Day 1: Caledonian Sleeper from London to Fort William. The Pony Track up Ben Nevis

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This post is part of a longer trip report. You can access the full table of contents here.

We departed on the Caledonian Sleeper from London Euston at 21.15 in the evening and were due to arrive in Fort William at 09:55 the following morning. The night passed uneventfully and we were rocked to sleep in our cosy bunkbed. I’ve composed a short review if you haven’t used the service before here.

We got up at daybreak to reserve some panoramic seats in the dining carriage for the last few hours of the journey. The inky blue dawn light gave way to thick mist, followed by lashings of rain and poor visibility. The odd peak revealed itself momentarily as we crossed Rannoch Moor.

Corrour was slightly clearer, but none the less atmospheric, it’s two pine trees clinging to the edge of the station house (now a B&B). It was only after the station as we started our descent along the edge of Loch Treig that we properly saw the impressive skyline and the valley from which we would approach the station in a few days’ time on foot.

Leaves on the track meant that we arrived in Fort William almost an hour late – the train to Glasgow had blocked the single gauge uphill section before Corrour and had had to reverse to give the section a fast run-up before clearing the way for us.

Since we had lost time and a downpour was imminent, we got a taxi from the station to the Glen Nevis Campsite. As we checked in for the night, the wind picked up and the weather closed in. ‘Are you sure?’ asked the receptionist incredulously. ‘Suit yourself’, he shrugged, ‘There’s plenty of space to set up’.

With the tent up, we set off briskly up the Pony Track (also known as the Tourist Track) to the summit of Ben Nevis for our warm-up day. Just like the last time I did this walk, I barely saw a few feet in front of me, let alone the spectacular views out across the sea lochs I’ve been promised are there on a clear day. The weather was ferocious but the path was wide and well defined. A lot of work has gone into maintaining one of the most used footpaths in Britain. The last stretch to the summit plateau was a bit trickier since we couldn’t make out the large cairns through the mist and so had to navigate with a compass.

Our only claim to fame that day was that we had the summit all to ourselves in the late afternoon. We quickly bundled into the summit shelter to grab a bite to eat and only then realised how cold we were. Shaking, we layered up before jogging back down the path as the light faded.

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We went straight to the Glen Nevis Restaurant and Bar, intending to stay there for as long as possible. We left our sopping gloves and hats on a warm radiator by the entrance. This was promptly turned off by the proprietor, providing some evidence for the stereotype of the ‘tight Scot’. Nevertheless, the food was very good and we tried a few local beers on tap before heading out into the rain again for the short walk back to the tent. We even found the laundry to be open and ended up drying our things.

To see what we got up to on the rest of our trip or if you are looking for planning advice, the full table of contents can be accessed here. Alternatively, go to the next article in this collection: Day 2: Lower Nevis Falls to the Steall Waterfall via the Mamores.

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