West Highland Way 6: Kings House Hotel - Kinlochleven
Distance 8.85 miles (14.25 km)
Total ascent 433m
Steepest climb 21% (1 in 5)
Time 4 – 6 hours (Walking)
Start Kingshouse Hotel, NN259546; Finish The Ice Factor climbing wall in Kinlochleven is as good a place as any to finish (bar, decent food...), NN187619
Nearest town Kinlochleven
Terrain The route is a mix of hill trail and Landrover track, a little stony underfoot in places but basically pretty easy. The ascent of the Devil's Staircase seems to have gained an undeserved reputation for toughness among some WHW walkers; it's really quite tame.
Seasonal variations With a high point of about 550m this stage of the WHW could be hard going in heavy winter conditions.
Weather and hill conditions SAIS: Glencoe – mwis: Northwest Highlands – Met Office: West Highlands
Public transport Glasgow-Ft.William buses on the A82 pass close by the Kings House Hotel. Local buses run between Kinlochleven and Ft.William.
Guidebooks West Highland Way, Dan Bailey, pb. Pocket Mountains
Maps OS Explorer 384 (1:25,000), OS Explorer 392 (1:25,000), Harvey/BMC Ben Nevis (1:40,000), OS Landranger 41 (1:50,000)
Accommodation Kings House Hotel 01855 851259 - 'wild' camping is also welcomed here, though some tolerance for midges is required in season.
Blackwater Hostel & campsite, Kinlochleven www.blackwaterhostel.co.uk
Tailrace Inn, Kinlochleven
Find more Classifieds near this route
Tourist info Ballachulish (08452 255 121)
1 NN2593354654 Cross the bridge behind the Kings House and turn left to follow an old road running roughly parallel to the A82. Across the glen Buachaille Etive Mor looms menacingly out of the moor, a giant spearhead of rock. This is one of Scotland's greatest mountains, and boasts some of the best climbing. Before the minor road joins the A82 the West Highland Way branches off right, continuing close to the main road under Beinn aí Chrulaiste to reach the car park/layby at Altnafeadh.
2 NN2207756337 Here the WHW leaves the roadside and climbs the Devilís Staircase, a long series of zigzags running up the heathery slope to the pass above. The high point is marked with cairns. There are brilliant views back over Glen Coe and the wastes of Rannoch Moor, and ahead to the long ribbon of Blackwater Reservoir, the wooded Leven valley and the serrated skyline of the Mamores. From the cairns it is possible to make a quick detour to either of the small summits flanking the pass, west to Stob Mhic Mhartuin or east to Beinn Bheag.
3 NN2155657585 The trail descends into a shallow corrie, then rounds a shoulder to begin the descent towards Kinlochleven. The town is soon seen far below, at the head of steep-sided Loch Leven. As it loses height the path becomes rough and rubbly, with another series of zigzags. Meet a vehicle track at some buildings at the top of the impressive Alcan works pipeline. Once known as Electric Village, Kinlochleven was built in the early 20th Century to house workers in an aluminium smelter. The process demands a huge electric charge, here generated by turbines fed by the Blackwater Reservoir. Pipelines still carry water into town, though the smelter has gone.
4 NN2010560453 The track turns away from the pipeline, descending quite steeply on a winding course through pretty birch woods and seemingly in no hurry to reach Kinlochleven. It eventually re-meets the pipeline for the last short straight down to town, where there's a selection of accommodation, pubs, a bank, groceries and the world's largest indoor ice climbing wall - the Ice Factor
Kinlochleven and the Mamores
© Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com, Jul 2010