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Scorching hot sun throughout WHW!

Scorching hot sun throughout WHW!

Postby willemvdl » Sat May 13, 2017 4:05 pm

Route description: West Highland Way

Date walked: 02/05/2017

Time taken: 7 days

Distance: 150 km

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Starting on the 2nd of may 2017 I walked the whw with a couple of friends. For each of us it was the first time to go on a hiking/backpacking trip. Also, due to our various backgrounds, most of us didn't really know everyone yet, other than a pre-meeting in january. The times I mention with the walking days include time for breaks.
This being my first trip, naturally, I overpacked. Extensive rain protection and back up food, not realising how easy it is on the whw to resupply (everyone says it, but i was still being skeptical). The weather though, was the complete opposite of what we expected..

Day 1: Milngavie > Drymen 5 hrs
After landing at Glasgow int. we immediatly took a taxi towards Milngavie. After a last-minute resupply/topping op on water, we set out. After a lovely walk through the park we were struggling to get up the first park-hills. Although the Milngavie/Drymen section isn't particularly exciting, it does get you worn in on distance walking. It is mostly straightforward and easy.
The Drymen campsite is a farmhouse with a set-aside-field where you can pitch your tent. It has showers, toilets, and a sheltered cooking place. All perfectly fine.
After pitching we walked 3km towards the town to have a proper dinner and some beers. Cheers to a good start!
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To Drymen
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Drymen campsite

Day 2: Drymen > Rowardennan 10hrs
Upon leaving Drymen at 9am we've had some interesting views on (i)conic hill. The whw goes almost all the way to the top. Unwanting to deviate from the official route we climbed it. Personally, I thought this a heavy climb because I was still trying to get used to it.
Totally worth it! The view was staggering and we had one of the prettiest lunch breaks we could imagine.
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Conic hill view on L.Lomond

The trip downwards was a bit more challenging with its steep descends, narrow stairs and the burning sun. (I can imagine that a proper rain could make it equally hard or even harder).
By the time we reached Balmaha it was already 2:30. We resupplied on water, pulled out the suncream protection and kept on walking towards Rowardennan.

At around 4pm we held a break at the Cashel campsite to cook some chicken soup. The last bit of this day was one to remember. Going up and down, up and down, up and down until, finally, we arrived at the Rowardennan youth hostel, which had a small camping ground at the shores of Loch Lomond. Exhausted, we pitched our tents and went into the hostel kitchen to prepare a huge pan of Pasta with tomatoe sauce and drink some strange orange drink that looked like rusty iron and tasted like fruity chewing gum.
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Dinner with rusty iron drink at Rowardennen

Honoustly, looking back at it now after having had much more intensive days on the whw and comparing it with that, I cannot imagine we were so tired, but we simply were. I guess that later, after some days, you just kind of 'wear into it'. Including time for breaks this day took us 10 hours but it was absolutely beautifull.

Day 3: Rowardennan > Inverarnan 7hrs
This was one of the most insanely beautifull days of the entire whw. Almost all of this days' part alongside Loch Lomond consists of climbing up, down, left, right, over the rocks, under the rocks, between the rocks, through the stairs and through the trees, etc. This part has some of the best views of the whw.
We stopped for a burger at inversnaid and after a 2 hour break (appearently they still had to go hunting for the meat, which was absolutely deliscious btw) we contineud. After a goodbye to loch lomond we walked through the hills towards Beinglass campsite (or at least: i think it was called beinglas). We had a shower, rinsed our clothes and ordered a meal. The atmosphere was really good and we met a lot of other travellers, of all sorts.
Inverarnan is a real cosy and clean campsite. Clearly suited for all types of hollidays around loch lomond.
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Alongside Loch lomond
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End of Loch Lomond

Day 4: Inverarnan > Tyndrum 6-7hrs
After having had a "full scottish breakfast" at the inn of the campsite we set off at about 10am. 1-2km near the end of this day one of my friends got a mild sun-stroke. In Scotland of all places... One moment he was walking closely behind me, fit and all, the next he dropped back, more zombie than alive. After arriving at the campsite he sat down in the shade, fell asleep and was gone for the time being. The same evening we went to the green welly shop and he bought a cap and neck scarf. We still like to tease him a bit for having to pay to make advertisement for someone else.
A large portion of hills during this day is done in the woods. The start is fairly exposed and after you reach flat land following the hills, you are rather exposed again. We briefly stopped for an icecream at a campsite that followed closely after a farm with young sheep. Dinner at Tyndrum consisted of Fish and chips at the "Real food cafe". Big portions of food for acceptable pricings and proper quality. Although most of our new friends (met them on the way) wanted to go to a pub afterwards, we felt more into resupplying and going sleep because the next day we would walk over 30 km.

Day 5: Tyndrum > Kingshouse 10+hrs
Brrrrrr Waking up and finding out that the clothes you put out to dry after rinsing are frozen so stiff that they can stand up straight on their own. All of us were cold and had swollen faces. My colleague bought a liner later to put in his sleeping bag, which hellped him a lot. My own sleeping bag (snugpack sleeper lite) was just warm enough to stay asleep. From that night on I put my clothes for the following day next to me inside the sleeping bag so that they would be warm when i would need to put them on.

This day was quite challenging: You know you are going to walk a huge distance (30km in Holland is nothing compared to 30km in mountainous terain), you don't know what it will look like and it is bloody hot.
My backpack wasn't a problem anymore: it had rather grew into becomming a part of me, me feeling naked when not carrying it, but it was still to become a considerable trip.
The part between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy is easy, flat and with a slow steady pace you'll still be fresh by the time you arrive within 2-2.5 hrs. The hotel has an outside water tap to refill your water bottles so be sure to drink massively and don't leave until all your bottles are fully topped again.
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At Bridge of Orchy

To get from bridge of Orchy to Inveroran you'll crossover a hill with a rocky path. At Inveroran there is a small inn where you can eat and drink and it is important to leave fully hydrated again because after this, you will not see any signs of civilization again. Then the path gets very rocky and goes into a prolonged shallow climb. From here till kings landing ,ahem, kings house, the whw is very exposed for a prolonged distance and i wouldn't want to walk here during storms. Of course, the sun was as merciless as the rain could have been.
This path is a real breaker and I got quite a bit of hardship with an older ankle injury which previously i thought of as restored. The logical response from earlier whw walkers was to make a small footpath just next to this one. This part of the trip was almost unreal: like wondering over the moon or something. Nothing out there but emptyness, hills and a path.
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Path to Kings house

When we made the final descent during dinner time, we expected to find a real "wild campsite" at kingshouse but also saw a sign for the Glencoe mountain range campsite, which was nearby and probably more luxourious. Due to it being slightly offroute, me and my colleague decided to drop our bags with our friends and have a quick look to see if they had space. Only one tent place left. We were with two. Plus 5 tents of other people whom we've met earlier and with whom we'd liked to have a beer later. So that wasn't gonna work. They did offer us to find a wild camping spot and use their (paid) utilities, but we decided nonetheless to continieu to our originall goal: kings house.

Kings house "wild" campsite was rather a piece of pitchable ground with paid showers and toilet nearby. Looked a bit like a campsite without needing a permit to have a campsite. We didn't care. We were tired, pitched tents, ate, and kind of showered (warm water costs a pound, resulting the water to be 2 degrees warmer, but anyway: it was more than we were originally expecting). Interesting was a family of deer to come out and scavenge every quiet moment for food leftovers.
Nearing Kings house

Day 6: Kings house > Kinlochleven 5hrs
The day of the devils staircase. We wanted to take this day easy and calmly in order to be fresh for the last leg a day later. We started walking relatively late, at around 10 or 11 I believe. Afterabout an hour we came at the foot of the devils' staircase. Although the climb is quite steep and rough, it is very do-able if you take it step by step. The view on top is magnificent and the descent into Kinlochleven afterwards takes a fair bit of time. Basically, this day you just hop over one mountain/hill.
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From the Devils staircase

At Kinlochleven we got surprised by seeing various fairly big forest fires (due to the dry and heat) on the hills nearby the blackwater campsite. Not an easy thing to relax in front of. But everyone in the village and campsite was cool and calm and by 6pm, all fires were already extinguished..
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Fires at Kinlochleven

Day 7: Kinlochleven > Fort William
The last day! We set off like normally, I quickly found the steep climb just outside Kinlochleven to be the same challanging as the devils staircase, and then we were off. Walking through a long valley, had a break at some ruines appearently used to keep sheep, and continieud towards Fort William. This day is also considerably exposed as the forest that people said would be there, is mostly chopped down and removed. Still, it was quite an emotional moment when we saw Ben Nevis comming closer and closer. By the time I was convinced we were practically there, we still had 8km to go. My fellows could shoot me at that moment.
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valley towards Fort william after leaving Kinlochleven

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Nearing Fort William

Walking very slow but steady, we reached the point at the road where you need to choose: right to the Glen Nevis campsite (+-500m) or left to Fort William +-3-4km). We already decided to first finish the whw properly so we went on to ft william. It was a killer. These last few km's we clearly felt all that we didn't feel in the mountains: feet, legs, joints, backs, everything. We had a false party when we arrived at the visitor's center and found out that it is no longer the end of the whw. So we strided through town and, finally, dropped everything at the feet of the famous bench with the statue. Done!. Where is the beer?
We had a delicious meal at the Ben Nevis bar and restaurant. The staff was friendly enough to allow us in with our big backpacks, even though I suspect it made them feel a bit uncomfortable. The day after we came back for another big dinner, by then dressed and washed and as neat as you may expect from restaurant visitors :wink:
We camped at Glen Nevis campsite. A huge, well maintained, well fascillitated campsite.
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Finally there!

Day 8: Ben Nevis 3,5 hrs up, 2,5 hrs down
Climbing to the top of Ben Nevis was my priority reason to come to Scotland this year. Ten years ago I broke off the climb due to being unprepared and it has stung me ever since. The climb was thorough but do-able. Especially after the WHW. It was a nice crown on an awesome holliday.
Over the top at Ben Nevis

It is hard to describe how a first-time experience like this feels. Starting each day more and more worn out, getting touchy, not knowing if you will manage to get to your prefered stop by the end of the day, finding time and again that each corner you pass gets followed up by another climb or descent. We also noticed that the fact you are allowed wildcamping at certain areas counts for almost nothing due to the terain being mostly unsuitable with the exception of some lucky points.

Finally, you feel you grow into massively liking the people with whom you do this. You all try the same, have the same mindset and determination.
And in the end, I got bloody bored when I got home afterwards. What am I supposed to do with my sea of free time (aka weekend) after such a busy week of "get up, pack up, breakfast and start walking"? I got a taste for more...
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WHW alongside L.Lomond. Row. to Inverarn. about 8km like this
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Joined: Jan 25, 2016

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