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We follow the drover's road onto Rannoch Moor. The weather and the moor is very bleak. We stop at Ba Bridge for lunch. We need water for our soup. There is plenty of water running under the bridge but it is very difficult to get to. Charl goes off on one of his water quests but on greater inspection, after he has gone, it seems it would have been easier to collect it from the other side of the bridge. Too late, Charl is just a speck in the distance.
He returns and we have our soup and some cheese. The sky is very dark now and we are quite cold despite the hot soup. We are glad to get going again to warm up.
Although the moor is very desolate and even has a look of hostility in these conditions, it also has it's own timeless beauty. Murky puddles and dark pools glisten in shafts of light that beam down between black clouds.
From the summit of Rannoch Moor the weather brightens and we have sunshine all the way to Kingshouse. Some of the heather is still in bloom and this, together with the sun, changes the whole atmosphere.
We arrive at Kingshouse and go straight in the bar of the Kingshouse Hotel before pitching. I am shattered probably because of the bracing wind over the moor and sit with my glass and stare into space for about half an hour till I recover.
The mountain scenery is….........awe inspiring.
We wild camp by the river, along with many others. I cook dinner whilst watching the sun gradually go down over the mountains. The Kingshouse Hotel lights twinkle as dusk descends.
However, once on the path and climbing the Devil's Staircase, my mood immediately lifts. The cloud is low but the rain is only now a light drizzle. I can get my weatherproofs off and get into my stride. Although the views are restricted, the walking is exhillerating. At the top, everything is shrouded in mist but this seems to add rather than to detract from the scene. Instead of looking at far reaching views, I find myself looking at things on a micro scale: lichen, ferns and rocks.
After an initial rocky descent the path meets a wide track which is deeply rutted and used by vehicles, probably from the local aluminium works. It is very steep, with exagerated hairpins, and is extremely slippery. We have noticed midges all day today but as we descend, they get thicker.
We reach Kinglochleven, find the campsite, and Charl puts up the tent (wearing his midge net) while I go into town for supplies. Whilst queueing at the check out of the small supermarket, the shop assistant slaps a midge on her face and gives me an accusing look. She stares at the hiking boots and plaits and cries, "You've brought them in with you!". I smile but feel like a reprimanded school girl. I pick up my groceries and make a hasty retreat.
We go to the Tailrace where they serve a superb home-made lasagne. I overhear a conversation in the pub. A local states that the midges, this year, are the worst they have experienced.
The weather improves in the afternoon and we see clear blue skies. We should have braved it this morning as the tops are now clear. Ah well, it is too late now. We read the Sunday papers in the sunshine and take the opportunity of returning to the Tailrace for a meal in the evening.
We pack up with accompanying midges and after a steep climb through woodland, we reach a gentler stretch over undulating hillside. We are still on the old millitary road and it now follows a broad glen and gains height gradually. The views must be terrific if we could see them!
We stop for a tea break watched attentively by the sheep.
We leave the millitary road and take a much narrower path into the forest. We reach a broader track which climbs steadily uphill and then it suddenly narrows and seems to disappear into a dark hole through the forest. Spooky! The path dips and turns. Steep descents and then, of course, the inevitable climbs up again until we reach the edge of the forest.
We emerge from the forest and are amazed to see Ben Nevis, in all it's glory, directly in front of us
We can soon see our final destination, Fort William, in the far distance. We will camp at the site at the base of Ben Nevis but first there is a long and winding descent through the Nevis Forest. It takes a great deal longer than we think. The campsite is a spot in the distance that doesn't seem to be getting any nearer.
We arrive in good time around 4.00pm despite stopping for three brews along the way. The campsite is large and very well equiped. We are delighted to find there is a fish 'n chip van. We can't pass that by. We sit, devour our fish and chips with relish and gaze up at Ben Nevis. We have climbed The Benn many years ago. We watch walkers on their descent and try to calculate their ETA. We toy with the idea of maybe climbing up there tomorrow. No, we have to walk into Fort William to the official end of the West Highland Way.
We think back over the last twelve days, recollect various incidents and pick wild raspberries from the hedgerows. We both agree, it is all over far too quickly.