Cape Wrath Trail 0: Approach to Fort William

by Peter Berrecloth
10th February 2017

I got a familiar train to Fort William. It even had the same conductor, with the same sense of humour as before. A small four-carriage train that splits in two directions, one half goes to Oban and the other to Fort William.
As we delved deeper into the West Highlands it dawned on me what I would be crossing.

The snow lashed horizontally past the train. Because it was snowing I knew it was <4C outside, probably around 2C. Scotland had seen a big drop in temperature that week.

The hills had prescience over me, and the train rolled forward around the hillsides, overseeing lochs. It gave the beginning of this journey a sense of theatre, and it was foreboding.

The hills seemed bigger, but less tightly packed than Snowdonia. The West Highlands are more expansive.

The train rolled into a glittering moorland. A stew of frozen peat bog, sedge grass and heather. I knew that walking would be tough on this kind of terrain, especially on the trackless areas. I admit now, that I have never, ever visited Scotland in mid-Winter.

As we pulled through to Rannoch we pass open, rugged moorland. Ice-packed rocks. A half dozen deer grazing at the edge of a pine plantation.

After a nights stay at Fort William Youth hostel I walked back to the town to get the ferry to begin my journey. I was hurrying and didn’t notice the the pavement was iced over. As I stepped on it I slipped to the floor, and in doing so snapped the basket from one of my trekking poles. A motorist stopped to check I was all right, it must have looked quite dramatic. I laughed it off and continued.

When I arrived in town my windproof jacket caught on something and tore a hole across the shoulder. When I arrived at the Ferry the boat handler aplogised that it was cancelled due to a freak tide – the next tide would be at 4pm – over four hours wait and near darkness. I realised this was not my day, perhaps it was a sign of things to come.

My only option, being a Saturday, and no Sunday ferry service, was I’d have to wait. I would have to cross that evening, do a part hike towards the first glen and camp there. This was not ideal, but I felt at least I could get an earlier start the next day and get upto Corrlyhully Bothy before sundown.

I spent the day in Fort William filling up on calories. It had felt like a day of bad omens. I hoped this would not be the beginning of a story that would have a tragic ending.