Saturday, June 16, 2012

Scotland Part Four ~ Inverarnan to Inveroran

I had to ask what "Inver-" means, because it seems that there are so many towns in this part of Scotland that start with that prefix.  Apparently it means "inlet" to a Loch (or lake).  Makes sense.  What doesn't make sense is the fact that so many of the locals say the name of the town so quickly, that they all kind of sounded the same to me.  "Inverarn..." is kind of what they all sounded like.

So when I was arranging my taxi ride to Inverarnan in the morning, I wanted to make sure that everyone knew exactly where I wanted to go.  I said it quite slowly and clearly, enunciating the "-Ar-Nan" part of it.  I did the same with the name of the place where I was getting picked up: "Or-An".  Everyone just looked at me like I was a retarded American.  Oh well.

I met some nice folks from my hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan in the breakfast room of the Crianlarich Hotel that morning (I decided with the long days and feeling hungry most of the day from the many miles of running, that I would try and at least get some toast, yogurt, fruit, and coffee down.  I kept it down and I think the extra calories definitely helped me get through the day).  They were super-cool folks and it was nice to hear their understandable, Midwestern accents.

I hopped in the cab with Ian, my driver for the morning (you might recall that I was overnighting at a hotel that is located half-way between a couple of my stages, hence the need for the morning and afternoon shuttles so that I would not miss any one section of the Way), and he was headed to the Beinglas Farm in Inverarnan anyway to pick up some girls who needed a ride in to school (no school buses in these parts).  And the school is in the town of Crianlarich.  We had a nice chat ~ I don't recall now about exactly what, but it was quite nice.

Warming up with a brisk walk ~ near Beinglas Farm.
I was excited to start day 3, but decided not to push it too hard, because today was going to be another 20+ miler, and let's face it:  I had all day to get it done.  I decided that with the hot weather each day, I would try to get more than half of of my mileage done by mid-day, so that if the heat was really getting to me by the afternoon, I could slow my pace a bit, and stop if need be.

Misty Mountains between Inverarnan and Crainlarich
Misty mountains dominated the first stretch of Day 3.
Picking up the pace a bit...
The fact of the matter was, though, that I was enjoying this bit of the countryside so much that I ended up alternating walking with running a fair amount of the first 6 miles or so.  I would walk about a quarter mile, then say to myself, "OK.  You're going to run the next mile.  Then you can walk another quarter mile, take photos, and look around some before you need to start running again."  But I would find myself slowing again to a walk after about a half a mile, looking around and enjoying the scenery.  But like I said, I had all day to get the miles done, so I wasn't too worried about it.

One of the highlights of my day was the section high above Crianlarich where there were stone walls that just seemed to go on for miles and miles.  The track meandered up through a pretty dense woods, and it was nice and cool and breezy up there.  I was pleased to find that the downhill on the far side of the first big hill was just as long as the uphill section that preceded it, and there were some mountain bikers pushing their bikes up this steep section.  I slowed to tell them that it would all be worth it on the other side when they hit the downhill, and they grimaced a smile for me.

Stone wall with moss, above Crianlarich.
A few miles before Tyndrum lies an old Augustinian Priory (monastery) that was founded in the 13th century AD.  I met up with the Dutch couple from the day before (we had met on the shores of Loch Lomond) and we looked at the Priory together and then walked together for a couple of miles.  I asked them how their night had been, and they had indeed had a long day the day before (as I had, too) and missed their bus to the hostel in Crianlarich.  They were lucky enough to have a car stop for them (they were hitchhiking at this point) pick them up and take them into town and made it to the grocery store before it closed so that they could cook dinner.  After chatting for a couple of miles, the husband told me to go ahead, because I was walking too fast for him and he didn't want to have to try and keep up with me.  I think he was a little frustrated with me, but I took his comment in good stride and wished them well until Tyndrum, assuring them that it was only a couple of miles just up ahead.  They looked relieved to hear that.

Ruins of the old Priory (monastery)
The Priory Graveyard.
Another highlight was was when I was coming into the town of Tyndrum, and I passed a woman about my age walking with an older fellow.  We leap-frogged on the trail for a couple of miles near the old lead mine because I had run ahead once and taken a wrong turn along the river just outside of Tyndrum, and another time I had run ahead and then stopped to pee.  I also met up with them after my stop at the Campground just before Tyndrum:  I had stopped to observe a fellow throwing the stick into the river for his black lab (because I missed my dogs so much on this trip, I tried to make contact with dogs along the trail whenever I could).  I asked if the campground had a spot where I could fill up my water, and he said the folks in the snack shop had a hose outside that I could use.

I crossed the bridge over the river to the campground and easily found the hose at the snack shop.  I filled up all of my water vessels (two bottles and my 50 ounce bladder) and then decided to go into the shop to get a couple of snacks to supplement my calories.  I asked what kind of crisps they had (chips) and was not thrilled to find my choices were either onion or bacon.  But then the owner said, "Oh, but we have these salt and vinegar crisps that expired last week.  Do you want both bags?  I'll give them to you for free... "  Score!  The crisps were absolutely delicious and the salt really hit the spot.  I bought a chocolate bar as well and thanked them for their generosity.  The woman informed me that Tyndrum is the half-way point of the West Highland Way, and that I had just crossed it!  I was pretty excited to know that detail.  She informed me that a lot of people drop out at Tyndrum because the trains run back to Glasgow from this town, and I told her that I had no intention of dropping at this point.

I got through Tyndrum and went up the next hill to a beautiful pass that looks down into the valley where the town of Bridge of Orchy is located.  There was a fantastic stone wall all along this section of the route, with yellow Scotch Broom bushes blooming, the breeze was blowing steadily right into my face so it didn't feel quite as hot, and there were some Highland cattle in a field at a farm too.  It was probably one of my most favorite sections of the trail.

The fence goes all the way to the top...
Highlight~ breezy, beautiful views, stone walls.
I could have run this section all day long.
Between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy.
Highland Cattle ~ how can he see anything?
I got to the Bridge of Orchy and again filled one of my bottles from the outdoor tap at the hotel.  I popped inside to get a stamp in my logbook, and then went across the bridge at the Orchy river and met up with some mountain bikers who had just passed me moments before at the Orchy train station.  They hit on me a bit at the bridge and I thought it was all fun and games until I started up the last steep hill to my final stop of the day and started to get a weird feeling... because I appeared to be the only one on this section of the trail, I was tired and it was the end of the day and by myself, and like they could totally over-power me if they wanted to.

Bridge of Orchy Hotel
Orchy River
Pass above Orchy, headed down to Inveroran.
I power-hiked the two miles up the steep hill, and ran at a pretty good clip down a couple of miles on the other side to the my destination for the evening:  Inveroran.  I had made it without even seeing the mountain bikers again.  I stepped inside the hotel (there's only a couple of buildings in this "town", one being the hotel, the other being a solitary house, probably where the hotel owners live) and bought myself an orange soda in the bar.  I went back outside to enjoy it in the shade and said hello to a nice French fellow who was taking a break with three teenage boys.

The mountain bikers came down the hill and hit on me again a little bit, but I decided that they were actually quite harmless.  They were riding between 30 and 40 miles per day on their bikes, and still had a good 10 or 12 miles to go for the afternoon ~ impressive.

Happily finished with Day 3.  More than half-way there.
I had used the pay phone in the hotel to call for my ride back to the Crianlarich Hotel for the night and after enjoying my drink outside, I went back in to return the glass.  I got caught up in a conversation with a nice couple who had been walking their dog in the final stretch to the hotel when a man came in and asked, "Is anyone here waitin' to go to the Crianlarich Hotel?"  "OH!  That's ME!"  I had almost missed my ride ~ whew!  That would have been a long walk back.

Hotel at Inveroran.
William worked at the hotel and had brought the hotel truck to come and pick me up.  We chatted about my day and the things I had seen along the way.  William gave me a little bit of history of the area and we talked about some of the things that I had passed:  like the lead mine, the people panning for gold in the river, and the TeePees that had been set up in a meadow near the pass.

I was thoroughly pooped from my long day in the sun.  I settled down with a cup of coffee and some cookies, then went to the local pub down the street for another orange soda and some fish and chips.  It was about 9pm when I was tucked into bed with my book and I heard the band tuning up downstairs... "Oh no, you have got to be kidding me," I thought to myself.  They were in the dining room which was located directly below my room and played until 11:30pm.  I actually went downstairs at 11pm and asked the boys working the bar how long the band was going to play, which they assured me was not much longer because they were all "really old".  **Sidenote:  my friend Davie, from Glasgow, had warned me about exactly this kind of thing at the Crianlarich Hotel and had even sent me a text the night before stating, "So, have the bagpipes started up yet?"  And I half thought he was joking.  He was not.  The old-folks bus tours from England come through here every weekend in the summer, and this was a Friday night.  Party.  Ugh.

Needless to say, I would be quite tired when my alarm went off at 6:30 am the next morning.

On the day:  21.6 miles, 6hrs 30min.

Continue to Part Five here.


  1. Missy,
    We have really enjoyed reading your account of the Way adventure. The pictures are wonderful. We visited Scotland once and remember the rolling hills, the very narrow roads, the vistas, and the stone fences that run straight up the side of a hill to the top. Beautiful country.
    John & Kathy

  2. Wow, bagpipes at bedtime. I can't think of a lovelier lullaby.
    Jeden tag ist ein neues abenteuer; everyday is a new adventure.

    1. bagpipes at bedtime are anything but lovely.