This was the day which we had been anticipating the most since we left Milngavie. We would finally get to experience the majesty of Rannoch Moor.
Nowhere else on the West Highland Way is a single experience likely to be so fundamentally affected by weather. Crossing the isolated and exposed Rannoch Moor in poor weather could be unnerving to say the least. We were blessed in Day 7 of our walk, to wake up to a great weather forecast and the prospect of perfect visibility.
There has been a tangible sense of excitement in the hotel bar on the previous evening. Most of the walkers hadn’t experienced Rannoch Moor before. Those who had were describing the magic of the route to a hushed room. We hoped we weren’t expecting too much.
We set off along the road through Inveroran, with Loch Tulla behind us. As the road curved around and crossed the Allt Tologhan, wild campers were rolling up their sleeping bags, packing their tents and hurriedly preparing for the walk ahead.
In fine weather, the stage to Kingshouse isn’t at all daunting. Gentle gradients, a modest distance of around 9.5 miles and a good surface underfoot, as the route would be following the old Glencoe road, otherwise known as the Telford Parliamentary Road. Back in 1803, Thomas Telford had been commissioned by the government to survey and consult on improvements and new routes in order to boost trade and stem emigration in the remote Highlands. Telford's principles sound ideally suited to a walking route too. His priorities were to take the gentlest gradients through the Highlands, with substantial bridges rather than cobbled fords and deep gravel to prevent damage to the hooves of livestock on their way to market. We weren't on our way to market but our hooves still appreciated the cushioning provided by Telford's workforce.
It's hard to imagine now, but this was the main Glencoe road until 1933. The traffic sounds have long gone and been replaced by just the sounds of nature.
We passed by the old hunting lodge at Forest Lodge and the road took us steadily uphill through a wooded area. Tall deer fencing accompanied us to our right while the sound of a cuckoo calling broke the silence as we climbed.
As we reached the end of the forest, the view opened to the right towards the Beinn Dorain hills.
The sense of space and tranquility when immersed in this vast wilderness is overwhelming. Rannoch Moor stretches out over 50 square miles of peat bogs and lochans and can be daunting in bad weather. The road undulates gently over the heather clad terrain as we walk through the deep blues of the lochans and the magical mountainous horizons.
Eventually, we came to Ba Bridge, which is possibly the most impressive of the bridge structures across the moor, crossing the River Ba which twists and turns as it cascades through narrow rock ravines.
We stopped for a lunch break just after the bridge. A more isolated spot, you could not imagine. As we opened our lunch bags, there was the flutter of wings and a pair of hungry chaffinches landed beside us. Even on the wild moors, you are never far from a hungry, opportunistic and persuasive beak.
Shortly after the bridge, we passed the ruins of Ba Cottage, close to the Allt Creagan nam Meann.
The path steadily rises until it passes a cairn dedicated to the memory of Peter Fleming, elder brother of James Bond author Ian, who died of a heart attack in the area in 1971.
As the path progresses, the iconic peak of the Buachaille Etive More appears straight ahead. The "Great Herdsman of Etive" stands guard at the entrance to Glencoe. It's another place with a James Bond link, too, having been used as a location for the film "Skyfall".
The path lead us below the White Corries of Glencoe Ski Resort, with the ski-lift appearing on the skyline. When we got to the beautiful Blackrock Cottage, we made our way up to the resort to conclude our walk for the day. Due to the renovations currently being carried out at Kingshouse, there is no accommodation available there, which meant that we needed to catch a taxi from the ski centre down to Glencoe to our accommodation and return the following morning. Colourful paragliders circled the valley as we set off up the tarmac-surfaced hill.
There was just time for coffee and a cake at the ski centre while we waited for Kenny the taxi driver at the end of what was certainly our most enjoyable day of the walk so far.