Thursday, June 28, 2012

Scotland Part Six ~ Kinlochleven to Fort Williams

Davie, my friend from Glasgow as you will recall, and I had made a great plan for him to come and join me on the last day of my West Highland Way adventure.  Now, Davie is not a runner but that was entirely okay with me because after 4 days of doing 20+ miles per day I was alright with walking the last 15 miles of the trip.  And as it turned out, it was the hottest day of the trip, so I don't think I could have run anyway.

I had to wait around until about noon for the bus to come from Ft William carrying Davie.  I ate breakfast early at the Tigh na Cheo guesthouse and then went back to bed for about an hour.  I was really worn out.  The owners told me not to sleep too long, because they would need to start getting the room ready for the next guest who would stay there.  Not to worry!  At 10am I awoke again, and went down to the kitchen to tell Martin thank you once again and that I was out of his hair.  He was really a very nice fellow.  I paid an extra 5 pounds and got a sack lunch with a sandwich crisps, an apple, and a Mars bar for my trek.

I decided to do a bit of strolling through town and went down to a path by the river, which had a plaque explaining how Kinlochleven had been an aluminium smelting town and how it had been powered by the hydroelectric plant from the Blackwater Reservoir.  Aluminium production ceased in the year 2000, but the hydroelectric plant was converted over to the national power grid.

River Leven in Kinlochleven
Rhododendrons near the Guest House
I met a few people walking their dogs along the river and then cut through some buildings over to the main square.  It was only 10:30am and it already felt about 80 degrees in the square.  The Swedish ladies were there, cooking in the sun and getting grumpy again, and as I talked with them I realized that I had left my logbook in my duffel bag and it was up in the drying room at the Guest house.  Blast!  So I walked the half mile back to the guest house and retrieved it, thankful that AMS-Outdoors had not picked up my bag for transport yet.
Historical plaque explaining the history of Kinlochleven.
As I was walking back through town, I seemed to have misplaced my camera, and hustled back to the Swedish ladies to see if I had set it on the bench at the bus stop where they were sitting.  I had not.  I felt like I was losing my marbles as I dug through my daypack and found my camera in a pocket that I never, ever put it in.  Well, at least I had found it.

I decided to leave the Swedish ladies to complain to themselves in the hot sun, and seek out a more comfortable locale in which to wait for Davie.  I went over to the Ice Factor (Ice) climbing gym, but it was really hot in there as well.  So I strolled along the river and found a nice shady spot near the trailhead where I had seen the waterfall the night before.  There was a really nice small park-like green space, and I got my iPhone out (which has my Kindle loaded on it) and began reading.  Thanks again be to my mother who always told me to bring a book with me.

I read a few pages, and then who should I see but Brey!  Her dad had left for the last leg of the walk, and her blisters (nay, hamburger feet) were too bad to continue.  She too was waiting for the bus to Ft. William.  We chatted for over an hour ~ it was great!  When it got to be near noon, I told Brey that I had to get along and meet Davie and we said our goodbyes and hoped that we might meet up at the pub in Ft. William at the end.

Davie had just arrived at the climbing gym when I was crossing the bridge after visiting with Brey.  We set right out on the trail and the first 800 foot climb was very hot.  We kept thinking that the farther we went and the higher we got, and the closer we got to the sea in Ft. William, the cooler it would get.  But it never really did.  There really wasn't much of a breeze blowing either.  It was sort of just stagnant, hot air.

Above Kinlochleven
Davie taking the high road to the breeze that never materialized.
Near an old homestead in the highlands.
The fat sheep that wanted to eat my sandwich.
The landscape was gorgeous, however, going through old highland sheep pastures, logging areas, old forests, and views of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Scotland.  We hit the final climb before the descent down the forest road and came upon a girl who looked like she had just had it and maybe wouldn't make it to the top.  Davie and I were glad when we finally hit the downhill portion down the road and I was especially grateful to get to the Glen Nevis to the visitor center that had a bathroom where I could splash water on my face and refill my water bottles (I had nearly run out).  We still had a few miles to walk through town.
Smiling despite the heat.
The trail that never ended.
Davie and I felt like the town section just dragged on forever.  We passed the guesthouse where I would be staying and eventually got to the High Street in town (the pedestrian zone).  The West Highland Way markers continued on through the zone and we asked several people where the end was and no one really knew (some told us that we had passed it already, and some said it was just up ahead).  Turns out it was all the way at the end of the pedestrian zone where there is a small square and a large marker shouting, "Failte!" which means welcome in Gaelic.
We both felt quite elderly towards
the end of the day walking through town.
I had made it.  Davie and I were pretty much too hot and tired to be ecstatic.  And to tell you the truth, although I was excited to be finished, it was quite bittersweet.  There is a comfort in knowing that you will have a set routine everyday and a certain goal to meet.  And there is a satisfaction in knowing that you have met your goals along the way.  I was really sad to see that consistency coming to an end.

Me and Davie, taking a seat next to the West
Highland Way walker statue.
Loch Linnhe at Ft. William. 
Views of Loch Linnhe reaching out to the sea.
We proceded to the Grog and Gruel Pub on the High Street for the final stamp in my logbook and my certificate of completion.  We also each drank a Shandy and I ate my bag of crisps (Davie is much to healthy to eat that sort of thing).

We walked to the carpark to pick up Davie's car and he drove me to my hotel and he proceeded to his hostel (I'm much to light of a sleeper to sleep in hostels.  And after hearing some of Davie's stories about the crazy situations he has been in in some hostels, I was willing to throw down a little extra cash for a hotel room).  Little did I know...

I arrived at my hotel to find a very friendly staff-woman who showed me to my room on the second story.  I didn't really notice at first that the door I was entering was signed with not only my room number but also the fire exit door for the entire floor.  My bathroom was across a tiny hallway (which anyone could enter, really, if they got the notion to push the fire exit door open.  Or they could simply walk into my room:  I had to keep my door open and the outside door to the fire escape, because it was like 200 degrees in there.  I kept the outside door open most of the night because it just didn't seem to want to cool off.  I think I got a few midge bites, but it was the price I was willing to pay to keep cool.  And I felt like I had had really good luck with the (lack of) bugs so far, so I was willing to get a few bites.

Look closely:  "Fire Escape" + Room 10, with
Exit sign above.
Davie picked me up for supper (tea) and we had some really awful cheeseburgers at a restaurant in town.  That is, once we figured out how to drive through the crazy-confusing streets in Ft. William.  Although the views from the hotel terrace were quite nice and the people were friendly, it's not a town that I would highly recommend visiting.  I was looking forward to the drive back to Glasgow the next day to retrace some of my steps and recount some of the stories of my adventure.  Needless to say with the hot room, I didn't sleep too well that night.  I was also all wound up from completing what I had set out to do.  
Good views from the Guest House terrace.
All in all, I really only had the vague heel pain in one heel and it never got worse.  I found two blisters on the ends of two toes on day four, but they never really bothered me and drained quite easily.  I had minimal nausea throughout the trip (which is something that has plagued me heavily in the past) and although I was over-all tired, I felt really strong.  I rate the trip a great success!

On the day ~ 15.7 mi, 5hrs 40min, 2700 ft gain


  1. What a beautiful river! That is so funny that your room was the fire escape!

    1. It was a really sweet river. There were kids jumping off the bridge and people jumping into the current to cool off. I was tempted, but decided to try and take care of the Swedish ladies instead. Maybe I made the wrong choice?