Day 4 – Inverarnon to Auch estate (16 miles)
You will have noticed, no doubt, that every other morning so far, the quest for an early morning coffee involved a hike of about 4 miles taking a couple of hours or more. But not today. On day 4 we awoke on a civilised campsite to the untold luxury of a full Scottish breakfast. Oh the eggs! The bacon! The coffee and toast! Oh it was fab. And I’m in love with the Scottish habit of saying that everything is ‘Nae bother’.
So I wondered if, thus fueled, we would hike any faster, but these hopes seemed to be immediately scotched as we started out up an entirely-too-early-in-the-morning steep hill. This is what comes of camping in a valley, however picturesque.
We huffed and we puffed up the hill, before wandering through increasingly moorland-y countryside and past dry stone walls and groups of adorably fringed Highland cows and calves, until all of a sudden, we emerged near a sign which proclaimed us at the halfway point of the West Highland Way! 6 miles we’d hiked, in 2 hours that felt like half an hour. Thus proving scientifically that eggs and bacon should always be fed before hiking.
At the halfway point we met a thoroughly demoralised American girl, who very kindly took our photo while explaining how much her feet hurt and that she kind of wanted to go home. Our attempts at a pep talk did not appear to help, but the photos were jolly. I gave silent but fervent thanks that my boots are so comfy.
Passing on from this milestone, the path descended almost immediately into breathtakingly enchanted pine forest, where every tree was coated in moss as though they’d all put on warm cloaks of green in anticipation of winter. Once again it felt very fairytale like and the smell of pine lent an extra spring to our steps as we tried to breathe in as much air as possible. Our London lungs were shocked, but appreciative.
The terrain was so much easier than the previous day’s crazy rollercoaster ride, and we were treated to many interesting diversions, such as the Celtic graveyard, the signs marking the alleged Lochan of the lost sword of Robert the Bruce, a welcome farm with amazing fluffy chickens, and some impressive chainsaw sculptures.
We reached the 13 mile mark and the campsite of Tyndrum at three in the afternoon, and bravely decided to push on for a few more miles to wild camp further on, in order to avoid a really long day the next day. It looked on the map as though there was a fairly flat area between two enormous hills, or possibly mountains, around 3 or 4 miles further on. So despite our weariness and the terribly tempting hot dogs at the Green Welly Stop, we merely topped up our water bottles and carried on, feeling intrepid. The path at this point is like a gravel road which passes between the railway tracks and the mountains, and is never too steep, though I was very happy to stop by the time we eventually got around that interminable hill. Finally we forded a little stream next to the trail to reach a gorgeous little wild camping spot in a small copse of silver birch trees.
At least, it was adorable while it was light outside. But the hills brooded quite magnificently, the wind howled around the gap between them, and we didn’t see another soul for hours before bed. Dehydrated adventure food turned out to be inedible, so dinner was a cereal bar. All this lent to the occasion a sense of remote wilderness, which possibly contributed to my treacherous brain, as soon as we turned out the tent torch, thinking ‘You remember the film, The Hills Have Eyes’? No brain. Just no. At this point I found that not for nothing had I spent the past year of Druid training learning how to meditate effectively. Thank goodness I was able to force my unruly brain down well worn paths of meditation instead of heading into horror movie territory. Druidry, it seems, has unexpected fringe benefits.
To be continued…