18 May - 24 May 2013
The West Highland Way is a linear long distance footpath in Scotland, with the official status of Long Distance Route.
The 154Km (96miles) route starts at Milngavie (approx 7 miles north of Glasgow) and passes through Mugdock Country Park, follows the shores of Loch Lomond, passing Ben Lomond, through Glen Falloch and Strathfillan, crossing Rannoch Moor, past Buachaille Etive Mor to the head of Glencoe, climbing the Devil’s Staircase, descending to the Loch Leven before entering Lairigmor and Glen Nevis and finishes at Gordon Square in Fort William.
This would be my first time walking the West Highland Way. I have lived in Scotland all my life but I never really took an interest in the outdoors until 2011 after dragging myself up Ben Nevis in an effort to lose weight. That was followed up in 2012 by walking stages of the Great Glen Way, after that there had to be a plan for 2013 and there it was. My friend and I agreed to complete West Highland Way over 7 days, we set the date for 18 May 2013 and spent the entire winter looking forward to the spring.
Ready to head for the hills
May 17 finally arrived. My father transported us to Milngavie on the Friday afternoon, the kind chap would act as our baggage transfer service for the week.
Upon arrival in Milngavie we paid Tesco a visit before heading to Bankell Farm, 2 miles east of Milngavie where we would spend our first night before our big adventure.
The campsite was fairly busy and fairly cheap at £6.00 per night. It thankfully stayed dry for the evening as we pitched our tents for the first time of the 2013 season. Then we got down to business, celebarting the start of our adventure with the first bbq of the season, washed down with some well earned Stellas.
JP with his first Beer.. and certainly not his last!!
First BBQ of the season
Bankell Farm camping ground
Day 1 - Saturday 18 May 2013
Milngavie to Carbeth - 5 miles
Carbeth to Drymen - 7 miles
My father drove us to Milngavie Centre, where we got our picture taken stood by the obelisk, the starting point of the WHW. We popped into Costa for a quick Latte before making a move about 10am.
The official start of the West Highland Way
We started to make our way to Drymen, a 12 mile walk passing through Mugdock Country Park and Carbeth as the rain came on heavy. We ran for cover at the Glengoyne Distillery, taking advantage of the lower priced tour.
Finding our way through Mugdock country park
The honesty shop at Carbeth - a test of trust.
Stopping for a tour of the Glengoyne Distillery
perhaps one too many at the Distillery?
Upon reaching Drymen, we pitched up at Drumquhassle farm before taking a walk into the village, where there is a few shops, pubs and a hotel. There is also a bank with a cash machine.
Day 2 - Sunday 19 May 2013
Drymen to Balmaha - 8 miles
Balmaha to Sallochy Bay - 4 miles?
We left Drymen through the Garadhban forest (or what used to be a forest) and climbed over a very misty Conic Hill to eventually arrive at Balmaha and the foot of Loch Lomond.
The de-forested Garadhban - once a popular spot for a wild camp, now a bit of a mess.
JP passing through the destroyed (once thriving with nature) forest
Misty day up Conic Hill
Coming down from Conic Hill, towards Balmaha. It was busy up there.
The foot of Loch Lomond at Balmaha
We made use of the facilities at Balmaha before replenishing our supplies at the village shop and heading off around the loch, towards Rowardennan. We didn't go as far as Rowardennan as we had pre-booked camping at Sallochy Bay, about 3 miles before Rowardennan. This is a really nice place to camp, especially if you book a pitch by the loch (which I did).
Views of Loch Lomond
walking along the lochside
Happy campers pitched up by the loch at Sallochy Bay
We arrived at Sallochy Bay at about 4.30pm and then waited a short while for the warden to arrive so that we could show our reservation, rent a firepit and buy some firewood.
We chose a perfect spot by the lochside where we could play music without disturbing anyone then got the BBQ fired up, the tunes on and the non-labeled vodka poured ready for a relaxing Sunday evening tipple by the loch.
It kept dry throughout the evening and even the temperature through the night was awesome, as I remember not even needing my sleeping bag. It was a grand evening.
pitched up at Sallochy, ready for a chilled evening by the loch
The sun begins to set over Loch Lomond
Enjoying a tipple by the fire,
Day 3 - Monday 20 May 2013
Sallochy Bay to Rowardennan - 2-3 miles
Rowardennan to Inversnaid - 7 miles
Inversnaid to Inverarnan - 7 miles
Several hours later after regaining consciousness, we woke up to a beautiful morning by Loch Lomond, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, but my head was stinging.
Waking up to a beautiful morning by Loch Lomond
We had breakfast (the usual porridge pot and a coffee) before packing everything back into the van and setting off on a long walk towards Inverarnan. My Dad would meet us at the other end.
This would be our hardest day of the week, a walk of approx. 17 miles to reach the top end of Loch Lomond.
The plan was to get a nice meal at the Drovers Inn when we finally arrived at Inverarnan.
Farewell Sallochy Bay as we head off along the loch towards Rowardennan
Loch Lomand Tours
It took us a couple of hours to reach Rowardennan where we stopped for a drink in the beer garden at The Rowardennan Hotel.
Then we carried on through Rowardennan, passing the Youth Hostel and the route up to Ben Lomond, following forest tracks and some of the lochside path to reach Inversnaid where many other WHW walkers were congregating.
More grand views along Loch Lomond as we soon reach Inversnaid
Views from the dock at Inversnaid
It must have been around 4pm that we passed through Inversnaid. It had turned out to be a really nice day.
We stopped at the Inversnaid hotel to use the facilities and enjoyed a refreshing, cold glass of Coke from the bar before pressing on. We thought about ordering food but decided against it as we'd brought noodles. So we continued on a little farther until we reached a small beach area where we sat down for a rest and made our noodles.
Pressing on past Inversnaid as the sun lights the way, it was a warm afternoon.
looking over the bonny banks as we stop for a break
It must be noodle time
The next stage was interesting as we followed a rocky lochside path to reach the top of Loch Lomond. It actually felt like we were on an obstacle course as we scrambled over steep muddy paths, giant rocks and tree roots, climbed over gates and crossed small wooden bridges for the next few miles. A real life game of snakes and ladders it was, but an enjoyable experience and the many ferile goats we met here also seemed to be enjoying themselves. I'm not so sure it would've been enjoyable if it had been raining.
We continued along the lochside path into the evening, eventually passing by Doune bothy. There was nobody home so we gave the place a quick inspection. It was up to my standards.
Approaching Doune bothy
Some time (much) later we finally completed the bonny banks of Loch Lomond and began to approach Inverarnan as the sun began to set. We passed a herd of wild deer while nearing completion of the loch, they seemed a little offended by our presence.
Magnificent view over Loch Lomond as we look back
We finally stumbled into Beinglas campsite (Inverarnan) at about quarter to 10, slightly later than expected. My father had been (impatiently) waiting there for us, in his van, for some time and was now rather angry at the time it had taken us to arrive! It was too late to go to the Drovers Inn as they stopped serving food at 10pm and we still had to get the tents pitched up. We got the tents up then ordered some hot food at the Beinglas campsite bar as they were just preparing to close. Then it was time for some much required sleep. zzzzzzzzzzzz
Day 4 - Tuesday 21 May 2013
Inverarnan to Crianlarich - 6 miles
Crianlarich to Tyndrum - 6 miles
It started off another bright and sunny morning as we set off on a 6 mile walk, across open moorland, towards Crianlarich, followed by another 6 mile walk, mostly through forestry to reach Tyndrum.
We didn't need to stop at Crianlarich for anything so avoided the turn off and kept walking.
Beinglas complex, camping area is on the right
passing through the forest
crossing the river at Tyndrum, this can be difficult to cross after torrential rain
Pitching up at 'By the Way' in Tyndrum
It was a reasonably short day, arriving in Tyndrum by mid afternoon. We got the tents put up at 'By the Way' campsite then my Dad drove us back down to Inverarnan where we enjoyed a meal at The Drovers, since we never made it the previous night.
The Drovers Inn, Inverarnan
Then it was back to the campsite for another peaceful sleep, seeing us fit for another long walk.
Day 5 - Wednesday 22 May 2013
Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy - 7 miles
Bridge of Orchy to Inveroran - 2 miles
On day 5 we were joined by some of my family members, who had driven all the way up from the south for a long weekend at Glencoe. They drove up early to meet us by the Green Welly Stop where we grabbed a Coffee and supplies before heading off towards Bridge of Orchy. We got off to a late start but this would be our shortest day, covering only 9 miles to reach Inveroran.
my sister with the dogs
We picked up the old military road, never losing sight of the railway to arrive at Bridge of Orchy 7 miles later, where we stopped for lunch at a picnic bench by the river.
Bridge of Orchy train station
Arrival at Bridge of Orchy
My family left us at this point and drove off to Glencoe to do their own thing. My Dad stuck around with our gear for an hour until we reached Inveroran.
Leaving Bridge of Orchy
It didn't take us long to reach Inveroran as the weather began to take a turn for the worst. The Inveroran camping area was a little further on past the Inveroran Hotel. The original plan once reaching the camp was to have another bbq and a tipple by an open fire, I had even collected some firewood but unfortunately it wasn't meant to be as we began to experience all seasons of the year in one day.
pitched up Inveroran wild camp area
We became tent bound for the rest of the day as the area was suddenly bombarded by giant hailstones followed by random showers of rain, sleet and snow. It got very cold, winter had somehow returned in the space of a few hours. There wasn't much to do except cook inside my tent which I now know was a stupid thing to do!!
That was followed by an afternoon nap.
don't try this at home kids
Throughout the evening more random walkers turned up, including some brave dude with a bivvy bag.
i think he was drunk.
Day 6 - Thursday 23 May 2013
Inveroran to Kingshouse - 10 miles
Kingshouse to Kinlochleven - 9 miles
Woke up to a cold morning and forced myself out of my sleeping bag, unzipping the tent for a peek outside.
Most folk had already left and we were behind as usual, the man in the bivvy was still lying there though, not sure if he was actually alive or not.
I woke JP up and told him to get a move on as we had a long day ahead of us, a 19 miler to reach Kinlochleven.
Dude with the bivvy bag, he was still lying there in the rain the following morning once everybody else had left, I feel bad for not prodding him with a stick to check if he was ok.
We packed up and waited for my father to arrive in the van as he was once again taking our gear (lazy I know but he offered). The weather had calmed down a bit.
We had some breakfast at the van before starting the next stage, towards Kingshouse.
It rained pretty much all the way.
Crossing Rannoch Moor
miles of 'nothingness'...
We stopped at the Glencoe Ski Centre cafe for a Coffee before plodding on a little further to reach Kingshouse, taking in some magnificent views of the mountains of Glencoe.
Mountains of Glencoe
Upon reaching Kingshouse, the usual herd of wild deer were congregating outside the hotel, getting a little cheeky because we wouldn't feed them.
Mooning Deers, wild animals can be so rude!!
We were hungry but didn't stick around for Venison as the weather was pretty rubbish, we just wanted to push on, making our way around the back of the hotel, where there is a wild camping area for anybody who is interested.
We made our way along the grassy path, which becomes parallel to the main road past Glencoe, to arrive at the bottom of Devils Staircase.
Looking back on Glencoe
Some would say climbing Devils Staircase is the worst part of the walk but it was far from it, although maybe because we didn't have any packs to carry.
View from the top of Devils Staircase
We then pondered on over through the mountains towards Kinlochleven (in the rain!!).
Pondering over the mountains...
Eventually we were graced with the first views of Kinlochleven peeking through from the valley below, we began descending through the forest to reach Kinlochleven about 7pm. My Dad was waiting for us and gave us a lift to the campsite.
Blackwater Hostel reception
Blackwater Hostel campsite
I had hoped to camp at the Macdonald Hotel & Campsite but forgot to book and they were all full up so we settled for the Blackwater Hostel instead. When we arrived it must have been about 8pm. It was very busy but we managed to find a space and got the tents pitched up before a walk up the town.
Day 7 - Friday 24 May 2013
Kinlochleven to Fort William - 16 miles
Our final day had arrived and after a steep climb out of Kinlochleven we were eager to reach the finish line.
We made our way through the mountains, stopping at the ruined farmhouse for lunch as the big bright thing in the sky made its return.
Looking back down on Kinlochleven
First views of Ben Nevis
nice views all round
We stopped again for a noodle break about 2pm as the weather got really hot. It stayed nice for the rest of the day and we began looking forward to a nice cold beer and a long overdue barbecue.
Noodle time again
First views of the Fort
...and after a depressing stroll through yet another de-forested forest (what a mess), we eventually arrived at Glen Nevis campsite about 4pm where pitched up before walking the last couple of miles into the town to reach the original, and then the official end of the West Highland Way. Some other walkers offered to take our pic, which we accepted then it was off to Morrisons for the barbecue and Beers, lots and lots of Beers.
Pitched up at Glen Nevis
Barbecue and Beers, I think we earned it!
Nearing completion - the original end of the WHW
We made it!! ...
BUT I cheated ... so I'll need to go back to the start and do it all over again, WITH the heavy pack, perhaps in 2015?
Hope you enjoyed the report as much as I enjoyed the hike.