West Highland Way part 1- Let's set the record straight....

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September 17th 2012
Published: September 22nd 2012
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Group photo at start of WHW on Fri 14 Sept 2012 Lynn, Kirsty, Tania & Debbie I am pleased to say the smiles remained until the end of the trip as you can see from the last photo!
So let’s set the record straight….the first 39 miles of the West Highland Way (WHW) is no walk in the park…it is BLOODY HARD!

The 3 days walking on the WHW have definitely been the most physically hard & exhausting for me considering all the walking I have done in 2012. A fair description would be HAVEN & HELL on earth. The scenery is amazing, however the weather can be cruel (rain, wind & sun) and the terrain gives your whole body a complete work out.

My experience has brought about a new found respect and admiration for those prepared to complete this walk in between 5 to 8 days & in particular those staying in campsites…now that is truly hardcore!

My mind fails to comprehend how my uncle and so many of his friends are capable of running the full WHW 92 miles in less than 24 hours; my only conclusion is that they are TOTALLY CRAZY & SUPERHUMAN FIT!!!

Another fact that needs to be stated is that day 3 is much harder than day 2. By day 3 I am referring to the 12.5 miles between
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group photo at the start of the journey
Rowardennan and Inverarnan.

Now I fully understand why the majority of people do this for charity….they need that incentive to get up each morning and set off again…when their body is screaming NO WAY!!!!!

After two months of planning below is a day by day recap of our trip.

Day 0 (Thursday 13 Sept 2012

After work I drove up to Tyndrum and stayed in the By the Way hostel, huts & campsite.

It was a pleasant drive up; with the music blearing I did not hear the wind picking up and the road was nice & quiet. It was the perfect antidote, for clearing my head from the hectic past few weeks at work. Once I located my wooden hut (it took aprox 15 mins walking round the site in the dark with a torch to locate it!) my first experience of sleeping in one was pleasant enough.

Day 1 (Fri 14 Sept 2012<strong style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">😉 – aprox 13 miles

The following morning I got the bus from Tyndrum to Anniesland and then the train to Milngavie to meet the rest of my group. I met up with the girls at the Costa coffee shop and once I had my much needed beverage sorted – café late with a triple shot of baileys – we were ready to get started. The local tourist information lady took some photos of us and gave us some information regarding locating our accommodation for the first night, and then we were on our way.

The pace and weather was good, we had what would become our daily ritual a stop 15-30 mins after we set off to get waterproofs on (or off). The scenery as per the guide book was great and there were lots of other walkers doing the same route…it was great seeing them through out the next 3 days…it felt like we were all on this great adventure.

The daily plan was to walk for aprox 6 miles and then stop for lunch. Our first stop was at the Beech Tree, the food was good and to my surprise the girls opted for soft drinks. I am sure it will come as no surprise but I opted for a couple of drinks instead, definitely making the most of not driving or thinking about work during this trip!

Our final destination on day 1 was Drymen, where we stayed at Kip in the Kirk, a beautifully converted church. On arrival we were greeted by the owner with scones and tea, very nice! In our 8 bed-dorm there were 2 couples (a young German one and an older English one) also walking the WHW.

We had dinner at the Clachan, which boasts to being one of the oldest pubs. It certainly had a great friendly atmosphere and charm about it. The food was good and a couple of us had our first Kopparberg cider (very nice), there were more to follow through out the trip!

The plan was to return to the dorm and have a drink or two & some chocolate followed by showers before heading to bed. However since the German couple were already in bed we had to revise our plan, sadly opting for showers while attempting to have whispered conversations definitely not the easiest thing to do.

Day 2 (Sat 15 Sept 2012<strong style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">😉 – aprox 13.5 miles

The dorm experience was not as good as it could have been. In particular due to the older English guy snoring most of the night which kept some of the girls awake (luckily I can sleep through anything). Following a continental breakfast (and my morning beverage of hot chocolate & baileys) we headed off to rejoin the walk by retracing our steps out of Drymen adhering to the Kip in the Kirk’s 9th commandment. “Thou shalt not cheat by taking the shortcut out of Drymen (someone will be watching to make sure you turn left as you leave)”.

Despite reading the guide book (Recreational Path Guide, The West Highland Way by Anthony Burton); I did not fully appreciate how different the walking terrain would be throughout this trip. When it comes to walking everyone’s sense of enjoyment can be different depending on the surface and gradient. My preference is up & down coastal or hill walking while on paths, as opposed to road walking or very steep inclines.

The lack of a proper nights sleep had an effect in terms of energy levels, so we decided to avoid the Conic Hill part of the walk (instead we were able to take photos of the hill) and proceeded via the alternative route into Balmaha, we still covered the same distance however we avoided the very steep climb up the hill. This was a very wise decision in light of what lay ahead in the afternoon’s walk (this is the only part of the WHW I had previously walked so I knew it was going to be hard going).

In Balmaha we had lunch at the Oak Tree (our lunch time pub stops have all had a nature related theme so far). This time round we had a lighter lunch of baked potatoes and cakes however once again I was the only one having alcoholic drinks (this time the villages own cider brew which was not as nice as Kopparberg and a cappuccino and baileys).

The afternoon’s walk started off very pleasantly, an easy walk by the shore of Loch Lomond with great views. About an hour later the gradient started becoming more challenging & almost 2 days of walking was
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This is what happens when children drive machinery they end up in a ditch! Rather amusing landscape art on the way....obviously someone with a sense of humour....we need more people like this in the world!
starting to have an effect on our bodies.

This is where the walking poles came in very handy! We started talking to some fellow walkers along the way, which provided a source of amusement and encouragement.

As the afternoon wore on the thought of having a twin room with our own en-suite was an enticing treat we all looked forward to.

Despite the initial impression (they did not want us to wear our walking boots past the hotel’s entrance) the Rowardennan Hotel certainly provided us with the luxury our bodies deserved. Lynn and I were rewarded with the larger room, massive TV and bath since we had one more flight of stairs to walk up.

One of my better ideas was to run a bath so we could all soak our feet before applying the various foot sprays and creams, nothing like a bit of TLC for our achy feet. And we were thankfully rewarded by not having any blisters through out our walk!

We all ended up in our big room for some foot soaking, vodka & coke and chocolate before heading for showers and dinner. A great way to end our second day’s walking by watching Jonathan Ross in bed – ah it is the small things that bring such happiness!

Day 3 (Sun 16 Sept 2012<strong style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">😉 – aprox 12.5 miles

After a great nights sleep we woke up to rain. Another reminder that we were in Scotland, however the good news was there would be no midges! Following breakfast we were on our way in our waterproofs. Not long after we started the rain stopped so we had one of our regular stops to remove the waterproofs and enjoy the sun. As the morning progressed we had showers on and off. The walking was hard going, a lot of up and downs, which in turn put a lot of pressure on all the joints. Even using the walking poles it was hard going and the cumulative effect of the previous 2 days walking was starting to remove the enjoyment from the scenic walk.

By lunchtime we arrived at the Inversnaid Hotel. We were all tired and by this point looking forward to some lunch. Unfortunately the hotel staff were less than helpful and we ended up having sandwiches & crisps rather than something warm and comforting.

Taking into account how we were all feeling I told the girls that there was no way we were going to do the next days planned 12 mile walk to Tyndrum, which came as a total relief to them. Considering how our bodies were feeling we were then faced with the decision to continue walking the next 6 miles to Inverarnan or catching the ferry across the Loch and then the bus.

For me it was a no brainer, as long as my legs could move there was no way I was getting on a ferry (my least favorite form of transport). Debbie decided to get the ferry while Lynn and Kirsty decided to join me. Unfortunately for Lynn & Kirsty they soon regretted that decision, especially when we had to scramble down rocks and under fallen trees! Needless to say this aspect of the walk added to my enjoyment, however this was short lived.

The guide book description of the 6 miles from Inversnaid to Inverarnan did not prove accurate and in light of the amount of rain the path was more difficult to walk, after two hours we were all ready to reach our final destination. Debbie was already waiting for us in the Drovers Inn where they had sticky toffee pudding and alcohol! We were optimistically hoping to join her in another hour and a half, however it took us a further hour of a hard slog and me repeatedly breaking the 1st commandment from Kip in the Kirk “Thou shalt not take the name of the lord thy god in vain or use any other swear words”.

The final hour and a half were particularly hard since we were tired and it felt as if we were in the middle of nowhere….as the saying goes….it always feels worse just before it gets better and this proved to be so true for us.

Seeing the sign for Ben Glas Farm and campsite was a rather high point. Ironically followed by the realization that we needed to walk a further 15 mins to reach the Drovers inn. Thankfully Kirsty managed to find that extra bit of willpower, to keep going and did not give in to the temptation to call Debbie and ask her to come and join us at the Ben Glas Farm.

Arriving at the Drovers Inn we got a massive round of applause as we walked in, since we were one of the last groups to arrive back! What a sense of achievement and relief to have made it before it got dark and that food & drink were just minutes away.

I had heard a lot about this pub (definitely older than the Clachan in Drymen) and it certainly lived up to its reputation. The atmosphere was great, the staff were dressed in kilts and the food was excellent not to forget the live entertainment at 8:30pm! Seeing and speaking to some of our fellow walkers was a great way to wind down and say our goodbyes.

What a great sense of achievement having completed 39 miles over 3 days!

We got picked up by our B&B at 9pm. Our final nights accommodation was in Ardvorlich House, our two rooms were on the top floor, once again Lynn and I lucked out and got the big room…so we
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A rainbow! I am so chuffed with the new camera, I can finally take detailed photos.
rounded off the day & our trip by having a couple of drinks while having showers and watching abit of TV…safe in the knowledge tomorrow there would be very little walking!

Day 4 (Mon 17 Sept 2012<strong style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">😉 – nil miles

After another great nights sleep we were greeted by pouring rain, this just confirmed we made the right decision to call it quits. Speaking to the rest of the guests at the B&B they also found yesterday particularly challenging and they were envious of the fact that we were not having to head out in the wet weather.

Our B&B gave us a lift to Ardlui where we got the citylink bus to Tyndrum to pick up the car before heading down the road to Glasgow and then Edinburgh. Pleased to say all 4 of us and our luggage & day packs did fit in to the mini! It was a lovely leisurely drive home, through rain & sunshine.

I should conclude by saying:

A massive THANK YOU to my 3 fellow walkers: Debbie, Lynn
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The rainbow from a zoom angle.
& Kirsty for agreeing to join me on this challenging journey.

I don’t regret a single minute of the 39 miles walk, I just wish I fully appreciated how tough it would be…it truly felt like walking up Munro’s 3 days in a row…I have to admit my friends, the scenery, the great food, the excellent accommodation and alcohol (maybe the lack of this on day 3 made it seem harder?) all played a vital part in making the long weekend go by with a smile on our faces, despite the effort & weather!

Finally I am thrilled to say the girls are all still talking to me and most importantly still willing to go walking with me which is crucial since we are determined to complete the rest of the WHW. At this point the draft plan is to split the remaining 53 miles into another 2 long weekends sometime in 2013…so watch out for more updates next year!

Additional photos below
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Lunch day 1 - Beech Tree pubLunch day 1 - Beech Tree pub
Lunch day 1 - Beech Tree pub

Almost 6 miles completed by this point....the half way mark for day 1.
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The pub is in sight, giving way to a spring in our step...I personally can't wait for the first official drink of the day (even though i have already had a triple baileys with my coffee late and a minuature port during the morning walk....yes this is definitely a boozy weekend away for me!)
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Lynn looks so cute in this picture! I am obviously getting the hang of using the new camera with this shot!!
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Yes ladies you look cool with your sunnies on....proof that the sun did appear on our first afternoon, despite the showers and waterproofs being worn earlier that day...another reminder we are in Scotland after all!

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