Kingshouse to Kinlochleven

Scotland, SW Highlands, United Kingdom

William Mackesy’s account of this walk

We walked this fine stretch of the West Highland Way on a hot and clear August day.

This section of the West Highland Way illustrate its strengths and weaknesses. For the first hour, we traversed a flank of upper Glen Coe on an old military road, in staggering scenery but never out of earshot of, and sometimes right beside, the endlessly busy A82 road. In the panoply of Scottish walks, it is eminently missable. 

The trail then turns north at a sharp bend in the road, up a beautiful but still noisy hillside which becomes the steep but not wildly demanding zig-zag known as the Devil's Staircase. The road is by now visible but no longer heard, a minor blot on the huge and wonderful glen, looking across at it's famous, sheer southern corner-buttresses, Buachaille Etive Mor.

It doesn't take all that long to get to a low pass in the grassy ridge, and we are soon  gazing on a new landscape to the north across the deep Leven valley, which debouches pretty quickly into the sea-loch of Loch Leven. A wonderful series of ridges and summits, scooped back by fine corries, which make you quiver with the excitement of the possible walking. Behind them looms the high, bleak, flat top of one of Ben Nevis' close neighbours. A really lovely view.

We ate our lunch on a rock just below the ridge, then descended gently on a good path, winding around the mountain sides for some way. To the north-east, a long, wide, high, treeless valley appeared, with the beginnings of huge and strange Rannoch Moor at its far end and a shallow-looking reservoir in its bottom.

The wooded depths of the Leven valley gradually appeared, and then the outskirts of Kinlochleven itself, far below. The trail then entered sparklingly pretty birch woods; at the swirling pool that is the top of the Kinlochleven hydro system, we joined a steep and occasionally slippery track in the woodlands, dropping pleasantly enough to the old power station and then the village itself, which is reputedly hideous but was nice enough in a slightly dull way.

A fine walk, which took 4.5 hours including lunch.

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