Day five is often spoken off in hushed and fearful tones, the epic day over Rannoch Moor and into Glencoe, but the reality is that the walking is rarely all that difficult and the landscape more than makes up for the distance! Leaving Tyndrum behind we made short work of the military road to the Bridge of Orchy Hotel with Paal and Mary leading the charge. The perfect conical peak of Beinn Dorain kept drawing us forward as did the lure of a strong coffee and a slice of cake at the hotel itself. Tearing our newly caffeinated selves away from the hotel we proceeded onwards to the Loch Tulla viewpoint (one of the highlights of the whole way) before a second lunch at the Inveroran Hotel. With the sun on our necks and a belly full of sandwiches we cruised up the packhorse route onto the wild expanse of Rannoch Moor which looked magnificent as well as forbidding. As we descended into Glencoe and our pick up point at the ski centre we were treated to one last memorable view, that of Buachaille Etive Mor standing sentinel over the valley.
Whilst day five is long it does not contain The Devil’s Staircase, the climb that takes you to the highest point on the way. It was, if possible, even sunnier as we set off in the direction of the newly opened and reconstructed hotel at Kingshouse. The new building looked very smart, a far cry from the original purpose of the building on this site which was used as a barracks for the Duke of Cumberland’s troops. The views of Buachaille Etive Mor grew ever more impressive as we pressed along the valley and slowly began our ascent of the devilish zig zags. Legend has it that the moniker came from the number of missing workmen who were building the Blackwater Dam and headed over to King’s House fo a drink of an evening, never to be seen again….obviously the devil must have taken them…..we had no such misfortune and were soon enjoying lunch with exalted views back to Glencoe and across to the Mamores. The descent all the way to Kinlochleven was a bit of a knee cruncher but the vistas ahead of us provided ample distraction and the early finish allowed ample time for beer gardens and cups of tea in the sunshine at the MacDonald’s Hotel situated perfectly at the head of the loch. One day to go!
Finishing the West Highland Way is a little like finishing a great novel, it’s so enjoyable that you don’t want to stop and yet, conversely, the thought of finishing is also upsetting! We sweated our way out of Kinlochleven and up onto our old friend, the military road, that leads into the Lairig Mor or The Great Pass. We passed ruined farmhouses and acres of decimated forestry before Ed popped up to inspire us on our last five miles with chocolate fingers and bakewell slices. We descended into Glen Nevis with the imposing bulk of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, looming imposingly above us and after reconvening at the original end of the Way our group of merry travellers meandered wearily up the Fort William high street to the final, official waymarker signalling our 96 mile adventure was well and truly over!