West Highland Way

Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse - 22nd April 2014

I was quite glad to get breakfast over with and get cracking. I was keen to 'do' Rannoch Moor and then stay at the Kingshouse Hotel. However, I had a bad, gut feeling, about the Kingshouse, but I hoped that I would be wrong and of course I would find out soon enough. We had found out that Sigi and Ulle were staying at Kinlochleven for 2 nights and missing out on the Kingshouse experience. They were in fact staying at our B&B so we would meet up with them again in a couple of days. As we left we passed the other bathroom and bumped into a half-naked Ulle which gave Rachel a thrill first thing in the morning!

Once outside we walked down to the river and the first spots of rain started. The mountains behind us were covered with black rain clouds so we knew it was only going to get worse, but we resisted putting on waterproofs for as long as possible. We climbed up through the trees until we were on open ground and then the rain started to fall more heavily. We donned coats but not waterproof trousers hoping that the rain would be light and our legs would dry out in between the showers. We reached the cairn at the top and had wonderful views of Loch Tulla and then the Inveroran Hotel below. I don't think I was fully prepared for just how great a spot this area was and as we descended down to the hotel the remoteness was all the more apparent.


Inveroran Hotel


Loch Tulla


Deer

The Inveroran Hotel looked fine from the outside and could be an option rather than staying in Bridge of Orchy. As we followed the road round we spotted a couple of deer near the loch and just after Victoria Bridge we saw some more through the trees. In effect from this point we were starting our traverse of Rannoch Moor and right on cue it had started to rain again. The path climbed gently and spying a sheltered spot just before the end of a large plantation we stopped for a pork pie. A couple caught us up, who were doing a day walk, and we chatted for a couple of minutes before they set off once more. As we too set off and cleared the trees we were on open ground once more and although it was drizzling on and off, the wind wasn't too bad. We could see people ahead of us but there was no need to try and catch them. We were quite surprised at how undulating and hilly the moor was. I somehow expected it to be near enough flat with copious amounts of water, which was the case in places, but I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful it was, even in the rain.


Path across Rannoch Moor


Ba Bridge

We passed the odd lochan and plantation as the path made its solitary way across the wilderness. We had intended to stop at Ba Bridge, there being an ideal spot just before which gave some shelter, but it had started to rain heavily and so we pressed on to the bridge and took some photos instead. We didn't linger but shortly after we spied another bridge that gave us some shelter from the elements. Having decided to take advantage we noticed a newly dead deer about 20 yards away, so not a great spot but it wasn't decaying and shelter was more important anyway. We had a good rest stop on the lee side of the wall which kept most of the rain off but ultimately we had to set off once more and back into the light rain.

As the path gently climbed to the ridge on the skyline the rain got very heavy and our trousers were sodden. We still felt we had been justified in not putting the waterproofs on back at Bridge of Orchy as we had managed most of the day without it being a problem. Our normal walking trousers were Craghoppers and their water repellency worked fine in light rain but they stood no chance in the rain we experienced climbing that ridge. As we reached the top and then started our descent, we could see the A82 again and could just make out the Kingshouse Hotel through the gloom. We could also see Buachaille Etive Mor shrouded in cloud. We had put a Snickers in our pocket as we had sensed that we might not be able to stop again, so we munched on this as we descended which gave us a bit of a sugar rush. The rain slackened off to a light drizzle and the trousers very quickly dried, which was amazing.


Buachaille Etive Mor

We, like everyone else took a photo of Blackrock Cottage as we made it to the Glencoe Ski Centre access road. There were road works on the A82 and we had the odd strange glance from the queue of car drivers as we crossed the road. You could almost sense them thinking, where have they come from, where are they going, why are they doing it in the pouring rain, are they mad, the fools! The last bit of tarmac saw us enter the grounds of the Kingshouse Hotel, our bed for the night. The first thing we noticed was the deer sitting on the lawn out the front which allowed us to get up close and personal which was good.


Kingshouse Hotel


Deer at Kingshouse

We found reception and checked in. We found our room and set about having a clothes washing session. The radiator was on but we also had a plug in oil filled radiator in the room, which when put on full blast, was almost dangerously hot. Making full use of the heater, we very quickly had everything washed and dried. We found the bar area and ordered some food and drink, which turned out to be good. We went to the lounge and spent some time looking at the deer and watching some stragglers making their way in, in various stages of dishevelment - walkers that is, not the deer!. We returned to our room had a bit of a tidy and a bit of a pre-pack and decided to call it a day.

Accommodation: Kingshouse Hotel - Score 3/10

Our initial thoughts, when we first walked in, were that the public areas were not too bad, if a little rough around the edges. As we walked through the length of the hotel and up the stairs the quality deteriorated markedly. Once in the room things went from bad to worse. Nearly all of the furniture was ready for the skip, the wardrobe was in a shocking state, and the bathroom was dreadful. The towels were probably white once but were distinctly grey and worn out. The room did at least appear clean which I suppose was a bonus! We did have a welcome tray, on the plus side, but no television. The best thing about the room was free, and that was the view of Buachaille Etive Mor. We were at the end of the hotel and so had a view right down the valley, which was spectacular. The new charge for a double en-suite for 2014 B&B is 100. This is totally outrageous for what you get. They hiked up their prices substantially for 2014 and so there was the expectation that improvements had been made, they haven't. There are two schools of thought. Firstly, those that believe it to be quaint, old fashioned, full of history, a place you must stay, the deer and the setting. Secondly, there are those that reluctantly pay inflated prices because of location, but expect a service to suit. They don't expect to be ripped off by a hotel that trades on the deer and the setting - both of which are free. They are blatantly trading on the premise that walkers do not have an option and so they can charge this captive audience what they like. I would say that the hotel is nothing more than a lower end hostel/bunk house with facilities for meals. We found out that Sigi and Ulle's baggage carrying service refuses to book anyone into the hotel because it is so bad. In fact there are a growing band of B&Bs in Kinlochleven who are prepared to ferry people to and fro (free of charge) in return for a 2 night stay. I would definitely not stay at the Kingshouse again. Rachel put a more philosophical slant on it by saying it was a good experience. But I have to disagree, there was nothing 'good' about it.

Breakfast was served in the dining room and was good with a fair selection to choose from and a willingness to top up our coffee on a regular basis.

Evening meal: Kingshouse Hotel - Score 7/10

We had no choice than to eat in the hotel, so with our shock at the state of the room I was apprehensive. However, I needn't have been. The staff were very efficient and eager to please and took our order promptly. The menu had something for everyone and the prices weren't too bad considering the captive audience. We had the venison stew which seemed quite fitting really bearing in mind they were grazing all around us. The food was of good quality, as was the beer.

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