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Published: November 11th 2017
Day 0The West Highland Way (AKA- The West Highland Apple Pie Way)
Urban Art heading out of Kelvin Grove towards Maryhill
To set the scene- this hike is one part of my 3 and a bit week trip to Scotland. I was very keen to do as much of it as I could backpacking and sleeping in my tent so I packed my usual hiking set up (minus my gas canister). I bought a new Osprey Transport pack cover and shoved as much as I could into the backpack plus one soft holdall bag for the multifaceted trip (wedding/city sights/hike/Isle of Mull). My baggage allowance with Qantas was generous but everything still came in well under 20kg.
In terms of the planning I bought the West Highland Way guidebook by Charlie Loran, read lots, and talked to a few people who had done it. I decided that I wouldn't be too precious about my usual camping rule and would stay in other accommodations if the weather was too hideous. Having the tent meant that I could be completely self paced - I didn't want to lock into specific dates, however that also worked against me to a certain degree in that it was difficult to secure a bed
Incredibly scenic architectural feats for us Australians that don't have much in the way of architectural history
in some places as things (in my price range) were well and truly booked out months in advance. The only thing I locked in before the start for my first night's accommodation as I had heard it would be busy at the beginning of September. On arrival into Glasgow I went to an outdoor shop near my hotel and bought a gas cannister, Smidge (as recommended by absolutely everyone that I spoke with or read about in their blogs/trip reports) and a couple of meal in a bags.
Apart from crowds of people, my only other real anxiety about this hike was the midges, and I was promised that they would definitely be be a problem at this time of the year... fingers crossed for an apocalyptic eradication (the midges... not the people). Unlikely, I know, but you can always hope. You can tell that I was already skeptical about the magical repellant powers of Smidge can't you?
After a couple of great days in Glasgow in perfect weather (this is not a sarcastic comment- it was truly lovely) it was time to go. Day 0 Glasgow to Milngavie 17 km
(so, how would you pronounce this? Hint- it's not as it sounds. Answer- Mullguy- the first of many mispronunciations on my part).
So, it's not actually the first day of the official WHW but it's my first day, I wanted to tack on an extra 16kms or so onto the official 156km walk as a warm up. Start for me was at Kelvingrove Park taking in the suburban Kelvin River Trail which linked to the Allendale Waters Trail. Charlie Loran highly recommended it! After the obligatory wrong turn I managed to add on a km. From here it meandered mostly along waterways. Being a Sunday there were lots of people around, lots of hellos. I have found the Glaswegians to be a really friendly lot. Really friendly.
Anyway the walk was going swimmingly well. My pack was manageable and it wasn't raining. Lots of bridges, tunnels, big trees, interesting flowers. Got to the point where my map told me I could take the trail which is heavily overgrown in summer (Summer? Scotland doesn't have summer!) or take the more potentially more manageable road access. "What's a bit of overgrown trail?" I asked myself.
Should have taken the
It started out pretty. Flowery, brambles, still nice overcast weather, not bad at all.
No one mentioned the nettles.
One minute I was bush bashing, the next I was sliding down an embankment and the very next minute my legs were on fire! Like a hundred fire ant bites but there were no ants to be seen. I figured it had to be some kind of plant and google said it was probably nettles. A bit late to be putting the gaiters on now but I did. I'm glad as about 50m later I took another slide, my left hand meeting nettle hell this time.
Long story short, popped into the Tickled Trout pub (after using the spacious toilets at Dobbies Garden Centre) for a fortifying cup of coffee and the first of the apple pies (9/10) of this trip. Glad I indulged, the rest of the afternoon/evening/night were somewhat painful- my legs were alternating between fire and goosebumps for the next 16 hours and then actual simultaneous L calf deep pain (I AM NOT EXAGGERATING).
Excellent start... BnB- Best Foot Forward http://www.bestfootforward.eu.com/
£50/single room with ensuite
Included breakfast and tea/coffee/biscuits/peanuts in the room. Free wifi
Dinner- Garvie & Co for a Sunday night roast. Easily located on Station St a shortish walk from the bnb. The town centre is quite nice- lots of little shops and cafes, I was fairly late so they were mostly shut. Day 1 Milgavnie to Drymen 19kms
Fortifying full fat Scottish breakfast- black pudding, bacon, eggs, mushrooms, tomato, beans, potato hash brown, toast, tea. Deathly quiet breakfast room despite 8 guests. Grey drizzly sky outside.
Head towards town for the official starting point- an obelisk and big sign. Find a random stranger to take a picture of me- it's not a good shot, contrasting the ones I took for him which were very good. The umbrella eventually gives way to the raincoat as the rain gets heavier. Nice countryside, lots of dog walkers through the woods and a few steep hills- the sort that cause you to sweat inside the wet weather gear- now wet, wet weather gear.
Encounter the first close up sheep and regular cows (as opposed to highland cows). Pass first loch, then the second. No birds- too wet. The varying
Love these grey skies
types of gates keep me amused- trying to look like I know what I'm doing while attempting to open varying gates is challenging.
Pass the Glengoyne Distillery, it's totally bucketing down so keep walking, there's a well known place called the Beech Tree Inn nearby that is apparently walker friendly. I drop my pack with about 20 other dripping packs and drip inside. Detouring to the loos to blow dry my dripping hair under the hand dryer. Inside is a fellow walker from the bnb breakfast room, he appears to be quite dry and content- he obviously found the hand dryer too. He has a also found a couple of beers which is probably why he looks content.
Lunch is dessert (still very full of full fat Scottish fry up) a very delicious, but uber sweet, apple caramel pie with cream (8/10) and a coffee (5/10). At this point I decide camping tonight may not be awesome and try to find a BnB who have 1 room left. After 20mins of working my way backwards through Charlie Loran's suggestions the very last one has a single available. Why backwards? Well, I figure most people would probably start at
the beginning of his list and they'd all be taken- clearly my logic is flawed, they've all gone backwards too.
Walk past the tiny village of Gartness, then the Drymen camp ground at Easter Drumquhassle Farm that I was planning to stay at. Good decision on the BnB- it's very muddy at the tent pitch spot and the barn you can take shelter in if necessary looks a bit dodgy. According to Charlie's map the bnb is not much further on.
Now, a health update- the nettle bites, well they're feeling better- just a hideous looking rash and a bit itchy. I am, however, slightly concerned about the pain that has started under and to the side of my L knee. And the swelling. By the time I reach the BnB I'm limping....
The BnB is lovely. Yvonne the host is lovely and is wearing a lovely tartan skirt (really). I climb the 22 steps up to my room then climb down again to have a super hot shower, then up again to make my budget dinner (utilising 1/2 of this mornings breakfast I bagged) whilst watching a YouTube video on how to strap a knee (I
Apple Pie and Custard
Dessert always makes things better
had tape in my first aid kit). Then back down the stairs to borrow scissors to cut the strapping tape, then up again...
Hit my big bed with Tv remote and elevate (I now know why their are 8 decorative pillows per bed in nice BnBs), rapidly swelling, but now strapped knee.
Nettle toxicity? Haemarthrosis? Ligament tear from yesterday's slips?
Disaster? Bnb- Mulberry Lodge http://www.mulberrylodge.co.uk/index.html
£35 / single room with shared bathroom (bath and shower) and toilet. Free wifi. There are some shared toiletries you can use plus shower gel.
Included breakfast and tea/coffee/biscuits in the room Day 2 Drymen to Sallochy Campsite via Balmaha 21 kms
Another full fat Scottish breakfast, this time in a more lively dining room- 3 Scots (under the weather after a big night) and a precise Swiss dad and daughter in very neat and clean state of the art hiking gear. Yvonne is in another lovely tartan skirt and has atmospheric Scottish music playing in the background.
The knee? Marginal reduction in swelling, still sore but a bit better (without backpack and for the duration of breakfast).
The day begins going
up a nice green hill with stunning views, then a forest stint. So green. Some fungi. The main challenge of the morning is climbing up the foot of Conic Hill (360m). Highlights of which are the black faced sheep and the Highland cows. Going up is more comfortable than going down so despite it being a strenuous climb I really enjoy it. Having reached the almost top I decide to take the hike up to one of the summits and get some stellar views over Loch Lomond. Very atmospheric grey skies, slivers of sunlight, etc.
It's a windy, rainy, slippery descent then a killer km or so of stone steps down the hill (mountain). I now have a foot in the lowlands and a foot in the highlands over the highland fault, according to Charlie's guide book.
Reach Balmaha as the sun comes out- quaint, whitewashed, boating village on Lake Lomond. Quite busy, hiker central. Stop for lunch- another disaster - no apple pie. Ginger crunch slice is the default- pretty good, very good coffee. I'm enjoying dessert for lunch- A LOT.
The afternoon is spent walking along the shore of Loch Lomond dipping in and out
The field was alive with black birds
of roads, forest and pebble beaches. I love the trees, very different from the Australian bush, very green. There's a couple of decent climbs before hobbling in to the campsite. Sallochy Campsite is run by the Scottish Forestry Commission and has 30 available pitches. I am slightly nervous that it will be full as Charlie recommends pre-booking, my fears are unfounded as there are only a handful of intrepid September campers around. Score a lakeside pitch for £7 - includes drop toilets and drinking water. Really awesome views. Some bird life! Awkwardly put my tent up. But, oh what a spot!
Dinner is hurried as the midges descend- the midge head net makes it's first appearance. In bed by 8 to the sounds of the lake lapping on "my beach". I can no longer stand up straight. Elevate knee on backpack (another night of bed rest Geoff!)
Tomorrow is a very big day. Tent- Sallochy Campgrounds http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/forest-parks/queen-elizabeth-forest-park/sallochy
Lunch- St Mocha Coffee Shop and Icecream Day 3 Sallochy Campsite to Beinglas Campsite via Rowardennan and Inversnaid. 27 km
No full fat breaky this morning- back to oats with hot water in
a zip lock bag! Packed up and walking by 8. There are 2 distinct sections today so I can stop in Inversnaid if "kneeds" be.
From here the mornings walk is all wooded trail and along the shore of Loch Lomond. At the 3km mark Rowardennan appears but is deserted - coffee shop closed (no apple pie). Bypass the Ben Lomond trail head but do say hello and have a brief chat to 2 English fellows. Onwards... Charlie's guide book offers up a choice of 2 routes- the easier high route with undulating waterfalls, or the harder alternative route- "small path, tortuous route clinging as close to the shore as it dares- short, steep climbs, fallen trees and rocky sections make the going slow and arduous".
Predictably, I miss the high path sign completely...
Part way through this arduous low path I am aware that my knee no longer feels as
sore with every step, very exciting! A big sigh of relief as the rocky path continues to an overhang whereby the sun breaks through the cloud and a rainbow comes out on cue- actually it came out earlier but it makes for a better story that
it coincided with feeling better!
Dip back into the forest and past Rowchoish Bothy, the first "bothy" of the trip- an enclosed hut with fire place and sleeping platform- it's very rough, lots of trash and dark. Very boggy. I don't think I'd like to sleep there. Bonus though- see my first red squirrel nearby. Also a man in full camouflage gear- hope the squirrel makes it...
An interesting phenomenon is the honesty stall- over a bridge before Inversnaid was a very welcome little sign with fruit, Muesli bars, Scottish tablet, cookies and drinks; leave a £1. Genius idea! Fortified with sugar in the form of Scottish tablet, arrive in Inversnaid - amazing waterfall entrance and bridge leading to the pub- no apple pie available so I switch mindsets and go with a bacon roll- damn good. Good spot for a rest in a busy but interesting hotel (fully booked out that night, popular with coach tours). The English fellows arrive as I am leaving, asking how I'm managing. I try not to limp (aka putting on a stiff upper lip) as I bid them a cheery farewell.
The next 12km begins again as a very rocky,
Best Foot Forward
Day 1 destination accomplished
uneven trail and has bonus gates and a ladder to climb. The next half has excellent stretches of forest and wetlands (plus midges). Rain starts but stops on arrival into the Beinglas Campsite. Camping cabins and dorms all booked out (very busy season this year apparently). Get the tent up along with about 100 000 midges. Super soggy pitch but I find a decent spot and it has toilets and a shower (wish I'd packed soap!) and a communal kitchen. £8/night. Dinner is a budget Continental cup of soup (cream of mushroom) in the camper kitchen, the pub on site is inviting me in for dessert so caramel apple pie it is! The West Highland Apple Pie Way prevails.
Sleep to the sound of heavy raindrops and the partying German backpackers in the next tent.
Addit- the full camouflage gear guy is a Dutch hiker, hiking in sandals, smoked like a train and you could smell him from about 50m away! First smelt at Inversnaid pub. Last smelt in the pub at Beinglas! Tent- Beinglas Campsite https://www.beinglascampsite.co.uk/
Lunch- Inversnaid Hotel Day 4 Beinglas Farm to Crianlarich 15 km (inc
various extra bits)
Today is to be renamed The West Highland Teeming Rain and Deep Sticky Cow Poo Mud Way (Just setting the scene!).
The rain got heavy again at 05:00. Packed my soaked tent up pretty well (although about a kg heavier wet). Such a bonus having the camping kitchen and bathrooms - got to repack my backpack out of the rain and away from the midges. As did all of the other campers- a busy, friendly little place to eat my bagged oats.
The weather forecast was ominous for today- constant heavy rain, so I decided to take a short day and book a BnB for the night in the town of Crianlarich, about 1.5km off the trail (stellarly sound decision as it turned out).
Headed off in full wet weather gear, this for me meant my new wet weather pants as opposed to shorts and gaiters. Hated them- the wet weather pants are sauna-esque and restrictive (note to self- pack them away for the rest of the way, sell them on return home). It's an easy start despite the rain. The track then gets inundatedly wet which then gives way to sucking mud
(actually I love mud ... I do).
Until .... there are cows on the track, no big deal, quite interesting, photogenic creatures, etc. What one doesn't think about is the amount of poo the comes out of the cows, which in turn makes it even more muddy. Muddy cow crap or cow crap mud, whichever way you look at it, it's a messy hike this morning. It also creates a bottle neck of hikers as you certainly drop speed navigating through the slimy, gluggy quagmire. More than one hiker goes down !!! Yuck!
Post mud bath, I encounter my first "sheep creep". WTH is a sheep creep? Well, it's a tiny low tunnel under railway tracks that even a tiny, low to the ground hiker such as myself has to almost crawl through. Quite novel! Once again, more than one hiker goes down.
Head away from the Falloch River, up a big hill and into the forest. It is absolutely chucking it down but this signals the turnoff to the village for me. Got to say I was relieved to be heading to the village. Traversed the forest into the train station where the guidebook highlighted The
Old Station Tearoom as a "rare treat of a tearoom that serves great cakes and bacon rolls!"
TEAROOM SOMEWHAT CLOSED!!!!
Luckily the Glenardran BnB lady was happy to let me check in very early. For £40/single I had a great little heated room with view onto the backyard, a long hot shower and lots of surfaces to drape my soaking wet clothes, boots, tent, backpack, etc.
Spent what was left of the afternoon trying to get a bed for the next night given the forecast of continued torrential rain. An interesting task when the phone coverage is like having an Optus Sim in rural WA! Took a walk to the Ben More Lodge for a solo dinner - as in no other single person in the dining room. The food though was fantastic - fish and chips with about half a kg of peas and a glass of wine (I so deserved it), followed by an apple crumble and custard (no pie) and an Irish coffee. Hiker hunger sated, in bed by 9.
Ready for tomorrow again.
PS- not many pics- too wet
PPS- over 1/2 Way Bnb- Glenardran BnB
The obelisk that marks the official start of The Way
£40/single room with ensuite
Included breakfast and tea/coffee/biscuits in the room. Free wifi (no signal in single room)
Lunch- The Rod and Reel for a scone and a coffee
Dinner- Ben More Lodge Hotel Day 5 Crianlarich to Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy to Tyndrum 24.65 km
Back to the Scottish breakfast - woohoo, my haemoglobin levels are soaring with all this black pudding. Head off squelching (can you believe it- the exceedingly kind BnB owner washed my wet, uber muddy boots! Now they're clean and wet).
So, due to all accommodation in Bridge of Orchy being 100%!b(MISSING)ooked out and it's still raining, today's plan is:
1. Walk to Tyndrum
2. Walk to Bridge of Orchy
3. Catch bus or train back to Tyndrum to sleep in a dorm bed (last available bed in Tyndrum)
4. Catch bus or train back to Bridge of Orchy (BOO) tomorrow morning to resume walk.
What actually happens:
Walk to Tyndrum - back through train station (teahouse still closed), walk back up hill through pine forest to where I left the way yesterday. No other hikers seen for entire morning
The West Highland Way Bench
Good spot to sit and drink a pre-trek cup of coffee
(winning). Back on the trail encounter some more mud, historical markers about the Irish evangelist, St Fillan, from the 7th century, an ancient cemetery (with slippery rocks = R thigh, R 5th finger bruise), some wigwams (cute), black faced sheep (cuter), a lochan (small loch) that Robert the Bruce legendarily threw his sword into (myth subsequently debunked), streams, waterfalls, bridges, a raging river and some nice flat farmland. Arrive into Lower Tyndrum in good time.
Randomly find out about truck accident on main road to Bridge of Orchy causing traffic chaos, bus cancellations and significant rerouting so decided to train it to BOO and walk back to Tyndrum -much smarter. Hike up hill to the Upper Tyndrum Train Station (bloody big hill) and have a 2 hr wait for train.
Upside of this-
1. relaxed picnic in THE SUNSHINE!!! on the railway platform.
2. Two American girls (Karen and Shirley) I met a couple of days ago arrive and are heading in the same direction so I now have 2 new best friends.
3. The train trip is breathtakingly beautiful- massive, green rolling hills, seriously stunning scenery. It's going to be a great walk back!
BOO and say goodbye to my new buddies. The walk back to Tyndrum is awesome, some of the nicest scenery to date. Flat walking mostly and bump into the 2 English fellows again (Adrian and David) who oblige me with a real photo (as opposed to a selfie). A big day for new friends.
Arrive at the 'By The Way Hostel' and am pleasantly surprised at what £20/night buys. I have a bottom bunk in a 4 bed room (I think I'm going to make another friend in Yvonne, one of my room mates). Great showers and really well set up communal kitchen. Excellent lounge area plus wifi. Lots of friendly faces, some of whom I recognise from previous days.
All is well with the world- I am very clean (thanks to the soap on tap hand wash in the hostel bathroom- I wish I had brought shampoo and soap!!!), dry and well fed I hit my bottom bunk.
A big day tomorrow on the Rannoch Moor and the weather forecast says....
G Hostel- By The Way http://www.tyndrumbytheway.com/
£20/4 person dorm room, shared bathroom and very well provisioned communal
Wide, gravelly track. Not obviously busy.
kitchen. Free wifi.
Dinner- The Real Food Cafe- fish and chips again (v good) Day 6 Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse 22.55km
Given the scarcity of the Apple Pie in this neck of the highlands I'm switching to bacon rolls (reliable commodity, generally available for £2). Get up at the crack of dawn to buy a bacon roll and be first in line at the bus stop. The bacon roll is excellent but there's already a couple of people at the bus stop!!! AND I'm 45 minutes early. It's the Swiss! They have efficiently staked their claim on the bus stop queue by precisely placing their packs in line (I get a strong sense of déjàvous along the lines of beach towels being placed on sun beds at hotel pools before the sun even comes up!!). The rest of the world (Spanish, French, Italian, English, Scottish, Dutch, Germans....) are not cooperating though- as they arrive they pay no attention to orderly queues and the Swiss are relegated to further down the queue. Not to be outdone, as the bus arrives they pick up their day packs and insert themselves back to numbers 1 and
Very nice walk through the trees, would be nice to spend more time.
2. Awesome work!
Where am I? Politely way back down the queue of course, despite being #3. Almost at panic stations by this time- I am very worried there will be no room on the bus I score the most karmic stroke of luck EVER when the bus driver tells everyone to stow their backpacks in the luggage compartment under the bus. Where am I? Nailed it - right at the beginning of the luggage compartment!!! I skip onto the bus in the #4 position!! (My roommate and new friend, Yvonne, is #3- rightfully so as she had the foresight to book her ticket in May!).
Phew, so stressful and today's hiking hasn't even begun...
The bus trip to BOO is awesome- lots of mist and low cloud. Arriving at the BOO Hotel/bustop I celebrate my bus stealth success with a flat white (really enjoying the coffee here in Scotland, the world is truly connected- the hipsters and foreign students are making the coffees and are all over a flat white).
Down to business- the hiking today is across the Rannoch Moor, 130 square kms of wilderness, the remotest and wildest section of the way- the
Sweaty and red faced in the drizzle
weather is generally notoriously cruel and there is no shelter for 16km of the day. Not today... it is perfect weather conditions- sunny, cool, bit of a breeze- so lucky! The biggest issue of the day are the midges who are annoying for about an hour or so prior to getting onto the Moor and then they disappear in the breeze. The climbs for the day are early on, the rest is pretty flat.
Fabulous hiking, alternating between periods of solitude and periods where there are several hikers around. Take my first break on the bridge with Adrian and David and later walk for a while with Yvonne. The lochans are stunning, the heather is stunning. Have a wonderful lunch break on a rock surrounded by mossy, ferny vegetation with the mountain views. Superb!
The walk down is towards Glencoe ski resort, the first signs of it being the chairlift structure. A bit anticlimactic as I near the A82 super busy highway. Arrive at Kingshouse Hotel, an 18th century historic hotel. It's currently being extensively renovated and a makeshift bunkhouse has been built. It could have been booked 5 times over - the trail is really quite busy.
So, i have another night camping just over the nearby bridge at the waters edge.
Pitch my tent (after taking probably 30 mins to decide where to put it- quite a few inundated/soggy spots) and head to the Kingshouse Cafe (fingers crossed there are no rampant thieves around) to catch up with the English fellows and Yvonne (all lucky bunkhouse inhabitants) over coffee and biscuits). Have a fun couple of hours chatting before dinner in a bag (and a wine- thanks Yvonne) riverside. Started well, then about 5 million midges joined in.
An early night sealed in my midge proof tent. I do love this stuff.
PS- lots of pics today- it was such a picturesque blue sky, non-rainy day.
Tent- Kingshouse Bridge
Free Day 7 Kingshouse to Kinlochleven 19.65 km
Pretty excited for today despite the heavy and constant rain overnight. Stayed dry and packed up really well this morning. The packup of the external tent was challenging though, not because of the rain but the Armageddon style midge invasion. Wasn't quite smart enough to put my midge net on before I got out of the tent... killed most of them
inside the net by squashing them. Once packed up I went to the loos to wash my face, took off the net and there would have been hundreds (seriously) that I washed down the sink.
Ugghhh. Still makes my skin crawl...
Decided on a hearty bowl of porridge (half serve) - still MASSIVE and a coffee, with an alfoil wrapped bacon roll to go plus they filled my thermos. The cafe has filled up with very well rested looking bunkhouse non-tent people, not a midge bite in sight!
Into the fray....
Misty, rainy, midge start before the ascent via switchbacks of The Devils Staircase. It's the highest point of the WHW at (only) 548m. The rain, then wind blows the midges away thankfully. There are walkers visible spread out along the track heading upwards, backpack covers of various colours on the move. The ascent isn't particularly difficult, but there's no let up with the rain so it starts to get chilly. The views you can get on a clear day of the Glen Coe peaks and Ben Nevis are not to be today. Pass by some stone cairn collections - everywhere I've ever trekked has been
marked by these stone towers, I admit it, I usually add my mark too. On and up and a sign appears- there's a shop ahead!!! Very enterprising! Two bright yellow tents with an honour box for drinks.
The descent is slowish, very rocky, lots of water and the rain and wind don't let up. Throwing caution to the wind a cup of tea and freezing cold bacon sandwich under my umbrella is in order. Move on quickly though, this is the first time I've actually felt really cold. Down, down, down and more down before signs of civilisation - Kinlochleven (old aluminium smelter factory town) is visible in the distance. Arrive to the village via rushing rivers, water pipes and a super steep off road vehicle trail.
It ends up a pretty short day but probably my most favourite as it's really been in the elements. So pleased that I've managed to get a camping cabin for the night, but I'm too early so spend an hour over coffee and big slice of cake ( after again drying off under the hand dryer in the ladies loos) at a place called The Ice Factor- an indoor climbing centre
with regular climbing walls, as well as an ice wall.
Finally check into the Blackwater hostel camping cabin- very cute, on the river and spacious (in a small way) to dry out all my gear again. Really good showers and drying room (very efficient way to dry boots and socks- stiiiiinks so much!!!!!).
Dinner is at a pub with Yvonne - steak and ale pie plus chips. Really nice evening but this is where we part ways, she's spending an extra day in Kinlochleven, while I will do the final days walk into Fort William.
Boohoo- only a day to go.
PS - Fun fact- they let dogs into pubs here! WEIRD. Camping Cabin- Blackwater Hostel http://www.blackwaterhostel.co.uk/
£70 !!!!!!! - that is for a 4 berth cabin - I rang every single place in town and there was absolutely no availability- I got this cabin through booking.com. Moral to this story- try multiple platforms for accommodation. Shared bathrooms/toilets/communal kitchen and wifi.
Dinner- Tailrace Inn Day 8 Kinlochleven to Fort William 26.45 km
The last day a rainy day is forecast, surprising, I know, but I am dry, my pack is
dry, my tent is dry, my shoes and socks are dry- life is good! I remind myself of that several times as I head up the 250m climb through a birch forest out of Kinlochleven. Quite stellar views back over the town as I ascend. I'm dripping with sweat (and rain) in record time today, it's a bit of a slog fully loaded. However, It's good walking and although I know it's a long day I'm reticent to go too fast. It's raining steadily and there's a lot of water on the trail as I walk over The Laurigmor - The Big Pass. To add to the views and atmosphere there are a few farmhouse building ruins. The rain lifts so take a coffee break at one of them and refuel with Dutch muesli bars (thanks Dutch guys), whilst being scrutinised by some errant sheep. The ruins are so atmospheric and really add to the visual appeal of this hike.
The afternoon is spent walking through farmland and forest with a quick lunch on a log at the information boards somewhere on the trail. There is a fair bit of clear felling, burning off and heavy duty machinery around
this area. Onwards... First glimpses of Ben Nevis! More forest and some massive up and down hills again. Then massively looming views of Ben Nevis (unfortunately not to be climbed by me this trip). Fort William is also visible in the distance, and with it, more day walkers and the feeling that civilisation is nearing... cue a tractor and 2 trucks.
The last section is through Glen Nevis (the old end point of the WHW); footpaths, pedestrians, roads, cars, bikes, etc so I quickly decide on the alternate ending walking up and around Cow Hill into Fort William is a better option even if it adds a bit of extra time/distance.
Without any fanfare I reach the end late afternoon and the sun comes out for 10 minutes causing the cobblestone footpath of Main St to sparkle (alas no rainbow). Summary
I finished on Sept 11th, excellent hike, and as usual I wasn't ready for it to be over. Scotland has so much to offer in terms of natural beauty, hiking trails, friendliness, rain, insects and good food. I've met a lot of Interesting people, some I'd now calls friends. My fear of the
trail being too crowded wasn't really an issue in the end. Although there were people around I could still go for significant distances without seeing a soul. There were a couple of bottlenecks but it was still fine. My fear of the midges was founded- uggghh they're awful (but I'd still go again at this time). It would be interesting to walk The Way in spring for the wildflowers and before the midges come out maybe. How hard was it?
Looking at it on a purely purely subjective basis, for me I'd say light medium hard with a backpack and intermittent tenting. There are easier ways to do it, with a plethora of transport companies so that you only have to carry a daypack and you can sleep in a bed every night. It could be harder if you went in autumn/winter temps and tented every night. You can really just choose your own adventure when it comes down to it. Tips?
1. You have to have some baseline fitness.
2. Be very confident that your hiking shoes/boots work for you. I wore Salomon GTX hiking shoes- I love them, I have never had a
blister, I never need to wear them in from pair to pair. I think I'm lucky in this regard though.
3. Trekking poles are your friend.
4. A midge net is more important than that Smidge stuff.
5. Hike your own hike. Don't compare yourself to others, enjoy it, do what you want to do, go with the flow, etc. Personally I love solo hiking, others don't and that is completely fine too. How did my body hold up?
In the end, very well. Multi-day walks with a pack are good for my body- I don't feel as stiff as I normally do in real life! My knee is 9/10 normal, yellow bruise R thigh, green bruise L thigh, I can't even estimate the insatiably itchy midge bite chicken pox like lesions. Would I come back for more?
Absolutely! There are a lot of trails in Scotland to be discovered. Time to go home?
Not yet, there's Edinburgh, a wedding and a trip to Mull ahead of me yet!
Addit- There are hundreds of photos in this report- a sort of pictorial journey. You can click through
Gaiters are your friend
them page by page if you would like. I'd be interested to know which are your favourites!
Tot: 3.475s; Tpl: 0.101s; cc: 17; qc: 68; dbt: 0.0774s; 3; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.6mb