Bridge of Orchy to Glencoe Mountain Resort: 10.7 miles / 71.3 miles
So, although yesterday was hard both physically and mentally, the luxury of two showers in the space of twelve hours, fluffy white towels, someone else cooking breakfast and the slim, but still potential, chance of seeing a troll as I cross the Bridge of Orchy, meant that today was only ever going to be a good day. On top of all that morale boosting goodness, my tent, having spent all night in a very warm bathroom, was now totally dry and probably half the weight of its former sodden self, which meant for an easier day carrying Gigantor.
Yesterday had taken its toll though. The continual rain and constant dampness had given me a head cold; the hard paths from yesterday’s Military Roads had caused my left foot to develop another bout of tendinitis and the price of paracetamol from the hotel ripped such a large hole in my finances, I would have gotten an overdraft warning text from the bank if there had been any mobile signal.
Being a posh place (with that assumption purely based on price alone), I was reluctant to visit the restaurant for my breakfast and WiFi needs in anything but my cleanest clothes, which, this far in to the walk, meant shorts, a jumper and flip flops. I may have looked a little incongruous in a setting full of squeaky clean walkers, in immaculate trousers and shinny walking boots, but as I was tucking in to my starter of porridge with honey and extra cream, I really didn’t care. I didn’t buy my boots to look clean at the end of a walk, I bought them so I could steam straight through the middle of puddles and bogs without getting my feet wet – and for that, they are excellent. I didn’t have the luxury of baggage transfer either and the benefits of multiple changes of clothing, but I have to say, I may well be changing that for future walks!
So breakfast over I returned to my room to finish packing for the journey ahead. As, upon check-in, I looked a little dishevelled, I was put in one of the chalet rooms set away from the main building which, in my current level of clothing, gave me the perfect opportunity to judge the weather for the day: dry, but barely above freezing! On the plus side, a day of no precipitation meant that there was absolutely nothing that could dampen my mood, not even the troll free crossing of the bridge. I felt good. Today, it was just me, Gigantor, my thoughts and a cheese and pickle sandwich as I ventured out around 9 am towards a thankfully tamed Rannoch Moor.
The sun shone down, the terrain was easy on the feet, the elevation gains were gradual and there were plenty of ice cool streams to fill up my water bottles from. Snow covered Bens came slowly in to view with the turn of each corner and there were plenty of stone bridges upon which I could sit, eat and soak in the scenery. Disney-esque moments played out in front of me as chaffinches would sit next to me hoping to benefit from an errant crisp or crumb of sandwich. I was beginning to think I had taken too many ibuprofen.
Things were going so well, it looked as if I was going to finish at around 1 pm and, with nobody around at Kinghouse as Rich and Ash were now much further down the trail, the afternoon and evening looked as if it was going to be a little dull. The unthinkable thoughts of powering through were beginning to enter my mind: could I make it all the way to Kinlochleven, shortening the walk by a day. It was after all, only another eight miles.
As logistical thoughts of extra hotel nights in Fort William, or re-arranging coaches and trains running through my head, I stumbled across a sign to the Glencoe Mountain Resort a mere quarter of a mile away. They had a restaurant, huts, camping. At the very least if there was no accommodation, I could then move on to Kingshouse and reassess the situation.
So I followed the signs making mental notes, so I could retrace my steps and rejoin the trail in exactly the same place. The car park was promisingly empty, the restaurant having a post bank holiday weekend quietness to it. I ventured the question, ‘do you have any accommodation?’ ‘Yes,’ came the reply, ‘you can have Hobbit Hut 10’. What? A Hut used by actual Hobbits? I squeaked a little with excitement, forgetting the disappointment with the trolls and Orcs momentarily, until I discovered the hut was empty when I got there. I suppose it is Easter Week and a hobbit should be able to get away from it all too. On the plus side, I had power, light, a kettle and was so close to the facilities, it was practically an en-suite.
So in the evening I sat outside for as long as I could in the hope I may see some stars this far away from any light pollution. Unfortunately, the clouds were starting to come in, and, on a day that never topped more than 8 degrees Celsius, it was getting too cold for my little gas lamp to keep me warm. At 9 pm, I decided to lock out the cold and sleep.