West Highland Way – Day 6

Kingshouse to Kinlochleven

Distance: 12 miles

The one with the Devils Staircase and the gnomes!

Weather: Absolutely scorching 🥵- couldn’t ask for a better day.
Health: My feet were throbbing by the time I got to Kinlochleven, but still no blisters or any other aches and pains. I’ve got my trails legs and I was flying up those hills today!

SUMMARY: Ok, I know I’ve probably said this every day so far, but today was by far my favourite day. I left The Kingshouse Hotel around 9am with Bobby and by 10.30am we started the Devils Staircase. I’m not bad on hills so Bobby was soon a spec the distance. I just walked and absorbed my surroundings. Today I walked the highest peak of The West Highland Way and it felt great! I spent the whole day on my own with just my thoughts for company. I waited at the pub in Kinlochleven for others to arrive. I’m currently lying in my tent, with views over the Loch. It’s so peaceful and quiet apart from the birds. Tomorrow is my last walking day.

The Long Winded Version

Louise asked me yesterday “What do you do in your tent all evening?”. Last night, rather than having too many beers and regretting it the next day, I snuggled up in my tent and watched a film on Amazon Prime. The Road Within, about a guy who has torrents. It was funny and it’s a great way to relax at night. Tonight, I’m writing my journal while sitting by a gorgeous Loch, waiting for the sun to set. 

5.30 am – I slept like a log last night. I could hear the drone of the hotel generator in the distance and the sound of the flowing river sent which must have sent me into pleasant dreams. I didn’t wake in the night which is very unusual for me (even when I’m at home I’m getting up in the night to go for a pee!).  It’s early so I unzip the tent to see if the sun has risen… yep, it’s high in the sky already! 

6am – I pop to the loo then grab my little stove, sit matt and down blanket and enjoy making a coffee on the picnic bench outside the hotel. A picnic bench is a luxury for a wild camper! Coffee, sunrise and watching the world wake up. Life is rather amazing right now. 

6.07pm – I’m joined by a little robin who sits on the table, right next to my stone. I’ve seen a robin every single day on this trail and I always have a little chat with them. 

8.45am – All packed up, but first I meet Bobby and a few others for breakfast in the hotel. The waiter is very stressed as he is in his own. I asked him if he was ok and he replied “they just don’t realise that it’s like **beep** Glastonbury outside! 

9.08am – I’m on my way! Just me and Bobby. Everyone else will catch us up. 

9.12am  – We are following an old military road and the scenery already is stunning. Bobby is a film buff so he shows me where they filmed James Bond (I think it was Skyfall but I’m not sure?). The sun is hot this morning and I’m already sweating buckets! 

10.32am – God, this is tough and I’ve not reached Devils Staircase yet!! The views are impressive! I’m not sure what has happened to Bobby? He slowed right down and now I can’t see him anywhere. He will catch me up I’m sure. 

11.06am – I reach a summit with two cairns, launch Guthook and I see the words “Devils Staircase”.  It’s 1797ft! I sing a loud “whoop whoop” to no-one in particular, and swung my arms around with my Nordic poles attached to me like Julie Andrew’s in the Sound of Music. I did a bit to camera and continue walking. Im

Loving this today and I feel on top of the world! 

11.20am – I stop to air my feet, add some more “skin so soft” to my face and neck, and spot a tick on my arm! I flick it off quickly then subsequently look everywhere else for them! Horrible blood sucking things.  

11.32am – A day hiker passes me going the other way and stops to chat. I thought I was still on the Devils Staircase but apparently, it ended at the two cairns earlier! I thought the first bit was tough!! lol 😂- at least it’s all downhill from here. The day hiker also tells me that many years ago workers would walk from the villages to the pub and back in all weathers. Many drunken nights ended in fatalities. Apparently, there is a graveyard just near the lake where all the bodies are buried! 

As I wave goodbye to Neil (day hiker) I tell him to say hello to Bobby if he spots him up the trail. This evening Bobby told me that some stranger knew his name and it freaked him out!! Lol 

12.15pm – I’m in no rush so I stop again to air my feet and take in the scenery. The sun is still beating down at it’s a glorious day. I still can’t see a soul! I can see where the trail leads as it contours across the mountainside with the Mamores Range opposite and miles of wilderness to the east. It’s just… wow! 

12.35pm – I’m now on a dirt track and three Land Rovers have already driven by. It’s a steep descent and I see why locals need a 4 x 4! I cross over a stream in a deep gorge, using a road bridge. Just upstream a little way is a dam and waterfall. Click! Another one for the album. 

13.07 – Having arrived in Kinlochleven I just follow the West Highland Way signs. I’m distracted by the front garden of a house that is saturated with gnomes. Weird. Then the next garden, then the next! A whole row of houses have gnomes in their front garden. Not just one or two, nope, lots of gnomes!! My curiosity got the best of me so when I see a lady on the end house going some gardening I just have to ask. “Excuse me, is this The Highland away”? She looks thankful for the distraction and I’ve now got her in conversation. After explaining where to go I ask “I know this sounds strange but is there a reason why everyone on this street has lots of gnomes in their gardens?”.  She smiled and went on to explain that the deer do not like gnomes. Most people in this area have gnomes to keep the deer away as they cause so much damage!. She pointer to a massive Gnome Couple holding hands. “Big ones like that are the most effective”. With my new hound gnome knowledge, I’m on my way in search of a pub! 

The planned factory village of Kinlochleven was the home of an aluminium smelter, now closed. The Aluminium Story Visitor Centre (opposite the pub!) has displays telling the story of this part of the town's history. Kinlochleven has reinvented itself as a major outdoor activity centre, which fits in well with the Lochaber region's unofficial status as the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK.' 

I’m very tired after meeting up with everyone tonight. Bobby and I are wild camping near a Loch (it’s gorgeous) and everyone else is scattered between pubs, campsites and b&bs. 

Last day tomorrow! Fort William, here I come!