May 19, 2012
The day dawned fine with blue sky and sunshine, so we opted for more summery hiking clothes. Our walk today was a fairly short one, so we had a late breakfast consisting of porridge and continental breakfast (including gluten-free toast for Rosemary) and finally ended up leaving at about 9:25 am.
Once again there were a lot of people starting off, so the bridge behind the hotel looked like the start of a race, with people milling about nervously. The first part of the walk was a wide track which paralleled the A82, and then we started uphill towards the famous Devil’s Staircase, which would take us up to 1850 feet above sea level, the highest point of the West Highland Way. We climbed up the hill for a while, then reached the “staircase” which was really just a set of switchbacks. All in all it was fairly easy to go up and before we knew it we had reached the height of land. From here it was supposed to be all downhill to Kinlochleven, so we celebrated by eating some chocolate and half a Mars bar.
Luckily for us the weather stayed fine, although some high clouds did come over, cooling the temperature. The downhill trail was still in good condition, so we made quite good time. According to our guidebook, we should have been able to see Ben Nevis from somewhere along the trail. We did see a very large snowy mountain in the distance, which we assumed was Ben Nevis, but later we realized that the mountain we saw had a sharp peak, whereas Ben Nevis is dome-shaped.
It seemed like a long way from the height of land to Kinlochleven. We were on a wide road which reminded us of British Columbia logging roads; the views were very good but we got tired of the road. We could see the town way down in the valley, but we seemed to walk forever on the road without getting there. Finally we came upon the large black water pipes which come from the Blackwater Reservoir. We followed them downhill until we reached Kinlochleven. This small town was originally an Alcan aluminum smelter, but that operation closed down several years ago, so the electric power is now put into the national electric grid.
Finally we reached our sleeping place for the night. At the Blackwater Hostel we were booked into a 2-bed microlodge. This small building contained two beds, a television, a small fridge, and a microwave. The view from the door looked out through a little forest to the River Leven. Callum, the owner, was very friendly and helpful. After getting us settled in he gave us pointers about where dinner would be good, and also suggested that we pre-book breakfast at the Tailrace Inn.
We wandered into town (about two minutes away) to get our WHW passport stamped, and then checked out the local Co-op to see what might be good for breakfast. We did buy some things for the walk tomorrow, but decided to have the Tailrace Inn breakfast instead. Then we headed back to our hobbit house to relax for a while.
For dinner we headed down to the Highland Getaway, which Callum had recommended, but it was full, so we walked over to the Tailrace Inn where we had mince and tatties with green peas. Very yummy and filling. Back at the hobbit house we turned on the TV to watch the UEFA Champions game between Bayern Munich and Chelsea. Chelsea were outclassed for most of the game but managed to squeak out an amazing win after extra time and penalty kicks.