West Highland Way Travel-Lite
Kingshouse to Kinlochleven – 9 miles (14.5 km)
The Kingshouse Hotel om the West Highland Way, is reputed to be the oldest inn in Scotland and is a good central point to explore this area. The Rannoch Moor is awesomely impressive and can feel like you on another planet. The moor extends to about 60 square miles, and is a wilderness of peat hags and lochans. The whole expanse was once covered with Scots pines, and thousands of them still lie in the bogs, preserved by the peat. This is a wildly beautiful place, but bleak and potentailly deadly in the winter.
From Kingshouse the highland way moves down the glen to Altnafeadh and the Devil’s Staircase. The famous ‘three sisters’ of Glencoe, you pass going down the glen on the left, are Beinn Fhada, which is the Long Hill, Gearr Aonach, the Short Ridge, and the Aonach Dhubh, the Black Ridge. The best known landmark in the glen, the Bauchaille Etive Mor – the Big Shephard of Etive. Glen Etive is on the other side of the mountain.
The plantation of Altnafeadh marks the beginning of a rocky scramble which takes the walker high above the glen. In certain conditions Glencoe and Rannoch moor can be quite spooky. The most famous story of Glencoe is the massacre of Glencoe. The massacre of Glencoe took place in 1692, and was another instance of the pacification of the Highlands.
Some walkers may wish to pause at Glencoe village, which has a visitors’ centre, a youth hostel and an inn. For those that wish to go further to Kinlochleven, the way is by Altnafeadh and the Devil’s Staircase. Altnafeadh is an old cattle-drover’s stances, and is marked by a sign ‘Public footpath to Kinlochleven’. You now face a steep walk on a winding path which is very rocky and broken. At the top of this ascent the track winds its way to Kinlochleven, and into the backdrop of the Mamore mountains, dominated by Ben Nevis.
Descending from the cairn at the Devil’s Staircase it’s all downhill to Kinlochleven. As the walk traverses wild, unsheltered moorland, you are soon amongst thick birch woods. Kinlochleven and the loch are hidden from view until almost upon them. the main landmarks of this section are the Blackwater dam, to the right. and the huge parallel pipes which carry the water down to Kinlochleven and the old aluminium works. This part of the walk is all downhill and good walking conditions.
In gaelic, Kinlochleven is Ceann Loch Liobhain – Head of the Lake of the Grey Water. Loch Leven was bridged at Ballachulish in 1975, and before that, the road to Fort William and the north was connected by the Ballachulish ferry.
Before the construction of the Blackwater Dam, Kinlochleven consisted of two shooting lodges and a farm. The aluminium smelting works, which are now gone, transformed it into an industrial town in the Highlands. In 1919 the Oban Times gave a description of Kinlochleven as ‘The Electric City of Kinlochleven’.
Kinlochleven is modern, well planned and laid out. The streets are wide with an excellent surface. The houses are built in a terrace system. The village has a town hall, public schol, recreation ground, bowling green, police station, fire station and many hotels and pubs.
Kinlochleven makes a good stopping place before the last leg of the west highland way. There is good accommodation, friendly people and good walks. Walking to the other side of the town, there is a sign that says ‘Public footpath to Fort William by the Lairig’.