Kinlochleven

I have been to Kinloch many times walking -
  • Four times to the Blackwater Dam,
  • Half a dozen times to Loch Eilde Mor, and beyond,
  • Once for the eastern end of the Lairig Mor
  • Twice to climb Munroes. However, I had never simply wandered round the town, followed the riverside paths or ever tried to work out what all of the strange waymarkers in the woods were trying to do. To be honest, I had previously concluded that those waymarkers were incomplete - either a half hearted attempt or reduced in number by time and vandals. Today was the day when I did all of this!

    The Riverside & Mamore Lodge

    I had intended to set off for the pier to start with, but somehow got distracted by bumping into John, Kinloch Co-ops manager, and went the wrong way! So, instead, I crossed the bridge and picked up the path along the river past the new school. This leads down to the confluence of the River Leven and the stream from the Grey Mares Tail Waterfall. Nothing particularly exciting, so I continued back to the main road. I crossed the little bridge, and followed the path through the gate that is marked on the OS map. I really should have known better, but some idiotic sense of adventure made me continue...

    You see, the path was rough as far as the gate, and then disappeared shortly after. The hill in front of me was steep, very steep, and covered in damp fallen leaves, which made it almost impossible to see where the path was. The only real evidence was a shallow trench that ran directly down the steepest part of the slope, and was quite clearly where the motorbikes came down - Kinloch is a haven for Trials Bikes, which has damaged many of the surrounding hillpaths.

    I pressed on (I wanted to say Percy Veered, but can't remember how its spelt) and finally zig-zagged to the top. A rough path headed into the heather, but soon disappeared leaving me stranded. I looked at the map, but it wasn't really much help, so I waded through the scrub, my feet getting steadily wetter, until I found another rough path. I think it was just a deer trail, but it was something, so I followed it for a while, until it too vanished. Undeterred, I headed for the row of Electric Poles, and followed them, occasionally picking up a rough path, and finding bootprints at a ford, but never really seeing anything that I would call a proper path! Finally, I made it to the driveway up to Mamore Lodge Hotel, and felt I had wasted enough time, so I headed back down to Kinloch, turning onto the West Highland Way (WHW) when I reached that junction.

    Woodland Trails

    As mentioned at the top, Kinloch has a range of paths in the woods on the hillside behind the houses. They also have some waymarkers, but in the past I have never managed to figure out whether they went anywhere (there is no map in the car park). Today, I wanted to find out. I headed down Wades Road, and turned right up Sutherland Avenue, and so onto the first of these paths, soon realising that this was the red waymarkers. I wandered around in circles, occasionally finding bits that I recognised, until I finally emerged at the Grey Mares Tail Waterfall, cascading noisily down the narrow cataract that it has carved in the last few millenia!

    By the time I returned to 'civilisation' I was pretty sure that there was some system to those waymarkers, that the paths do all go somewhere, and that I still have absolutely not got a clue! Mind you, someone has very kindly written on the arrows where they go, so maybe its not as bad as I thought!

    Pipeline

    My final emergence from the woods was at the end of Wades Road, near the WHW bridge over the River Leven. I decided to cross, and look for evidence of the road that General Cauldfield (not Wade) built through here in c1752. I was disappointed in that aim, but I did enjoy getting a closer look at the six huge pipes that carry the water into the generating station, complete with their leaks and the derelict cranes that sit next to them!

    There is a lot of industrial history in this narrow piece of hill climbing out of Kinloch, not just the pipes. As I said, it was General Cauldfield, continuing Wade's work, who built the Military road here, after crossing the Devils Staircase. Close examination of the terracing on the hillside revealed not a lot, largely because of what followed. When they were building the dam and pipes, a road was obviously needed, but I believe that there was also a railway line climbing the hill, and the concrete bases and iron sheeting of many collapsed buildings still litter the trees. As I said, there has been a little too much going on here in the last 250-odd years to try and figure out what is what with a casual glance.

    Pier

    The other end of the railway line is the pier. Its quite a bit further than you might think, and I wouldn't really advise trying to walk along the railway to get there - no you're not in any danger of being run over, more likely having your clothes shredded by the brambles! The path under the Viaduct is fine, but from then on it gradually gets more and more overgrown. Fortunately, there is a rough road that runs alongside, and it is easy enough to reach just before the worst of the undergrowth! The pier itself is hard up against the steep hill climbing out of Loch Leven, and was built by the Aluminium Company to get supplies in and out before the road around the loch was built. Sadly, it appears that a section has collapsed, but it does make for some interesting photgraphic opportunities!
    To the north of the pier, a path has been built along the shore (and around the sewage works), which offers some stunning views up the loch. This path then leads back into Kinloch, allowing a circular walk.

    And so, that was it. I did explore a little more, but the sun was setting and it was getting dark, so I stayed within the town. Due to the wonderful way that the bus service operates, I had to get the school bus back (it is the only bus from 13:40 until 18:05), but never mind, I had a seat, and I got off at Glencoe to enjoy the last of the sunset and a pleasant stroll (in sub-zero temperatures) back home.