Monday, June 25, 2012

Scotland Part Five ~ Inveroran to Kinlochleven

Despite being kept up late by the Scottish [not so melodious] band until 11:30pm the night before, I awoke at 7am ready to take on Day 5.  I packed up my bag and left it again in the drying room [hot!] and hoped that my chocolate bars would not melt by the time the AMS-Outdoors van came to pick it up.

Fiona, the hotel receptionist had arranged with William (the driver from the previous day) to take me at 8am to my starting point at Inveroran.  After a quick breakfast in the hotel dining room (with 50 or 60 grey-haired guests) I hopped in the truck with William.  I pointed out the campground where I had gotten the free bags of crisps the day before and not to be outdone, William offered me the bottle of Fanta that had been left by someone in the hotel truck.  Score!

I was sad to leave William and Fiona at the Crianlarich Hotel, as they had taken such good care of me and hoped that my luck would continue.  As it turns out, it did.
Start of Day 5 at Inveroran
House near the start of Day 5
I started out early at 8:20am and soon met up with the "couple from Chicago" whom I had met the day before just before Tyndrum ~ Breyan and her dad, David (originally from Australia).  I walked with them for a little ways but when they stopped to take a break in the shade I continued on.
Farmlands opening up into true Highlands

This section of the Way was along old cobbled military roads and was really nice, open running.  The views soon became spectacular and open and really started looking more like the "highlands" of Scotland as opposed to the Scottish farmland of previous days.  I started realizing how vast and unpopulated northern Scotland really is.

Old military road just south of Glencoe Ski Area
Just before the pass near Glencoe Ski Area, I met up with another runner who was going the opposite direction.  He asked me if I was going to do the West Highland Way 100 (a 100-mile race, similar to the ultra-marathons that I take part in in the US) and said no, not this year, but that I have considered it in the future.  He was out on a 20-mile training run for said race.  I wished him luck, and his jovial, lighthearted attitude carried me for many miles.
Cairn at the pass near Glencoe Ski Area
After reaching Glencoe Ski Area, I had to cross Route A82, the main highway through these parts.  I felt like a rabbit trying to cross the road and not get squished!  Thankfully, I looked both ways a half a dozen times (still having trouble comprehending the whole "driving on the left" business) and safely made it across.  The Way parallels the highway for several miles at this point and eventually meets up with Kings House, a very nice hotel.  I went in and used the restroom, and asked the young bartender to fill my water bottle and stamp my logbook, which he gladly did.
Kings House Hotel
On the Way near Kings House, paralleling the A82 highway.

Dominating Peak ~ Bouchaille Etive Mor (left).
There was lots of noise along Route A82 from motorbikes and weekend traffic and eventually I got to the base of the Devil's Staircase, a steep climb to a high point.  Looking across the valley, there was a large peak dominating the skyline and I thought to myself how I did not envy the people who were climbing that peak on this hot day.

I proceeded up the Devils Staircase with my head down and my hands on my knees, but it really was not nearly as steep nor difficult as I had anticipated.  There was one crazy young fellow pushing and carrying his mountain bike up the path which did not look like fun at all.  His intention was to ride down the other side to the same town that would be my destination, Kinlochleven.

I got to the pass just as a group of four German men was leaving, and actually had the place to myself with beautiful views of the Blackwater Reservoir, Bouchaille Etive Mor (the peak across the way), and even Ben Nevis (the highest peak in Scotland) off to the north.  The breeze was just perfect up top and the temperatures were so pleasant.  I ran comfortably down the other side of the hill for about a mile and then decided to take a nap for a few minutes.  The late night was catching up with me a bit, and I was way ahead of schedule for the day, so I snoozed in the sunshine and cool temperatures for about a half an hour.  It was delightful.
Atop the Devils Staircase
View to the north from Devils Staircase
I continued on down the hill and met several groups of folks along the way down, and near the bottom was passed by the mountain biker (I had started wondering if he was going to make it, so I was actually quite relieved to find that he had not suffered a debilitating injury on the steep descent).  Just as I was about to cross the river and head into town, I was confronted by a very grumpy couple of middle-aged Swedish women.

"WHERE is the TOWN?!?"  They demanded of me.  "Uh... I think it's just up ahead a little ways.  About a half a mile, "  and then clarified that a half a mile was approximately one kilometer, perhaps 2km at the most.  "Well, it had better be!  We are tired of this.  This heat is too much!  We want to be finished!"

"Follow me, I'll take you into town.  It's no problem.  Where are you staying?"  I asked.  As it turned out, they were staying at the same B&B that I was!  Oh, joy.  "No.  We couldn't possibly ask you to slow down for us.  You want to run along ahead."  They replied.  "Nope, I'm fine with walking.  We will find it together,"  I insisted.

We meandered along by the river and crossed the bridge through town, then hit a sticking point when my written directions to the B&B from AMS-Outdoors stated to turn left past the Post Office in town.  One of the Swedish women screamed across the street at a poor little elderly man, "POST OFFICE!!!  Where IS IT?!?"  And he came hustling across the street, looking quite afraid to ignore the woman and go about his business.

Quaint town ~ Kinlochleven
He explained that there were actually two post offices in town:  the new one, and the old one at the end of the main street.  He clarified that we needed to go to the old post office just up the street and then turn left and go up the hill to our B&B.  The two women looked like it was just about the end of the world to hear this news and they insisted that they were through with me being their tour guide and that they would find it themselves.

I jogged through town and went up the hill, just as the man said, to the most delightful guesthouse ever:  The Tigh na Cheo (or House in the Mist) which was owned and operated by Martin and his wife, a semi-retired couple from England.  He told me that I had run much too quickly today and that my room was not quite ready.  I could have a seat in the sitting room while his wife finished up.  Then I told him about the Swedish women who would soon be showing up and he just rolled his eyes, "It's amazing that people can be on vacation in one of the most beautiful places in the world and still have a bad attitude about it."  I agreed.  This place was heaven.

My comfy bed in my cozy room at Tigh na Cheo B&B
My room was amazing, clean, comfortable, and quiet.  I made myself my standard cup of afternoon coffee and ate some cookies that had been set out.  I asked Martin for a place to eat and he recommended The Highlander, a pub that I had passed on Main Street on my way through town.

After a nap and getting cleaned up, I went down to the Highlander and had some delicious house made lasagna and, as to be consistent with Scottish cuisine, it had a side of french fries!  There was also a small heap of coleslaw and a cucumber salad on the side.  I ate every mouth-watering bite.  I also drank a Shandy tonight (I earned it in that heat!) which was half Sprite and half Fosters lager.  Refreshing.
The Highlander Pub
I also should mention that just after I had ordered my meal, the Swedish ladies came into the pub for dinner!  They sat at the table next to me and also had the lasagna.  As it turns out, they were twin sisters, both retired.  One was a nurse who had worked at a disabled kids' camp in Michigan when she was in her twenties, and her sister had worked as a physical education instructor in Boston.  The one who was a nurse suffered from high blood pressure, and the exertion of the heat and the day had just brought her to her limit.  I can't explain why the other sister was so grumpy, but maybe she was concerned about her sister.  Maybe they had just both had enough.  Maybe they were just Swedish!  Or maybe a little bit of all of the above.  In any case, I really enjoyed their company and it was nice to have someone to chat and eat dinner with.

After dinner, as if I had not had enough exercise, I decided to take a stroll through the town of Kinlochleven and check it out.  I found a trail on the edge of town leading to an amazing 50 foot waterfall and then a trail that went up on the hill and overlooked the entire valley and the Loch after which the town is named.  I could see up to the trail that I had come down earlier in the day and the hydroelectric plant from the Blackwater Reservoir down to town.  The views were incredible.
Gray Mare's Waterfall
Views up into the hills on the evening hike.
On my way back through town, I decided to stop quickly by the "sponsored" business with the official stamp for my logbook.  Low and behold, whom should I find inside at the bar, but Brey and her dad, David.  As it turned out, Brey had suffered from some horrible blisters on her way to Kings House and had gotten a taxi the rest of the way to Kinlochleven.  She was going to look into taking a bus the rest of the way to Fort William, as her feet were in too bad of shape to make it the rest of the way.  I told her that my friend Davie was taking the bus from Ft William in to Kinlochleven to meet me at noon and travel the last section with me.  I was sure it was the same bus and she could plan on it.
Happy to have found this evening hike.
Views of Loch Leven

Views of the quaint, friendly town ~ Kinlochleven
(you can see the hydroelectric station and tubes
if you look closely).
I left the pub with a smile on my face and a lightness in my chest.  What wonderful people I had met on this day and what beautiful countryside I had traveled through.  I counted my blessings that I was happy and healthy and would finish my journey the next day.

On the day ~ 19.5 miles, 6 hours (+ evening hike ~ 22+ miles 7+ hrs)

Tigh na Cheo B&B
Continue to Part Six here.


  1. great photos and so great to meet you! Your post reminded me of my Grandma who used to have a shandy in the afternoon :)

    1. I love a good Shandy on a hot day!

  2. How beautiful that place is! I like the first picture of the cute little house, too!

    1. the houses over there were so unique. most of them made with quarried sandstone (either gray or pink). The gray ones last longer, but the pink sandstone is much prettier!

  3. I always get so embarassed when I run across "ugly" travelers...hoping that the locals don't think I'm with them!

    1. I know! I kind of was "with them" for a little while, but they really were nice and changed their attitude around once they were showered and fed.