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West Highland Way with my 12 year old

West Highland Way with my 12 year old

Postby CraigD53 » Sat Aug 19, 2017 6:28 pm

Route description: West Highland Way

Date walked: 03/08/2017

Time taken: 8 days

Distance: 150 km

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I've been up the West Highland Way a few times but decided to write a report this time as it was a wee bit different from my other trips.

This West Highland Way adventure started at the beginning of the school summer holidays when my son Jack (12yrs) asked if we could try and walk it during the hols.

After a week or two of discussion I realised he was in fact completely serious and worked out I had enough time off work to attempt it at the start of August.

So after a trip into Edinburgh for some new gear and a couple of practice walks (we would have done more but he knee'd himself in the face at a trampoline park and was unable to walk for a while!) we set off on 3rd August.

Before setting off I booked a tent pitch at Sallochy Bay campsite on Loch Lomond for our 2nd night and hobbit/trekker huts at Tydrum and Glencoe for our 4th and 5th nights. The weather forecast was not good and getting worse by the day so a last minute booking at Kip in the Kirk in Drymen for our first night was also made. I was planning on it taking us 7 days to get to Fort William.

Day 1 – Milngavie to Drymen 11 miles Kip in the Kirk
We didn't get started until about 1pm when our train got into Milngavie. Weather forecast was completely wrong and instead of heavy rain it was very sunny. This afternoon was actually really nice, strolling through Mugdock woods and then onto Drymen. We arrived in Drymen about 7pm, the last mile was pretty tough going for Jack and I started to worry about our chances of making another 85! Was really glad I'd booked us a room at Kip in the Kirk, great place, really nice owner and met a few other walkers.

Mugdock Park.jpg

Day 2 – Drymen to Sallochy Bay 13 miles Sallochy Campsite
Earlier start to today so although a couple more miles than yesterday plenty more hours to do it. Again weather forecast wrong, it had been predicting heavy rain but infact although a bit dull it stayed pretty dry. We both enjoyed the walk up too and over Conic Hill, the first views of Loch Lomond were great. Halfway down towards Balmaha I noticed Jack no longer had his waterproof jacket tied round his waist so I had to run back up the hill. Fortunately I found it (right at the top of course!!).
After a pizza and recovery beer at the Oak Tree Inn we carried on along Loch Lomond to Sallochy Bay Campsite. Again the last mile or two was tough but we still enjoyed it.
We had one of the Loch side pitches which was quite private and amazingly midgie free. I hired a firepit and bought a bag of logs from the warden and we spent the evening chilling out on the beach by the fire eating my famous chorizo pasta. Apparently the midgies were pretty bad along in the grassy main camping bit but bizarrely they didn't bother us.

Conic Hill.jpg



Loch Lomond.jpg

Day 3 – Sallochy Bay to Inverarnan 17 miles Beinglas Campsite
This was the day I thought might go pear shaped so I got Jack up really early and we set off by about 8am. First midgie attack of the trip while I was packing up the tent but throughout the whole trip I had our head nets and can of smidge spray in my pocket for quick access.
It didn't take us long to get to Rowardennan but the next section from Rowardennan to Inversnaid was hard going to say the least! It was a lovely sunny day and extrememly hot, we felt like we were in a jungle at times. This was the first time I had taken the low path after Rowardennan, it's now finished and the signs send you down it. It's very slow going but it is a beautiful section. It just seemed to take us a very long time to get to Inversnaid, I think it was about 2pm when we got there and a sudden downpour soaked us just as we approached it.
We were not looking the best as we entered the Inversnaid Hotel but the receptionist was very friendly and directed us to a room they have set aside for walkers to dump their gear in. Then through to the bar for a nice pub lunch (actually the cheapest of the trip).
We took a good long break here before heading out for the last 7 mile stretch to Beinglas Farm.
This didn't actually seem as hard as the last 7 miles, although it was pretty muddy in parts.
As was becoming a pattern now the last couple of miles really dragged on. We were delighted to finally arrive at Beinglas Campsite.
What had been a big day of exertion and heat took its toll on us, so although I'd been hoping for a few pints and watching the live music a very early night and lots of sleep in the tent was required instead.

Loch Lomond2.jpg

In Loch Lomond.jpg

Day 4 – Inverarnan to Tyndrum 12 miles Pine Trees Leisure Park (Trekker Hut)
This morning I decided to add an extra day to our trip to try and avoid another day as big and tough as yesterday. Fortunately the staff at Glencoe Mountain Resort were kind enough to put my hobbit hut booking back a day to give us an extra day to make it to Glencoe, reducing the daily milage considerably.
This still meant 12 miles to walk today so I let Jack have a long lie, something he's really good at! We decided to have the whole morning off and I took the opportunity to wash our clothes. I'd only brought enough for half the trip so had to do this today or tomorrow anyway.
We set off at about 1pm and the weather forecast actually got it right today, rain all day. Waterproofs on and a slow trudge to Tyndrum.
The rain and cool wind was actually nice after the roasting hot previous day. The forest section over towards Tyndrum was lovely. We stopped at Strathfillan Wigwams for a coffee/hot chocolate and ended up sitting there for ages chatting to other walkers. The rain was torrential but we were dry in the shelter and knew we only had a couple of miles to Tyndrum so weren't in any rush to leave. Finally we did set off and for once the last couple of miles of the day were fine. We had a nice little Trekker Hut at the Pine Trees Leisure Park and after another helping of my famous chorizo pasta and a wee wander up to the Green Welly for some supplies (slushy for Jack couple of beers for me) we got a great nights sleep.


Day 5 – Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy 7 miles Bridge of Orchy Hotel
Due to the added extra day we now had two days to walk the 17 miles to our hobbit hut at Glencoe Moutain Resort. I had a feeling the midgies were going to be out in force tonight so had called the Bridge of Orchy Hotel and the Inveroran Hotel and discovered there was only one extremely expensive room available tonight at the Bridge of Orchy. So the choice for tonight was either wild camp behind the Bridge of Orchy hotel, near to the Inveroran Hotel or somewhere inbetween or blow the budget on the hotel room.
After much discussion (well about 30 seconds worth) I booked the room! A celebration of getting more than halfway and a well earned night of luxury.
Needless to say spirits were high as we left Tyndrum. After a great breakfast in the Green Welly we only had 7 miles to walk to the Bridge of Orchy Hotel. Kind of a rest day really.
Even a really heavy rain shower couldn't dampen our spirits and we got a good laugh when we had to get off the trail for a camper van driving along it!! I have no idea how they got onto the trail but they were struggling to get off it. They drove down to Bridge of Orchy but there wasn't an exit there so they turned and drove back passed us. They may well still be driving up and down it. Definately cheating doing it in a campervan. We made the most of our luxurious accommodation and watched a few movies in our room from the hotels dvd selection. Had a nice meal then a great nights sleep.

Tyndrum to B.O.O..jpg

Day 6 – Bridge of Orchy to Glencoe 11 miles Glencoe Mountain Resort (Hobbit Hut)
After a lovely breakfast and helping ourselves to the fruit bowl for later on we were off feeling great as we climbed over to the the Inverornan Hotel where we popped in for a can of coke for a wee energy boost. The staff were really friendly and we sat in the bar for a bit. Then it was up and over the Rannoch Moor. The sun was out and it was a really enjoyable walk over. We chatted to a few other walkers along the way and even got a lovely performance from two young guys playing ukeles right in the middle of the moor. You don't see that every day! Only slight hassle was the midgies, they only really bothered you if you stopped and sat down so we just kept going. Occasionally we found a windy bit where we could stop for 5 mins without midge attack.
Arrived at the Glencoe Mountain Resort feeling pretty good and got our hobbit hut.
After 6 days of carefully putting our waterproofs and rucksack covers on or sheltering during showers to try and keep our gear dry we made a right cock up as we decided to go up the chairlift. We jumped on without noticing that the sky behind us looked like Mordor and got caught in the most torential downpour I have possibly ever experienced!! By the time we got off we looked like we'd fallen in a loch. Amazingly our phones survived the experience and luckily there was a drying room so I managed to get everything except my shoes dry.
As expected as the evening came so did the ferocious Glencoe Midge! I was so glad we were in a hobbit hut but it did get a bit warm inside. No sleeping bags required.

rannoch moor1.jpg

rannoch moor2.jpg

Day 7 – Glencoe to Kinlochleven 11 miles MacDonald Hotel (campsite)
I was really looking forward to this day and it didn't disappoint. Nice sunny day and a great walk along to and up the Devils Staircase. Nice cool breeze at the top meant no midgies and we sat for a while enjoying the view of the mighty buachaille etive mor before the long descent to Kinlochleven. This bit dragged on but we were in Kinlochleven by mid afternoon and camped at the small site at the Macdonald Hotel. This is a really nice hotel and a nice little campsite but was a bit of a midgetastrophe in the evening and next morning. Nice to be able to chill out in the bar though before getting some sleep. Unfortunately a painful night for me as I woke up about 4am in agony on the ground convinced my air bed had burst. Dozed on and off for a few hours in pain before finally coming round a bit and realising I'd just rolled off it. Jack got a good nights sleep though.




Day 8 – Kinlochleven to Fort William 15 miles
Nice brekkie in the Macdonald Hotel, then headnet on for packing up the tent. Then we were off, took it easy on the steep climb out of Kinlochleven then just enjoyed our last day walking over to Fort William. Overcast day but no rain and Jack was just delighted as he knew we had made it.
As we walked up the pedestrian area towards the finish some walkers we'd seen on and off over the last 8 days were also there and congratulated us, especially Jack. I think it was starting to hit him just what he had achieved. Got our photos with the old man statue before the long train journey back to Glasgow then Edinburgh. Then back to Penicuik to see Mum and wee brother Oli who it felt like we hadn't seen for months.



Here's a few of my thoughts which hopefully will help anyone else planning a similar trip :-

Mileage - The 17 mile day alongside Loch Lomond in the sun was a big day for both of us but especially Jack. He managed the other days including the 15 miles on the last day fine but the terrain on Loch Lomond and the heat made that day a lot tougher. Moving the trip from 7 to 8 days was a good call. With hindsight I should have planned it for 8 days from the start and split the days up better.

Feet - Neither of us got any blisters thanks to our footwear. Jack had chosen a comfy pair of merrel walking shoes and switched between them and his trainers. I had a pair of salomon walking shoes which were also super comfy although they did rub on the top of one of my little toes. It was great entertainment for Jack to see how big and red my little toe got by the end of the trip. I had bought Jack some wee hiking socks as well.

My rucksack - this was far too heavy!! If I'd dropped it a small earthquake may have ensued. However I didn't want Jack carrying much weight so he only had his sleeping bag, air matress and snacks. It would have been sensible to use a baggage transfer service but I decided I wanted the ability to stop and camp at anytime so it wasn't an option. My shoulders finally got used to the weight by about day 7. It certainly made the trip a good physical challenge for me :lol:

Midgies - We only got a few bites between us. This was down to having the nets/spray to hand whenever required. Having a good tent that didn't let any in and of course spending a few nights in trekker/hobbit huts and hotels. Also just keeping walking and taking our breaks at the windy bits.

Ticks - 0 incidents. I was worried they would be bad but amazingly we didn't see one. I was careful to try and keep Jack on the actual path most of the time and if we stopped for a seat I often put out a wee groundsheet for us to sit on, especially as he insisted on wearing shorts the whole time.

And Finally - Something I hadn't even thought about, but slowly came to realise as the days went by. Spending that amount of time with your child, away from school, friends, tv, xbox, his clubs, my clubs, my work and just going on an adventure together is a very special thing. A fair bit of planning and effort and some expense on the right equipment and accommodation but well worth it. We'll never forget it and hopefully we'll do more stuff like it.

Finally Finally - Jack took a few million video clips along the way and I helped him edit them into a couple of videos he's put on his youtube channel. If you fancy a look at a 12 year olds take on the WHW here's the links :-

Days 1-4 https://youtu.be/k_9kyuX4-w0

Days 5-8 https://youtu.be/n6Rt4tqXXag
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Re: West Highland Way with my 12 year old

Postby mcbboyd » Sun Aug 20, 2017 7:56 pm

Great report. Hoping that my son is up for a similar adventure in the next few years, sounds like you had a great time.

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Re: West Highland Way with my 12 year old

Postby AmieMac » Tue Aug 22, 2017 10:19 pm

Well done, both of you! What a terrific adventure.
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Re: West Highland Way with my 12 year old

Postby petert847 » Wed Aug 23, 2017 9:30 pm

loved the videos - reminded me of when I did the final four days with two of my sons who were 10 and 12 at the time. its great thing to do.
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Re: West Highland Way with my 12 year old

Postby CraigD53 » Mon Aug 28, 2017 4:58 pm

Thanks :thumbup:
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Re: West Highland Way with my 12 year old

Postby Mal Grey » Mon Aug 28, 2017 7:47 pm

This is wonderful to see, great to have proper time with your lad. Hopefully this is an adventure he will remember for years to come, and that it will inspire him to plan his own.
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Re: West Highland Way with my 12 year old

Postby Alteknacker » Tue Aug 29, 2017 10:26 pm

Great report and terrific videos - well done Jack! I really enjoyed reading/watching these.

I'm doing slightly less adventurous things with my grandsons, but I'm hoping to move up to something on this scale as they get older.
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Re: West Highland Way with my 12 year old

Postby johnscot55 » Mon Sep 11, 2017 1:47 pm

Great report of a great adventure. Well done. This summer I have done a fair bit of hillwalking with my grandson, aged 9,(only day trips mind you) and I totally understand what you say about bonding and quality time away from i-pads etc.
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Re: West Highland Way with my 12 year old

Postby Big unit » Fri Sep 15, 2017 8:57 am

Well done :)
We did the same journey three weeks before you and are heading back at halloween to continue onto the great glen way. I agree totally about the time spent alone with a son and they will remember it the rest of their lives
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Re: West Highland Way with my 12 year old

Postby CraigD53 » Wed Sep 20, 2017 4:55 pm

Thanks folks :thumbup:

Hope you enjoy the Great Glen Way :D
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Re: West Highland Way with my 12 year old

Postby ingridrehe » Thu Sep 21, 2017 11:20 am

Loved reading this story & well done to your son too. My son is 12 too and I've suggested to him we do this next year and raise a bit of money but more awareness for anti-bullying as this is something he has been through for a few years before going to high school. I can only imagine the sense of achievement and sheer joy your boy felt at the end of it and you too. Really good to see how many days you did this over too. I think we may do it by travellite and B&B as the tent we have is way too big/heavy to pitch on route. I did enjoy Jack's video that you posted on Scottish Hill walking and wild camping, reminds me of my boy and has given me a real sense of encouragement.

Thanks for posting this. :)
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Re: West Highland Way with my 12 year old

Postby CraigD53 » Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:41 pm

Thanks ingridrehe, I hope you and your son go for it next year. I know what you mean about the tent, I had a bit of trouble finding one spacious enough for both of us but also not too heavy for me to carry, or expensive. I finally found a suitable size one in Decathlon, it's a QUECHUA Quickhiker Ultralight Tent - 3-Man. If you did decide to camp it's not too expensive a tent at about £150. There are plenty of B&B's, hostels, camping huts etc to choose from though. Cheers.
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Re: West Highland Way with my 12 year old

Postby Bag50 » Sun Oct 01, 2017 12:50 pm


What an inspiration for your 12 year old lad. This is something that he will remember for ever. Very interesting and lovely read, thank you for sharing :D
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Re: West Highland Way with my 12 year old

Postby ConnorMGray » Sun Oct 15, 2017 6:13 pm

Amazing achievement and a well-written report! Really enjoyed reading it, your son must be tough as nails to get through all that at his age! Incredible!
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Re: West Highland Way with my 12 year old

Postby NeepNeep » Tue Oct 31, 2017 1:42 pm

Great report - really enjoyed that read. That is something you will both remember for a very long time.
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