Thrilling Kidnapped Trip
Walk: Loch Ossian and the Stevenson Way
Discover the wild and remote landscape of a daring tale of friendship and political upheaval on this walk around a stunning Highland loch, says Keith Fergus
Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped remains an enduring classic of adventure writing. First printed in Young Folks Magazine in 1886, it was a critical and commercial success. The affection for the characters and story (based on real people and set in the aftermath of the 1745 Jacobite Uprising) endures to this day.
The novel centres around the kidnap of David Balfour and his subsequent “flight through the heather” across the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland in the summer of 1751, with the Government redcoats on his tail. It is an enthralling read, with Stevenson’s wonderful prose and exciting narrative leaving you urging both Balfour and and friend Alan Breck onwards to their final destination at the House of Shaws, on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
A 230-mile (370km) trail, called the Stevenson Way,
has been devised to roughly follow the journey that Balfour and Breck took (Stevenson was vague about the exact route of their travels), allowing walkers to experience the incredible scenery and challenging terrain of the book.
Beginning from the island of Erraid, which is separated from Mull by a strip of sand that can be crossed at low tide, the Stevenson Way traverses Mull then the wild landscape of Morvern before heading through lonely Glen Duror and the sheer majesty of Glencoe.
The route then heads into the vast wilderness of Rannoch Moor, taking in glorious lochs and imposing mountains, before heading into the Lowlands at Stirling and finally across the Firth of Forth to reach the end of the way. This is a testing walk, one that is not waymarked, following roads and paths and crossing big mountains. Experience of long distance walking, along with good map reading navigational skills, is imperative.
And so, perhaps the best way for most walkers to encounter the remoteness, wildness and exemplary scenery confronted by Balfour and Breck is to take this nine-mile stroll around Rannoch Moor’s Loch Ossian.
The route is reasonably straightforward and can easily be tackled by families with young, enthusiastic kids. It provides walkers with an idea of the surrounding terrain covered by the duo and the physical and mental toughness they required to continue their journey. It is this sense of hinterland and reaching Loch Ossian that imparts the spirit of adventure so closely associated with Stevenson’s Kidnapped.
Sitting deep in the heart of Rannoch Moor, Loch Ossian is inaccessible by road. The best approach is to take the sensational Glasgow to Fort William railway journey and alight at Corrour, where you can leave the hustle and bustle of modern life behind and revel in a wild, untamed landscape, spending the night at the superb Loch Ossian Hostel.
1. Remote Railway
Begin from Corrour, the remotest railway station in Britain, and home to a fine café. Follow the access road east to a fork and keep left. Upon reaching Loch Ossian, follow the track clockwise as it heads northwest then northeast along its banks, soon entering a large swathe of forest.
2. Wild Mountains
The loch is surrounded by mountains such as Beinn na Lap and Meall a Leitire Duibhe, granting a wonderfully wild air to the location. Continue all the way to the northern edge of the loch and a junction.
3. Into The Forest
Keep right and continue near to a number of estate buildings. When the track splits keep right then go right again at a junction and make your way southwest, back into forestry. Look out for excellent views across Loch Ossian towards Beinn na Lap. Stick to the main track, eventually emerging from the woodland.
4. Stunning Views
At the far end go through a gate and enjoy a great vista. Retrace your steps back to the start.