Rannoch Moor has a strange magnetic quality to it. It’s as inhospitable, wind scoured and threatening as you can get, yet instead of repelling people it instead attracts them. I’ve seen some less than conventional types getting off the train at Rannoch and Corrour, beetling off with no obvious aim. Old ladies with carrier bags, gentlemen in shirts and ties, not the usual type of character. Perhaps, even without a beard, I now look like the conventional outdoors type, as on a recent trip I was approached by a stranger asking if I knew the Rannoch area and could I recommend any short walks there.
I could, and I did…
I was heading up on the train to Rannoch to join the Glasgow Meetup Walking Group on a walk from Rannoch Station to the Kingshouse Hotel. It’s not an easy walk to organise due to the problem of transport either at the start or end. The club had organised a few vehicles at the Kingshouse to shuttle people back to Bridge of Orchy for the evening train, so that side was taken care of. The map showed a relatively straightforward linear route down Loch Laidon and over the moor, via Black Corries Lodge. On looking at the map the night before I noticed that parallel to this is an interesting looking higher level walk taking in Stob na Cruaiche. I’d certainly like to give that a try, but for today it was the low road.
On the train there were no familiar faces, and having failed miserably to locate the few who were travelling up by train, I settled down with my book for a while, before giving my gear a quick check over prior to the walk. It was then that I was approached by Tom, up from London who had decided on a spur of the moment trip up to take in the area, a pleasant change from the enclosure of the city. Having failed to procure a map before leaving Glasgow I said that he could have mine if I found the group and didn’t need it. I showed him a few short rambles before explaining the walk we were undertaking, and suggested that rather than an aimless bimble around he might want to join with us, and left him to mull it over.
At Bridge of Orchy a group joined the train, including the familiar face of Andy who I had walked with before. Having found the group, I explained about Tom and he was invited along by the leader, and he was happy to accept. I’ve met a few people in the past who have joined up with the Glasgow HF for one or two walks while either on holiday or in Glasgow working, and it’s not unusual to find myself on a club walk with people of all nationalities. No sooner had we made some quick introductions than we were on the platform of Rannoch Station, dampened by the first of the day’s intermittent rain showers, scrabbling for waterproof trousers, while debating the age old problem- will it stop raining by the time I get the bloody things on! I decided to go without, relying on fast drying trousers coupled with the blustery winds which were chopping up the surface of the loch to do their best.
Crossing at the level crossing gives an interesting lineside perspective of the station, with it’s odd shed with it’s painted curtains and lamp, and the path gives an interesting vantage of the viaduct near the station, renovated a few years back. The station is quickly gone from view though, as is much of the surrounding landscape as we travel through regimented plantation. As the view diminishes, conversation increases, and we quickly learn who makes up the group. There’s a hard core team of regulars, Michael, Andy and Alex, with some fresher faces in accompaniment, along with the brand new, never been out with the group before. I chat with Tom and discover he is an artist who has travelled extensively, working on installation art, which is, in terms I can understand, public art for the inquisitive!
The claustrophobic woods eventually give way to open hillside, and a line of telegraph poles which stretch off forever. We stand an gaze across the hills at what has previously been shielded by spruce. Scheihallion and it’s unmistakeable pyramid lies off to the east while to the west are the Black Mount, and the mountains of Glencoe. Navigation is straightforward here, even if the conditions underfoot aren’t. Our journey across this barren land is broken only by a short stop in a doorless bothy. It’s a welcome respite from the rain and more so the wind, allowing me to get the stove going without any fuss. On days like today cold sandwiches are no substitute for hot food and drink!
As we leave the bothy you can almost hear the cry: “Stay Off The Moors!” We can see as we progress just how much water there is here, and how difficult navigating through this land must be, and that the simplest route is the marked path. There are no shortcuts here…
The remainder of the journey is a straightforward affair. An undulating, bog hopping footpath runs alongside those never ending telegraph poles. The path gives way to a vehicle track and from here on you can switch off the navigating side of things. Well, almost. Buchaille Etive Mor grows larger and larger, but before we reach the Kingshouse there is one last obstacle. Black Corries Lodge. We pass through the gate and walk through, admiring the neatly manicured grass which surrounds the trout pond, and the small bench which must provide one of the greatest after dinner views anywhere. We are heralded by a chorus of yelping dogs, secure behind wire, and pass through unharmed. It is only as we pass the gate we notice the sign diverting us around the lodge. Hopefully no harm done, although apparently the original right of way passes straight through anyway. With the gate secured behind us, we begin to tick off the final few miles, arriving back at the Kingshouse as the light begins to fail. The greyhounds of the group are already getting stuck in to huge plates of steaming food, while we latecomers make do with a quick beer while transport is arranged to Bridge of Orchy.
It’s dark as I disembark at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, and the stars are out. We go inside, to await the arrival of the next load, where we sink some real ale, before making our way in the blackness to the station, to sleep the journey home. A welcome end to a long and tiring day.