The West Highland (Half)Way: Glencoe to Kinlochleven (Day 3)

The West Highland Way is a beautiful and classic walk in the highlands of Scotland, and I would heartily recommend sections of it or the full 95 miles for a challenging and worthwhile trek. My friend and I walked the second (and arguably better) half of the West Highland Way in October 2018 over three and a half days.

This post is about our Day 3 walk from Glencoe to Kinlochleven. You can also check out the overview of our itinerary, accommodations, and food, and other notes on & photos of the walks from Crianlarich to Tyndrum (Day 1), Tyndrum to Glencoe (Day 2), and Kinlochleven to Fort William (Day 4).

Glencoe to Kinlochleven

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

This section of the walk was 10 miles long and took us just under 5 hours. From Glencoe to the bottom of Devil’s Staircase took us 1.5 hours, an hour to climb Devil’s Staircase, and then 2 hours 45 minutes (including a short-lived lunch break) from the top of Devil’s Staircase all the way down to Kinlochleven.

In the morning, we had a breakfast of instant oatmeal cups we carried with us and then a quick (and not terribly worth it) coffee and tea at the lodge at 9:00 when it opened. 

Today it RAINED! We got very wet. Pretty easy going to the bottom of the Devil’s Staircase, the clouds shifted and we could see a little of Glencoe. Thankfully the Kingshouse Hotel (although very under construction) has public washrooms open, so we made a quick pit stop there. 

A misty morning, but relatively easy-going from Glencoe Mountain Resort to the bottom of Devil’s Staircase.

We fuelled up with a little energy bar and some squares of our Oreo Cadbury chocolate bar and then hit the hill. Thankfully the Devil’s Staircase is entirely switch-backs, which makes it manageable, if cardio-intensive.

At the top of Devil’s Staircase, taking stock of our life choices. Omg we are so wet.

Once at the summit, more amazing tundra-like hills and eventually you can see a beautiful blue lake off to the east. The clouds broke and the rain stopped briefly (so we could see the lake) and have a quick lunch (cheese and oatcakes, etc. carried with us), but the rain started again and so we packed up and moved on. In general, we did a lot of leapfrogging with other groups of walkers in this section. 

On the West Highland Way heading towards Kinlochleven the clouds broke briefly for a view of the lake.

We eventually came to the edge of the epic downhill to Kinlochleven where a few brave folks have houses and there are power lines and the hydro facilities at the top of the incredible long hydro-electric pipes that run all the way down the mountain to the town. No kidding they do well with hydro electricity here, there is so. much. rain.

If you value your knees, hiking poles are essential on this section of the hike. Once at the bottom of the downhill, at the edge of Kinlochleven, we went to the ice climbing centre for a toilet and to take off our rain layers and to have a tea before heading to the hostel to check in. 

The climbing & ice climbing centre in Kinlochleven is in an old hydro electric building.

We received a very warm welcome at Blackwater Lodge (they are used to wet walkers), quickly got our things hung up in the drying shack, had showers, and then went for dinner at the Highland Getaway Inn where we enjoyed non-deep-fried(!) fish and vegetables(!), a glass of wine, and an after-dinner dram. Back to the hostel for a solid sleep!

The next day (our last!) we walked from from Kinlochleven to Fort William.

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