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West Highland, Great Glen and Affric Kintail Combo 1/3

West Highland, Great Glen and Affric Kintail Combo 1/3

Postby pbeauvillard » Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:20 am

Route description: West Highland Way

Date walked: 15/05/2018

Time taken: 15 days

Distance: 310 km

Ascent: 5191m

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Anne & Patrick - A french couple, used to long distance trails that we pratice 2 or 3 times a year, usually in the mountains. In May 2018, we hiked in Scotland, starting on the West Highland Way, then the high-route of the Great Glen Way, followed by the Affric Kintail Way. We then concluded our trip with a day walk in Inverness, and a couple of days in Edinburgh. Our trip report starts below. It is split in 3 parts : Part 1 is on the WHW, Part 2 for GGW, and Part 3 for AKW and the end. We hope you'll envoy reading and will forgive us for our english. Finally, thanks to Fairweather Softie, China88, Mal Grey, Gaffr, Scottk, Caberfeidh, Abbruce, Bootsandpaddles, and BobMcBob for their advices on the forum.
The Part 2, along the Great Glen Way, is here.
The Part 3, along the Affric Kintail Way, is here.
Our complete slideshow can be seen here : https://youtu.be/yvGqRqvGd24

Tuesday, May 15, 2018
We land at Glasgow Airport. David, a former colleague whom Patrick has not seen for 20 years welcomes us and takes us to his home in the West End. His apartment is superb, in the style of this part of the city, with large wooden fireplaces and doors with stained glass. We spend a very pleasant evening, including a whisky tasting that opens nicely this trip in Scotland.

Wednesday, May 16 (Day 1)

David drives us from the West Highland Way to Milngavie (pronounced "Mulgaye", or something like this…). We do some shopping at the local M & S store, and leave for our first day, under a beautiful sun. From the first kilometers, we pass a distillery: that of Glengoyne. It will be the only one on our way during our long Scottish trek, but we have just left, and it does not seem very wise to stop already ... We take our first break at the Beechtree Inn, where we have lunch inside since it is already quite hot outside! Then we hit the road again.
First hills, first rivers ... They are wide and shallow (that day!). The water is clear, and contrasts with the black rocks at the bottom of the bed. When the stream is slow, it gives a dark mirror effect, a little mysterious. In Drymen, we take a long break. First at the small food store to see what we can find as lactose-free and gluten-free food: it should not be a problem and much easier than in France. Then at the coffee shop where we have a tea but where the waitresses are in a hurry to close (it is close to 4pm). We stay on a bench in the sun and see, one after another, hikers we’ll meet about every day from time to time, on this path. Finally, we leave in search of a spot to pitch our tent, which we end up finding in the forest of Garadhban, with a view of Loch Lomond which appears right in front of us.

Thursday, May 17 (Day 2)

We decide to take the high-path that goes along Conic Hill, from where we clearly see the fault that separates the Highlands from the Lowlands. The view on Loch Lomond is exceptional. The descent is steep and tiring.
We arrive in Balmaha where we have a tea, taste (well ... Patrick tastes ...) the "Scottish Tablets", picnic, and take a long nap in the grass. A very pleasant break, but too long perhaps, as we have only walked 9km and there are 13 left before the youth hostel in Rowerdennan. This is the only night where we booked our accommodation as free camping is prohibited in this area of Loch Lomond. The path is difficult in fact and the stage seems long. We follow the lake, but with lots of rocks and rugged terrain like the GR34 in Brittany. We arrive tired in Rowerdennan, where the hostel is very nice, in a superb site. Too bad that the dormitories are separated; we wont be together for this night ?

Friday, May 18 (Day 3)

The stage is easier than the previous day. The wether is cloudy today, and a few drops of rain refresh us. We picnic on the terrace of the hotel in Inversnaid, and begin to get acquainted with other friendly walkers. We appreciate the freedom that carrying our tent gives us and which, unlike them, allows us to manage our course at our own pace. We take a short break at the "Doune Byre" boothy : it is quite welcoming, but we prefer to continue to Beinglass Farm where we’ll dine at the restaurant!

Saturday, May 19 (Day 4)

Loch Lomond is behind us. We are approaching the mountains. The rivers are becoming wider and make us think of the movie "And a river run through it" that we love so much. Once at Strathfillan Wigwams, we take a break and Patrick takes the opportunity to try his first "Dark chocolate millionaire pudding". From there we see the Ben Lui with his snowy summit. We continue toward Tyndrum and pass the “Loch of the lost sword”. Legend says that Robert The Bruce, pursued by the English, asked his troops to throw their heaviest weapons into the lake to lighten themselves. Among these weapons, the legendary sword of Robert I of Scotland, long from 5 to 9 feet according to the sources. That did not stop Robert from defeating the British a little further...

In Tyndrum we find a "Gluten free Fish and Chips"! Patrick discovers on this occasion that there is no milk in the battered fish : just eggs (whisked white), beer and flour. So, Anne eats her first giant Fish and Chips, and ... she likes it ?

Sunday, May 20 (Day 5)

It's raining this morning. Before leaving, we talk with Brandon, an Australian guy who has just completed the "Highland Trail 550", a mountain bike course, originally designed as a training for the Colorado Trail Race, and which is becoming a classic of its kind. We travel light but are still quite impressed by Brandon's organization and super-compact equipment. We will meet other bikers in Cannich a few days later, coming from the United States and Canada.
We do some shopping because the next store is in two days, and then we leave in the rain. It's our 5th day of walking and we have now a good and fast pace. We arrive at 11:30 at Bridge of Orchy, where we stop for a tea while waiting for the opening of the restaurant. We leave after lunch and join the young Dutch couple we meet regularly from the start. We took pictures of them, and them of us at the top of "Màm Carraigh".
They plan to stop at Inveroran and advise us to do the same: their guidebook says that after, it is the moor and rather austere. But we decide to continue as you want to reach Fort William in 2 days. Off we go, in the rain, in the moor, toward the "Black Mount". No doubt: we are in Scotland!!! In any case, the landscape fits well with the representation we have of Scottish landscape. But as the guidebook mentioned, we do not find a suitable spot for our tent. So, we're going on ... up to Bà Bridge. The moor, haze and rain create an environment of mystery. We pitch our tent and shelter. This is where we enjoy being really well equipped, and now well-seasoned: it is pouring rain, but we are all dry!

Monday, May 21 (Day 6)

The rain will not stop a minute that day. We leave quickly from our bivouac for a full Scottish breakfast at Glencoe Mountain Resort. To see the pictures on the walls, there must be a beautiful mountain above us! But we will not see it.
We will see all day and mountains and clouds playing hide and seek together. We picnic at the foot of the Devil's Staircase and finish the stage at Kinlochleven campground where we enjoy drying rooms for our rain equipment. Then evening at the pub! After 6 nights in the tent, we decide to sleep tomorrow at the Glen Navis campground but book a night at the hotel in Fort William before continuing.

Tuesday, May 22 (Day 7)

Very nice stage, despite a gloomy weather; a stage where we are really isolated, in the heart of the Mamores mountains. The stage transports us to historical times. First, we pass the cairn which marks the place where, in 1645, the Marquis de Montrose and Clan MacDonalds, stopped their pursuit of the Argyll’s army of the Campbells they had just defeated, although two times less numerous. A little further, we walk in the footsteps of Macbeth, the last Celtic king of Scotland (1040-1057), who is supposed to have stayed on the little crannog (an artificial island made of stone and wood) in the middle of the lake Lochan Lunn Da-Brha.
Finally, we arrive at Glen Navis Campsite without seeing Ben Navis, hidden behind the clouds. To console himself, Patrick will order for dessert a memorable sticky toffee pudding.

Wednesday, May 23 (Day 8)

Very short stage: We make the few kilometers that separate us from Fort William and enjoy a beautiful day to replan the rest of our hike, refuel and rest. After making the West Highland Way, our plan was to continue with 4 stages of the Great Glen Way, then join the Glen Affric at Alltbeithe through Invergarry – Poulary and Cluanie, to continue toward Inverness. But this plan seems finally a little too ambitious and we want to keep a day to visit Inverness, and two days at least in Edinburgh. We consult travel journals on the WalkHighlands website and interact with several walkers on the forum. Most advise us to do the entire Affric Kintail Way, even if not to make Great Glen that some people consider "boring". Finally, we decide to take the bus from Fort William to Fort Augustus, make two stops on the Great Glen Way taking the high route, from Fort Augustus to Drumnadrochit, and the four stages of the Affric Kintail Way, to the west. We’ll reach Inverness by bus from Morvich. And we can ensure you: we will not regret this choice!

The report continues with its part 2 here.
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