Tuesday, October 16, 2007

West Highland Way. (Note).

This story is about my walk along the West Highland Way, Scotland back in 1990. The journey took me over 100 miles from the outskirts of Glasgow to Spean Bridge. The offical way ends at Fort William but I had some time to spare so extended the walk. Its going to be posted in several parts over the coming weeks so if its not all there when you visit pop back in a couple of days for the next instalment which unlike normal will follow on from the bottom of the last post, this is because people coming along at a later date would end up reading the last part first if you see what I mean. So be sure to keep on scrolling down as each new part will follow on from the last.

West Highland Way (Part One).

I set off from Milngarvie on the outskirts of Glasgow at 10 am on Saturday the 22nd of December 1990. It was a pleasant autumn morning, quite mild and sunny, a good day for starting a walk.
Vicki, Fallon and myself at the start of the 'West Highland Way'.
To soften the blow of being dumped alone in a strange place, my family along with friends Vera and Pearl accompanied me as far as the first muddy puddle where they made their excuses, said their goodbyes before dumping me alone in a strange place!
Vera and Pearl.
I’d walked for no more than thirty yards when from behind I heard the cries of ‘daddy, daddy’ from Fallon. I turned to see her running after me. I thought I’d managed to get away without any crying but this was obviously not to be. There were enough tears around now to start my very own muddy puddle and I hasten to add that they were all Fallon’s, I’m a man and men don’t cry, they prefer instead to choke on the enormous lumps in their throats. After a lots of hugs and kisses that did nothing at all to take away the pain of parting for a whole week, I went on me way.

Looking back to Milngarvie.

Soon after leaving Milngarvie (pronounced something like ‘mul-guy’) and being English that’s probably not quite right but its probably closer than you were trying to say it! Anyway as I was saying the way was no through Mugdock Country Park. This turned out to be a fairly easy walk through woodland on a good path. Nothing is ever very easy about starting a long walk carrying everything I needed on my back for a whole week. Well almost everything, the only thing I needed to acquire along the way was fresh water. Accommodation, food and entertainment along with a few other essentials were all packed snugly in to my backpack.

The way through Mugdock Wood.
The way eventually came to Carbeth Loch which it followed for away until extensive views north opened out before me. On the horizon I could easily see Ben Lomond. It was also possible to pick out the place I hoped to reach by nightfall tonight. At first it felt good to see my destination so early in the day, it made it seem like I didn’t have far to go but as the hours ticked by and the countryside slipped past the end when it was visible in the distance hardly seemed any closer. I never find the start of any such journey easy. I miss my family, the going is always hard due to the pack and the fact that my body is never up to the challenge. There is a considerable amount of concentration needed just to keep from getting lost which can be a real setback when every step is a labour, the last thing you want to do is cover the same ground twice so much attention to map reading and guide book following is very important. The objective is to be looking for landmarks and know where you are at all times. If the map and the landscape around you don’t gel then stop because it’s more likely to be you that’s wrong and you need to find out why.
Carbeth Loch.

Tonights camp is in centre of picture on far hill.
After lunch at Dumgoyach Hill – one of the remnant volcanoes from which the Clyde Plateau lavas emerged – the way was now mostly along a disused railway track to Drymen (pronounced dim-men). The old track was a blaze of colour from the rose hips and hawthorn berries which hung from their branches like they were dripping blood. The going underfoot was not so pretty though, most of the way being wet and muddy.
Dumgoyach Hill.
Path along disused railway line to Drymen.
Blood red berries.
The biggest surprise of the railway journey, and perhaps even the whole day came after seven and a half miles. On the top of a raised brick manhole was a piece of paper covered in bold red writing. Being a nosey sort of person I just had to take a closer look. It’s a good thing I did too…

West Highland Way (Part Two).

On the paper were the words “Daddy love you, Fallon”. What a pleasant surprise, I could have cried – but I’m a man etc, etc…

The first sight of Loch Lomond.

By Drymen I was feeling tired but worst of all my hips were getting sore where the hip belt of the rucksack sat. Two miles further and my legs joined in the protest and began to ache in a big way. The first day is never easy but I’m sure it was made worse because for one reason or another I hadn’t put in the mileage before hand. I was looking forward to the nights pitch, a concessionary pitch provided by the Forestry Commission. It wasn’t love at first sight of my first campsite along the West Highland Way. The site was a small clearing of uneven ground covered in vegetation and rotting tree stumps. It was puzzling as to why they should choose this as a place to pitch tents. During the walk through the forest from Drymen I’d been tempted by several places far better than this. But don’t think for one moment I’m complaining – I’m not. Apart from the fact that beggars can’t be choosers I’ve heard it said that silence is golden. If this is so, then that night I was a millionaire. Everything was natural except for the forest and my belongings.

Saturday nights camp. 16 miles.
I quickly – well, as quickly as my now feeble body would allow – got to work on the usual camp chores. To relaxed beforehand would have been fatal. As this was a wild pitch with no water on tap, one of those chores was to find a stream. This I did and thankfully not to far from camp. It was only slow running though, hardly more than a trickle. So to be on the safe side I sucked it up in to my water bottle through a water filter. A laborious task at the best of times but just about the last straw when performed crouching in the bottom of a ditch at the end of a long days walk. That night I slept the sleep of the dead. Had I known what tomorrow held in store I think I might have slept a little less easily…

West Highland Way (Part Three).

Sunday dawned warm and sunny. I’d got 18 miles to walk today, 16 of which were along the eastern shore of Loch Lomond. I’d anticipated the walk along Loch Lomond to be a steady stroll. I’d sampled part of the route earlier in the year on returning from climbing Ben Lomond. Unfortunately the bit that I walked that day turned out to be the easiest part, unfortunate in that for my walk today I was not prepared for what I was to face.

I left camp dragging my right leg behind me, and it was still refusing to co-operate ten minutes later when I reached the edge of the forest. It was here that I got my first view of Conic Hill. I had to climb this hill before descending to Balmaha on the shore of Loch Lomond. But first things first, before I could climb the hill I first had to climb a stile that had style. It was by far the biggest stile I’d ever seen. I cranked my stiff legs into gear and hauled me and my 50 pound pack up and over the top.

First view of Conic Hill.

A stile with style.

The climbing of Conic Hill was quite easy with the reward of excellent views of Loch Lomond far below. The way down to Balmaha was quite steep in places and far from easy, I had legs of jelly long before reaching the bottom, every step was a struggle against gravity.

The path up Conic Hill (16.25 Miles).

Looking north from Conic Hill (17 Miles).

Looking down on the southern end of Loch Lomond.

Balmaha was the start of a 16 mile trudge to Doune bothy – and that nights camp. I dislike admitting that any walk is a trudge, in my mind it means I failed in someway. My first failing was to not get pleasure from this part of the walk. I got so little pleasure from it because I failed to do my homework properly before hand. There was certainly no shortage of delights for people with the time to enjoy them. But because I failed to anticipate how exhausting this part of the way would be I hadn’t the spare time to relish them. Even driving myself continuously I fell behind schedule. There was no single reason for this, it was a combination of factors that tried in vain to bring me to my knees. 18 miles with a heavy pack is quite a distance at the best of times, and this was definitely not one of the best of times. Parts of the track were narrow and rocky with steep accents and decents. The weather also played its part as it was very warm at times. Then there was the rucksack which was proving to be very uncomfortable. Non of these would have been more than an inconvenience on its own. After all I’d walked more than 18 miles in the day on several occasions, and although the path was rough there were also considerable stretches along good roads, and even though the weather was unbearably hot at times it would have been far worse had it been raining and needed to wear waterproofs. As for the rucksack this was a problem I didn’t understand as I’d never had trouble with it before yet this day I was constantly having to adjust belt and straps in an effort to obtain some degree of comfort which I never did achieve for several days.

It was during this part of the walk that I piece of music by Steve Earle came to mind and it stayed with me on and off for the rest of the walk. On this occasion the words that sang in my head were,

“Nobody said it would be easy,
But it don’t have to be this hard,
And if you’re looking for the reason,
Just stand right where you are.”

Had I been able to spare the time to stand right where I was I’m sure I’d have seen the reason because I know that all around me was a beauty hard to imagine, I just didn’t have the time to enjoy it though.

The shores of Loch Lomond at Balmaha (19.5 miles).

At 1:05 pm I stopped for lunch, I was around 21 miles in to the walk having only covered 5 miles of the days 18 miles. Whilst sitting in a clearing with my back against a tree eating my biscuits my mind did its best to frighten me to death. I noticed lots of green hairy humps, all of which lay motionless whilst my eyes were upon them, but in the stillness of the forest I got the feeling that when my gaze left them they crept a little closer. I was resigned to my fate as I was in no fit state to run anywhere.

Hairy humps slithering through the forest (20.75 Miles).

After the short break it took ten minutes to kick start my right leg back in to action, I knew I should have brought my grans walking frame.

West Highland Way (Part Four).

I reached Rowardennan at 3:40pm. This is the end of the road for public motor cars. At Rowardennan was a sign which informed me Inversnaid was seven miles further on, and my target for today – Doune Bothy was another two and a half miles beyond this. I reckoned that at my present rate of travel I still had nearly six hours walking in front of me. This would mean at least an hours walking in the dark then there would be the camp chores to be attended too. With this in mind I decided to fill my water bottles at the toilet block in Rowardennan car park. Four pints adds quite a bit of weight to the already heavy pack but I figured it would be better than stumbling around looking for water in the dark if I ever reached Doune Bothy which was by no means certain the way things were going.

When the time came to leave Rowardennan I was still coming to terms with the fact that I’d only covered half the distance for the days walk. What a daunting prospect to think I’d still got as much to do again, and in less time if I was to make it before nightfall. But it was like the song in my head was once again saying,

“No one else can get you through,
Right or wrong win or lose,
It’s all up to you.”

Looking back down Loch Lomond.

The first five mile of the way after Rowardennan was along a good forestry road. I made good time on this part of the journey which lifted my spirits no end. Even with a stop for a ‘Mars Bar’ I averaged 2.7 miles per hour. This was one of the parts of the West Highland way that I’d walked earlier in the year, it was easy to see how I’d been fooled in to thinking the way up the side of Loch Lomond would be a walkover, not that its any excuse. You can see on the map if you care to look that this stretch is an exception.
The way after Rowardennan - the good bit!
Once the forestry road came to an end my pace over the rest of the distance was a dismal 1.4 miles per hour. I was once again back on a switchback of a trackwinding its way through forest. It was the sort of path to amble along at a slow pace. It consisted more often than not of rocks, not the nice flat sort but the kind designed to trip, sprain and break human bodies – and minds in this instance. There were also fallen trees to overcome, or undercome, sometimes on hands and knees.
A fallen tree on the way to Inversnaid.

I was never allowed to get in to a rhythm, so even under full sail as I was one could never manage more than an ambling pace. Every step was a tiresome balancing act.

Shortly before reaching Inversnaid I passed three action men laid flat out in the grass. It was a case of the tortoise and the hare as earlier in the day they’d stormed past leaving me looking like the cripple I was feeling. But now the boot seemed to be on the other foot. I straightened my bowing legs and arched back, put the tongue back in my mouth and strode up to them like Clint Eastwood on a good day.

‘Now then lads, are you okay’? I asked.

Above the whimpering I heard one of them say they were staying at Inversnaid and asked was I.

I dauntlessly said, ‘no, I think I will press on to Doune Bothy’.

With that I said goodbye and breezed off in to the sunset to resume my tortured gait just around the next corner. This was not to say that there was any sort of contest going on between us, you just like to think you can hold your own with the young guys.

It was 6:55pm when I walked over the bridge by the waterfall at Inversnaid. By now I was hoping for a miracle because I knew that even under average conditions I was not going to make it to the bothy by nightfall and the circumstances were well below average and would become more so as the light failed…

West Highland Way (Part Five).

Two miles from the bothy the sun disappeared behind the mountains on the far side of the loch. It soon grew quite dark under the trees and the light took with it any thoughts of reaching Doune bothy this day.

Sunset over Loch Lomond.

My thoughts turned instead to finding a pitch while there was still a little bit of light left. Within minutes my prayers were answered as I emerged from the trees in to a beautiful clearing overlooking the loch. It was idyllic, it was also lighter once out from under the trees and with the light returned thoughts of Doune Bothy, perhaps I could get there after all. I stood there in the clearing for what seemed like ages debating with myself whether to press on or stay. The place was heavenly and normally that alone would have decided things for me, especially as it had been an absolutely murderous day. I was on my last legs and my hips felt like they were cut to the bone by the hip belt of my rucksack. But I just couldn’t give in, not when I was so close. The thing that eventually made my mind up was the knowledge that if I stopped here it would me having to add another one and a half miles to the next days walk. For sure the going would probably going to be easier tomorrow but I didn’t know that for sure, there was nothing to say that it wouldn’t be even harder than today. So in the end the thought of staying here in the clearing and so making my walk tomorrow over twenty miles was too much so with this in mind I hauled up my sack on to my weary back and pressed on, back in to the forest, back in to the darkness, back to slipping and stumbling over the rough path. Within a quarter of a mile I was once again stopped, this time contemplating returning to the clearing I’d just passed, the going now in the dark was even more pitifully slow. There was to be no turning back though, I’d made my decision so I would abide by it whatever the outcome. The outcome was that after another half mile of stumbling along in almost complete darkness I stopped again, this time to get the torch from my rucksack. To have continued without it would have been very dangerous.
Now with the torch lighting the way I was able to place my feet with more confidence and it was reassuring to know that barring battery failure I would eventually reach my destination. But because of my now limited vision I was unable to pick out any landmarks so was not able to judge where I was on the map. There was no sense of travelling, like walking in the fog. I kept on putting on foot in front of the other and hoping I was going in the right direction, I could see the path okay so I just hoped it was the right path and it was taking me to Doune Bothy which must be getting close by now. Occasionally something would dark across my path, I think I saw a fox, and somewhere to my right there was a hoot of an owl away in to the forest. It was quite spooky with lots of noises noticeable that you don’t hear during the day. Somewhere close by there was for a short while some considerable amount of fluttering of wings, I have no idea what it was, I just kept on walking. I walked for what seemed like hours although it wasn’t maybe only one hour before I eventually brole free of the forest. The torch picked out something quite large up ahead. Was it a building or just another large rock? As I got closer I could see that sure enough it was a building, two buildings in fact. One was off to my left but it was the one directly in front of me that I was most interested in. The door was wide open and as I passed through I could see with great relief that this was it. The whole of one end was taken up by a raised area, at the opposite end there was a fireplace with a raise area to each side of it. I chose the end with the large raised area to dump off my rucksack for the last time that day. I chose the larger sleeping platform because I fancied doing some lying down in a big way! With this in mind I went over to the corner of the sleeping platform to fetch the two sleeping mats that some kind soul had left. I pick up the first one to find there was something on it, a closer inspection with the torch revealed that someone had been sick on it. It took all my self control to stop myself from adding to it. I realised that this was not turning out to be one of my better days. I would have moved to the other end of the bothy by the fireplace but by now I was having trouble standing up never mind doing anything complicated like walking. I knew I should have packed my grans wheelchair.

Night time at Doune Bothy (9:15pm).

Before going any further I will just explain that a bothy is some kind of a building, more common in Scotland than in other parts of the UK. They can be any sort of old building from say a shepherds hut to an old railway truck. If you want more information please visit http://www.mountainbothies.org.uk/

West Highland Way (Part Six).

After a breakfast of hot bran muesli and a cup of tea I packed up and was away by 9am. I was surprised by the lack of aches and pains, I thought after yesterday I would be feeling half dead today but not so. My legs were in better shape than when I started yesterday so I think things must be looking up.

The morning in Doune Bothy, (9:00am).
Doune Bothy from the side that I approached it last night.
Within half a mile the path left the shoreline of Loch Lomond and almost at the same time the path improved quite considerably. I had now reached the head of the loch and was approaching Beinglas Farm.

View back down Loch Lomond, (36.75 miles).
The View forward to Glen Falloch, (37 Miles - 09:55am).

After which I came to a good track beside the river Falloch at the start of Glen Falloch. Shortly before reaching the Falls of Falloch the path once again took a turn for the worse becoming wet and boggy. I persevered for a short while dodging back and forth to avoid the worst areas. Apart from make progress slow it was also trying it’s best to make me wet and muddy. As a rule this wouldn’t bother me, a bit of mud won’t hurt you, but when the only clothes you have are the ones you’re wearing for the sake of respectability at a later date you have to take a bit more care to keep them clean.

The Falls of Falloch.

Away in front I could see two other people, and judging by their actions they were having the same problems as me. This made me decide to put on my gaiters now rather than later. It was a bit of a bother having to stop and unpack them when I was in my stride but I knew it was for the best and after all it’s why I was carrying them. It was well worth it because now I didn’t have to tread so carefully or do so much dodging back and forth, I was able to make much better and easier progress.

In no time at all I’d caught up with the people who were in front of me. They turned out to be a young man and woman. As I drew level with them at a particularly wet bit the girls feet slipped from under her and with a shriek and a splat she landed on her back in the quagmire. It was the sort of thing you can see and feel happening yet all you can do is stand and watch. The man and I stood and looked at each other whilst the girl tried in vain to brush off the mud and her embarrassment. She assured us that the only thing hurt was her pride. I figured this would perhaps mostly easily cured by me not being there so I said my goodbyes and left them, I thought as I walked along how unfortunate life can be sometimes. I was probably the first person they’d seen all day and there was a good chance I’d be the last until Crainlarich. To fall in the mud when on your own would have been bad enough but to do it in front of an audience adds greatly to ones embarrassment.

West Highland Way (Part Seven).

Half way up the glen at Derrydaroch – a small farm where I stopped for lunch sitting by the river. From here the way crossed the river and continued on a much better path. After a further mile I had to cross first the railway and then the A82 road. I say cross but on both occasions the path went under by way of low narrow tunnels rather than over the obstacles. Again this brought even further improvement under foot, I was now walking on a good path to a forest at the head of the glen. Shortly before entering the forest I looked back to see some other walkers and although they were quite some way behind I could see one solitary walker a short way in front of three others. I assumed that the three were the action men from yesterday although they never got close enough for me to confirm this.

The path beside the river Falloch just beyond Derrydarach, (42.5 miles).

The next part of the way was through a young forest which at first gave views of Crainlarich and on up the Strath Fillan towards Tyndrum which was to be tonight’s resting place.
Looking to Tyndrum, (45.5 miles).
I was really enjoying the walking today, especially the walk down in to Tyndrum – it was nearly all down hill on a good path. That’s not to say I hadn’t enjoyed the walk up to this point because I had but in a different sort of way. The first two days had been a slog, there was no two ways about it. But I know by now that its always like this in the beginning while the body gets used to a different way of life.
The river Falloch from Auchreach, (3:42pm).
Goats at St Fillans
From now on I knew it would be easier, I felt good as I strode out down a good path into Strath Fillan and on past the ruins of St Fillan’s chapel and so on in to Tyndrum.
The ruins of St Fillan's chapel.
To enter the campsite I had chosen you have to first cross over a small river by way of a wooden bridge. Just as I was about to do this I noticed something on a big old log a few yards on up the way. On investigation I discovered much to my surprise that it was another note from Fallon, this turned out to the most memorable thing about my visit to Tyndrum.

The tree with a message.
Whilst the campsite was not bad it wasn’t that good either. The surface was very stony which made getting the tent pegs in a nightmare. I’d booked in and was pitching my tent by 5:15pm which just goes to show how difficult yesterday had been. Today I’d completed more or less the same distance but in three hours less time plus more rest breaks along the way.
Tyndrum campsite, (4:45pm - 52 miles).

West Highland Way (Part Eight).

I was on the trail by 9:50am and once again the weather looked promising, I was starting my fourth day and I’d yet to see any rain. I was in no great hurry today as it was to be a short day of just thirteen miles, that was the plan anyway but as things turned out the day eventually became another day of nineteen miles. Within a quarter of a mile of setting off the three action men came storming past. I re-passed them a quarter of a mile later whilst that were buying goodies at the Clifton tuck shop.
Approaching Clifton, (53.75 Miles - 10:00am).
One mile out of Clifton the West Highland Way, the railway and the A82 road ran side by side into the narrow pass between the mountains of Beinn Bheag on my left, and Beinn Odhar on my right. Three miles in front stood the massive bulk of Beinn Dorain. I think only the most apathetic of travellers whether it be by way, rail or road could remain unimpressed by its grandeur. Once again the song came in to my head,

‘If you’re looking for a reason,
Just stand right where you are’.

The words were true enough, if I was looking for a reason as to why I was doing this walk then all I needed to do was stand right where I was.

Looking to Beinn Dorain, (55 miles - 11:06am).
This is what I was doing – admiring the view down to Bridge of Orchy – when once again the action men came stomping along, this time they stopped for a chat. At some point they had recruited a fourth member, he seemed even more keen to get on with it than them and was off down the track before the others had finished talk to me.

Approaching Bridge of Orchy station, (1:06pm).
At Bridge of Orchy I took the opportunity to phone home. Also at this point the road and the railway took an easterly route up and over Rannoch Moor where as we on the West Highland Way took a westerly route around Loch Tulla via Victoria Bridge and Black Mount, the beautifully situated home of the Flemmings, one of whom was author of the James Bond books.

Crossing the River Orchy, (1:27pm).
Some of the views on the way to Victoria Bridge.
Looking back of the days walk to this point, (60 miles - 2:15pm).
Loch Tulla, (60.5 miles - 2:33pm).
View towards Victoria Bridge, (60.75 miles).
Victoria Bridge would have been a lovely place to spend half an hour or so taking it easy, unfortunately I arrived at the same time as a party of about twenty other walkers. I’m not one for crowds at the best of times and it came as an even greater shock to the system after four days of virtual solitude. I took a few photo’s and was about to set off up the track that leads to Rannoch Moor when through the crowd – and much to my surprise – burst the three action men. I must have passed them somewhere along the way, perhaps at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel. They seemed to have lost their fourth member, or more likely he’d lost them. Anyway they were now off, burning up the tarmac to Rannoch Moor, I set off after them at a more leisurely pace.
A view from Victoria Bridge, (62 miles - 3:20pm).
(I will try and find you a map of the way Merle and let you have it.

West Highland Way (Part Nine).

Since Tyndrum I’d been walking on General Wades military road. The going was excellent, it was 3:30pm and I’d only another three miles to go, things were going well.
Looking back from Rannoch Moor, (63.5 miles - 4:01pm).
The only problem I had was the same one I’d had since the start of my journey and that was the problem concerning my hips that were still as sore as ever. I make no apologies for keep mentioning this as it was a major source of discomfort. I felt sure the basis of the problem lay with the new trousers I bought for this walk in particular the zips on the pockets. I tried adjusting them this way and that without much relief, after all there is only really one position for a pair of trousers to be worn, other than that they are either to far up or too far down or you end up with your knickers in a twist. A man can only take so much though and I’d put up with it until the 64th mile. At that point I threw off the rucksack at the same time uttering a few choice words in frustration. I’d decided new trousers or not something had to be done. I whipped out my pocket knife – its okay I’m not about to slit my wrists or anything. I set too and hacked off all the teeth on the zip to the right hand pocket threatening the left zip that if this experiment proved a success it would be receiving the same treatment. Successful it certainly was, so much so I was attacking left hand zip like a mad axe man one mile later. The difference it made was unbelievable, I cursed myself for not thinking to do it 63 miles ago.
Looking forward, the way goes over the hill in centre of picture, (65 miles).
Tonight’s pitch was to be a wild pitch, that’s if things had gone to plan, unfortunately they didn’t. my problems started shortly before I reached my intended site. In the distance I could see something white, I jokingly said to myself, because by this point in the journey I was talking to anything that would listen, that looks like a 4x4. I didn’t believe it for one minute, I was in the middle of nowhere, why would it be a 4x4, let alone a 4x4 right where I’d planned to pitch my tent for the night, plans that were made 300 miles away at least 6 months before hand, it couldn’t be. As I got closer I could see to my disbelief that it was a 4x4 and worse still the owner was standing by the side of it, someone must have ratted on me! There was no way I was going to be pitching my tent there that night. I stopped for a minute trying to think what to do next.

‘No matter which way the wind blows,
Its always cold when you’re alone’.

Is what the song was saying. In the end I decided to go on past him now resigned to making the rest of the day up as I went along. Maybe there would be a decent place to pitch my tent around the corner, maybe there wouldn’t – who knows, the plans were out the window and blowing away across the wilderness they call Rannoch Moor. I’m sure there are many plans running free in that remoteness.
As I got level with the man who was scanning the wilderness intently he lowered his binoculars and said good afternoon. I replied likewise thinking it was a great afternoon until you went and spoilt it but you can’t hold that sort of thing against a guy, not when he wishes you well so I stopped and started talking to him, as I said earlier I was into conversation with who or whatever, it had become a new found passion of mine. I asked him if he was a shepherd, he said not and went on to inform me that he was stalking deer. Now these guys are not far removed from gamekeepers so not the sort of person you would ask to move their vehicle a little so you can pitch your tent. I was scrabbling around in my brain trying to find a plan that involved soft soaping deer stalkers when he asked if I was going to Kingshouse for the night. I thought, this is my chance, he seems a decent sort of chap, I’ll ask if it would be okay for me to pitch my tent somewhere along the way. So I opened my mouth and said, ‘YES that’s right’. Now I can see how to you that might not make much sense, to fully understand it you would need to be a coward like me.
Views of Rannoch Moor.

Its not all easy being a coward, I’d just landed myself an extra 5 miles to the days walk. There was only one thing to do now so I set about knocking off the miles to Kinghouse Hotel. It was 5pm so with a good track underfoot and the wind behind me I should be there between 7 and half past. I could just make out the action men on the horizon 2 miles in front of me. This encouraged me to set a cracking pace. I never expected to catch them up but to my surprise on rounding a bend at the 4th mile in to my extension to the days walk I came upon them a few hundred yards in front of me. I eased my pace as I didn’t really want to catch them, it was getting embarrassing. So I followed them down the track to the Kingshouse Hotel, which is Scotland’s oldest inn. I never saw them again. That is just about the saddest part of being a long distance walker, no matter whether they are good, bad or ugly they are only ever passing ships. I’ve met hundreds of people, I can count the bad ones on just one hand, all the rest were great guys and gals, the best I’ve ever known yet they only belong to that moment in time – it’s so sad.

Approaching Kingshouse and Glen Coe.