2021

Day 31 – Glencoe and the Devil’s Descent

Kingshouse (Glencoe) to Kinlochleven, 14Km

There’s usually a good reason why a stage of a long distance footpath is only 14Km. Occasionally it’s because the destination is worthy of a few hours sightseeing but more often it’s down to difficult terrain. Kinlochleven has nothing of special interest beyond the inn and the Coop store but the guidebook describes this stage as a “fairly relaxing route”. We sat in the armchairs of the Kings House hotel after breakfast while the rest of the walkers set off, looking as if they were attempting to reach the South Col on Everest during a break in the weather. Those armchairs were the only relaxing part of the route.

Colin & Rachel went with the mountaineers, aiming to camp somewhere near the outskirts of Fort William. An eerie silence descended on the hotel and eventually Lizzie and I headed for the door, reluctant to arrive in Kinlochleven before the inn opened.

The weather was kind although the hills were shrouded in mist and we set off across the grass and heather moorland towards Glencoe, scene of the massacre of the MacDonalds Clan in 1692. We crossed the Allt na Feithe and started the 465m climb on the Devil’s Staircase to Stob Mhic Mhartuin, the highest point on the West Highland Way at 548m.

We stopped for a shortbread biscuit, a souvenir of the hotel, and imagined the scene just half an hour earlier of Rachel’s Jet Boil stove brewing the coffee.

I name the next section, “The Devil’s Descent”. First we crossed the Sron a’Choire Odhair-bhig and then the Allt a’Choire Odhair-mhoir which led us to the massive feeder pipes for a hydro electric power station. They plunged down into the glen and we followed in a kamikaze dive down a one in three gravelly roadway, slipping and sliding down 697m to Kinlochleven. Lizzie’s blisters erupted and I felt every painful step, memories of our hapless struggle to Wissant in 2018 flooding back.

We collapsed into the inn. The barmaid said they’d finished serving lunch. A slice of coffee cake was on offer but I declined that and slipped across the road to the Coop to buy a chicken salad sandwich while she made a cappuccino.

The splendid Kings House hotel in Kingshouse
Quite possibly the Allt na Feithe
Quite possibly the Allt a’Choire Odhair-bhig
Or this might be it
The feeder pipes to the HEP station
Lizzie on the Devil’s Descent
Approaching Kinlochleven

6 comments on “Day 31 – Glencoe and the Devil’s Descent

  1. Hi Tim,
    It all looks spectacularly beautiful. I don’t envy you that devil of a descent though. I am always happier going up hill.
    I have had many bad blisters in the past. Surgical spirit and two pairs of socks always helped me. Lizzie has my sympathy.
    Ps How is your Scottish/ Gaelic coming on? Will look up the old gaelic for 1. Allt na Feithe and 2. Allt a’Choire Odhair-bhig. Something like – 1. boundary stream and 2. river of the dun-coloured corrie???

    • Hi Suzi, I also dislike steep unstable descents. That’s quite probably the translation but not as romantic. There’s quite a lot of Gaelic up here

  2. Looks beautiful, sounds tough! Tim

  3. Colin Midgley

    That descent was never ending, and we were happy we left early in the wet, as we missed the climb in too much sun. Sandwiches, strawberries and cold drinks in the little park from the coop were the order of the day before we headed up the hill towards Fort William.

    • I’m glad you both got the train ok. I feasted on Morrisons food in Fort William, made a change from the pub.

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