay needing, to run. So I did. Because I could. Uphill. Despite sweating profusely in the heat I was well hydrated and the running seemed effortless. I guess I have retained some of the fitness I gained in Nepal. I did stop from time to time though, for example to discuss tadpoles in a pond with a chap from Kennington out walking with his sister from Edinburgh. Otherwise I kept to an easy gait probably familiar to military people, and used my walking poles to maintain momentum and stability. I still don’t understand why even the uphill sections seemed easy. I stopped any time I got within 100 yds or so of other walkers as I didn’t want them to think I was mad or that there was a problem of some kind. Golden flowering gorse bushes were in profusion along the track and these served to lend the views an extra level of beauty. In no time at all the railway station at Bridge of Orchy came into view and a short while later I arrived at the hotel. The 7 miles had taken just 1hr 35mins. Ok so many could do it quicker but I wasn’t racing; just running for the joy of it. Because I could.
Sitting outside the hotel with my, now customary, pints of orange and lemonade and beer I was amazed to see dozens of classic cars roar past. And I mean roar. Small they undoubtedly were but this was a major gathering of the MG owners club and those little classic sports cars fairly roared down the road. On heading into the pub for a beer recharge I got chatting to a couple who had, despite me trying to be discreet, seen me running and wanted to complement me. Quickly batting that aside we got talking about the hills and their plans for the next few days, and mine, and how apparently they were worried about the tired ladies from yesterday, and general stuff, when all of a sudden the girl mentioned the snow and sleet forecast for tomorrow. Stop! What?? Apparently it’s true. The end of the good weather is nigh and there is heavy rain forecast for the morrow, turning to sleet or even snow on higher ground. Typical!! Tomorrow I cross Rannoch Moor. As the Aussies would say: bugga!
Not seeing ‘my’ ladies around anywhere but confident that they were ok I left the Bridge of Orchy hotel around 5 and headed the final 2 miles over the mountain to the Inveroron Hotel. After an initial wooded section this final journey was on open grassland and once more was a sheer joy of freedom. Though too steep for running (at least for me) it still invited a sprightly pace and before long I was on the pass looking down on the most beautiful Loch Tulla surrounded by lush grassland illuminated by golden evening sunshine. I just had to sit and stare in awe of such natural magnificence.
My reverie was interrupted by a ‘ping’ from my phone indicating a modicum of connectivity so I used that opportunity to try a full-on blog by email. Much to my delight I soon received a text saying that Simon has favourited the post on Twitter thus confirming that it had worked. Regrettably no photographs were sent but I figured I try that the next day (today).
After dinner of cream of celery soup with fresh brown rolls and butter, haggis neeps and tatties, and a dessert of a gorgeously rich lemon meringue pie, washed down with an inexpensive Merlot/Shiraz I repaired to the resident’s lounge. Ostensibly there to write my blog I was joined by 2 couples travelling together. The wives of the couples, one Scottish and the other American, had met while their husbands had been working in Brazil. They had since become close friends and often holidayed together as all were now retired. During the next hour we just chatted about ‘life, the universe and everything’ and had a most wonderful time. They departed about 10 p.m. Leaving me to continue to write to you. It is now 11:30 in the evening and I am done. I hope that I have done justice to this most wonderful of days.
If anyone reading this is contemplating walking the WHW – go do it! But do it in your own time and if you can’t do all of it in the time available, well don’t!
So there you have the rosy view. The Way in good weather where people are in good spirits. Let’s see how I’m feeling this time tomorrow eh? Actually I really hope its poor weather tomorrow as it will enable me, and you, to see how far my good humour may be stretched!