The original destination for today’s stage was Bridge of Orchy. This would mean a very pleasant 12 mile walk from the Youth Hostel with a cake stop at Tyndrum at half way. After the two arduous previous stages this was just what the Doctor ordered…. It would however leave a really tough day on Thursday of 21 miles.
When organising the trip at the end of last year the only place we couldn’t find accommodation was Bridge of Orchy. As a fall-back we had booked two nights in Crianlarich as we could get the bus back there from the B of O hotel and the next morning take the bus back to pick up the trail. It wasn’t ideal but was the only workable option.
The weather forecast showed rain in the morning clearing about 10:00 so we left about 9:20 in wet weather gear. By the time we reached Tyndrum it was already trying to brighten up and the waterproofs were stowed away by 11.
Our companion from the previous afternoon, the ‘old military road’ was to be with us all the way to Bridge of Orchy and for the first time the scenery moved up from ‘nice’ to ‘spectacular’.
It was good gentle walking and we were chatting to other walkers as we made our way along the track. There are lots of Europeans and we have spoken to a couple from San Diego on a couple of occasions on the route.
We got to Bridge of Orchy about 1:30 pm and we’re delighted to see they had Bitter and Twisted on the hand pump. It had been a nice relaxing day and the plan was to catch the 15:05 City link bus back to Crianlarich.
It was over a cheese toastie that the idea occurred to me that, instead of going back to the Youth Hostel, on what was now a bright and sunny afternoon, we could walk the next stage to Kingshouse and that way get to cross the much revered Rannoch Moor in the dry weather. The forecast for tomorrow was awful so it made a lot of sense from this point of view but it would make it a 24 mile day.
The cheese toastie, Kev’s salmon sandwich and two pints each only came to £48.50 so they were virtually giving it away.
There was a bus from Kingshouse to Crianlarich at 20:01 so we had a deadline to work to. The book estimated 5-6 hours for the stage but we were generally faster than they said. At 2:20pm we set off…
It was a climb immediately after we left B of O but we made good progress and were at Inveroran within an hour. A mile or so along a newly tarmacced road took us to a beautiful stream with people camping alongside. There was a small herd of red deer in the woods just further on.
There was an interpretation board just further on explaining that the next six or seven miles would be on one of Thomas Telford’s Parliamentary roads. It had certainly stood the test of time but the steady uphill trudge on the cobbles began to tire the feet out after a few miles.
Rannoch Moor begins at the bridge in the photo below. There were a couple wild camping just out of shot to the left and they probably had the pick of the views.
There was a climb to the top of a ridge about three miles out from Kingshouse and my legs were sending out distress signals as it began. I could feel my hamstrings starting to cramp up but kept going at a slower pace. After reaching the top you could see the hotel we were heading for…. and it seemed a long way off.
As we rounded the ridge at the top a really cold wind came down the valley at us. I thought about stopping to put some layers on but didn’t. Mistake.
It probably took another half hour to get down where Kevin was waiting, having put on a burst of speed earlier on. It was 6:45 pm so we had plenty of time for the bus but I was feeling a bit ropey; probably a combination of exhaustion and the cold.
A Glenmorangie and the remnants of a sandwich perked me up a bit. For the walk back up for the bus I was wrapped up like Nanook of the North and Ian and Kevin looked after me! When we arrived back at the hostel at 8:40 I went straight to bed while the lads went the pub. Toughest day in the hills I have experienced… but we had bought ourselves a morning off when the worst of the weather was forecast.