Kirstie Shirra heads for the history and drama of the West Highland Way from Bridge of Orchy to the Kings House Hotel and ends up on a "pub crawl".
Distance 19.3km (12 miles)
Total ascent 500m
Time 5-6 Hours
Start/finish Bridge of Orchy Hotel (NN297396); ﬁnish Kings House Hotel (NN259546)
Nearest town Tyndrum
Terrain Good paths and tracks throughout, on old coaching roads with reasonably undemanding walking but very exposed to the weather.
West Highland Way
The full length of the WHW is 152km, linking Milngavie on the outskirts of Glasgow with Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis. Scotland’s ﬁrst long distance footpath, the route follows the shores of Loch Lomond – Scotland’s largest freshwater loch – from the Lowlands and into the Highlands. This takes walkers along historic routes including old droving, coaching and military roads. Typically walkers take 6-8 days to complete it. www.west-highland-way.co.uk
While you might not have the time or the inclination to spend seven days walking the whole route, that doesn’t mean the West Highland Way isn’t for you.
Why not avoid the heavy backpack, the potential blisters and the duller sections by just walking the best bit in one day –and what could be better than a day that ﬁnds you walking historic rights of way across some of Scotland’s wildest terrain? And that’s before you discover the three great pubs along the way...Walking from Bridge of Orchy to the Kings House Hotel in Glen Coe takes you along picturesque hill paths, military roads built to quell the Jacobite rebellion and nearcobbled coaching roads designed by the famous engineer Thomas Telford. Aside from enjoying the history, what this means for you is dry boots and plenty of time to look up and take in the stunning views. The landscape these historic routes transect is one that is both wild and open but also brooding with drama and atmosphere.
The dark, rocky crags that form the peaks of the Black Mount provide interesting companions as you make your way north to the unfolding expanse of Rannoch Moor. Once there, the wild moor and the imposing hills of Glen Coe are countered by the cosy surroundings of the Kings House Hotel bar. Not that it need be your ﬁrst of the day! What with the Bridge of Orchy Hotel at the start, a possible pit stop at the Inveroran and a randomly placed beer sign offering a short detour to the ski centre bar, this section of the West Highland Way is also a contender for Scotland’s most rural pub crawl. Probably best to try walking it though...
Accommodation The Bridge of Orchy Hotel & bunkhouse at the start – tel. (01838) 400208, www.bridgeoforchy.co.uk; the Kings House Hotel at the end – tel. (01855) 851259, www.kingy.com; the Inveroran Hotel in the middle – tel. (01838) 400220, www.inveroran.com. There are also camping and B&B options in both Glencoe and Tyndru
Public transport Bridge of Orchy and the Kings House Hotel are both served by Citylink bus routes to/from Glasgow to Skye and Inverness to Oban – tel. 0870 550 5050, www.citylink.co.uk). You can also reach Bridge of Orchy by train www.scotrail.co.uk
Tourist info Tyndrum Tourist Information Centre – tel. 0845 225 5121
1 NN297396 Start at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel and follow the small road to the north of the hotel (signed to Inveroran) down and across the bridge of the River Orchy itself. Then leave the road to take the well-signed West Highland Way (WHW) path off to the left. Follow it to climb up and through a gate to enter into forestry. The path zigzags, steeply in places, before levelling out and arriving at a cairn marking the top of Mam Carraigh.
2 NN286412 From the top of this small hill (at 327m) there are good views east across to Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh and down Loch Tulla to the way ahead. Descend north-west to re-meet the small road you started on. Head left along this to arrive at the Inveroran Hotel.
3 NN274414 Passing in front of the Inveroran Hotel (or after calling in for a short pit stop!) continue along the road as it bends round to the north, crossing ﬁrst the Allt Tolaghan and then the Abhainn Shira until it ends just by Forest Lodge.
4 NN271423 From Forest Lodge the WHW continues along a track that was once a Telford Road, giving the walker a straight and near-cobbled route to follow. You climb gently alongside a forestry plantation before emerging into the wide, open and wild landscape of the Black Mount. Heading broadly north, descend slightly towards Lochan Mhic Pheadair Ruaidhe.
5 NN282469 Just before you reach this small lochan, an old military road joins with the Telford Road you are following. From the lochan, continue north with great views west into the corries of Stob Ghabhar and Clach Leathad. After crossing the Bà Bridge the route climbs steadily. Stay to the right when the route branches, the military road leaving to the left, to reach the high point of this section just below a cairn.
6 NN282511 At 450m this point offers great views across Rannoch Moor. From here you descend all the way to the Kings House Hotel, passing by the ski centre to join its access road and crossing the main A82 near Blackrock Cottage, with its famous views into Glen Coe. Follow the small road from the A82 down to the Kings House Hotel.