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West Highland Way May 28 - June 2 2015

West Highland Way May 28 - June 2 2015

Postby peterlec » Mon Jun 29, 2015 12:25 pm

Route description: West Highland Way

Date walked: 28/05/2015

Time taken: 6 days

Distance: 150 km

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I walked the West Highland Way, Scotland’s most popular long distance walking trail, from May 28 to June 2, 2015. It was a most enjoyable walk with a mixture of lowland farming, lake walking and the highland hills. The weather was generally not very good with a combination of rain, heavy rain, sleet and hail. May is supposed to be the best month the walk the way in terms of weather but I was not lucky – at least, I did not have any midges. I only had one day (day 3) when it did not rain very much.

I completed the walk in 6 days. Many of the people I met were taking longer – 7, 8 or more days to complete the walk. I found that the walk was not too difficult – the greatest difficulty was the weather with often finding oneself walking into driving rain or sleet. I would recommend the walk to anyone wanting to see some great Scottish countryside.

Day 1: Milngavie to Drymen (19.5km)
An early morning start in Edinburgh to get the 7am train to Glasgow and then to Milngavie. Got off the train at 8:45am and after buying a sandwich for lunch at the local supermarket, I was away by 9am. I had only gone about 1km and the rain started and so it was on with the rain jacket.

The walk was flat with the occasional rise, but overall very easy. The scenery was largely farming land – lots of sheep and cattle. This is the lowlands of Scotland which is noted for its farming.

I stayed in a bunkroom at a B&B called the Kip in the Kirk (a converted church) in Drymen. I was greeted with afternoon tea – tea and scones – very nice! They also had a great breakfast and Wifi access.

Day 2: Drymen – Rowardennan (22.5km)
The theme of the day was about Loch Lomond. Shortly after leaving Drymen and walking through some farming land, I walked up a hill and had a good view of Loch Lomond. The walk then climbed to the top of Conic Hill which provided a fantastic view across Loch Lomond as well as back down to Drymen. Walking up conic hill was over open land which meant it was easy to see that there were quite a few people on this walk. Much of the accommodation is booked out but you would not know for much of the walk.

After reaching the top of conic hill, it was then a reasonably quick descent to the village of Balmaha, on the shore of Loch Lomond. Balmaha has a national park visitors center as well as some shops and a good spot to have lunch.

The Balmaha to Rowardennan section was along the shore of Loch Lomond but was very up and down. It was, however, easy walking along the path as it was well made - I had expected it be quite rocky but it wasn’t.

Tonight’s accommodation was the Rowardennan youth hostel – in a room with 8 men. I was able to have dinner and breakfast the next morning at the youth hostel. Great idea as it was a bit of a walk back into town.

Day 3: Rowardennan – Crianlarich (32.75km)
I was away at 8am because I had 32km to walk this day. In the morning, I walked with a young scotsman, who had started walking the way at 12 midnight. He was aiming to walk all night and complete the walk by 9am the next day. He was participating in a fund raising activity along with 10 other people. I stopped and had a cup of tea and a scone at the Inversnaid hotel for morning tea.

Much of the walk this day was along the foreshore of Loch Lomond. It was undulating but provided good glimpses of the Loch. The path was very wide and made for easy walking – there was a little rock and tree route scrambling but less than what you would expect in Australia. This was an enjoyable section of the walk because of the presence of the lake. Sometimes, the voice from the guide on the lake could be heard which certainly ensured you were not far from civilization. I passed Rob Roy Cave, but it was not very impressive and hard to see how he would have lived here for any time.

After leaving Loch Lomond, it was then a steady climb for most of the rest of the day. Whilst undulating at some places, it was overall a steady climb which was not surprising given we were definitely in the highlands. Lunch was at Inveranan (at the café on the walk).

The walk up to Crianlarich was a steady climb up, with an easy wide road to walk upon. We had to cross under the main road and railway line a few times which we negotiated with no problems. One of the passes under the railway bridge was very low. Tonight’s accommodation was at the Crianlarich youth hostel, which also provided breakfast. Dinner was at the local pub in town.

Day 4: Crianlarich – Inveroran (25.5km)
It might have been a shorter day in terms of distance (26km only), but it was a much harder day because of the weather. We started walking in the rain, which although light was persistent. Until the Bridge of Orchy, we only had a couple of brief periods of sunshine. Most of the time we were walking into cold headwinds – they were coming straight off the snow that was on the mountains. Just for good measure, we had hail – small but it was definitely hail and not rain. We could have had snow but luckily that did not eventuate.

In the morning, we walked past the remains of St Filian’s chapel which dated from the 14th century. This chapel was established by an Irish priest who came to convert Scots to take on christianity. Shortly after the chapel we walked into Auchfertyre which was a camping site with lots of cabins and a yurt. There were a number of people leaving as we got to this place.

We stopped for morning tea at Tyndrum about 11am in a tourist shop on the A82 highway. It was like walking into another world. After walking through small towns and being on the track, it was amazing to walk into a busy cafeteria style shop bustling with people who had been traveling on the A82. We definitely felt out of place even though there had been some walkers in the shop as well.

Lunch was soup at the Bridge of Orchy hotel. After the Bridge of Orchy, the rain did clear for much of the way to Inveroran. This was good as much of the walk involved walking up to a ridge and then walking down the other side to the hotel at Inveroran. The mountains were covered in clouds which meant that getting to the top of the ridge did not provide a great photo opportunity. The ridge did provide a fantastic view down the A82 highway and railway line which run up the valley we have just come up. Tonight’s accommodation was the hotel at Inveroran – not much else there!

Day 5: Inveroran – Kinlochleven (29.75km)
Rain, rain and more rain. It only stopped for a short time in the afternoon as I was walking down the hill to Kinlochleven. The rain was coming in side on for much of the day.

The mountains on both sides of the valley where I was walking were covered in snow. There had been a major snow downpour overnight and the mountains looked beautiful. However, the wind was coming off the snowfields making for a very cool day walking in the valley. I stopped at the Kingshouse hotel for a cup of tea – I used the cup to warm up my hands – they were frozen and only warmed up after a lot of massaging and putting them against the warm cup.

The afternoon was a slog along the road and up the devil’s staircase. It was only a 200 metre rise and therefore not as big as many other climbs I have done. However, the weather made it a challenging walk up the mountain. After reaching the top and going around at the same level, it was then downhill to Kinlochleven, arriving at 3pm. Kinlochleven was the biggest town I had gone through as it had been a former mining town with an aluminium smelter. I stayed at the Quiraing B&B which was close to where you come into the town from the west highland way and was easy to find.

Day 6: Kinlochleven – Fort William (22.5km)
I got away at about 8:30am. It was not raining as we climbed out of the valley where the town was located and so we were lucky on this first section. However, the rain then settled in for much of the rest of the walking. It was steady rain with some wind but not as bad as the day before. Having said that, the boots got saturated and all the outer clothing was sopping wet. The gloves were saturated and the hands wet through.

The track followed the old military road for the first half of the day. It was easier walking than the day before because it was not all hard rocks. There were still plenty of rocks but it had gravel and dirt in between. There was still plenty of water on the track which made for much slushing as we walked.

I stopped for a break at about 11am under some pine trees, which provided some shelter from the rain. Interestingly, this was the first time I had actually stopped along the side of the road, as all other days there had been a hotel or town at about this time which provided the opportunity for a cup of tea and a scone. No such luck today as there was no towns between Kinlochleven and Fort William.

The walk today involved going over a saddle to move from the initial valley (Kinlochleven) to another valley which we followed for some time and then over another saddle to go down into Glen Nevis. It was a steep descent down into Glen Nevis. It was then a long walk along the road to the B&B in which I was staying. I was welcomed at the Brevins Guest House with a cup of tea and some marshmallows.

Reflecting on the walk, I had thoroughly enjoyed the walk. It was a great combination of walking through farmland (day 1), around a lake – Loch Lomond (days 2 and 3) and then alpine walking (days 4, 5 and 6). The walk itself was not tough but the weather conditions, particularly on day 5, made it a challenging walk. But this is Scotland and you have to expect all types of weather.

All the accommodation was arranged by Easyways – they did a great job and organised all the bookings. I would use them again to book the accommodation for the West Highland Way.
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Joined: Jun 29, 2015

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