Whinburn provides an excellent comfortable base in central Fort William.
A lovely walk to the wooden statue of the Wee Minister, a cedar wooden replica by Peter Bowsher of a former stone statue that stood on a nearby site.
The route initially follows the River Spean for a short distance on a minor road which is fringed with birch, hazel, oak, hazel, alder, ash and willow. The River Spean cuts through Leven Schists (Pelite and Calcsilicate-rock) and its notable for outcrops, boulders and shingle banks.
The route soon joins the Old Drover Road, which ascends through a lovely section of mixed deciduous woodland before heading through rough pasture. The woodland supports some fine old trees strewn with shrubby and foliose lichens. Purple moor grass, bog asphodel, bog myrtle and heath rush add interest to the section of rough pasture, which gives way to coniferous plantation at its flanks. The Old Drover Road was once a major route for cattle transport between the Trysts at Crief and Falkirk.
For most of the way the rough track follows the tributary, Allt Leachdach, heading towards the Lairig (the hill pass). There are some stunning hill views and glen on route.
You are soon welcomed by the outstretched hand of The Wee Minister, who is accompanied by a plaque and a donation box. According to the plaque, the wooden replica replaces stone a statue dating from the 1900s, and is that of the Reverend John McIntosh. However, local opinion is that the statue more likely to be that Dr. Thomas Chalmers who was the first Moderator of the local Free Church of Scotland. The statue was a gift and originally erected in 1886 in the manse garden of the Moderator John McIntosh in Achintore Road, Fort William.
The statue was removed by the wife of John McIntosh when he was away during the First World War and relocated to the church grounds above Monzie Square in Fort William. It remained there until 1968 from whence it was removed to Glen Spean, where it quickly became a local attraction. The statue and was thought to bring good luck to climbers and walkers alike on their route to the Grey Corries. Unfortunately, the stone statue began to disintegrate and was eventually removed in the 1970s. The statue was resurrected in May 2010 by the Glen Spean and Great Glen Tourism Marketing Group as a wooden replica with a donation box for the Lochaber Mountain Rescue.
On your return it is also worth taking a short detour to the section of the dismantled narrow-gauge railway that spans the steep sided gorge of Allt Leachdach. Little remains of the line other than a few rusty tracks, and concrete structures. However, the impressive nature of this feat of engineering is still evident from the concrete arches that span the steep sided gorge of Allt Leachdach. The Lochaber Narrow Gauge railway was originally laid down by Balfour Beatty and Co. Ltd during the construction of the Aluminium Works in Fort William. The track originally ran from a sea pier at Loch Linnhe to the factory workings and then onto Loch Treig and Loch Laggan. It was used to support the construction of a tunnel between to Loch Trig and Fort William. The line was later re built by British Aluminium to support for maintenance of the upper and lower works.
Look out for otters and dippers along the River Spean and raptors among the hills Stone chats and [pipits on the heath/moor
1. Take the turning off the A86 signposted Corriechoille and Killiechonate Woods just east of Spean Bridge by Inverroy. Park in one of the small car parking areas by a metal bridge spanning the River Spean. There are parking places on both sides of the bridge.
2. Follow the road onwards which skirts the River Spean for a short distance. Keep right where the road forks following the signposts to Rannoch, Kinlochleven, Glen Nevis and Corrour Station. The route takes you along an Old Drover Road.
3. The Old Drover Road passes by a couple of houses on left before heading out into open country/ rough pasture. Pass through a metal gate and onwards towards the hills.
4. Continue onwards towards The Lairig when you encounter a wooden signpost.
5. Pass by a small car parking area and then through a second metal gate into Killiechonate Woods. The Wee Minister soon appears on the right overlooking the Glen.
6. On passing back through the metal gate, it is worth taking a short detour to the see the remains of the former railway line on the right, just by a parking area. Head towards the fringing of birch which indicates the steep sided gorge of Allt Leachdach.
7. Good views are afforded of the remains of the line spanning the gorge by taking a few paces to the left. Please be aware that the site is very dangerous and you should not proceed beyond the wire fence.
8. Return by the same route
starting grid ref:
- there and back