Rannoch station is perhaps the second most remote station on the beautiful West Highland line. The most remote one is the next one north, called Corrour. It has no road to it, although it can be accessed by landrover after driving many miles on tracks. Rannoch station has a road which is in effect an 18 mile long cul-de-sac. The station is reached by driving from Kinloch Rannoch 12 miles along Loch Rannoch and then another 6 miles, climbing up to Rannoch Moor.
Moor of Rannoch Hotel
When you arrive you are greeted by the Moor of Rannoch Hotel and about four houses. The landscape is largely treeless and scatter with boulders, Granodiorite erratics, left by the glaciers that flowed out from the moor. At one time the ice was about 2000 feet thick. The Golden Eagle is still common enough in the area but last century the White Tailed Sea Eagle also nested on the moor. The Sea Eagle has been reintroduced to Scotland from Scandinavia and is spreading from its base on the Isle of Rhum. It has been seen again in the Rannoch area.
The Station is now unmanned but has been converted to a tea room. Looking west from the station you gaze over Rannoch moor along Loch Laidon to Glen Coe. The station is a picturesque Victorian building with attractive flowers in tubs and ivy growing up it. On a sunny evening in summer it is one of the most beautiful places on earth with a vast airy panorama of the moor striped with glittering lochs, reaching to a circle of mountains. You had better hope there is a breeze, however, as the midges can be ferocious.
The railway was built by Irish navvies who used to walk 14 miles across Rannoch Moor to the King’s House Hotel in Glen Coe for a drink and then 14 miles back again. In winter some of them got lost in the snow and died. People have continued to get lost on the moor and need to be rescued by the Glen Coe Mountain rescue service. We still run over the moor, climb the mountain called Buachaille Etive More and then return to Rannoch Station in a run called the Buachaille Dash. Part of Rannoch Moor is a national nature reserve and it is the home of a special rush called the Rannoch Rush which is only found in a few other places. Rannoch Moor is the largest blanket bog in Europe.
Ben Alder Cottage
North of Loch Rannoch, very much in the middle of nowhere, on the shores of Loch Ericht is Ben Alder Cottage.
Ben Alder Cottage
It is a 'bothy' used by walkers and climbers. In spite of its small size and remoteness it is quite famous because of a legend about it being haunted. The story goes that the gamekeeper of the Alder Estate ,called McCook, hanged himself in the cottage. The reality seems to be that he retired happily to Newtonmore (on the southern approaches to the Cairngorms). Still, the facts should not be allowed to get in the way of the pleasure derived from sleeping in the haunted cottage. Many a lone traveller has reported noises in the night or strange lights. Sceptical people attribute the noises to mice and deer rubbing the velvet off their horns and the lights to practical jokers. The only way to judge for yourself is to stay the night. The cottage is about seven mile north of Loch Rannoch and fourteen miles south of Dalwhinnie. It lies below crags where there is one of the many 'Prince Charlie's caves'. The route back to Loch Rannoch lies across a splendid bridge built by Tim Winter and Alec Cunningham, the materials being flown in by RAF heicopter. It was built in 1987 to replace a previous bridge, washed away by floods. It is high and robust and has stood the test of time.
Ben Alder and Loch Ericht, looking towards Ben Alder Cottage.
Above towers the rounded hump of Ben Alder - a formidable Munro (i.e. over 3000 feet) with the second largest corrie in Scotland. The weather always seems worse on Ben Alder than in the surrounding area, possibly because it is such a large plateau that it forces a lot of air up into the colder reaches and thus generates more snow. The corrie usually has a large cornice of snow in winter and spring and there is snow on the summit for about nine months of the year. The wind can be ferocious - I have had a rucksack blown from my back and over my head by a sudden gust when approaching the summit. It is easy to get lost in the mist on the summit plateau which is relatively flat and featureless.