Glencoe: A Chill Out Day for Me, Pap of Glencoe for Others!

25 11 2022
View from the Glencoe Visitor’s Center. Improving weather!

We were staying two nights at the Kingshouse Hotel in Glencoe. Since I was still mending from my summer-long bout with shingles and Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, I decided I’d take a rest day. The group decided to hike the Pap of Glencoe, a relatively short but steep climb to a breathtaking view of the lochs and mountains nearby. A quick read on information about the area revealed that there is a Glencoe Visitor Center down the Glen. I could learn some of the area’s history, take an hour’s hike, and then catch a taxi back to the hotel. There, I could catch up on my journal, read my novel, and maybe hang out on the picnic tables outside and meet fellow travelers. As it turned out, it went by so fast I was really surprised, and enjoyed it immeasurably.

After another hearty breakfast, we piled into our vans with our local guides Tania and Susie, and headed down the Glen Coe. As the road winds, iconic green mountain vistas open up, many with waterfalls cascading down their slopes.

This was where I learned how popular Scotland is with hikers and international tourists! At pull-outs with views, many vehicles. Later in the day, with my taxi return, it was just packed! And why not. It’s very beautiful. And, of course, it has been captured in many films and is rich with history.

The Three Sisters of Glencoe

We stopped at a pull-out in front of the Three Sisters of Glencoe. Somewhere in this valley, a dreadful event occurred. The Massacre of Glencoe. In 1692, the newly crowned Protestant King William III of England was anxious to secure the loyalty of all Scots once and for all. He issued a decree in which he required all Scottish clans sign loyalty to him, or face punishment. Allies of William, Clan Campbell quickly signed. But local Clan MacDonald had not. Clan Campbell was sent up the Glen to speak with the MacDonalds about the issue. Although they were not friendly to one another, the MacDonalds played host to their visitors. The Scottish government had offered to pay 12,000 pounds to the Scottish clans to sign the oath. But many clans, as in typical fashion, disagreed on how to divide the sum amongst themselves, delaying signing. This delay led to William’s impatience, and an example was made to demonstrate the consequences of a lack of signing. The story goes that the MacDonald chief was on his way, but delayed. William III delivered an edict to liquidate the MacDonalds. The Campbells got that instruction and massacred 30 MacDonalds in the Glen.

I was dropped off at the Visitor Center and bid my comrades a good hike and that I’d look forward to their stories later in the day. I checked out the information to be learned, including a film on the region. There is a nice forested garden out back with a view up the valley. It has a house built exactly as they were hundreds of years ago, which visitors can check out. I paused for a bit to enjoy the sun’s warmth and take in the view.

Next, I hiked the longest of several available trails within the Visitor Center property. It was pleasant, if a bit muddy from recent stormy weather. It only took about an hour to complete. Then I waited for a taxi which I’d arranged prior to my arrival. He arrived right on time, and just like that I was on my way back to the Kingshouse Hotel.

After lunch, I went outside and picked out a spot at the picnic tables, one which had a shady roof. It was getting nice and sunny! I went into the nearby pub and got myself a coffee. I didn’t get much of my journal written, as not before long, two Swiss hikers showed up and we spent the next two hours visiting. The Kingshouse is a multi-functional institution. While it has 4-star rooms and some top notch table service cuisine and a bar with over one hundred Scottish single malt whiskies plus local gins to try, it is also a genuine hiker backpacker shelter/lodge with complete facilities for them as well. Camping is allowed on the grounds. There is a large heated room to dry out tents, boots, and camping gear. It has a budget bunk house. Well, my new Swiss friends were in a pickle, because something was delayed with their bunk house accommodation. However, their luck turned golden whilst we chatted. Something was wrong with the bunk house. And so the Kingshouse Hotel gave them one of the 4-star rooms instead! They had just hit the jackpot.

Meanwhile, my trekking comrades had hiked up the Pap of Glencoe. They surely got the view promised! The evening cocktail hour and dinner was full of tales of their adventure that day.





West Highland Way: Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse / Glencoe – The Weather Breaks

8 11 2022
Above Loch Tulla with Cathy Ann!

Today we start with a nutritious breakfast. Choices are fruit, yogurt, eggs, smoked salmon, oatmeal, toast, muffins, and much more. The weather looks squally, and once again, I’ve prepared for whatever comes. The towel dryer worked well on my stuff. So again, I’m wearing full rain shell and pants, and pack rain cover. It’s 11 miles of varying climbs and descents to Kingshouse. Along the way we will hike through woodlands, grasslands, and if the clouds part, experience views of distant lochs and mountains.

We cross the Bridge of Orchy and climb the forested hills beyond. This is the steepest part of the hike. We pass by some clearcuts. With the rain, this part of the trail is a flowing stream. We have wind-driven rain, and that, combined with my perspiration, causes my new Columbia Sportswear rain shell to utterly fail. Soaked through, the only thing I had going for me was my body heat was warm due to the exertion. After an hour the rain ebbs. We emerge out of the woods into a grassy hilltop, where views open up and we can see for miles.

This section of the West Highland way is not only a military road, but a cattle drover road. These roads, built of countless round river rocks pounded into the ground, were used for driving cattle from one place to another. For me, all the round rocks were solid, but made for a sort of “rounded” movement my foot made each step.

Loch Tulla comes into view! Now, we are rewarded with the Scottish Highland views we’re longing for. It’s very picturesque and, as I learned, full of salmon.

It’s getting toward lunchtime. This section of trail is very exposed, so it’s breezy, but the views are terrific. We’re still wary of those pesky midges, so Tania picks out a lunch spot where the breeze will keep them away.

Although today’s trail lunch was better than yesterday’s, I still found the sandwich utterly below par. As the trek progressed, and we got lunches from different places, I began to realize it’s England/Scotland, not the cooks at the places we got the lunches. All of the sandwiches were plain by North American standards. None of them had lettuce, tomatoes or onions or some condiments. Just two pieces of bread with something in the middle. Nevertheless, to their credit, they did include juice boxes, fruit, and some treats like cookies or something similar to a Kit Kat Bar. The weather continued to break up during the rest of the day. Here’s a video of the wonder of Scotland opening up! From this point on, the rest of our trek had fabulous weather!

We came across Inveroran, with its adorable to-die-for, magical Inveroran Hotel, originally a 19th Century inn for cattle drovers. I could see it from above on the trail.

It’s down on the left near the trees!

Descending, and coming across a road, we crossed a picturesque stone bridge, and there it was! We stopped in for a break. Super cute cozy bar and restaurant. I kind of wish we could have spent a tucked in night there!

To-die-for location!

After Inveroran, we continued a kind of monotonous uphill climb for quite some time. It was monotonous because for several miles it was next to a forest and there was no view. However, our stubborn tenacity was rewarded as we came out, as before, into an open high grassland with miles and miles of mountains and endless views all around. Plus, the weather truly broke up and lit up the hills for the rest of the day!

Now we were rewarded with unlimited views, more warmth, and luxuriating in the sights of the Scottish Highlands we’d come for. Along the way we spotted one of Wilderness Scotland’s most iconic fauna – a red deer! We stopped for a rest by a stream flowing with peat-colored waters

And then it was on for the final stretch! Next up is Glencoe, and the Kingshouse Hotel. This was another hotel very visible from up high on the trail.

Built by the British Army in the 18th Century, this hotel is one of the oldest inns. It originally functioned as a stopping point for those crossing Rannoch Moor. Expanded and refurbished in 2019, today it’s got 57 rooms, two restaurants, a bunk house, a substantial gear-drying room, and on top of it all, expansive views of the mountains of Glencoe. It’s a focal point for all things outdoors in the region. Hikers pass through, campers can stay on the grounds. Nearby there is wildlife viewing, climbing mountains, historical sites, skiing, lochs and moors. Our meal was first-rate! Choices were generous plates of lobster-like langoustines, a plate-sized grilled t-bone steak, and venison medallions, amongst others.

The day’s sunset over the Glencoe area said to us, “Your weather fortunes have turned! Go forth!”

Our stay here was two nights. So, I opted for a ‘day off’ the next day. Whilst the rest would go conquer the Pap of Glencoe, I’d sleep in, check out a visitor’s center, work on my journal, and take in some sunshine!