The Devil’s Staircase (Altnafeadh to Kinlochleven)


Start/FinishMap Reference – Start NN 220 563 Finish 188 620 Landranger 41
ParkingOn A82 – lay by at Altnafeadh or at the side of the access road opposite
Distance6 miles/9 km
Time3 hours

This walk is one of the highlights of the long distance footpath the West Highland Way. Ideally you would require transport at the end of the walk to return you back to the starting point, or you will have to make use of a bus and/or a taxi to return to collect your vehicle.

A shorter walk to a viewpoint above the top of Devil’s Staircase is also detailed below which will return you back to Altnafeadh.

The Devil’s Staircase was initially given its name by the soldiers who were part of the road building programme of General Wade. The carrying of building materials up that stretch of the road was not popular! The name was perpetuated when some of the workers building the Blackwater Dam chose to travel to the nearest pub after their wages had been paid out. For the workers at Kinlochleven the journey to the Kingshouse Hotel proved to be more difficult than many realised. The journey back was even worse as unsteady legs meant that many were unable to manage the return trip and, on a cold winter’s night, the devil often ”claimed his own“.

There is a signpost at Altnafeadh indicating the West Highland Way over to Kinlochleven. The path is very clear and soon rises above the plain of Rannoch Moor. The path zigzags as it climbs the steepest part at which point the views of the moor and of the mountains surrounding it are well worth taking in.

At the top of the pass, the path continues down towards Kinlochleven, but if you were wanting a shorter walk and return to your transport at Altnafeadh, then an ascent of Stob Mhic Mhartuin gives an extra elevation rise of about 150m. Take the path on your left hand side uphill heading west, and you will be rewarded with some even more incredible views looking down towards Glencoe itself. Return back along the same path to the start of the walk.

If heading on towards Kinlochleven, the path continues down, crosses the burn using stepping stones and then starts slowly upwards again. If you look to the right the Blackwater reservoir comes into view. Built for the aluminium smelter at Kinlochleven (no longer operating as a smelter), the dam had a capability, when full, of running the smelter for eighty days.

The path continues downwards until it reaches the dam road at the pumping station where the pipes to the smelter start the high pressure build up for the turbines in the generating station. Still very steep, the path continues down to Kinlochleven across the river, through a small section of woods to the tailrace where the water rushes out of the generating station.

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