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Walking the walk! A day by day account and advice!

Walking the walk! A day by day account and advice!

Postby Teddie1303 » Tue May 10, 2011 7:05 pm

Route description: West Highland Way

Date walked: 02/04/2011

Time taken: 7 days

Distance: 150 km

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Day one: Milngavie to Drymen
After 12 miles, one wrong turn, two pints, rude people and blisters we have arrived safely!

We headed up the side of the beautiful Allander water gurgling by our side, the sun breaking through the trees! It was lovely- so peaceful and so many lovely people. This was about the time of our first wrong turn- too busy chatting and we missed the waymarker! Fortunately a lovely gentleman pointed us in the right direction!

So off we headed and very quickly found our way in the heart of Mugdock Wood- ancient old woodland to the north of Milngavie; hard to believe it's only 10 mins from Glasgow!

Not long after this we were treated like proper ladies when the "laird of the manor" (least he thought he was!!!) held the gate open! On passing through the gate our breaths were taken away by the sheer beauty before us- rolling countryside with the mountains behind- a truly breath taking moment! I have the feeling this will not be the last such moment on our journey!

The path then joined the remains of the strath Blane valley railway- this led us to lunch and a pint at the beech tree inn. The next part of the route wasn't quite so inspiring as it followed the main road so the tunes had to go on!
The path left the railway not much longer after this and joined B roads- talk about up hill and down dale through a beautiful hamlet called Gartness. As we plodded on, I spied a most wondrous sight- the campsite at Easter Drumqhassie! We're now having tea in Drymen: chip butty- perfect end to a perfect day!!

Day Two: Drymen to Rowardennan Well here we are relaxing with the Scotland on Sunday having reached the youth hostel at Rowardennan - how glad were we to see it!?

We set off to Drymen armed with a ham piece in search of coffee- the post office had the required beverage- along with Scooby snacks for the journey!

We took the low road and spotted those who took the high road over Conic hill! Not on your Nelly - we were happy to be in Scotland at anytime!! (for those who know the song!!)

Now I have often heard it said that today's stretch is the most boring. If that is the case bring it on! The section outside Balmaha rises very steeply and is quite off putting as it felt as if we were doubling back on ourselves - however the scene from the top was absolutely breath taking! That is something we both love about walking; seeing what we have seen on numerous occasions but from a totally different perspective.

The descent took us down to the shores of Loch Lomond which we followed most of the way to Rowardenan, however this is not to say it was easy! Some parts were particularly arduous up rocky outcrops through ancient woodland, all the while the sun appeared from behind the clouds with a sporadic spot of rain!

By the time we reached the pub at Rowardennan we were starting to flag a bit however a couple of pints renewed our legs and feet enough to get us to the hostel!

A very welcome hot shower, noodles and cereal bar ended what has been yet another brilliant day! However we are so accustomed to our own company that the folk in the dining room were irritating the hell out of us- how dare they be loud and exhuberant?!!! ;-)

Day Three: Rowardenan to Inverarnan Now I don't know what Japanese water torture feels like but I'm pretty sure what we've done and felt today must be a close second!

The day started badly- opening the curtains to the horizontal wet stuff does not bode well for a day of walking! The first stretch of the way led up a very pleasant forestry commission track which gently rose and fell with the contours of the land. After some time this path narrowed and we were led into a beautiful stretch of ancient woodland.

Suddenly we found we were at Inversnaid- 7 miles in the bag- easy stuff! We had lunch at the hotel- what a joy to have food at a good price! Soup and roll £1.25 and main courses £5! Most places we have found have hugely inflated prices as us walkers are a captive audience!

After lunch we set off on what would be fun for about an hour then Japanese water torture for the rest!! At the point where it was fun we were clambering up and down over huge rocks and tree roots which were waiting to attack, Lesley was compelled to do an impression of a mountain goat! Just at that point we actually saw a herd of mountain goats!

Very shortly after this the ecstasy turned to agony as we rapidly fell out of live with this adventure of climbing up and down crags and cliffs! When we eventually reached the end of The Loch and the end of The torture. Upon checking the map we appeared to be only half way to our destination! For the next 2.5 hours we kept expecting to see the camp site! Hell on earth!

When the guide book says challenging- believe it and then some!!

Day four: Inverarnan to Tyndrum After we had unfolded ourselves from our "mattresses" on the floor at Beinglas wigwams we hobbled our way for a fab full cooked breakfast! Perfect way to start the day!

The first part of the walk, although slow going due to the aches of Japanese water torture was relatively easy along old drove roads passing stunning waterfalls en route.

After crossing the main A82 we were met with a fairly steep climb and the start if the military roads which we thought would be fabulous! How wrong were we? I've no doubt in the height of summer with no rain it is marvelous- however after two days of near torrential rain we were ankle deep in cow jobbies! Parts of the path were also tough as they were flowing like rivers!

After what seemed like an eternity we were at the end (of jobby path) - literally and metaphorically speaking! However after a seat and a snickers bar all was good in the world. Off we set on a woodland path which was carpeted with the most beautiful red pine needles! This section continued on up and down the mountainside for hours- enjoyable as it was we were pleased to see the road ahead!

The latter stage of around three miles was very pleasant indeed; old road, woodland path and gentle climbs into Tyndrum. At this point I spotted my mum and dad waving from their caravan and spontaneously burst into tears! After a coffee and choccy biccy we all meandered to By The Way where we almost started to hyper ventilate at the site of a proper bed!

After loading our wet garb into the splendid drying room we all went out for tea to Paddy's- at which point we were greeted with many known faces aglow with the days adventures asking how we were getting on etc- the camaraderie really is excellent!

Day five: Tyndrum to meant to be Kingshouse After a rather disturbed night of snoring and torrential rain we retrieved our belongings from the drying room, patched up Lesley's feet we had breakfast consisting of a cheese roll and noodles in a mug! Sustenance for our huge walk!

Torrential is the only word I can think of to describe the rain but somehow it doesn't quite seem strong enough for what we experienced today! Fortunately my dad bought us waterproof ponchos which we donned and off we set!

We should have seen the writing on the wall when we had to turn back because the first stream we had to cross had become a raging torrent over night! We picked up the path at the other end of town.
We made our way up a path which led to what used to be the old main road. Shortly after this led us up to a hillside path that took us up and down through rivers, waterfalls and paths which had become rivers- there were points when the only option was to wade! We then met a herd of Highland cattle, this was a moment of Dawning for me; I was wearing a red poncho and most of the herd were bulls!!

All the time the rain was relentless. We marched on in the hideous conditions! All the time our feet were getting wetter and Lesley's were getting sorer. We decided that it would have been foolish for her to continue- however by the time we got to Bridge of Orchy we were both soaked, miserable and in tears!

At this point a lovely man came out of his caravan having witnessed the tears and offered us a cuppy! Sweet man! He told us that it was the worst rain he had seen in three years!

At this point we declined as mum and dad once again came to the rescue so we both abandoned ship fearful of webbed feet/trench foot and returned to Tyndrum. We did hope that it would brighten enough to continue this afternoon! Not likely!!

Day six: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven No rain today!! Such a novelty! Ok, a few drizzle spells but that is nothing compared to yesterday!

The scenery up Glencoe really is stunning! The path follows the line of the A82 and is dominated by the omnipresent Buchaille Etive Mor- the colours of it changed continuously as the weather frequently changed.

After what seemed like hardly any time we began our ascent of the Devil's Staircase- with some trepidation I hasten to add! However it was nowhere near as bad as I anticipated! In fact we both agreed that climbing Ben Lomond was more taxing! The views as we rose were truly breathtaking!! The summit called for the obligatory photos beside the cairn.

And so began our descent along the at times very uneven military path. After an hour or so we saw Kinlochleven nestling in the valley far below where we stood- almost like a village in the Alps and the snow dotted peaks were resplendent in the sun. Yet another false sense or security- we spent the next two hours descending into the village without apparently getting any closer! Not to mention the fact the the downhill was killing my knees and almost finished off Lesley's feet completely!

We arrived at our destination in good time and checked into our micro lodge- kettle, microwave, fridge, tv and beds in it!! Such luxury! The Tailraace pub is the place to meet the other walkers and have good grub and a pint before bed!

Day seven: Kinlochleven to Fort William the final hurdle We did it!! We did it! WE DID IT!!! :-D
The day didn't perhaps begin as well as could have been hoped... A disturbed night is not conducive to chirpiness in the morning!

I set to making our gourmet breakfast of noodles, coffee and cereal bars!

After the obligatory visit to the co-op for supplies for the day we set off. The initial part of the walk climbed steeply out of Kinlochleven through the woods. To be honest, although not sure if it was us this morning or not, but tis climb was much more taxing than the devil's staircase yesterday!

Upon reaching the top we continued along the contour lines of the land along military paths. We continued along here for easily 5 hours passing some interesting ruins along the way, harking back to a day when a living was made through crofting pre the clearances. The second set of ruins at Lairigmor proved to be a suitable spot for lunch- after which the military road continued!

When we got to Lundvarna the way was closed off due to the work of the forestry commission, the diversion in place led us down a tarred road to Fort William- 4.5 miles- brilliant! Least we thought so! It has to be the longest 4.5 miles EVER! Lesley's feet completely packed in and we had to swap boots!

Eventually we reached the finish point amid much emotion and had our photos taken etc! We were completely overcome that we did it- so much so we had to have a pint!

Although we've had high points and low points we are overwhelmed that we have done it and that we have seen so many stunning sights along the way.

Simple advice for would be WHW walkersSo now that is all ok we thought we'd share some simple advice for those of you hoping to undertake the WHW.
1. Wear well broken in walking BOOTS (trail shoes will see you landing up at casualty!!)
2. If you feel your boots rubbing, put zinc oxide tape (see point 3) on the parts before a blister begins.
3. Get at least one roll of zinc oxide tape; we got ours on ebay for £1.50 ish or talk nicely to a doctor friend for some! Seriously, I put it on any parts which felt a bit nippy (including thumbs - walking pole blisters!!) and had no blisters at all.
4. Two walking poles; these saved us as you can really dig in with them on the up hills and save your legs a bit.
5. Make sure you leave Milngavie with enough money to do you till you get to Kinlochleven. There are cash machines in Tyndrum but they charge for using them.
6. Prepare for all weather types en route!
7. Take PLENTY of painkillers
8. If you want a phone signal get a Vodafone sim as it seems to be the only network which works!
9. Forget taking a book or travel scrabble; by the time you have food, a couple of pints and read the guide book (believe it when it says challenging!!) for the next day you will just want to sleep!
10. Don't forget to look up at the view as you walk and above all enjoy the experience - it really is marvellous!!
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Re: Walking the walk! A day by day account and advice!

Postby campbellrc » Mon May 16, 2011 8:54 pm

My partner and I are doing the WHW way in September over 8 days, and i enjoyed your post it was the first real description I have read and funny in parts :lol: too, it must have felt good to Finnish it and a experience not to be missed too. :D well done :D
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Re: Walking the walk! A day by day account and advice!

Postby Teddie1303 » Tue May 17, 2011 6:31 pm

Hi Campbell!

We absolutely loved it- now that Lesley can walk again that is! I am planning to do the cateran trail in July....

Enjoy the walk- you will love it!

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Re: Walking the walk! A day by day account and advice!

Postby DougieFerguson » Thu Jun 02, 2011 11:06 am

Hi, I enjoyed reading your account of the WHW, its been several years since i did it ,but it brought back many memories, especially the hell on earth that is the trek along loch lomond , akin to having your feet put through a blender!!!.Thanks for posting and i hope the weather is kinder on your next walk.
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Re: Walking the walk! A day by day account and advice!

Postby Tazman » Fri Aug 23, 2013 3:48 pm

Well done both, and many thanks for the advice at the end of your report Teddie.
Got this route organised for next month and had originally planned on wearing shoes of the same brand I recently had a wet experience with while wearing their boots climbing through the long grass of Cauldcleuch and on to Greatmoor. I would have been as well wearing open toed sandals. :crazy: So I wont be buying anything from that brand again, EVER!
You have now convinced me to wear my old Scarpa 3-season boots instead and it won't take much convincing for my better half to wear her beloved Brasher boots either.
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Re: Walking the walk! A day by day account and advice!

Postby GillC » Sat Aug 24, 2013 8:02 pm

Oh dear, you make it sound really arduous, I must have been uber lucky on my trek 2 yrs ago, May, sunshine for 5 out of the 6 days, LOVED the stretch from Inversnaid and I took the lochside route lol I did the first 3 days on my own and it couldn't have gone better.

Your report brought back fab memories,,but Im so lucky in that I can honestly say,,i loved every single step and if time and money had allowed,,I would have turned at Fort William and walked back too, :lol:
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Re: Walking the walk! A day by day account and advice!

Postby cecilsson » Mon Oct 14, 2013 2:30 pm

Thank you for posting your report. As I plan my walk for next May the scenes I imagine are of me walking through the beautiful countryside bathed in sunshine, not being bathed by the downpours you experienced - thanks for the reality check. I will also be keeping your advice in my prep notes.
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