We got an extra early start for our longest hiking day, which clocked in at 18.5 miles with more than 2,500 feet of elevation gain.

Walking an old military road

The morning started out as a pleasant and easy stroll along an old military road from the 1800s. We hugged the edge of a long, narrow valley, hopscotching with the train tracks for the West Highland Railway.

Making great time, we hit our first civilization stop, Bridge of Orchy, not too much after 10 that morning. We fortified ourselves with breakfast rolls from the Bridge of Orchy Hotel (a big fluffy roll, toasted and buttered, with either sausage or Scottish potato scones tucked inside). Then we crossed the Bridge of Orchy; weren’t really sure why the bridge merited having the whole town named after it; but thought the river Orchy was really quite pretty.

Breakfast rolls on the Bridge of Orchy

Just over the bridge, the trail headed steeply uphill to the top of Black Mount. Black Mount gave us our first taste of the truly rugged and somewhat desolate moors that characterized the northern part of the hike. It was windswept, it was open to the elements, it was rocky, and it was also surprisingly green.

Well, maybe it shouldn’t have been so surprising, given the typical weather in that part of the country.

Black Mount to Inveroran

It was a relatively short 3-mile stretch from Bridge of Orchy to our next stop at the Inveroran Hotel, but we managed to get completely soaked as the rain, which had only been sprinkles, started in earnest.

Luckily the Walkers Bar at the Inveroran Hotel was warm and served great smoked salmon sandwiches. We spent some time drying out and hoping for the rain to let up, but eventually we decided that the weather was about as good as it was going to get, and that we should press on.

Can you see the streaks of rain in front of our faces?

Leaving Inveroran, the road “upgraded” to primitive cobblestones. Which are absolutely no fun to hike on. Especially in the rain. In truth, this was probably the low point of the hike for us. The heavy rain returned not long after we left Inveroran, the cobblestones hurt our feet and made walking slow, and we worried that we wouldn’t make it to our destination at the Glen Coe Mountain Resort in time to catch the last shuttle to our lodging for the night. This was the only day that we were staying away from the trail, and we grumbled mightily about how the longest day was also the only one with a time limit.

But we stuck it out, and eventually the trail surface got better. And eventually after that the rain let up. And then we got a good look at the moor we were walking across, and it was beautiful.

Desolate beauty on Rannoch Moor

Rannoch Moor is the largest uninhabited area of wilderness in Great Britain. It’s 50 square miles of “boggy moorland,” and all the trail descriptions noticeably promise a “dry” path through. In our experience, dry was overstating it. More accurate would be “wet but at least not squishy.” The beauty of Rannoch Moor is hard to capture in photos and hard to describe in words. It’s lush but austere, bare of trees and with wide vistas of the Highland mountains.

On top of the moor, the trail finally improved from the loose cobbles, and once the rain let up, the going was easier and much faster. Despite our concerns, we made it to our shuttle in plenty of time and had our usual pub dinner at a place just across the street from our guesthouse.

Gettin' artsy - Rannoch Moor