25 Oct

West Highland Way – Day 5 – Photo Guide and Review

Day 5 – Inveroran to Kinlochleven – 19 Miles

After a very nice and comfortable nights rest at the Inveroran Hotel and a lighter, yet satisfying breakfast, I took to the trail for what was by far my favorite day on the West Highland Way.

The easy trail leaving Inveroran allowed me to really enjoy the crisp morning air with dramatic lighting that shone through breaks in the clouds. I passed some farm land being grazed by cattle and shortly thereafter began the light, steady climb out of the valley through the remotest regions of the trail.

Inveroran, Scotland

For the first 8 miles or so, the trail took me upward at a relatively steady incline as it made its way through extremely beautiful stretches of the Scottish Highlands. There are no roads or power lines stretched across this open land and it was absolutely superb. It was what I had imagined the trail would be like when I decided to hike it.

West Highland Way - Inveroran

The views and the lands are expansive through this stretch and you are surrounded by beautiful mountains on all sides. The clouds rested on the tops of the peaks and gave them even more personality than they already had. The rays of the sun also provided amazing rays which would part through the clouds.

By about 5 or 6 miles in, you will start to crest the trail and there is an amazing lookout point to your left with a large cairn on the top. CLIMB THIS! The view from the top is absolutely breathtaking and you get to soak in the largest region of uninhabited land in the United Kingdom. It is a perfect spot to take a break and refresh.

West Highland Way, Scotland

Leaving the top of the hill, I started my decent down into Glen Coe and the views just continued to get better. The clouds had dissipated by the time I made it to the area and the skies were dark blue, something I hadn’t seen to this point on my trip in Scotland.

Ahead of me lied the amazing Buachaille Etive Mòr, meaning “the great herdsman of Etive in Scottish Gaelic, and it incredibly powerful. Its cone or pyramid shape stuck out of the flat countryside and all I could think about was it being an ancient, dormant volcano. It was amazing and its size was extremely impressive.

Glen Coe, West Highland Way

The next two miles or so lead me to the Kings House Hotel which lies on the other side of a super busy road that runs through Glen Coe. Watch your ass here because these drivers are flying and they don’t slow down for people crossing the street.

West Highland Way - Glen Coe

Some people I met along the way were walking a short day, 10 miles, from Bridge of Orchy or Inveroran to Kings House and stopping there. If you don’t plan on exploring Glen Coe, don’t make this mistake. I left Inveroran at about 8:00 AM and was at the Kings House by 11:30 AM and I wasn’t pushing myself. I suggest to keep going to Kinlochleven.

West Highland Way - Glen Coe

Leaving the Kings House Hotel, I got back on the way and headed through Glen Coe toward the Devil’s staircase. This stretch of the trail is beautiful, but the busy road I had to cross earlier runs right along it. If the scenery hadn’t been so amazing, I would have been rather annoyed.

West Highland Way - Glen Coe

A couple of miles further, I reached the turn off to climb the Devil’s Staircase. If you cross back over the road to your left, there are a couple of nice benches that give you the postcard views of Glen Coe that are a perfect stopping point for lunch. It was a nice spot to rest before the steepest climb of the trail.

After lunch, I threw on my pack and started my climb up the Devil’s Staircase. It’s a semi-steep climb and you will be breathing heavier than on any other stretch of the trail, but don’t let the name fool you. It’s not very long and the views are so nice that you will forget about the extra effort required.

West Highland Way - Devil's Staircase

Upon reaching the top, I was happy and I felt accomplished. I took some photos and enjoyed the panoramic views of the amazing valley. It was hard to leave it behind and keep hiking.

Turning my back on Glen Coe, I was greeted with more amazing views on the decent. Tall peaks lie in the north and off to the east sits Blackwater Reservoir. After the walk along the busy road, the trail returns to the remote highlands and I was once again only surrounded by nature.

West Highland Way - Top of Devil's Staircase

The next miles to Kinlochleven are very pleasant and the walking is not very difficult. There were several pretty substantial descents but other than the rocky trail, it was easy walking and I could really enjoy the nature.

Soon, I started to reach some civilization and the trail started to venture into Kinlochleven. There is a water plant at the top above town and six large metal tubes bring water down to the town. It also marks the decent into the village.

West Highland Way - Above Kinlochleven

This part of the trail was my least favorite of the day, not for the scenery, but for the road you have to walk on. It is the steepest decent of the day and it is on a really hard packed gravel service road. My knees were really feeling it as I made my way down.

West Highland Way - Kinlochleven Trail

The road eventually flattens out and I walked the rest of the way to town along the metal water pipes. Occasionally I passed a section that had sprung a leak and water was spraying out like crazy. It was pretty cool and totally different than other parts of the trail.

I made my way to town and checked in to the Forest View Guest House. This B&B is right off the trail as soon as you make it into town and it is really nice and comfortable. The plush carpets felt great on my feet and the rooms are very clean and comfortable. The shower was also great and it was very welcome after a full day on the trail.

After I cleaned up, I made my way into town and I enjoyed wandering around. It is a really small, charming place and I felt very comfortable there. They had a grocery store in town where I stocked up and then went out for a bite to eat.

Along the way, a hiker mentioned to me that Kinlochleven had a mountain climbing facility that had an ice climbing wall. I had to see the ice wall so I made my way to the Ice Factor to check it out.

The ice wall was really cool and was in its own special freezer room within the complex. With crampons and some ice axes, you can scale the vertical walls and get ready for your mountaineering adventures. It was worth checking out as this is something I had never encountered before.

The Ice Factor also had a bar and restaurant on the 2nd level which overlooks the climbing walls. I treated myself to a nice and delicious dinner, one of the best on the entire West Highland Way, before I headed back to my room for the evening. It was a great way to spend the evening before my last day on the trail.

Pros:

– The most beautiful and varied scenery of the entire West Highland Way.
– The trails are mostly remote and away from civilization.
– Glen Coe is absolutely beautiful.

Cons:

– The stretch from the Kings House Hotel to the Devils Staircase is right along a road.
– Hard service road and decent to Kinlochleven.

West Highland Way – Photo Guide and Review by Day

Introduction to the West Highland Way

Milngavie – Drymen – 12 miles
Drymen – Rowardennan – 15 miles
Rowardennan – Crainlarich – 20 miles
Crainlarich – Inveroran – 15 miles
Inveroran – Kinlochleven – 19 miles
Kinlochleven – Fort William – 16 miles

6 thoughts on “West Highland Way – Day 5 – Photo Guide and Review

  1. Pingback: Hike the West Highland Way Over 6 Days - Evasion

  2. Lovely photos Chris! Thank you for answering the big question on my mind…stop at Kings House or continue on to Kinlochleven. I had originally thought make the detour to Glen Coe village but then changed my mind. So my only question is how long was the walk from Kings House to ]_>

    • Hi Angela,

      Glad you liked the photos. Thanks!
      Your comment got a bit cut off at the end, but I think you were wondering how long the walk is from Kings House to Kinlochleven. Its about 9 miles or so. The only difficult stretch is the Devil’s Staircase. The rest is pretty easy walking.

      I hope this is what you were wondering. If not, let me know!

      Chris

      • How long did you stop for lunch and approximately what time did you arrive in Kinlochleven? Trying to get a feel for how long the day is going to be. We are super athletic but we do a fair bit of hiking in the Rockies so I am hoping the Devil’s Staircase isn’t any worse that what we hike around here. Thanks!

        • Thanks a lot for your comment. I got to Kinlochleven about 4:00 PM after leaving Kings House at about 11:45 AM. I took my time on this stretch and didn’t push myself.

          If you do any hiking in the Rockies, you are ready for the Devil’s Staircase. If you’ve hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park with a bit of elevation gain, you will be ready for this stretch. The only difference is, this section is much shorter than climbs in the Rockies.

          If you haven’t hiked in Rocky Mountain NP before, let me know what trails you’ve done and I can maybe help put it in context.

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