The beautiful little railway station at Corrour is the most remote in Britain. It is slap bang in the middle of a magical wilderness of mountain and moorland, lapped by the cold blue waters of Loch Ossian.One of the stops on the world famous West Highland line between Glasgow and Mallaig, I fell in love with Corrour on first sight. I can’t recommend a journey into this wild, remote area highly enough. Part of the station includes a very atmospheric cafe/restaurant which opens from 8am until 9pm and is very welcoming whether you are going in just to eat, going for a stroll to the loch or are doing something more strenuous such as hill- walking, cycling or camping. The station also has 3 very attractive B&B rooms, though they don’t come cheap.
It was a photo of the mountain Beinn na Lap rising softly above Corrour, which first stirred my interest in hillwalking thirty years ago.I saw it in a mountain guidebook, the hill covered in snow, glowing softly pink in the rosy light of dusk. It looked so unspoiled and lovely and benign – and short and easy. All things that get a big tick in my book! I’m ashamed to admit that it has taken me until August this year to finally visit Corrour and climb the hill, part of Chris and I’s recent push to ‘up our Munro count.’ Call ourselves hill walkers and we hadn’t even been in to famed Corrour?? OR – even worse – hadn’t even been up Ben Nevis?? (that was for next day!)
A good weekend forecast had us waiting patiently at Bridge of Orchy’s pretty station for the 10.45am train. A 30 min journey would take us to the next stop and our objective for the day.We had arrived about an hour early as I like to have plenty of time in hand in case of major earthquake/no parking for miles around/multiple punctures/other major disasters etc all designed to thwart my plans. Tickets purchased the day before too.
While I’d thought that last was probably overkill, when the train came, it was so busy it was difficult to find a seat! What I didn’t expect either was just how spectacular that short journey would be. I think it was seeing familiar mountains – the Glencoe hills, the Black Mount, the mountains round Achalladair Farm – from a completely different angle and against the vast expanse of Rannoch Moor. In fact, I was mesmerised by it. I couldn’t stop taking photos of it all, despite the less than crystal clear train windows.
The West Highland line between Fort William and Mallaig gets all the publicity and all the plaudits but this earlier section , to me, is even more spectacular.
At Corrour itself, people poured off the train. The driver said to me as I passed – ‘that’s us empty now!’ It was incredible; there must have been 50-60 people disembarking into the middle of nowhere. There were folk in fancy dress too – it was someone’s last Munro and a huge group had come out to join in the climb. I’d been expecting a silent wilderness, not party central!
I can’t resist a good cafe and the station cafe advertised lots of home baking, but we decided a cake stop could wait till later, despite the huge temptation. We wanted to get underway and put some distance between ourselves and the potential Mega Squad who would be bringing up the rear.
So off we plodded down the big track and already I just loved Corrour. What a beautiful area, I don’t think any photos I’ve seen do it justice. The moorland was already quite golden, with the lilac globular heads of Devil’s Bit adding extra colour. Already , I could see the faint outline of a path of sorts going up Beinn na Lap so that was a bonus as the ascent has been described as ‘trackless.’ That’s always extra tough work!
I did look quite longingly at the pretty Youth Hostel, sitting so nicely down by the shores of Loch Ossian but it was whole group – only bookings given Covid. We’d looked at staying in the accommodation at the station but it was fully booked plus the £200 per night price tag was off putting, to put it mildly!
After 25 mins or so of walking down the main gravel track, the start of the hill path appeared and we set off onto softer, boggier ground though nowhere near as bad as I’d expected. The ascent began at a pleasant angle before steepening but it was just the usual ‘head down and get on with it’ slog up grass until it turned a bit stonier below the ridge itself. Already the views behind were great over the loch below and towards the Southern Highlands. To the west , the Mamores were still being drenched by passing showers but were looking very atmospheric because of this. Somehow I didn’t quite expect the views to be so good but of course thinking of Corrour’s location, no wonder it was all so impressive.
The forecast wasn’t anywhere near as good as our Mountain Weather Info Service promised (groan, that’s familiar) but it didn’t matter because the big showers that swept in and passed over us, created some great light and effects. I could hardly pull my gaze away from the vistas of Binnein Beag and Binnein Mor to the west above Kinlochleven and Glen Nevis.The UK’s highest mountain was in there too , though at present, it was wrapped in a gloom of its own.
A short stonier bit and we were up on the big broad ridge and wow – the views were just superb. Mile upon mile of the Southern Highlands and Glencoe lay to the south and west, a line of distant peaks literally as far as the eye could see – Ben Lawers, Schiehallion, Meall Ghaoraidh , all familiar from previous walks.
To the east, rising above Loch Ossian, lay the giant whaleback of Ben Alder , still with low cloud on its summit plateau. As we made our way along the easy angled ridge on a good dry path, the terrain rockier now, the mountains above lonely Loch Treig appeared, the rounded golden hillsides of Meall Garbh and Chno Dearg.
This was all new country to me and it looked fabulous , unspoiled and remote.
We passed quite a few false summits but at 1pm, just 75 mins after starting on the hill path proper (not the station), a lovely wee lochan appeared, beyond which was the summit cairn. A family were just leaving , so thankfully we got the prime seats inside the shelter itself and out of the now – Baltic wind. Incredibly, the constant hefty showers which were throwing such dramatic light all around us, never actually fell on ‘our’ summit.
Tea and homemade Coronation Chicken sandwiches went down a treat – amazing how much extra energy food gives on a really cold day. But I was soon back up on my feet, being buffeted by the elements again, spotting peaks that were appearing briefly before being shrouded in mist – the great wedge of The Ben itself even making a temporary appearance.
There was no rush to descend, as our train back out wasn’t until 6.25pm and we had dinner booked in the Station Café at 5pm.It was all looking so good we spent nearly an hour enjoying the eagle’s eye view but the cold eventually began to bite even through the multiple layers of gear. The mountains were clearing more and more – Schiehallion’s pyramid cone (the Fairy Mountain) looked very distinctive, as did the pyramid of Buachaille Etive Mor in Glencoe; the Mamores above Kinlochleven looked wonderful. There was something about the great expanse of moorland as a foreground to the peaks that for me, just made it all look drop dead stunning. We were surrounded by an ancient, mystical landscape softened by the haze of showers before the clouds lifted and dappled sunlight brought the glorious scene alive once more.
As we descended, I was shocked to see about 40 people on the previously empty ridge, some having stopped in small groups to chat, others making their way up the path towards us. One group of women were in pink tutus and black tights – they must have been frozen!But when I stopped to speak to them they were in great spirits, celebrating “Moira’s Last Munro.” I wanted to ask who Moira was amongst everyone but felt I was interrupting them as it was and might come across as too nosy. Congratulations Moira!
We had one final admire of Loch Ossian, sparkling in the last vestiges of sunlight before thicker cloud swept over. The moorland beyond was dotted with silvery lochans, like hundreds of tiny mirrors reflecting the sun. It was glorious.
We had taken ages meandering along the ridge before heading down proper, reluctant to leave our high vantage point. It felt much soggier and slithery coming down –possibly the general dampness was having an effect but in no time we were back at the big land rover track and making for the Station Café.
I opened the door expecting it to be quite quiet at 3.30pm but a cacophony of loud voices hit me – the place was mobbed! In fact so much so, we were lucky to get the last table. The space was mostly taken up with a big family group and a variety of dogs, al of whom were obviously at the end of a long lunch. They never got on the train later so I guess they were staying in one of the Lodges on the estate or else had booked the Hostel.
Other walkers and cyclists who appeared in dribs and drabs after us, had to sit outside in the cold, not benefitting from the cosy stove which was blazing inside. Adding insult to injury, the midges were now fierce , despite the cold dampness. I thought it was a bit of a shame that those doing enjoying the great outdoors and tired from their efforts, couldn’t get a seat! If I’d been in the Lodge or Hostel , I think I would have wanted to enjoy the lovely facilities and privacy I’d paid for rather than drive out here (several big cars were parked outside) to eat out.The only way anyone is allowed to bring a car in to Corrour is if they are guests at the private Lodge about 4 miles away.Another very pricey option!
Everyone now had a 3 hour wait for the train. We’d booked in for dinner at 5pm, so still 90 mins to wait for that but it was no hardship as the interior of the cafe is lovely, lots of train and local memorabilia to peruse and two areas with good books. I was quite taken with the Agatha Christie they had for sale, being a big fan of her books – ‘The 4.50 From Paddington!’ Very apt.
Our plan on arriving back at the car at Bridge of Orchy, was to drive 30 mins to the Corran Bunkhouse for an overnight stay, before climbing Ben Nevis next day.But that meant we’d be arriving after 7.30pm and I knew I’d be starving well before then. I’d have preferred doing our own thing in the Bunkhouse, but needs must. Plus it was nice to support the café – not that it seemed to be needing that.
I didn’t have quite the successful cake stop I’d hoped for – the Raspberry and Almond cake wasn’t good at all, dry and heavily doused with vanilla flavouring. I found out later it was Gluten Free but hadn’t been labelled as such!
Our dinner was much better – the Venison Stew was outstanding, the meat so soft it was falling off the fork, rich and tasty; they cook it for 14 hours apparently.
I loved Corrour so much that I’ll happily go in again just for the journey and a wander down to the loch, a cup of tea (haven’t tried their Lemon Drizzle cake yet) and to enjoy a truly beautiful, unspoiled area of wild country. It’s a very special, quite magnificent place.