“Can you please just leave me alone for 15 minutes? 15 minutes! It makes no difference to our day”
For a split second I consider launching into an inspirational monologue about how every second of every day is unique and special and must be seized – bad Mel Gibson Scottish accent and all – but choose instead to remain silent and let Steph have her 15 minutes. Just one of the many small sacrifices I make on a daily basis to keep the wife happy. You’re welcome penguin.
We’ve got about 13 miles of what should be fairly easy walking ahead of us today. Our final destination, however, will not be where we stop walking, at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel. We received a call from the hotel back when we were in Inversnaid, explaining that although we had a valid reservation with them that our room wouldn’t be ready by tonight. And by ready they mean built. Turns out they’ve been doing some renovations and expansion of the facilities and the construction has fallen behind schedule. But not to worry cause they’ve arranged for us to stay just outside of Tyndrum – which we’ll be passing through about half way along today’s trip – at the Strathfillan House B&B. Free drinks in hand we’ll be whisked back down the road in a vintage Aston Martin and dropped at the front door of the B&B where, by special arrangement of the hotel, we’ll be treated to in-room sports massages by members of the Swedish Bikini Team. Should make for a happy ending to our day!
But first we have to get started.
“We’re not even back to the West Highland Way yet, are we?”
“Not yet. Doesn’t matter, it just keeps going up from there as well.”
It takes us about 30 minutes to re-join the West Highland Way above Crianlarich. From the front door of the hostel it has been all up hill. We both woke up a bit tired and sore though I don’t think either of us expected to be moving so slow. Oh yeah, and it’s raining again.
Eventually we reach the top of the hill and are treated with fleeting views of the snowcapped Munros which surround us. Thankfully the rain lets up ever so slightly as we amble steeply downhill towards the ever present A82. Unfortunately for Steph the rain and a few creek crossings have already soaked her duct tape and Compeed covered feet. As she says though, nothing to do but keep on walking.
The open farm land of Strath Fillan consists of fine, easy walking, with more fantastic views. It’s also much cooler down here in the valley – only 6 degrees Celsius according to my watch – which makes our rain gear comfortable (rather than stifling) to wear.
Despite our slow start to the day we cruise into Tyndrum just past noon. I’ve been looking forward Tyndrum – and more specifically the famous Green Welly Stop – since we first arranged for AMS bag transfer service to pick-up our big backpack in Inversnaid. Steph doesn’t know it yet but we’ve got some shopping to do.
“Hey, if you’re done eating why don’t you come on through with me to the outfitter shop. There’s some stuff I want to show you.”
“Look, just buy the poles you want. You don’t need my help for that.”
Steph knows I’ve decided to buy a set of trekking poles here. As mentioned previously (you have been following along, right) we have one (borrowed) pair of trekking poles which Steph has used for about 90% of the time, and although it’s been much easier going since shipping our 13kg bag (I carrier it the first two days) my knees have still taken a beating. We both need to be using trekking poles.
“It’s not about the poles. There’s some other stuff I need you to see.”
I’ve also decided (pending her executive approval) to buy Steph her own small backpack, allowing us to once again carry all our own gear throughout the day. I’ll finally be able to take off my rain gear and pack it away – conditions permitting of course. We’ll also have room to carry more food, as the last three days have no convenient pubs or tea rooms along the way.
“If you insist.”
New trekking poles and backpack purchased – it’s a women’s specific Berghaus 20L Freeflow – we split the gear, fill up our water bladders and get back on the trail. Oh, I also insisted on two new pair of liner socks for Steph. Have to try everything we can to save her poor feet.
“Okay, I’ve got to stop and get this rain gear off.”
Since leaving Tyndrum the sun has been beating down on us and I can’t stand sweltering in my waterproofs any more, not when I once again have room to stow them away. Taking them off, finally, feels amazing, as if my body has been reborn unto this world. Combined with the gentle terrain and my new trekking poles I’m in hiker heaven.
“Shit, that’s hail. Shit, that really stings.”
That’s me exactly seven minutes later (yes I counted) as I’m putting my rain gear back on and trying to get my backpack and camera bag covered. Such is life in the Highlands of Scotland.
Both of us keep our rain gear on the rest of the way to Bridge of Orchy, thankful that the gentle terrain requires little effort to traverse. The trail has been busy today, but not as busy as the hotel. The place is bursting at the seams. And even in the midst of wind driven, stinging hail, there was much more calmness to be found out there than in here.
“No, no, I no care that you call me. We have reservation here and we stay here. We fucking stay here. I walk all fucking day and I want take my fucking boots off now.”
Apparently some people aren’t taking the hotel’s construction delays in stride quite like Steph and I. Somebody get this woman her free drink!
Surprisingly, we forgo our free drinks, both of us just wanting to get on the road back to Tyndrum and our B&B. I must say it feels incredibly strange to see the landscape like this after having just walked through it. What took us hours to do is undone in a matter of minutes.
I suppose I should also point out now that I may have slightly exaggerated some of the details regarding our accommodation switch. Our Aston Martin is a blissfully spacious and comfortable van, perfectly suited for delivering dirty hiker to their destination. And the Swedish Bikini Team, well, they’ve been permanently delayed by default, seeing as they don’t really exist. Did I really just turn down a free drink?
Like the Inversnaid Bunkhouse, the Strathfillan House B&B is a converted church. We’ve been booked into the en-suite room (hell yeah) which, like the rest of the house we’ve seen, is gorgeously appointed and spacious. Factor in that this place is £40 cheaper than the hotel, and I reckon we’ve come out ahead in this deal.
After we’ve showered our host from the B&B drives us into “downtown” Tyndrum so we can get dinner at the aptly named Tyndrum Inn. Once again we’re both well pleased with our food and drink, including (for me) yet another fine beer – this one called Kilt Lifter – from Oban Bay Brewery. We really have made out well with the food and booze so far on the trip.
Back at the B&B and it’s going to be another early night for us. Our daily aches and pains seem to be easing ever so slightly as the week goes by, perhaps because our bodies are becoming conditioned to the walking, but probably just as likely because the terrain has gotten less difficult after moving beyond Loch Lomond. Whatever the case may be we’ve got three more days left to soak in – and likely be soaked by – this stretch of Scotland. We know it won’t be enough but we’ll make due.
A few more photos from the day.