First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Not many who venture the Road to the Isles are lucky enough to have fellow walkers as seasoned and reliable as Richard and Guy Spencer. While I’d enjoyed a plate of lamb casserole and a pint of bitter, followed by eight hours’ deep and dreamless, in the companionable comfort of Corrour Station House (a matchless walkers’ guesthouse right on the railway platform, superbly run by Beth Campbell on behalf of the Corrour Estate), Richard and Guy had been bivouacking on hard tack in Staoineag Bothy out on Rannoch Moor. That’s the way ex-soldier Richard likes it. As for Guy, being a black Labrador, he generally goes along with Richard’s say-so.
Corrour calls itself the loneliest railway station in Scotland. The Station House shines a tiny beacon of light, warmth and good cheer in the vast wastes of Rannoch. We set out early, descended to the shores of beautiful Loch Treig, and turned west through a narrowing pass below the tumbled slopes of Creag Ghuanach, walking against the flow of the peat-stained Abhainn Rath river.
Out here it’s true wilderness, one of very few places in Britain that can truly claim that label: bog, loch, rock and water, an elemental scene. A couple of bothy huts, Staoineag and Meanach, lie along the banks of the Abhainn Rath, but other than that you can hardly believe anyone has ever come here. Yet this modest, muddy track, snaking around as it climbs gently west to the watershed of Abhainn Rath and Water of Nevis, was once a famed cattle-droving route known as the Road to the Isles, along which the hardy drovers herded Highland cattle towards the great fairs of Crieff and Falkirk.
We strode on across heather and bog to ford the Abhainn Rath where it came bouncing and chattering down from its high corrie under Stob Ban, the White Point. A few minutes for a sandwich and cuppa, and we were following the track below the mighty shoulder of snow-streaked Ben Nevis. The Road to the Isles dropped to thread the gorge of the Water of Nevis with its 200-ft Steall waterfall, a breathtaking spectacle. A final mile on a flywalk ledge above the gorge, and I was easing the boots from my steaming feet in the Glen Nevis car park and giving Guy a congratulatory pat.
This is a tough walk, but not a daunting one. Do it with a friend, plan properly, and pick decent weather. You’ll never forget it.
Start: Corrour Station House, Corrour Estate, by Fort William PH30 4AA (OS ref NN 356664)
Finish: Upper car park, Glen Nevis
Getting back: Stagecoach (0871-200-2233; www.stagecoachbus.com) run summer bus service from Lower Falls car park in Glen Nevis to Fort William; or taxi (Jamie’s 01397-701778; Fort William Taxis 01397-700000; plenty more).
Walk (14 miles to Upper car park, 15¾ miles to Lower Falls car park/ allow 8-10 hours; hard grade; OS Explorers 385, 392): From Corrour Station House, cross line; right (NE) along west side of railway; follow track down to turn left along shore of Loch Treig. Cross footbridge at Creaguaineach Lodge (309689); left (west) along north bank of Abhainn Rath for 5 miles to ford it by Tom an Eite (242695). Continue west for 5 miles on north bank of Water of Nevis, through Glen Nevis gorge to car park (167691).
NB – Wet, boggy, trackless in places. Many burns to ford. A tough, lonely walk for map-readers with stamina, experience and proper equipment including food.