My friend Carol and I had decided to do the West Highland Way earlier this year - we started on 3rd August 2019 and I finished solo on 9th August 2019 - below is the diary I kept of each day of our travels.
Day 1 Milngavie to Drymen
So, Carol and I arrived at Milngavie at break neck speed cause I was running late from a funeral and couldn't get out of the chapel car park then got stuck behind every slow driver in the country and stopped at every set of red lights. So her hubby had to drive super fast to get us to the baggage transfer people for 12pm but we made it with 4 mins to spare. The driver chucked our rucksacks in his van, and told us the first pub was in 6 miles. Duly noted. Carol and I spent some time in Costa Coffee to plaster on the sun tan lotion and to organise ourselves before heading off down the WHW path out of Milngavie. We got a lovely send off from the Costa Coffee waitress who waved us off and wished us well.
As we walked we met a dog walker with a lovely malamute who informed us we were actually going the wrong way and had missed the turn to the WHW which was 200 yards back the way. There were cars parked in front of it so not our fault but we laughed and headed back to the right route. Passing Craigallian loch we spotted a lone fisherman in a boat, happily ignoring the huge No Fishing sign. By this time the heat was just about bearable and around 25 degrees. But we pushed on safe in the knowledge we had our sun lotion on. There were no midges and very few flies so we were happy.
As we entered Carbeth we heard loud country music in the form of "I Can't Stop Loving You" and saw some absolutely lovely huts, and were greeted by a friendly gardener working away. Everyone we met was so super friendly. On the way out of Carbeth we spotted a sign for the WHW app so downloaded that in case we needed it.
Up until now the views were minimal to non existent and the walk straightforward. We now entered the gates into the Duntreath Estate, Arlehaven Plantation, where some kind soul has updated the sign to advise that good views lay ahead. And they certainly did. The views of the hills were beautiful with Dumgoyach Hill looming over us. By this point I was sure my face was melting the heat was so incredibly strong. Fortunately it was just our chocolate that melted, as we stopped for a break and ate our melted Salted Caramel Protein bars and had a drink.
At the 7 mile mark we found the pub. There was much excitement as we looked forward to a cool beer and an opportunity to pee. My bladder got more tuggy the closer we got. My brain really needs to stop telling my bladder how close we are to the loo. A cold one later, we headed back out not wanting to waste time. From this point the path is pretty boring tbh. But we eventually hit the tiny village of Gartness, where we came across an honesty box with ice creams for sale. Oh my days best ice lolly ever. Pineapple flavour. We only had a few miles to go so powered on.
The rest of the hike was on roads and was pretty boring. We did see a few nice views and a nice seated area with a portaloo set up for hikers. Lovely Scottish hospitality. We arrived in Drymen 5 and a half hours after leaving Milngavie and checked into our hotel, getting a gentle ribbing from the Irish guy on the desk who thought he was funny. Quick change of clothes and we were soon having dinner. Our first day was done!
Feet were ok, I had hikers rash for the first time ever and we were so very tired. Here are some pics from the days travels. And I'm still singing "I Can't Stop Loving You"
Day 2 - Drymen to Rowardennan
Day 2 started with a round of ibuprofen and various creams for feet to send off any potential blisters. We headed out of Drymen at 9.30 following a hearty Scottish fry up in a light rain and soon picked up the West Highland Way track again we followed the footpath for a few miles until we hit Garadhban Forest, following the track through to the junction which branches off either to Conic Hill or straight down to Balmaha. The rain had stopped by this time and we stood pondering whether to go up Conic Hill or just go straight down to Balmaha, both WHW routes. We decided as there wouldn't be much of a view up Conic and we had climbed it last time we did this section, to head to the left track to Balmaha. 3 miles later we were sat in the Loch Lomond visitor centre changing socks and applying more Smidge (that stuff really works).
After a 30 min break to eat, we set off again heading for the stone steps that climb up to a wonderful viewpoint over Loch Lomond. Following the path back down to walk alongside the loch trail, some of which takes you to the beach, stopping off at Arrochymore Point for a quick pee stop, and heading through Milarrochy. It's a pretty flat walk until you reach Ben Lomond National Memorial Park where the path starts to climb steeply to Cashel. After a fair bit of track in the forest we hit the stone steps which are way more than you think in initially seeing them. And climb a fair bit. We smashed them though and followed the track which goes up and down and up and down doe about 4 miles.
We had heard some thunder rumbling in the distance for about 20 mins by this time and we expected some rain. Which would be nice as it was still quite warm and muggy. What we didn't expect was the ****** monsoon of biblical proportions we got. It came down so quickly and so hard we were soaked before we could even get our jackets out of our rucksacks. We knew we only had a few more miles to go, so we arse down head up marched along the path with me swearing randomly and telling the gods of rain to **** off loudly. This seemed to just anger them more as the rain got heavier. At this point I was ready for just lying down and accepting my fate or being drowned by humongous rain drops. My feet were soaked, my knickers were soaked. We could have jumped in the loch and wouldn't have been any wetter.
Thankfully we soon heard the sound of cars and knew the hotel was close. Seeing the sign for our hotel we could have cried with relief. And a further 400 yards found us at our place of restitution where we literally peeled off wet clothes and had the most glorious of showers. An hour later we were tucking into battered haggis with an irn bru chilli sauce.
We headed to bed feeling a little like we had just fought off a flood. Thank goodness the hotel has a drying room (which wasn't that great to be honest)
Day 3 - Rowardennan to Inverarnan
Soooooo my feet still worked and I hadn't died yet. Carol and I have not killed each other. So far so good.
We set off late this Monday morning. We were late to breakfast, the guy from the baggage transfer had to come to our hotel room to get our bags because we were running late and we didn't leave Rowardennan until almost 11am cause the receptionist decided to chat to us.
We headed off out of Rowardennan and rejoined the WHW path which goes past the start of the Ben Lomond climb and were promptly stopped by a marketing woman with a questionnaire. So we spent 10 mins talking to her and then went on our way.
When we reached the signpost for WHW we headed up the high road so as to avoid, what we had been told, is a rocky and difficult track. We spent a good while climbing up into the forest and it was a really pleasant walk other than the rain being completely unable to make up its mind as to whether it wanted to be on or off resulting in a "jacket on jacket off" dance as we went. We probably took a fair extra bit of time due to Carol stopping every 5 mins to photograph yet another waterfall 😂
Eventually the track headed down towards the side of Loch Lomond once again and we climbed rocks and tree roots along the way thinking ohhh this is a bit hard. Little did we know it was going to get much tougher. After 7 miles we arrived at Inversnaid and had a much needed rest before filling out water bottles and heading back to the trail. The hardest part of our walk was just about to start.
We passed the RSPB trail and the track began to get rockier....and rockier....and then began to resemble a rock climbing feat. We were climbing up and down and up and up and up and down. Never stopping for a moment, not talking. It was a huge level of concentration required to avoid a broken ankle. We were like Frodo and Sam climbing Mount Doom to ditch that damn ring only there would be no giant eagles to swoop in and carry us home. Some parts required sliding down rocks on our arses. Some parts require hauling ourselves up and over huge boulders and rocks. Tell you what, all those bouldering sessions have paid off. It literally went on for miles....and miles with a few less rocky sections thrown in for good measure.
We passed the path to the famous Rob Roy caves, where Rob was supposed to keep his prisoners but we didn't go down to them as quite frankly we couldn't be arsed. We continued on last the island of I Vow, and at the end of Inversnaid Reservoir hit the biggest and steepest set or wooden ladders/stairs and climbs high with Creag a' Mhadaidh clearing to the East as we fell out of the woods and into a huge grass clearing following the path up and then down to the bothy. We headed down towards the ferry hopeful we hadn't missed the last one as all the climbing took longer than expected and DAMN IT WE MISSED THE LAST FERRY. I was furious. Absolutely raging livid cause now we had to walk the long way around and that was an extra 2.5miles. How Carol hasn't killed my whiny arse her I dont know. The girls a saint. So off we set, with me cursing like a sailor and calling everything ridiculous and stupid. We had been advised that due to the rain the day before (biblical flood more like) that the bridge to our hotel, The Dovers Inn, was out of order so we had to call our hotel and they kindly sent a kilted young man to collect us. This cheered me up immensely and we showered and headed for dinner, buying a shot of Talisker to celebrate surviving day 3
Day 4 - Inverarnan to Tyndrum
So after a delicious breakfast we were ready to head off again. This section of the route was hampered by some weather issues. Mainly all the rain we got the day before which had made the bridge unsafe and caused various problems with other routes being flooded. A caravan was washed away. 😮 So the recommendation from the official WHW people, was to start from Crianlarich and not walk along the A82 where possible death was a risk. So Carol and I, being smart and safe, got in a car with a total stranger and headed off to the Crianlarich start point. We headed into town and topped up supplies, made use of the lovely train station toilets and headed off on our way.
The route climbs steeply fairly quickly up towards Ewich forestry giving amazing views back towards Ben More, Stob Binnein and Cruach Ardrain, all on the "to climb" list. Continuing on through the forest the path was undulating with some sharp climbs and equally sharp downhills. The rain was off and on and again I had a game off jacket on/jacket off (getting really fed up with this game) . At one point we stopped to chat to the forestry commission rangers who were out checking for the dead bodies of any stupid people who had done stupid things. They fortunately had not found any thus far. We continued on safe in the knowledge we wouldn't find any.
Eventually the track dropped steeply downwards and under the stone viaduct of the railway and then up and over the River Fillan where we met the first horses of our trip. I had to stop and pet one obviously and to smell it cause I miss the horsey smell. As we passed a farm we came across a really old graveyard dating from the 8th century and the remains of St Filians Priory which is somehow associated with Robert the Bruce. The track passed a camping site area with wigwams and huts and eventually we reached Tyndrum Community Woodland where the path follows River Cononish past the location of the Battle of Dal Righ, or 'King's Field' where those pesky English defeated Robert the Bruce in 1306 according to a bench. We also passed Lochan where legend has it, that Robert the Bruce threw his sword as he tried to escape those pesky English. There are doubts however. Another interesting point on route is the old lead crushing plant where no vegetation will grow on the poisoned land, a hark back to the areas industrial period.
We toddled along through the pine forest tracks enjoying the sunshine and lack of rain, knowing we had tons of time to get there. Passing holiday centres and other walkers, some of whom we have seen several times over the last few days. Two girls from Denmark were really pleased when I told them about the Baggage Transfer service they didn't know about, as they trundled along sweating merrilly with their 20kg rucksacks on their backs. Oops. Maybe next time ladies . We stopped off at Tyndrums Good Food Cafe where we had tea and ice cream and a much needed sit down. After checking into our hotel, we wandered along to The Green Welly Stop to see what all the fuss was about and promptly left when no fuss was found. Settling into TJs for hamburgers and pancakes, we polished off our food and 2 beers each. The hotel has a BATH so we were keen to make use of it. Which we did. And we are now sat in our room with our feet up watching shitty BBC programmes and drinking tea.
We had a loooooong 19 miles tomorrow so we are resting up. A good day today and no flippin boulders or rocks 😁
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