|Kinlochleven to Fort William (22.5 km)|
Bridge of Orchy
On its last day, the West Highland Way follows an old military road through dramatic glens to Lundavra and then crosses into the wonderful Glen Nevis. The sharp climb at the beginning of the day serves to wake you up and the easier, interesting climb and descent at the end rewards you with the arrival in Glen Nevis. There is little chance of losing the path in any weather but there is little shelter. If the wind and rain funnel through the Lairigmor ('the great pass' at a height of 330 metres) then you will find wet weather gear essential. The crossing into Glen Nevis is on a rougher track through pine plantations.
|Blackwater Hostel||Hostel & campsite||01855 831253|
|Edencoille Guest House||B&B||01855 831358|
|MacDonald Hotel||Hotel & campsite||01855 831539|
|Mamore Lodge Hotel||Hotel||01855 831213|
|Tail Race Inn||Pub||01855 831777|
|Tigh-na-cheo Guest House||B&B||01855 831434|
|West Highland Lodge||Bunkhouse||01855 831402|
The photo above shows the weather that I had in the morning - climbing through mist on to the Lairigmor track where the clouds started to lift. By the afternoon there were lots of patches of blue sky and it was even quite warm.
Take the lochside road northwards until it bends to the west and a school is reached about 300 metres further. Leave the road to follow a path that passes behind the filling station and then starts to climb steadily through the birchwoods. On this first section note the well-preserved stone footings in the fords - some of the original road construction. Turn left when a fork is reached just before the access road to Mamore Lodge. The Way crosses the road and climbs steeply in a rough gravelly trench. A small woodland stream is crossed, a stalkers' path is joined and this excellent, dry path takes us up to the Lairigmor track. As the track climbs there are a couple of good viewpoints, especially down Loch Leven (seen for the first time in its entirety) to the shapely cone of Pap of Glencoe (Sgorr na Ciche in Gaelic). Extending southwards from the Pap is the serrated Aonach Eagach (the aptly-named 'notched ridge') whose narrow, many-pinnacled crest provides an irresistible challenge to most Munro-baggers.
Once on the Lairigmor track, there is little up and down. Instead the Way makes quick progress along the easy path as the bare glen walls get higher and higher to each side and the views close in. In fine weather outside of the stalking season from August to October, there are a couple of alternatives to the boring crossing of the pass:
|Loch Leven from Stob Ban|
The photo to the left looks down on the valley leading to Lairigmor from Stob Ban on the Mamore ridge. The old military road that the West Highland Way follows can just be seen running from left to right and the dark streak halfway up is Loch Leven.
Beyond the summit of the pass, the track passes the sad, isolated ruins of Tigh-na-sleabhaich, 'the house by the gullied slope', and then Lairigmor. The glen and track swing to the north to reveal the green wall of a forestry plantation ahead. The track enters the southern end of the plantation and makes speedy progress over the next two kilometres to its northern boundary. To your left (west) are the pleasant waters of Lochan Lunn Da Bhra and the far off farm buildings of Lundavra.
The military road now is tarmaced as it heads off to the north but the Way abandons it for the last time, turning west into the forest at a carpark and forest gate just outside the plantation (before the derelict house of Blar a'Chaorainn). On the other hand, the road is an easy route to Fort William and may be preferred in inclement weather. The 5.5 kilometres to the outskirts of Fort William offers views across Loch Linnhe to the high hills on the other side and a couple of good places for breaks, especially at the bridge before Blarmachfoldach. I actually followed the road so that I could restock in town and then walk back into Glen Nevis to camp far up the glen. From the campsite next to the ruins of Steal, I climbed Aonach Beag and then Sgurr a'Mhaim. The final day was spent walking west over the headwaters of the Waters of Nevis to the Abhairn Rath river, down to the isolated farm of Lùibeilt for a very wet ford of the river and then heading down to Loch Treig. I caught the train at Corrour Station back to Fort William for a luxurious stay at a hotel and then a train back to London on the next day.
The official route of the West Highland Way branches right and upwards into a narrow gap between the spruce trees. Occasionally a dyke is followed - this marked the upper limit of the improved ground in the glen with only rough grazing on the mountain slopes above it. A long reach of open ground is then crossed before another plantation is entered. Ahead, beyond the rough slopes of Sgorr Chalum to the right, the scarred bulk of Ben Nevis begins to make its enormous presence felt. This is definitely not the mountain's prettiest side but is certainly an impressive sight.
Nearer to hand is the ridge on this side of Glen Nevis. The obvious col under Sgorr Chalum is ignored as the Way dips down to cross a nameless stream running from down from Mullach nan Coirean and then heads up the Allt nan Gleannan stream. The flats under the Dun Deardail hill are crossed and a steep little climb then reaches the ridge crest. Dun Deardail is an ancient vitrified fort where the rubble walls were fused together into a glassy matrix by fire - probably when the timber supports or fronting was set aflame by attackers. The col presents dramatic views of the Ben ahead and plunges into the Glen Nevis woods. The West Highland Way descends gently under the trees for a couple of hundred metres until zigzags through more open ground arrive at a forest road. Turn left along this road to descend further into Glen Nevis. The journey's end is now in sight as the lower end of the glen is glimpsed to the north.
|Abrach House||B&B||01397 702240|
|Achintee Farm||B&B & bunkhouse||01397 702535|
|Alexandra Milton Hotel||Hotel||01397 702241|
|Distillery House||B&B||01397 700103|
|Glen Nevis||YH||01397 702336|
|Glenlochy Guest House||B&B||01397 702909|
|Milton Hotel||Hotel||01397 702331|
|Nevis Bank Hotel||Hotel||01397 705721|
After 1.5 kilometres another forestry road branches to the right, heading back up the glen. The Glen Nevis Youth Hostel can be accessed down this track by turning north at the next junction, passing the large caravan/camping site to join the road down the glen and then heading east to the youth hostel (about a kilometre from this junction). This is practically a mandatory diversion since the hostel makes a perfect base for the ascent of Ben Nevis and further exploration of Glen Nevis. Note that in summertime, the hostel very easily becomes full - booking ahead is recommended.
The West Highland Way proper continues down the glen for another 600 metres before taking a track down to the public road. The tree-covered knoll passed to the left is the old graveyard of the sept of Clan Cameron who inhabited Glen Nevis. There is a good pavement beside the road as the Way travels it's last 2.25 kilometres. After 500 metres there is a footbridge across the Water of Nevis to the Achintee Farm Guest House. Soon the road bends to the west and the surroundings become more domestic with many houses on the slopes above the northern bank of the river. The Way ends at the Bridge of Nevis bringing you back to civilisation with a bump.
Fort William is a bit of a shock after so much wilderness for so long but it does have the advantage of lots of amenities. There are buses and trains both south and north -the train ride though the wild country up to Mallaig is scenic if you have some spare time. There are lots of shops, pubs and accommodation (B&B and hotels).