To those who ask me the reason for my travels, I usually answer that I know well what I am running away, but not what I am looking for.
I had asked Wendy if she could have breakfast at seven-thirty instead of eight. You have to take the bus, she said.
Wendy and Philip are the owners of the Glenardran House, the B&B where I will stay two more nights in Crianlarich, and which was hired by the waiter at Ben More Lodge because they could only offer me one more night. But I sat down to breakfast that was almost eight. Too many blisters to heal and bandage, in addition to having to leave the backpack done because while I was still in the same house, they moved me to another room.
The bus passed at 8:34, and my intention to have breakfast quickly faded as soon as a new host arrived in the dining room. He was Dutch, about forty-five years old, he did the route in five days, and he had been amazed by Barça’s Messi – Bayer, a match and goals I haven’t seen yet. It had also been quite torn apart during the miles before Rowardennan and in the aftermath of Inversnaid. It was easy word, but I still didn’t wear my boots on and had a bus that I wouldn’t miss to Bridge of Orchy if I wanted to get to Kingshouse.
The bus was almost full, but only me got off at Bridge of Orchy, which is not even a settlement, but a hotel and four or five Bed & Breakfasts. The route begins by crossing the bridge of the name, and quickly enters a forest of these so beautiful and climbs high. There is a kilometre inside the grove, and from here the path will be, throughout the day, exposed.
Things keep going up to the top of Mama Carraigh, a 350-meter hill that really the way borders but is worth the extra ten-meter climb because the views from the top are spectacular.
Up here, who was to say, I met Luna (moon in Spanish), a dog who made her way accompanied by her owner and her mother. I was accompanied by her (the dog) all the way down to Inveroran, a hotel on the terrace of which a group of hikers took a break and where the Dutch from breakfast ended. Maybe he had said fifteen days and not five?
After the hotel, the route glides gently to Victoria Bridge. Taking advantage of what looks like a rest area, and people loosening up the pace and talk, I met two girls, young and German, who were carrying too much weight. One also had problems with a knee, although this did not seem an impediment to keeping a good pace.
But the injured girl’s good pace and calmness didn’t last long: soon the path climbs the slope of the Blackmount again, and right next to a closed forest to protect it from deer, the Blackmount Wood. The path stops climbing once you reach 350 meters. It is the entrance to Rannoch Moor.
A Moor is an expanse of virgin land, where man has not laid his hands. At the very least, this is the most widely used meaning today. Scotland is full of moorlands, and everyone has their own fan club, which makes it hard to know exactly the boundaries and extent. Because if I tell you that Rannoch Moor borders on the north with Beinn a’Chrulaiste you will stay the same (and so do I), I better tell you what it is: Rannoch Moor is a brutal expanse of nothingness, mountain slopes full of streams and torrents in the middle of a yellowish landscape with purple patches.
It looks like a dry, arid area, but probably in summer it should be all covered in bright green: it is one of the wettest areas in the UK, averaging 3000 mm per year. In fact, the surrounding mountains, which are just over a thousand meters high, are still covered in snow. Really, the temperature, despite the spectacular sun it has made, I don’t think has reached 10°. It is still winter in Rannoch Moor.
And Rannoch Moor
Rannoch Moor is tough, very tough. Well, rather, it’s hard, but it can be worse. The Scots say that if you get caught in a storm at Rannoch Moor, you realize that hell may not be hot.
The road crosses the easternmost part of Rannoch Moor for about 13 kilometres. Of these, 10 are completely exposed to wind and rain, without any possibility of shelter, or any escape route: if up to Bridge of Orchy the path always passes close to a road, from there we move away completely and will not recover it until the end of the stage. But above all, the feeling Rannoch Moor conveys is of loneliness, of nothingness, of total emptiness: no animals grazing, no birds flying, even hikers are silent for a few hours.
It seems like we are all in a hurry to get to Kingshouse, but the beauty of the scenery is captivating, unique, the Englishman told me in classic shorts and knee-high socks, which seemed out of one of the films that Woody Allen has recorded in the UK.
Reaching Kingshouse and Glencoe
The end of the stage is glorious: the road is slowly approaching Glencoe, the most beautiful area in Scotland, they say. Easily recognizable for being an almost perfect U-shaped valley, the route ends just at the best distance to be able to enjoy an immense panorama of these mountains. But before arriving at Kingshouse, the peak of the day and maybe of the way: walking in front of the Buachaille Etive Mòr.
The most foresighted today will sleep in Kingshouse, the hotel where the stage ends. Those who have not found a place will take the bus to Glencoe, just at the point where the road crosses the road. I have had to wait, by chance, only two minutes, to catch the bus to Crianlarich, which arrived on time, and interrupted the explanation of the election results that a Scotsman was giving me.
Tomorrow penultimate stage of only 15 kilometers. This is almost done !!!
Photos of the road from Bridge of Orchy to Kingshoue
The route, in detail
Map and profile of the West Highland Way between Dryen and Rowardennan
Total climbing: 1855 m
Total descent: -1724 m
Total time: 05:32:23