West Highland Way

Crianlarich to Bridge of Orchy - 21st April 2014

After settling up we left at about 9.15. It was to be a longer day and we were quite keen to get going. The weather was again warm and bright but with a bit more cloud.

First we had to get back to the top of the hill to re-join the path. We took it slowly but it only took 20mins to reach the junction that we had left the previous afternoon. From the junction we walked steeply uphill to a vantage point with a picnic table and views back down to Crianlarich. We could see Craigbank quite clearly, with Ben More as a backdrop, and other hills further down the valleys. The pleasant path took us through a mixture of forest and whilst quite often narrow and winding, every now and again the trees would clear to reveal a view in one direction or another. We descended down to the valley floor near Ewich House and after passing under the railway we crossed the road and arrived at the bridge over the River Fillan.

View from above Crianlarich

River Fillan

At Kirkton Farm we saw the graveyard at St Fillan's Priory but almost missed the actual ruins as they were behind us and we were too busy looking in the opposite direction. We now passed through farmland until we arrived at Strathfillan with its wigwams and camping set up.

St Fillan's graveyard

Intelligent horses in Scotland!

Strathfillan wigwams

My blister had been giving me some pain and we should have stopped earlier but we had just kept going. We stopped just by the bridge to Strathfillan House and had a rest and something to eat. The wind was quite blustery so we didn't stay too long but it was long enough to give some respite to my little pinky. We set off once more and quite quickly we could make out the collection of buildings that makes up Tyndrum.

We had planned to either restock at Crianlarich or Tyndrum depending on what was available. Having found the shelves almost bare at Crianlarich we had to stop at Tyndrum as we needed the best part of 3 days supplies. We tried Brodies supermarket, but again not a great selection so we went into The Green Welly shop which had plenty of choice. We treated ourselves to a coffee and a bacon roll, which was quite good value, and sat outside on a seat watching the hordes of Easter Monday trippers going about their business. The sun had come out again, the wind had dropped and the seat we were on was quite a suntrap. All told we had probably spent at least 45mins getting supplies, eating and just people watching, but, bearing in mind that Tyndrum was only half way we did need to crack on, however difficult it was to drag ourselves away. With boots back on and backpacks hoisted we left the noisy throng behind us and found the path. As we left town we passed the cemetery and realised that they must live for a very long time in those parts, as there was only one grave. It was quite a pull up the hill and almost from nowhere there were about a dozen or more people either in front or behind. Where they had come from I don't know as we hadn't seen many walkers all day. As we crested the top the wind slammed into us and although welcome, as we were perspiring somewhat, it wasn't long before we bowed to the inevitable and had to put fleeces on.

Tyndrum cemetery

Military road

The long straight path went into the distance, almost as far as the eye could see. It was easy walking and quite pleasant with the top up of painkillers doing their job on my toe. We descended steeply to a sheep creep that took us under the railway before continuing on the same straight path for some distance more. One of the things that Rachel wanted to see was highland cattle and as we got almost to Auch, there across the river was a whole herd of the furry blighters. After taking far too many photos of them, we continued on to where 2 rivers meet where we thought it would be a good idea to stop. But, there was nowhere we could find that was out of the wind, which was now blowing a gale. We then spied a gate that was sort of open, slightly, I think, quite conveniently next to a stone wall. Not wanting to pass up on an opportunity, we took advantage and dropped down out of the wind tunnel. Boots and socks off, food out and to top it all, the sun came out for some much needed warmth.

Highland cattle

Setting off once again we re-joined the path that would take us all the way to Bridge of Orchy. Both the road and railway had been our constant companion since Tyndrum but neither had been an intrusion. As we gained a crest, the never ending military road continued slightly downhill and into the distance, but, we could now plainly see the distinct outline of the railway station and the hotel at Bridge of Orchy. It was still a way off, but the march, that this part of the day had become, was soon to come to an end, and if I'm honest I was pleased.

Yet more military road

Bridge of Orchy station

Bridge of Orchy Hotel

We walked under the railway, past the little Fire Station and there was the hotel, and to the right our bed for the night, Stance Cottage. We knew that the Sigi and Ulle were also staying at Stance Cottage, having had their short day from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy. As we walked up the path there they were, sunning themselves on a seat in a courtyard area near the front door. We had a chat before knocking on the door and introducing ourselves to Susan. We were shown to our room and set about getting ready for our evening meal which we had planned on having at the hotel opposite. There were no other places and we had toyed with the idea of eating at lunchtime at Tyndrum. In hindsight it might have been the better proposition.

It had been a good day on many fronts but the miles of military roads had taken their toll. The scenery had been varied which added to the enjoyment and having a longer stop in Tyndrum, with all the bustle, was unexpectedly quite enjoyable.

Accommodation: Stance Cottage - Score 6/10

Our room seemed rather dark but was large enough. It had twin beds and an assortment of furniture which had seen better days and no TV, although there was one in the lounge which also doubled up as the breakfast room. We also had a tiny en-suite shower room. There was also a welcome tray with all the normal fayre. The room was cold and we struggled to get the fan heater to generate enough heat. The house layout was unconventional in that the other bedroom, which Sigi and Ulle had, had a bathroom allocated to it but it was quite a distance through the house to get to it. Not a major problem but one of these rooms that they had to pass through was where we had breakfast. I was just glad we had opted for the en-suite room.

We arranged breakfast for a slightly earlier time than Sigi and Ulle and so we were then entertained by them scurrying through the room in various states of undress, with wash bags, wet hair etc. while we were eating our breakfast. We had got to know them quite well but I didn't feel particularly comfortable. The breakfast was adequate, I think, but if I'm honest, with everything else that was going on it wasn't the most memorable.

I think the owners were doing the best they can, of what they have, but for me it didn't really work, there were too many compromises. Susan and her husband were fine, the whole house was very homely and it was clean but the score is a reflection of its position when put up against the opposition. Having said all that I would stay again and I would definitely have the en-suite again!

Evening meal: Bridge of Orchy Hotel - Score 6/10

We were told we wouldn't need to book, so we didn't. When we arrived we almost had to prise a menu out of the barman, there being no other staff. He seemed slightly off hand but that could have been down to his nationality - he wasn't British. As the weather was fine we asked whether we could sit outside, but they didn't allow food to be eaten outside - until we saw food being served and eaten outside a few minutes later. The dining room didn't open until after 6pm and so when it did we were told to ask to be seated at a table. Not long after 6pm, another member of staff arrived and when we asked for a table we were told that they were fully booked. There was no one in the restaurant! We asked whether we could eat at one of the bar tables, to which the reply was that we could but the food might take a while longer as the restaurant takes precedence. We placed our order and within no more than 15mins our food arrived. This wasn't particularly a surprise, as there wasn't anybody in the restaurant! I might have mentioned that already.

The food was very good, if a bit pretentious, but as expected it was very expensive for the small amount you got - certainly not what walkers need or want. We had nearly finished our meal and then it happened, 2 people walked into the 50 seater restaurant. Then, shock horror, just as we were about to leave, 4 people arrived.

The whole episode was a shambles but we found it quite funny. If they carry on in this way, alienating customers and turning trade away, I would fully expect new owners sometime soon.

I would suggest a better option would be to eat at Tyndrum at midday, buy some supplies for a picnic and sit by the river in the evening.

<<< Previous Day West Highland Way Homepage Next Day >>>