The Valley Road

LETJOG – Day 45: Thursday 1 July – INVERARNAN to BRIDGE OF ORCHY (21 miles)

I know that I’ve posted a similar image in an earlier blog, but this broom bloom takes some beating!

To stay at the Drivers Inn at Inverarnan is quite an experience. It dates from 1705, they say, so that makes it older than The Clachan in Drymen (itself claiming to be Scotland’s oldest licenced pub, from 1734 – see Blog, Day 43). So presumably the Drivers wasn’t licensed in those days. Either way, the place is clearly steeped in history, and was certainly last decorated in some much earlier era – adding much to its alleged, and undoubted, authenticity. The welcome at reception is from a stuffed bear – one of a veritable menagerie that has kept some generations of taxidermists quite busy. Rumour has it that the place is haunted, and likely so, but the reality of good traditional food, very pleasant and helpful staff (fully kilted), and a passable range of malts, rather endeared the place to me. I tried to take a photo or two but couldn’t do it justice, so try and you’ll get a flavour.

But I digress. Setting off early again, I retraced my way back to the West Highland Way path, picking up the rocky track that thankfully lacked the tortuous twists-and-turns of yesterday, settling, merely, for some undulations over several streams and the many rises in this chaotic rocky landscape of the Glen Falloch pass up to Crianlarich. The restorative powers of rest, sleep and whisky made light of yesterday’s exertions, and a number of chance meetings and conversations on the trail also contributed to a wonderful morning, as the weather moved through the spectrum from murk to full, hot, sunshine by lunchtime. A delightful hillside stretch, presided over by a brooding head-in-the-clouds Ben More, afforded wonderful views over the Glen, and this section was succeeded by a scenic ramble through deep pine forest, before the trail emerged onto lower ground for a pleasant riverside walk up the Strath Fillan valley into Tyndrum for my snack lunch.

As disordered as the surrounding landscape, this collage of leaf, rock and water greeted me shortly out of Inverarnan . . .
. . . as did this missing bridge deck!
Ben More, jealously guarding the pass at the head of Glen Falloch
Looking back down the River Fillan at the Crianlarich Hills . . .
. . . and the trail approaching Tyndrum

My afternoon walk, of around seven miles, took me on a gentle rise into real Grampian country, ascending the narrow valley that bisects Ben Bheag and Meall Buidhe, before opening out to reveal a ring of high peaks dominated by the imposing Ben Dorain. Following this rocky, but easy-going, valley track for the afternoon led me in good time to my destination at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel.

Looking back down the West Highland Way towards Tyndrum
Now in the Grampian Mountains, the impressive Ben Dorain, at 1086 metres, dominates the valley as the Way approaches Bridge of Orchy

I had visited the Bridge of Orchy Hotel once before, whilst walking the West Highland Way with my brother Tim in 1993, and it has changed a bit since then, enjoying a substantial refurbishment. But, alas, tonight, no hot food, and no other eatery nearby! We are told that this famine is due to a positive covid test this morning on the chef, so it is ‘sandwiches and beer only’ in the bar. I swapped hardship stories with several other walkers, reunited from the Way, and one delegation departed presently in a taxi for a Tyndrum takeaway. Let’s hope everyone here stays well. As for me, I’ve decided to dig in, confident of surviving the night on said sandwiches and beer, and on my ample reserves!

My shoulders, especially, might appreciate this!

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