walkhighlands

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A very good walk, but take your time

A very good walk, but take your time


Postby eggyboff » Sat Jun 04, 2016 3:28 pm

Route description: West Highland Way

Date walked: 15/05/2016

Time taken: 6

Distance: 150 km

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Edits since revisiting the area:
I've edited the text to correct a mistake that I shouldn't have made.
And, I've been told that I should put photos for those people who want to spoil the surprise so here they are: https://goo.gl/photos/1S5Srkvjw83g7qWe8

Hello,

I've just completed the West Highland Way and thought I'd pass on my experiences.

It is a difficult and long walk but (and probably the same for every long distance walk) only as difficult as you want to make it for yourself. You need to physically prepare for walking upto 6 hours a day and plan where and when you can stop for provisions, breaks and camps.

If you are physically prepared and you've planned everything well, you can simply enjoy the walk. I went with enough preparation and planning but then threw it all out of the window when I was actually there.

I don't want to upload any pictures because I was glad not to have had prior knowledge of some things. I was able to be amazed by things that I didn't expect and not put off by anything that I had seen.

After reading advice on the internet about starting slow and steady and not over doing it in the first couple of days, I decided that I would stick to no more than 6 hours a day of walking. Other advice included not carrying too much weight, my pack weighed 20kg and there was nothing that I felt I could do without (I later realised I could have dropped 4-5kg)

My plan for day 1 was to get as far as Drymen and no matter how I felt or what the time was, I'd stay there.

I started off from the Premier Inn at Milngavie just before 9am. (oh yeah, try and get into the habit of pronouncing this correctly or you'll look like an idiot to any local. It's pronounced something like Mullgeye (as in eye)) As soon as I entered the Mugdock woods, I realised that there are a lot of different paths in there with people going in different directions on different walks and I needed the map straight away. Once out of the woods, everybody seemed to be heading the same way and the route was easy to follow.

When you get to the Glengoyne Distillery, there is a path directly to it. If you like whiskey and looking round places like that, you should go over. I was surprised to find that this was the only one on the the whole route. I thought there'd be others so I never went but regretted it afterwards.

I arrived in Drymen at about 12.30. After something to eat in the Drymen Inn, a bit of a read of the official WHW guide and a few drinks, it was 2pm. I don't like sitting around doing nothing so I decided to make the coming days slightly shorter and carry on towards Conic Hill and find somewhere to camp later on.

This is where I realised that the official guide maps need careful examination. The scales are not all the same.

[Edit]: All this is wrong!
You get to a point on the walk upto Conic Hill where you've been walking through forestry land for a while and you enter the wild camping exclusion zone but, because of the scale change on the map, I walked straight into the zone without realising and when I did, had the choice of walking back or carrying on to Balmaha. Balmaha has no official camp site, was very busy and I didn't feel comfortable planning to wild camp there.


I really should learn to look carefully at pictures...
DSC_0442.JPG

I've added a "You are here!" so you know where the photo was taken - nowhere near the exclusion zone.
[/Edit]

So, on to Milarrochy and a total first day of over 10hrs walking and 37km (23miles).

The camp site at Milarrochy was nice. £6.55 for walkers, loads of showers, toilets, a kitchen, the shop was cheap, the ground was good and plenty of shade. I'd stay there again.

The maps that I had seen before going, showed that there weren't any official camp sites between there and Inverarnan which is where, according to those maps, the wild camping exclusion zone ended. In fact, there are at least 2 other official sites before Rowardennan and the exclusion zone ends before Inversnaid. But given what I believed, the plan was to walk around 32km that day.

I don't know if day 2 was difficult because it was difficult or because I had made it difficult with my first day of walking. All I know is that when we eventually got to Inversnaid, I felt like there was no way I could carry on. I say "we" because, although I started the walk alone, I kept bumping into this French guy and it seemed like a good idea to walk together. He was as exhausted as I was and the story from other people was that the rest of the Loch Lomond path was even more hard work. We had managed almost 8 hours of walking but only 22km.

The hotel, with en suite and plenty of places to hang drying clothes, was £25 pppn or £45 with a 3 course dinner and 2 course breakfast. We stayed in the hotel, ate well and had a good night's sleep.

After having covered more distance in the first 2 days than I expected and feeling much better than I expected, I changed my plans slightly to go along with my new walking companion. The plan for day 3 (the day I genuinely had to ask what day it was) was to walk to Tyndrum, about 30km on.

People were right, the rest of the path on Loch Lomond was harder but after a night in a hotel and a good porridge breakfast, we got through it ok. Beinglas was a welcome sight and the food wasn't bad either. While we ate, we watched the weather coming in and set off all prepared for a good soaking. Luckily, we outpaced it for most of the day.

We made it as far as Auchtertyre (27km, 9hrs) in heavy rain and decided to stay in one of their very expensive wooden shed things. There was nothing about that site that I could recommend (other than maybe walking passed it if you can)

On day 4, the plan was to walk the whole way to Kingshouse Hotel (33km) but with the option of wild camping if it was needed.

We set off in good weather, had the obligatory stop at the Green Welly Stop and were enjoying the walk and meeting new people and people we'd already met. It was a good day. That was until about 4km from Bridge of Orchy, it started raining again and quite hard. We met a volunteer for the WHW who asked us our plans and told us that it would be impossible for us to wild camp on Rannoch Moor because of the rain.

When we got to Bridge of Orchy and found out that a simple soup in the hotel was over 6 quid and there was nowhere else to comfortably take a break, my day took a turn. Luckily, my French companion remembered passing the community centre and seeing a guy on his own at a desk in the middle of a big hall. He went and asked if we could shelter for a bit and that's what we did. He had just started a new job to rejuvenate the building and turn it into something that visitors and the community could use. It was very welcome and I hope his plans go well.

While we were there, we decided that we would probably split up once we reached Inveroran since I was in no rush and didn't think I could make it to Kingshouse that day. As it happened, I did carry on and when I saw that there were places where you could quite happily camp, I was much happier to carry on.

You've probably read it before but this stretch from Inveroran to Kingshouse is probably the hardest of all. For me, it wasn't the distance, lack of shelter, ascents or descents, it was the path surface. My feet were absolutely killing me but the closer we got to Kingshouse, the more I just wanted to carry on. It was also in my mind that the closer we got to the Devil's Staircase of the next day, the easier that would be.

We eventually made it to the Glen Coe ski resort where there was enough space for our 2 tents, after 33km and over 11 hours of walking. That was a long hard day and one I would definitely split into 2 days if I do it again.

The camp site was ok with showers, toilets and water (straight out of the river and quite brown), but the ground was hard and I bent 2 pegs. There was also the most annoying cuckoo I have ever heard. I have no idea how much it was because we got there after the shop closed and we left an hour before it was due to open. They can send me a bill.

I was glad that we hadn't pushed on to Kingshouse, it was actually a few km further on and was a very busy wild camp site with no amenities and the hotel won't sell anything to none guests before 10am.

Anyway, the plan for day 5 was to get to Kinlochleven, about 18km away. But, since we had the Devil's Staircase to climb, I expected a tough day. I took nowhere near enough water that day, in the hope of reducing weight for the climb. The plan was to get something on the way.

Many people will disagree with me here but, the Devil's Staircase is not at all difficult. There are routes up Snowdon that are harder. From the road to the top of the staircase took less than an hour without the need for a single break other than a photo at the top. The rest of the walk to Kinlochleven was much more difficult with plenty of rocky undulating terrain (and it started raining heavily again). I ran out of water about an hour from the town and the only water around was too difficult to get to or in huge pipes going to the power station.

When we got to Kinlockleven, there is a camp site right next to the power station. We actually considered staying there until we checked the map. We stayed at the MacDonald hotel which has enough space for about 10 tents. The ground is very hard and I bent another 2 pegs but the hotel itself has a really nice bar. Since it was probably everybody's last night on the walk, we met up with so many people that we'd met along the way. It was like a big reunion party and without doubt the best night of the trip. I wouldn't recommend the venison burgers though but the local brewery does some very nice ales.

Day 6 was the final day and with less than 25km of it, it shouldn't have been too difficult and should have been quite enjoyable. To begin with, some idiots had left a roaring fire in the woods just off the path. We couldn't leave it like that so spent a while putting it out. By this time, it seemed that everybody who had a train to catch or remembered that they had a video to return or really needed to get to Fort William as quickly as possible for some other reason had all caught up with us and needed to get passed. The day felt very different. Very few people had time to talk, take pictures or look at the scenery. It was strange. We decided to just get out of their way and continue to enjoy the remaining time on the walk. Then it started raining again.

Thinking back now, I think this part of the walk had some of the most beautiful scenery of the whole walk but by this time, I had started to take it for granted and didn't appreciate it. Take a good look and photos even if you think you're bored of it!

The walk into Fort William is longer than you expect so try and save some energy for that. On your walk into the town centre you'll probably bump into many people you'd met previously and there are always people willing to take your photo sitting next to the sore feet bloke.


I'd like to thank everybody on the walk for helping to make it so enjoyable (especially Patrick for the continued motivation)

The highlights for me were the people I met, both locals and visitors, the night in Kinlochleven and of course all the amazing views.

If I do the walk again, I'll try and stick to my original plan and take 8 days or more. There are a lot of things to see that aren't directly on the path and some sections would have been even more enjoyable if I wasn't so exhausted. I'd also take less food and things I never used - I finished the walk with around 4kg of food (all disgusting because I'd put it together myself)


All in all, a really good walk and I hope you enjoy it!
eggyboff
Wanderer
 
Posts: 2
Joined: Oct 24, 2015

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