Climbing the Devil’s Staircase

Sleeping in the hobbit houses proved to be hard work. Collette had very little sleep – she was too hot – she opened the door and the others got too cold. I found it difficult to get to sleep and tossed and turned rather and after some fitful sleep eventually gave up on at 5.15 and went outside to see the sunrise and then made tea for my fellow hobbits Alicia and Penny. We chatted over tea and then settled down for another 40 minutes sleep. The Rescue Centre didn’t open for breakfast until 9 o’clock, we think because no staff lived on the site. We’d decided to leave at 8 and walk to the King’s House Hotel for breakfast, which many others chose to do as well. Consequently, we had just over a mile’s walking under our belt before breakfast!

The King’s House is so named because it was used by the British Army in the suppression of the Jacobites following the 1745 rising. It has just re-opened after a major refurbishment and the original 18th century inn is now the bar with the first floor removed and the space open to the rafters. There, we had a delicious breakfast – the best of the trip. We are all had a full Scottish breakfast including haggis, tattie scone and black pudding as well as bacon, sausage, beans, mushrooms and egg (or the veggie equivalents for me). So, we were well set up for the day’s demanding walk through Glencoe, over the Devil’s Staircase and down the north side to Kinlochleven.

As we walked through the atmospheric Glencoe, we had stunning views of Buchaille Etive Mor and the other mountains enclosing the classic u-shaped valley which was carved by glaciers in the last Ice Age. We were very fortunate to have such a view – the mountains are much more more often shrouded in mist or being drenched by driving rain.

After a while, we turned right to climb up the Devil’s Staircase which would take us up to the pass which, at 1,800 feet, is the highest point on the Way. The zigzag stony path, taking the line of the old military road provided great views back over Glencoe. It wasn’t quite as demanding as I’d feared and there was quite a party atmosphere at the top where most Wayfarers stopped for a rest and to take in the view ahead to the Blackwater reservoir and surrounding mountains, including Ben Nevis in the distance.

Thereafter, it was a steep, stony and very long walk downhill into Kinlochleven. We could see the village from the top, but had to go in a big loop around the neighbouring glen to get to it. I don’t think I was the only one to find the walk down tougher than the climb up.

As we finally approached Kinlochleven, we passed the hydro-electric power station fed by the Blackwater Reservoir which enabled an aluminium smelter to be established in the town a hundred years to ago to provide employment in this remote place. The company housing associated with the smelter still dominates the town. The smelter finally closed in 2000 and one of the old buildings is now an ice climbing centre. The hydro-electric plant remains and is being modernised to provide greener electricity for the 21st century, although one of the pipes had sprung a leak when we passed by.

Kinlochleven is an attractive, well kept village which now lives off tourism. Our hostel was on the way into town and Olivia was already there – as she had been at Glencoe the day before – she was impossible to beat! As we were half an hour too early to check into our hostel, some of us went to a new café in the town run by a young mum from Glasgow giving good service to locals, tourists & walkers alike. We treated ourselves to tea and cake (rocky road, of course!)

When we returned to the hostel to check-in we were welcomed by very friendly staff and were very happy with our accommodation – comfortable rooms, ensuite bathrooms and a view over the river. After rest, recuperation and showers we went to the Co-op store to get supplies for an evening meal and the next day’s lunch. We were all pleased to have a break from the expense and sameness of pub food. It was a beautifully clear evening – you could see every detail of relief on surrounding mountains.

It was difficult to believe there was only one day to go……..

Published by annejob

Since my partner died prematurely and my daughters have grown up, I have been motivated to make the most of life and do some more adventurous travelling. As a solo traveller, I have chosen to share my travels with family and friends by blogging. If these blogs reach a wider audience and inspire others to do the same, I am delighted.

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