Day 6 of my West Highland Way adventure was to be the shortest at 9 miles. Which was good since I had just walked 19 the day before.
Since Kings House Hotel is closed for renovations (much-needed from what I’d heard) many folks had to stay in the Glencoe area which is a short taxi ride away from Kingshouse.
Kingshouse is really just a few buildings and the West Highland Way basically goes right through it. There’s the hotel, a cafe, camping areas … that’s about it. But many folks who walk the West Highland Way stay here. In fact most do if possible.
But with the hotel closed, there were quite a few of us who called taxis on the day we arrived there to take us to our accommodation in nearby Glencoe.
Glencoe is the most famous and maybe the most beautiful of the valleys in Scotland. I’d love to go back. I stayed at the Clachaig Inn just a bit outside of the village. This place has a hotel, cabins, bar and restaurant. Everyone knows it. It’s been around for a while and on a Saturday night it was crazy with people.
But because I was so tired from walking 19 miles, I didn’t get to take advantage of all the good craic.
So on Sunday morning I was picked up by Marlene and 4 other Americans as she took us back to Kingshouse so we could pick up the West Highland Way.
The goal on Sunday was Kinlochleven which sits just on the edge of Loch Leven.
I started later than I like at 9:30-9:40 due to the taxi ride, but knowing that I only had 9 miles, I was okay with it.
The first bit isn’t bad as you actually walk back toward Glencoe. The bad part is the road is right there. The scenery is gorgeous though.
Then you make a right turn and up you go — up Devil’s Staircase.
Now the name is scary sounding, but it’s just a slog up hill, with some switchbacks on rocky terrain. It would suck in the rain or snow.
But you keep your head down, plug away, stop every now and again to catch your breath and look back at the mountains of the Glencoe area and eventually you reach the top.
Then you walk over the top and see this
Yup, me too. Totally took my breath away.
Maybe the best view of the West Highland Way.
I almost took off running into it as I just love being right in the middle of places like this.
There’s something about being surrounded by all this grandeur that puts life into perspective. Those “big” problems you have don’t seem so important. That promotion you didn’t get. The person that cut you off commuting home from work. Nothing matters.
Because when you are surrounded by the grandeur of nature, you realize that you are just a speck in the universe. Your time here is so limited.
Those mountains out there and that valley you are standing in have been around a very very very long time. It took forces of nature and lots and lots of time to create what you are in.
You feel pretty insignificant.
And not to belittle how important each of us are in this world, because in many ways we are very important. But we’re also not important. Our little “problems” don’t really matter.
Let’s just put it this way — for me being in this valley surrounded by the mountains reminds me of what is important. And it’s not money (I don’t have much and I’ll be broke after this trip) or the size of my house (I don’t own one) or what kind of car I drive (my mom’s old Focus). It’s life. It’s doing what you love. It’s the people you surround yourself with.
I talked to mom along the way as I walked through this gorgeous section of the West Highland Way. I felt her with me. She knew that being in a place like this made me incredibly happy — that it’s what feeds my soul.
You reach a certain point on the trail here where you can see Kinlochleven, but it’s quite a long way down to it.
There’s lots of gradual descent, eventually into a nice forest.
The walking is good in spots, rocky and loose in others.
But I wasn’t in a hurry as I knew I’d still get to my accommodation early enough to have time to relax.
And I wanted to savor the beautiful day and that feeling I had as I first gazed upon that valley and the surrounding mountains. It’s etched in my mind.
I was fortunate to stay in MacDonald Hotel which is right across the start of the trail for the final day and right on the edge of Loch Leven. They have the best bar with the best view in Kinlochleven.
Interestingly, I met a man and his son while sitting on the deck with the view. It wasn’t check in time yet.
He was a local, but had moved his family here to Kinlochleven recently from somewhere else in the UK, England somewhere I believe.
He told me he as working 60 hours a week and was not getting enough time with his family. His life had lost that balance.
So he called up his wife one day and said, “Put the house up for sale.” And they did and they moved to this little slice of Scottish paradise.
They’d been living there for a little over a year and were loving it. Life was back in balance.
That pretty much summed up the day for me.