West Highland Way

Kingshouse to Kinlochleven - 23rd April 2014

We looked out of the window of our room and saw that it was raining gently. We hadn't got a clue as to what the weather was going to be like, as without TV or internet we were effectively cut off. We donned waterproof coats and checked out of the worst accommodation that we have ever stayed in, on any of our walks.

Kingshouse Hotel

There were a few other walkers about, most seemed to be following the WHW. We crossed the bridge and headed along the road before cutting up to the lower slopes of the hills flanking the valley. Soon the rain stopped but the clouds still clung stubbornly to the tops. As we came back down to nearer the road we thought about Sigi and Ulle coming all the way back from Kinlochleven, and that, of course, is the downside, quite a lot of time is lost travelling to and fro. But, the day's hike is short on this leg and so time isn't really an issue.

We soon reached the foot of the Devil's Staircase and after taking a photo of the lone white washed cottage the other side of the A82, we started our ascent. After a short while I was getting rather warm and so stripped off down to T shirt even though there was quite a cool breeze. The path zigzagged its way up the hillside and on a couple of occasions some very friendly finches made an appearance, when we stopped for a breather.

Lonely white cottage

Looking back towards Kingshouse

We reached the top quite quickly and had thoughts of stopping to have a snack, but the wind was cold and blustery so we decided to press on, once we had put our coats back on. We carried on down the other side into a small valley before we could find a sheltered spot out of the wind, just after the stepping stones. Setting off again, we soon climbed to the shoulder of the ridge where we could see across to the expanse of Blackwater Reservoir.

Looking back to the summit of the Devil's Staircase

Blackwater Reservoir

From this point the path was all downhill to Kinlochleven. Many complain it is a long way and not very enjoyable and I for one thought it couldn't be that bad. However, it must be remembered that although you climb 850ft to the top of the Devil's Staircase you don't start from sea level. On the descent you descend all the way to sea level and so the drop is double the climb of the Devil's Staircase. We arrived at a lovely bridge and three teenagers were having a rest stop. We passed by and then we ourselves stopped to have a look at the view that was improving as the cloud began to lift. Over the next half an hour we joined up with them and we walked together for a while. They were struggling quite a bit even walking backwards on occasions to give a break to weary muscles. Some parts of the path were quite steep, especially the access track and with toes being pushed to the front of boots my blistered toe started complaining, so much so that I started to feel a hot spot on my other little toe. The path weaved its way around the hillside and eventually levelled out for a while and we stopped to photograph some deer that we had spotted. We reached the black water pipes and the path again started to go downhill. In a few places, water was gushing out in great spurts where a joint had burst.

The water pipes and Kinlochleven in the distance

Approach to Kinlochleven

The descent had been long and in a way more draining than we had expected, and I now have to agree with other people in that it did indeed seem to go on for ever. But, we could see Kinlochleven proper now and as we crossed over the pipes we descended down until we reached the bridge over the River Leven. The volume of water that was coming out of the pipes and into the river was phenomenal, but we had to turn away from the river to enter the outskirts of the town. Soon we found ourselves directly opposite the Tailrace Inn and as it was only just after lunch we decided it would be a good place to stop before finding our B&B. If we had gone straight to the B&B it would have been open but there was this strange pull towards the pub that we found hard to resist.

As we got to the doors of the pub there were two walkers with two huge fluffy dogs that were so huge we had to stop and chat to the owners and stroke the dogs (I think I got that last bit the right way round), as they were blocking the doorway. As they walked away the dogs waddled off and looked as if they had had enough but I'm sure it was just the normal way they walked. We entered the pub and swiftly ordered a couple of pints of the wet stuff and took the opportunity to take our boots off and chill. There was a pool table in the middle of the bar and the locals were having a few games which was quite entertaining as there was quite a lot of banter and leg pulling going on. The odd walker came in but no one we knew and so having finished our drinks, and resisting the urge for another, we decided to set off and find the Co-op.

I could stay here all day!

River Leven

We had some supplies left but we needed to top up for the next day. The supermarket was well stocked and we found all that we needed before setting off for Edencoille, our bed for the night. We knew that it was one of the furthest B&Bs from the path but as it had been a short day it didn't really matter. In actual fact it wasn't that far and although uphill, it wasn't a problem.

We were greeted by the man of the house who showed us through to our bedroom which was on the ground floor. We had a chat with him, like you do, and then set about getting ourselves sorted out. We took the opportunity to think through what we needed for the following day, as once we had finished the walk we would be jumping straight on the sleeper back to London. We planned on packing accordingly so that we didn't have to unpack our packs fully in the narrow confines of the train cabin. It was sad that we were already having to think of going home with still a day to go, but we knew it would pay dividends. Relatively quickly it was time to make the return trip to the Tailrace Inn for our evening meal. We had been quite impressed with the pub and from what we had seen of the food there didn't seem any point in going anywhere else, mind you the fact that they had an offer on the food helped!

It had started to rain and the wind had got up. It was quite blustery and chilly, so we put our coats on as we ambled back down to the pub. There were a few people in but it wasn't busy so we took our time to peruse the menu before ordering. After deciding not to take advantage of the special offer, we ordered and reacquainted ourselves with the Scottish beer that we had taken a liking to. At an adjoining table there were a group of three (different to the ones we had walked with earlier) who were ordering vast quantities of starters, mains and puds. Earwigging on their conversation to the waitress, it appeared that it was the first proper meal they had had for a number of days and I suppose they were just making up for it. Our food arrived shortly after, and we too tucked in.

The rain had stopped when we left and so the stroll back to Edencoille was very pleasant. Some people don't like Kinlochleven but we thought it was fine and liked it in many ways.

Accommodation: Edencoille - Score 10/10

What a treat this was after the Kingshouse Hotel.

After we had been shown to our room we closed the door and started to unpack, only for us to hear a knock on the door. There was our man with 2 meringue nests with fresh cream and summer fruits - I could have kissed him. It was such a nice gesture and the first of this type on the walk. We had treats like this regularly on the Coast to Coast and it is something that is really appreciated. We had a good look around the room and were amazed at the level of, I don't know really, luxury, thoughtfulness, generousness. Both of us had a made up complimentary present of various shampoos, gels, toothpaste, toothbrush etc etc placed on our bed. There was a note on it saying it was for us to take away, so there was no doubt whether we should use it or take it. There was what can only be described as mountains of the same things in various places all around the room and bathroom. There was none of this apology of a tiny slab of soap and nothing else, which we have encountered before. In addition there was a welcome tray, again with masses of different types of drinks and a pile of biscuits that could have kept us going all week. The room itself wasn't the biggest, but big enough; the bathroom was a good size with shower. Everywhere was spotlessly clean and there was a TV and free wi-fi.

Breakfast in the morning was again in the same mode. Huge amounts, and choices, of everything you could possibly imagine and more. It was certainly the best breakfast of the walk. We were seated at a couple of long tables in specific seats, which no doubt made it easier to relate cooked breakfast orders to specific guests/room numbers. We had already given our order for the cooked breakfast the day before when we had checked in. Whether by design or accident everyone came in at about the same time, so we had a chance to talk to the other inmates.

We would heartily recommend Edencoille to anyone doing the WHW. It was so nice to stay at a place like that on our last night of the walk.

Evening meal: The Tailrace Inn - Score 10/10

It's strange but sometimes things just gel. And so it was with the Tailrace Inn. When we had visited at lunch time we had decided we would return. The inside was clean, the décor well maintained and there were no sticky tables. The barmaid was very welcoming and friendly, the menu good and reasonably priced even without the offer. When the food arrived it was just what we wanted, good quality and plenty of it. It's not fine dining and it is typical pub fayre, but when you are walking a long distance path that is exactly what you want.

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