Early March had seen a period of high pressure and fine weather. Having had things to do I was unable to take advantage of this, and it was unfortunate that by the time I had a day free the weather had turned. Short of time, and looking for a day out somewhere, anywhere, I picked Beinn Dorain at Bridge of Orchy for it’s easy access from the railway. I have some history here. Many years I got hopelessly lost after making my way up through the corrie from the station. Wandering in a thick mist I now know that I attempted to descend the cliffs at the head of the corrie, a terrifying experience, and one which still plays on my mind at times. In the years since I’ve been back here, and have climbed both Beinn an Dothaidh and Beinn Dorain, my intended hills that day. As yet, I’ve yet to have a view from Beinn Dorain. Today was to be no exception…
The path up the hill is rutted, becoming more and more like a trench, which has collapsed in parts. One day, after the passage of millions of feet perhaps they will have worn a trench all the way to the top and no one will get lost here.
The cloud hung low, as it seems always to do when I’m on this hill. I made my way up the corrie, but with the weather as it was I had little appetite to ascend here again with no hope of a view. I gained the snowy bealach between the two Munros fairly quickly, to be hit by a 35mph ice laden wind which cut me to the bone. I decided that I had had enough for today, and headed down, but not before having a wee scramble on a huge boulder which has wonderful handholds all over it.
I was in two minds about the rest of the day. There was a possibility of just heading home, but this was soon scratched when the afternoon train arrived and departed in the distance. With another six hours between trains I decided to have a wander off the path, down the Allt Coire an Dothaidh. Sometimes it’s nice to get away from the entrenched route of the bagger and follow a burn. This one has a number of picturesque waterfalls and clear pools hidden as it twists and turns downhill to join the River Orchy. Had the temperature not been at a level where I’d have turned blue on exposing my skin I’d have been in like a shot.
Leaving the burn behind I picked up the West Highland Way, leaving the station and the green caravan which has seen better days, and which I doubt will see many more, behind me. I was shadowed by a thrush, which kept at a comfortable distance from me as it flitted along, posing happily atop fence and rock. The wind was just as uncomfortable down at this level, sending dust and dry grass flying across my path, a sign of the recent good weather now coming to an end.
The path crosses the railway at McDougals Cottage, formerly the Glasgow HF club hut. Apparently the club gave up the hut due to the amount of vandalism is was receiving from passing walkers. It certainly looks well kept, although the PRIVATE sign is less than welcoming. I headed on towards Auch, with a large group of Oystercatchers eyeing me warily from the far bank of the burn.
This area is dominated by two viaducts, the Auch viaduct being the larger of the two, which form the Horseshoe Curve. Below the Auch Viaduct the Allt Kinglass runs down from where it begins near Beinn Mhanach to curve along to join the River Orchy near Inverveigh. I was lucky to see the viaduct in use, as 6D16, the Fort William to Mossend tanks headed southwards, pulling uphill towards the old p-way cottage which sits next to the line, before rounding Beinn Odhar and disappearing out of sight. I trailed slowly in it’s wake. Heavy four season boots are definitely overkill for this!
Around 2.5km from the bridge over the Allt Kinglass the West Highland Way heads sharply uphill, passing under the railway through a very small bridge only a few feet high, before climbing up. It’s not a great gain in height, but it’s enough to make you take a break, allowing you to look back at where you have just come from. On a good day the view of Beinn Dorain from this angle is breathtaking. Today it was less so, the summit still shrouded in cloud. I passed over the railway bridge at the foot of Coire Thoin, and had only gone a hundred metres when I heard a noise on the line. Looking back I saw the “road-railer” a modified land rover used for track inspections whizzig up the line. It’s not just freight and passengers here!
Most walkers on this stretch will be going north as they make their way from Milngavie to Fort William. I’ve walked this section a few times, and if I’m right I’ve almost always walked it north to south. I therefore associate this stretch with a descent down into the village. I arrive just as the Green Welly is closing up, and retire instead to Paddy’s Bar. I think it’s a theme bar, I just can’t figure out what the theme is. It seems entirely out of place in the middle of the highlands. There are no pictures of lochs, mountains or deer, instead there are pictures of the Bee-Gees and plaster moulded Blues Brothers.
I hang around for one drink before heading to the Upper Station, to light my stove and relax with a book while I wait in the dark for the train home. I’ve at least salvaged something from a what could have been a pretty disappointing day, and my journey today, following the burn downhill, walking a section of long distance path, has put a few ideas into my head. One is to perhaps get round to completing the West Highland Way, which I abandoned on a previous attempt at Crianlarich after falling in Loch Lomond (don’t ask!). The other is to visit a river I haven’t seen in a long, long time. Last, but not least I will return to Beinn Dorainn and climb it on a clear day. The last one will probably be the hardest!