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A person walking over a Wade bridge on the Corrieyairack Pass.  Taken by Peter Sanders. Heritage Paths Project
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Path of the Month
Devil's Staircase
Devil's Staircase

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Devil's Staircase

Start location: Kingshouse Hotel (NN 259 548)
End location: Kinlochleven (NN 192 617)

Geographical area: Lochaber
Path Type: Military Road
Path distance: 13km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians, Suitable for Bikes

Route Description

Leaving the Kingshouse, cross the River Etive by the old bridge and head north then west to within 300m of the A82. There pick up the Old Military Road which runs to the north-west of its replacement along the foot of Beinn a’ Chrulaiste. Just to the west of Altnafeadh, start climbing NNW up the Devil’s Staircase, a fine section of the Old Military Road with easy gradients and a series of well-engineered zigzags, to reach the highest point. On the north slope the path makes a long easy descent across the hillside to join the access road to the Blackwater Reservoir, and the route finishes down this road to Kinlochleven.

For those thinking of cycling the Devil's Staircase, check out Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland's e-guide to the Highlands which describes a circular route using this Old Military Road.

OS Landranger 41 (Ben Nevis, Fort William & surrounding area)

Heritage Information

The Old Military Road was constructed about 1750, largely on the line of the original drove road, with occasional deviations. The Devil's Staircase's period of military use though was relatively brief, as it was abandoned in 1785 in favour of the military road built through Glencoe to Invercoe.

Kingshouse claims to be the oldest inn site in Scotland and is described by ARB Haldane as a key point on the drove road network. That said, it had a bad reputation - in William Thomson's A Tour of Scotland in 1785, the inn is referred to as a cursed place and is described thus: "This house is so ill-attended to by the old rascal who lives in it, that there is not a bed fit to sleep in, nor anything to eat, notwithstanding that he has it rent-free, and is allowed nine pounds per annum by Government".  This does not appear to have been an isolated bad review - in the early years of the nineteenth century it was reportedly described as wretched by Dorothy Wordsworth and likened to a hog stye by James Donaldson, Surveyor of Military Roads.

Altnafeadh at the foot of the Devil's Staircase is another former cattle drover's stance.

Since 1980, the Devil's Staircase has formed part of the West Highland Way. Other historic routes with links to the West Highland Way include the Bankie Trek, the Crianlarich Military Road, the Old Glencoe Road, the Drove Road to Callert Ferry and the Military Road to Fort William.

In autumn 2020, BBC Scotland's Landward programme caught up with ScotWays in and around Kinlochleven to talk about its 175 year history of upholding public access, and in particular its work signposting routes. The guide posts for several rights of way make an appearance; as well as this Heritage Path look out for the Military Road to Fort William by the Lairig and the Coffin Road from Glen Etive by the Lairig Eilde. If you missed the show when it aired in December, don't worry it'll be up on the iPlayer (6-10min in) for most of 2021. 


Copyright: Ed Knapen | Credits: NN256549: the West Highland Way leaves Kingshouse Hotel initially following a minor road in the direction of Buachaille Etive Mor. To the left the A82 road bridge can be seen crossing the River Etive.

Copyright: Nigel Brown | Credits: NN220563: at the start of the Devil's Staircase taken from the West Highland Way as it leaves the A82. The signpost near the middle of the picture marks an alternative route, a right of way; the WHW joins the right of way a short distance uphill.

Copyright: Dorothy Carse | Credits: NN220565: footbridge on the West Highland Way. This bridge crosses Allt a' Mhain on the path from Altnafeadh to Kinlochleven by the Devil's Staircase. Looking SSW towards Buachaille Etive Mor.

Copyright: bill copland | Credits: NN215576: the cairn at the top of the Devil's Staircase, looking NW towards cloud-capped Ben Nevis.

Copyright: Ed Knapen | Credits: NN213582: West Highland Way walkers can easily cross the Allt a' Choire Odhair-bhig at these fords.




Click here to view this path on a map


Copyright: Graham Scott | Credits: The Devil's Staircase path, looking into Glen Coe. Copyright: bill copland | Credits: NN213586: on the West Highland Way looking north to the Eastern Mamores. Copyright: Alan Reid | Credits: NN215591: taking a wee rest on the West Highland Way. Cyclists heading north on the path to Kinlochleven from Altnafeadh.
Copyright: Pascal De Schepper | Credits: NN213592: the small bridge over the Allt a' Choire Odhair-mhoir on The West Highland Way, looking south. Copyright: Pascal De Schepper | Credits: NN209597: the West Highland Way on the Meall Ruigh slope. A sunny sunset at 23 degrees Celsius!


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