07 Nov 2014
“I’ve found the perfect place for lunch” said Dave before we had gone down for breakfast.
I chuckled, “That’s great. Where?”
“The Glen Nevis Inn” he wiggled the iPhone screen at me “it get’s really great reviews, and they serve food all day.” It sounded like the perfect place for a post walk meal.
Stiffer than yesterday I hobbled down the stairs to breakfast, like a grandma. A walk will do us good today to stretch out these tight muscles. And I had found the perfect walk for a rainy day:
Steall Falls and the Nevis Gorge – a walk through a valley gorge to a huge waterfall.
W.H.Murry described the Nevis Gorge:
“The finest example of its kind in Great Britain. The immense walls to right and left are wooded in pine, oak, birch and rowan. These sprout in profusion from the crags, giving the rock gorge a Himalayan character not seen elsewhere in this country. The apparent height is greatly increased by the wide flash of Steall waterfall, which shows through the V-shaped cleft on top.”
“I’d like to see a Highland Cow. I wonder where they are at?” We were driving through narrow country roads along the Waters of Nevis, as the river is called. We rounded a corner to find a mother and calf standing squarely in the middle of the road, calmly chewing the cud. Bottom jaw working in a circular motion; chomp, chomp, chomp. She was face to face with a car, also stopped. The driver turned her car around and drove back the other way, giving us a smile and wave.
Now we were face to face with a highland cow and her huge horns. Me: giggling. Her: chomp, chomp, chomp. We couldn’t drive around her so we waited.
Chomp, chomp, chomp. I got out of the car, eyeing her horns and leaving the car door open for a quick retreat.
Chomp chomp, chomp.
I took a photo. “Come on move please Coo”.
Chomp, chomp …pause…
I took a step back.
Chomp, chomp, chomp.
I got back in the car, too scared to shoo her off.
Eventually her calf wandered to the side of the road just as a rangers car swooshed past from the opposite direction. And still she didn’t flinch. Chomp, chomp, chomp.
“Okay, I’m going to drive around you now brown cow. Don’t come at us with your horns.”
She stopped chewing momentarily and looked at me. We had reached an understanding.
The drive through Glen Nevis was worth the trip alone. After the farmlands it narrowed to a single lane the followed the Water of Nevis rising and falling with the base of Ben Nevis. The road squeezed between trees, boulders and waterfalls, and pasted through a golden forest. Ahead there were magnificent views of the mountains.
“This is gorgeous!” I kept repeating at every turn.
From the car park we could see an impressive water slide descending the slopes of Ben Nevis and to the east we could hear rapids in the distance. The path starts at an ominous sign warning of “Danger of Death”. I read in the Walking Glencoe book not to be too alarmed, if we are prepared, have the right footwear, and are careful.
Following the gravel path into the woods along a natural stone stairway, we crossed a rapidly flowing stream every few minutes. The deeper into the forest we moved, the sound of babbling water intensified. The colours of this place amaze me, it reminds me of a Dr Zeus illustration. Emerald green moss carpets the forest floor, bright yellow leaves, grey and white trunks and burnt umber branches, and frothy silver rapids. So many Fords (tumbling streams).
The wet and rocky path wound down into the gorge and the sound of water intensified. The huge rock faces closed in on the path and the view into the rapids were really interesting. Water frothed and boiled white around huge black glossy misshaped boulders.
“Look at the rock formations the water has carved” I pointed to the curvy rock pools and rounded tunnels.
“It’s stunning” marveled Dave
The tree-lined gorge ended abruptly; rounding a corner we emerged into a sienna meadow. The huge waterfall in the distance was breathtaking. The An Steall Ban, the 106m waterfall at the far end of the meadow, is the third highest in Scotland. The Waters of Nevis formed a broad shallow rushing river as it headed into the mouth of the gorge. Mountains were all around us in this hidden meadow.
“Wow! It’s so beautiful!” I gushed.
“Yes, and it all has to be photographed” agreed David.
The compulsion to capture it on camera was overwhelming, and somewhat futile. I confess this is another day that I missed my real camera. I wanted to record this moment, to preserve it in a jar forever. The photos just don’t do this place justice.
We continued along the path skirting the edge of the river heading towards the huge waterfall. Ahead we found the three-wire bridge to cross the water. Although our route heads in a different direction, we couldn’t resist crossing anyway, to test our skills on this flimsy contraption. David managed it better than me being taller, and it was satisfying knowing we could cross it.
After taking in as much of the view as possible, it was time to keep moving. The track returned to the gorge where we re-traced our steps admiring the view from a different perspective. It was good to wander through the golden forest again and take in the water show encore.
On our descent, we started to pass a few people, one cockney family asked us how long to the wire bridge. I glanced down at their footwear before answering, two were in standard jogging shoes that were soaking wet and muddy, the other was in green rubber wellies. The dad didn’t look too pleased with my answer of 30mins.
“We picked a good time to see it” David said satisfied as we passed a few more people on our way out.
“The perfect time of day; of the year; and of our life!” I was in an impossibly good mood.
This magnificent walk certainly lived up to its reputation of the best short walk in Scotland.
As we walked into the car park a teacher with about 15 high school kids asked us if the track was open.
“It’s very wet but it’s definitely open”
Some of the students were wearing canvas converse shoes, one girl wore tan leather knee-high dress boots! Yikes. I understood the need for the “danger of death” sign now.
And now for Lunch!!
“To the Glen Nevis Inn, please driver!” Said David excitedly clambering into the car, and pulling out the map to offer directions. It was a short drive to the car park at the start of the walk to the pub.
“This better be a short walk, I’m tired and hungry” I mumbled.
We crossed the river and followed signs to the Inn. It was a rocky, muddy path that followed the river up stream. A small field stood between the path and the pub but it was locked off and plastered with keep out/ no public access signs. Grumpy farmers. On we marched around the field and up to the renowned Glen Coe Inn.
A sign in the window read: Closed for annual vacation
“Well it didn’t say that on the website” David spluttered. Disappointed, hungry, tired and cold, we trudged back to the car.
But fear not, we found a pub open in Fort William. Today was about the walk- not the food!