West Highland Way Day 2: Bridge of Orchy to Glen Coe

Crossing Rannoch Moor on West Highland Way

After a good night’s sleep, I broke camp and walked back down the hill to rejoin the West Highland Way, and walked the short distance round to Mam Carraigh. I walked up to the cairn and enjoyed some great views down to Loch Tulla and up to some of the hills I would be walking through later in the day.

I continued on down the path, which descends for about 1.5km to the Inveroran Hotel. Follow the signs to the bar and there is a fresh water tap to replenish your water if you need. I chatted here to some other walkers, two of whom were returning to Bridge of Orchy following a knee injury. Whilst we were talking, the hotel owner very kindly opened the door and said we were free to use the toilets in the hotel. Particularly kind, because the hotel is now closed for the season.

Continuing down the road from the hotel, I noted a large red deer stag off to my left in the long grass. It was making it’s way towards the road I was walking along. At first, I started filming it with my phone. Then I realised that it was coming closer than I thought, so I stopped walking and filming as it walked onto the road about 40-50 metres ahead of me. It tried to cross the road, realised there was a fence on the other side, turned and squared up to me. My heart was in my mouth, so I turned and started to walk away to give more space and show I was not a threat. Two other hikers had stopped behind me. After a few seconds, I was relieved to see the deer jump the fence and run down to the river. Although slightly unnerving, it was a privilege to see a red deer so close up.

The walk now continued along an old drovers road, initially alongside some plantation and then almost without warning opened up into a magnificent vista across Rannoch moor. It suddenly felt quite remote, especially in the poor weather I was experiencing. Again I saw a large stag on the horizon, it must have been huge as it looked big even from this distance. Somewhere unseen another deer bellowed and it echoed around the hills as I walked through in the rain. It was quite a magical experience and far better than day 1 already.

I thoroughly enjoyed walking the few kilometres along this section, but soon the rain started to get harder and I started to get very wet. My socks were squelching and my rain jacket was now little more than a wind break. I gave up trying to keep the hood up as it kept blowing down. I crossed Ba Bridge and started the long trudge uphill to pass between Meall a Bhuiridh and Beinn Chaorach. My pack was feeling heavier with each step, and as I climbed I decided I would not camp tonight but would book into one of the camping pods available at Glencoe Mountain Resort.

After some more trudging I could eventually see the A82 again, and the Kingshouse hotel, which my wife and I had twice tried and failed to visit due to Covid 19. I had driven along this road just a couple of weeks ago, and it felt like I was not too far now from my chosen campsite. Indeed I wasn’t, but it felt like forever descending down to the path that splits left to the Glencoe Mountain Resort. The sign promised it was only 200 metres, but it felt a lot more on tired, wet feet. In all I’d walked around 9 miles, in about 4 hours to get to the campsite.

Inexplicably, as I walked into the cafe to check-in I decided I would, in fact, camp after all. I reasoned that I could have a hot shower, put on dry clothes, have some hot food and I would feel better and be ok to camp. I had also lugged a heavy tent a long way already and it would be crazy not to use it. It wasn’t very windy, and although thundery showers were forecast the winds were due to remain fairly moderate even after checking several different forecasts. So I dutifully put my tent up, the only person to be camping, on the level field behind the temporary cafe (a new cafe, looking very nice indeed, is being built after a Christmas day fire destroyed the old one). The field was a little wet, but level and short grass and with nice views to Buachaille Etive Mor and down Glen Coe.

I used the coin-operated shower, which was clean and hot (although was a bit disturbed by the sign declaring “This shower is not a toilet”), and was grateful to get into dry clothes. I then headed to the cafe for some hot food. The food options were limited, but I was hungry and grateful.

The inside of my tent was soaked from the previous day, requiring me to wipe it out with my trek towel before setting up my sleep mat and quilt for the night. I’d bought a beer from the cafe and headed back to my tent to drink it whilst I enjoyed reading my kindle. It grew dark earlier than expected and then, suddenly, lightning. I unzipped my tent to see a wall of dark cloud coming down Glen Coe, and began to wonder if I should remain in my tent. I decided to go back to my childhood and count the timing between lightning and thunder, and if it got close I would head either to the cafe or the shower block if the cafe was closed until it passed. It was about now that I thought what a good idea it would have been to be in a camping pod. Why hadn’t I done that again?

Although the lightning did pass north of my location, the wind started to pick up and suddenly, almost within seconds it was gusting at what must have been close to gale force. The Soulo is a capable tent, but I have never seen it at the angles it was twisted in before. I could hear the gusts coming down the hillside, through the trees and then hitting me, so I was able to brace myself for the hits. Wave after wave of gusts hit me, some truly huge and one or two I instinctively braced the sides of the tent with my hand to help support the poles.

I was now really regretting my decision to camp. I checked all the weather apps and none of them indicated this level of wind, so it may have just been localised, but this also meant I had no idea for how long it would go on. After two hours where there was absolutely no chance of sleep, I got up to go to the toilet. I took this opportunity to scout around the field to see if there was anywhere that was slightly more sheltered. Indeed, just behind the shower block, whilst still very windy, was slightly more sheltered and I decided to move my tent there in a bid to prevent it being damaged.

I unzipped the tent. My titanium mug was in the porch, and as I unzipped the tent a gust blew it straight out of the door. I zipped the tent again and took my headtorch to try and find it, barely able to stand in the wind. I was unable to find it and decided I had probably lost it but I would check in the morning when I could see properly. I started to pull pegs out of the tent, leaving the pack in the tent to ensure it wouldn’t blow away. I was seriously questioning if this was a good idea, but felt I had no choice. I got the last peg out and dragged the tent, which was still trying it’s best to behave as a kite to the spot behind the shower block. Now the race was on to get the pegs in, which took longer than I had hoped mostly due to me having a word with myself about my life choices. Eventually though it was re-pegged, except for the rear guy which couldn’t be pegged because there was a path behind me. I felt the benefit of shelter from the shower block outweighed this downside.

I got back in the tent and it was still thrashing about but I did feel it was better. It took a long time to be comfortable enough to sleep, and in the end I only got about three hours or so before I heard the staff returning to the cafe in the morning.

Several people from the campsite came down to see if I was ok in the morning, which was very kind of them. I also found my mug in a tree! The tent was undamaged, so in the end no harm was done. It was, however, a poor decision not to camp in the pod that night. I was grateful though that I had bought the Soulo and not the Enan, as I had originally planned. I’ve no doubt the Enan would have been flattened.

My plan for Day 3 was to walk from here to Kinlochleven, where I had a pitch booked for the night. This was the best section of the walk. If you’d like to read about it please click here.

I used the excellent Harvey Maps West Highland Way strip map for this walk.

There is also an excellent Cicerone guide to the West Highland Way, which you can purchase at the below link. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This costs you no more and helps me to maintain the site. Thank you.

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