Kinlochleven

The final day of last year’s North-West Highland trip dawned very wet. We were staying in Ballachulish, which we had explored thoroughly the previous evening, so we decided to take a scenic drive to Kinlochleven. Despite the rain, the views of Loch Leven (above) were, indeed, scenic.

Kinlochleven is a former industrial settlement, the site of a huge aluminium smelter built in 1904. When it closed in the 1990s, the owners, Alcan, transferred land to the community for use by the village. This Pelton Wheel, part of the hydro-power system, was also donated and is proudly displayed in front of the old smelter buildings. They now serve as a climbing centre, The Ice Factor, of which more later. Kinlochleven is also a stop on the West Highland Way long-distance footpath so climbing and hiking tourism keeps it going.

We strolled along the River Leven, above, spotting several sculptures along the way.

I thought this bench was going to be a war memorial, but it turns out to be celebrating the local angling club.

Fancy a glamping holiday? The Blackwater Hostel has some attractive pods and a welcoming bear.

We also found that some of the locals had very quirky gardens!

We took a short path up to Grey Mare’s Waterfall. I turned back before the very end – I didn’t want to fall in and get wet feet!

Finally, we used the West Highland Way to create a circular walk above Loch Leven. Despite the weather not being great (and luckily, it wasn’t as wet as it was when we set out in the morning) the views were once again good.

As promised, back to the climbing centre. The Ice Factor opened in 2003 and boasts the biggest indoor ice climbing wall in the world, the UK’s highest indoor articulated rock climbing wall, and a competition bouldering wall voted the best in the UK. Wow! More important to me – it also has a very nice café which we visited for lunch, and again for a cup of tea before we returned to our hotel. From it, you can observe some of the climbing walls, and on our second visit we watched a drama unfold on the Outdoor Aerial Adventure Course. A gangly boy of 16 (we know his age because his granny kept wailing “He’s only 16!”) got well and truly stuck. He slipped off the footholds and didn’t have the strength to pull himself back up – I think the instructor certainly earned her money that day by getting him back on track. (Photos taken through a very wet window!)

And so ended the first section of our 2019 summer trip. The next day, we drove back to Glasgow where we spent a few days with friends and family before setting off again, this time for the south-eastern part of Scotland. Maybe with all this “social distancing” I will have time to catch up. I hope everyone is doing well in these difficult times.