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Swimming The "Wet" Highland Way

Swimming The "Wet" Highland Way


Postby Border Reiver » Fri Apr 15, 2011 10:54 am

Route description: West Highland Way

Date walked: 01/05/2009

Distance: 160 km

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This isn’t a route report, you can find WHW route descriptions everywhere. It’s just a few notes of how we walked it, sights we saw and how we coped.

It was always a walk I fancied doing, so my fiancee, who had recently started hillwalking with me, agreed that we should both give the West Highland Way a go. I did my research and found that statistically, May is the best month for good weather on the WHW and 2008 had seen a bit of a heat wave. So, May it would be, and as early as possible to avoid midges. Taking into account our ages and general fitness, we decided to do the walk over 8 days and enjoy the wonderful Highland scenery at leisure. We booked with a luggage transfer company, who organised all our accommodation as well and we duly arrived in Glasgow by train on 30th April 2009.

Day 1. 14.5 mls / 900ft ascent Milngavie to Drymen
After a night at the Milngavie Travelodge, we wandered down to the start point and it was starting to rain, but never mind, statistically it’s the driest and sunniest month and it was bound to get better.
The start - just starting to rain.
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It got wetter, so did the path and in one place near Dumgoyach, we found a woman who had had the trainer (yes she was walking in training shoes) sucked from her foot in the clinging mud.
One training shoe lost in here.
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Her husband wasn’t much help as he was helpless with laughter - we left them to sort it out. Never mind, the map showed that the path goes along an old railway line and they’re always dry, aren’t they! - No, it was about 4” deep in water and the rain was heavy by then.
Caledonian Canal? - no, West Highland Way
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We tried stumbling alongside the path and just gave up all hope of keeping our boots dry and plodged through the shallowest bits.
Another Canal
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Then we spotted the Glengoyne Distillery and quickly hatched a plan. We would shelter there for a while and get a distillery tour. When we burst in to the busy reception area, dripping wet, we suddenly found that we had some space to ourselves as all the dry coach party visitors moved back. I said to J, “I think we’re going to get chucked out”, so we moved to stand by the door, then a really nice lad in a kilt came across to speak to us. We told him the story and he showed us a wee room where we could take off our wet rucksacks and waterproofs, which he hung up to dry and he got us quickly onto a tour that had already started. Afterwards, we bought a couple of miniatures each, to celebrate at the end of the walk and found out that the lad in the kilt was the owners son - we couldn’t find him, but told the staff to thank him. Our B&B that night was in Drymen and we had a good meal in the café there, although we were woken at after 1.00am by a noisy wedding party out in the street.
Day 2. 13 mls / 1,300 ft. Drymen to Rowardennan
It wasn’t raining when we set off and after a few miles it was fair, but I was doubled up with stomach pains, so took some Immodium and had to keep going into the woods.
Conic Hill and Loch Lomond
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We had lunch in a good spot, by a burn, just before the ascent up Conich Hill. It was reasonably bright by then and the views from Conic Hill, along the line of the Highland Boundary Fault were decent.
Highland boundary fault line from Conic Hill
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Balmaha was busy as always and we bought ice creams, but it started raining again so we quickly moved on.
Near Balmaha - and the rain's stopped.
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I was looking forward to the walk along Loch Lomond side, but sections of it are disgusting, with unofficial campsites, litter and wholesale destruction of trees for bonfires. We hurried through, vowing never to return. We did find some nice sections among the trees, away from the loch and there were some good sunny periods between showers.
Path through trees - and it's not raining
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Our B&B was near Rowardennan and was excellent.
Day 3 14 mls / 1,900ft. Rowardennan to Inverarnan
It’s a pretty walk North from Rowardennan, but there were heavy showers and the path near the loch was a bit muddy, with many tree roots ready to trip up those who weren’t concentrating.
Commando Training Course
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We were told by one walker we met that he’d had to rescue a large walker who had tripped on a tree root and fallen on his back, wedged between two trees and weighed down by his rucksack. There were some fairly decent views of the Arrochar Alps.
Arrochar Alps
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We holed in to the Inversnaid Hotel to get out of yet another shower and had a nice cup of coffee and a sandwich. The member of staff in charge was expecting some coach parties and was wanting to keep things nice and clean for them. He was getting a bit annoyed with walkers who didn’t leave their wet boots / rucksacks on the stage as requested. Four lads there were trying to do the WHW in four days carrying tents and two of them, their feet were ragged. I gave a lot of my Compeed patches to them, but when the skin’s coming off in layers enough to leave holes, it’s too late. We left the manager to argue with more walkers and set off for Inverarnan where we were to be picked up by our B&B. We also managed to see some of the wild goats we had been told about.
Wild Goats
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Loch Lomond, looking South
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A few miles short of Beinglas camp site, we came on a young medical student who was almost crippled with pain, he had sprained his leg and was leaning heavily on his stick. His mates had left him and he was trying to get to Beinglas to camp. I took his rucksack for a while and we walked with him, very slowly, to the campsite, where we left him to find his friends. He thanked us for just being there for moral support and to chat to. We headed for The Drovers. It was very lively in there and we spent half an hour listening to the folk group Broadsword, before going outside to phone our B&B for transport. It was 9.00 pm by then and our B&B were about to give up on us, apparently there were times where walkers got seriously drunk before phoning for a lift. We heard later that there had been a brawl later that night in The Drovers after the management had gone to bed.
Our B&B room was so close to the railway line, we could almost have touched the late train as it returned to Glasgow.
Day 4 13.5 mls / 1,800ft. Inverarnan to Tyndrum
It was fair when we got up, but started raining when we left our transport at Beinglas Farm - and it rained pretty much all day, not heavy, but steady drizzle. The falls of Falloch were getting bigger and there were some of the muddiest sections of path on the whole walk to negotiate.
A bit clarty
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A damp patch
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There was one particularly gruesome bit at a gate near Keilator Farm where cattle had gathered and left inches of liquid s**t on top of the mud. The cattle just stood there and looked at us, and we looked at them and in the end I just had to get in among them and push them aside to get through.
"This is our toilet mate, you'll have to make us shift"
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Where's the path?
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Lunch was taken inside, in the luxury of an underpass under the A82, with only our feet in water.
Entrance to Dining Room
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It’s a long pech up through the forested sections between Crianlarich and Tyndrum and I kept saying, as I did all walk, how good the views were on a clear day. We had a nice coffee and biscuits at the campsite at Auchertyre, where it had briefly stopped raining. I finished my coffee and decided to use their toilets, but as I set foot on the wooden steps (yes, I should know, wet wood is slippery), my right foot shot away from me and my bum and head made contact with every step - lots of bruising followed and sitting down was awkward.
We were due to stay at our Tyndrum B&B for 2 nights, and as they were full, they offered us the exclusive use of their chalet in the grounds. It was great to be able to relax and dry out our clothing and boots properly. It’s a great B&B, with views of Ben Lui, the bloke is a keen walker and his wife is a brilliant cook, evening meal was fantastic.
Day 5 10 mls / 1,500ft. Tyndrum to Inveroran Inn
We took it easy and had a wander around Tyndrum finally setting off at about 11.00. and yes, it was raining. We had our packed lunch sitting on the wet grass with our backs to a wire fence, trying to shelter our packed lunches with our hoods. There comes a point where you really give up trying to stay dry. The Bridge of Orchy Hotel was packed out so we continued to the Inveroran Inn, encountering gales, sleet and hail on the highest part of the hill. We went into the walkers bar and had a huge mug of tea and some of the best fruit cake imaginable (so good, we always call in there for some when we’re in the area). Then another batch of walkers dripped in and we stood looking at each other and just burst out laughing - cue swapping stories and comparing waterproofs.
Day 6 10mls / 1,000ft Inveroran to Kingshouse
It was raining when our transport left us, and it never stopped all day, getting heavier all the time. The old road across the moor was like a stream at times and we had to settle for eating our packed lunch under some pine trees away from the road.
Our restaurant
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The approach to the ski ground road - a canoe would have been handy
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We managed to squeeze into the Kingshouse walkers bar among loads of dripping wet walkers, standing room only. Our B&B transport arrived and took us to Ballachuilish, where it wasn’t raining. We had dinner in the local pub, where all talking stopped and heads turned when we walked in - a bit wild west sort of thing,
Day 7 9.5 mls / 900ft. Kingshouse to Kinlochleven
Yes, it rained from the start and there was a covering of snow on what we could see of Buachaille Etive Mor.
Buachaille Etive (More or Less)
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The Devils Staircase was an easy pull, with decent views forming to the South, but on the other side, it was a howling gale and we had difficulty in staying on our feet at times.
Looking down the Devils Staircase - not steep at all
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The sleet on the higher ground turned to heavy rain on the way down to Kinlochleven and we were being constantly buzzed by competitors in the Trials Bike competition.
Going down to Kinlochleven
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Day 8 15 mls / 2,050 ft. Kinlochleven to Fort William
A long day, but the sun actually came out at times.
The first sunshine for nearly 3 days
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It was very blustery, with sleet and hail showers stinging our faces below the Mamores.
The old road below the Mamores
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The final trudge along the road to Fort William is so tiring, the longest few miles I‘ve ever walked. We made it though, and cheered ourselves with a nip of whisky carried from Glengoyne.
Been there, done it - never again
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We enjoyed the experience, despite the weather. The camaraderie of walkers gets better as the weather gets worse and we often remember our encounters and have a good laugh - but I’ll never be allowed to forget my unfortunate choice of time of year to do the walk.
Last edited by Border Reiver on Mon Apr 18, 2011 1:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Swimming The "Wet" Highland Way

Postby Manime » Fri Apr 15, 2011 12:01 pm

Really enjoyed your account of the WetHW. Looking at doing this next year and maybe May will not be the best time to do it.Saying that I would put up with rain rather than the midges. :thumbup:
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Re: Swimming The "Wet" Highland Way

Postby Libby Smith » Fri Apr 15, 2011 1:21 pm

Enjoyed reading about your wet west highland way walk me n my friend are doing it next Friday (good Friday) hope we have better luck way the weather wil keep u posted !! :D
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Re: Swimming The "Wet" Highland Way

Postby ChrisW » Fri Apr 15, 2011 2:34 pm

Thanks....put me off the WHW for life :lol: :lol: not really, unlucky with the weather but in a few weeks you'll think you had a great time and in a few years you'll want to do it again :lol:
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Re: Swimming The "Wet" Highland Way

Postby Border Reiver » Fri Apr 15, 2011 8:34 pm

ChrisW wrote:Thanks....put me off the WHW for life :lol: :lol: not really, unlucky with the weather in a few years you'll want to do it again :lol:

The few years have passed and sorry, but I haven't had the urge to do it again. It was done more out of morbid curiosity as to why thousands of walkers follow little thistle signs for 90 odd miles, when there's so many better routes that can be done in Scotland that don't have hoards of people walking them.
We did enjoy it though and met some really nice people and were very unlucky with the weather - it had been dry, hot and sunny in early May the previous year. I would recommend anyone to try it - it's character-building.
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Re: Swimming The "Wet" Highland Way

Postby PeteR » Fri Apr 15, 2011 8:58 pm

Brings back memories this. Have done most of the WHW in two sections, so so far it's taken me just 2 days. Just have the section from Rowardennan to Ardlui to do and I'll have it done in three days. Over a period of 3 or 4 years that is :lol: :lol: :lol:

Some of these paths though that you had to walk through :shock: Many would have turned round and gone home :lol:
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Re: Swimming The "Wet" Highland Way

Postby malky_c » Fri Apr 15, 2011 9:09 pm

Border Reiver wrote:I haven't had the urge to do it again. It was done more out of morbid curiosity as to why thousands of walkers follow little thistle signs for 90 odd miles, when there's so many better routes that can be done in Scotland that don't have hoards of people walking them.


I've never had much interest in doing it, for exactly those reasons. That said, if my wife had a sudden urge to do it (fairly unlikely), I'd have no hesitation in going with her.

My mum and sister did it last May, and I joined them for the final day to Fort William. Strange, walking along a massive path in a large precession of people, and didn't change my mind at all. They enjoyed it though.

If I had a spare week to go hiking somewhere, I'd much rather spend it finding my own way and getting into some of the really remote parts of the country.
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Re: Swimming The "Wet" Highland Way

Postby Border Reiver » Sat Apr 16, 2011 12:12 am

PeteR wrote:
Some of these paths though that you had to walk through :shock: Many would have turned round and gone home :lol:


I think the cows blocking the path would have stopped a few walkers. No amount of arm flapping and shouting made them even flinch. I was born and raised in the country though and my Grandad was a farmer, so I knew that it was safe enough, but boy did some of them need a good shove with my shoulder to get them to move. My city-bred fiancee was panicking and took nearly as much moving as the cows.
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Re: Swimming The "Wet" Highland Way

Postby Graeme D » Sat Apr 16, 2011 10:16 pm

Fond memories from 1997 8) . Cheers for posting. Mind you, in '97 I got the Scorchio Highland Way experience. Sorry! :lol:
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Re: Swimming The "Wet" Highland Way

Postby pollyh33 » Sat Apr 16, 2011 10:31 pm

Loved your report but I'm so sorry that you didn't have the best time. I did it last year (beginning of July) and it was glorious 8) 8) . It was so dry that some of the guidebooks were telling you to look out for waterfalls and burns that didn't exist!! We did it in 5 days and while it was doable, it didn't leave an awful lot of time to explore your destination at night.

We're doing it again this year, at similar dates but over 7 days and it could be a complete washout!!!

Thanks for posting,

Polly x
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Re: Swimming The "Wet" Highland Way

Postby TDrexel712 » Mon May 20, 2013 6:44 pm

After reading your diary I can only say, wish me luck! I am coming over to walk that same stretch with my daughter in the fist week of June. I'm hoping the 1 month difference will prove to be all the difference in the world ( deep inside tho', I doubt it). Will post again when we are done. Perhaps my daughter will post a photo of the cairn under which she will have interred my remains!

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