West Highland Way June 2017 - What an adventure!

Date walked: 02/06/2017

Time taken: 8 days

Distance: 154km

Walk reports made such a difference when I was planning out my trip on the WHW, so here's an absurdly long one as a thank you.

I've been living in Scotland for almost 5 months now and thought the WHW would be a fantastic way to get to know the country better. Normally I do all my adventuring alone, but I decided it was time I share an experience with someone.
Since I don't know anyone here, I recruited a nice internet stranger to join me. We later picked up a stray Australian about half way into the trip who joined us for the rest.

I only really started hiking when I moved to Scotland, since the outdoors are much less accessible in Canada for people without cars. With only a handful of day trips under my belt, the WHW was definitely intimidating.

My pack, including food and water, weighed between 10.5-13kg (depending how much of each I had with me).

Pro tip: Have lots of 1 pound coins with you. There was an honesty box on almost every stretch and it was quite often the pick-me-up we needed. I wish I had brought a pen and paper to write little thank you notes.

**Distances are not completely accurate, but close enough.


Day 1: Milngavie to Drymen (12 miles/19.25 km)

We hopped on the train from Glasgow city centre and arrived with plenty of time to take pictures, grab our WHW passports, and have some minor freakouts at what we were about to do.

The first day is quite easy going. It's not known for being the most scenic day, though I personally enjoyed it quite a bit. It was a beautifully warm and sunny day which made it an even better first day for getting into the swing of things.

Around the half way mark, there is a hand painted sign on the trail for a restaurant that's just up ahead. It's a rather cheeky sign that reminded us “It's only another 87 miles!”.
We stopped in there for lunch, “The Beech Tree Restaurant and Cafe”, which was a super fun and walker-friendly place to have a break.
After some nachos and petting goats, we headed off at a leisurely pace to tackle the rest of the day's miles.

We were going to camp at Drymen camping, but it was a mile or mile and a half away from the town. Since we didn't want to tack on that distance to day #2, we kept going and crossed our fingers we could find something in town.

Day #1 was definitely lulling us into a false sense of security with how well everything was going. We showed up at Kip in the Kirk hostel and they had 2 beds for us – their first free spaces in 10 days.
Don't do what we did! Accommodation can be hard to find, try and book what you can in advanced.

Though a bit pricey at £30 a bed, it was a wonderful place to stay! They greeted us with tea and scones fresh out of the oven. The beds were super comfy, and everyone we met were wonderful.

Day 2: Drymen to Rowardennan (11.5 miles/18.5 km)

Everything hurt. Which was nothing compared to how the end of the week would feel. This was also my first encounter with midges and dang, they will drive a person bonkers.

There isn't too much to say about the first half of the day. It was smooth paths and some nice views.
Then we got started on Conic Hill. On a normal day it's not something I'd struggle with too much. But with 12kg on my back and being sore from the day before, I'm not sure I stopped complaining on my way up to the top.
The small section to get up to the very top is a bit of rough going. This was my first time using my walking sticks and I was SO GLAD I bought them, especially towards the end of the WHW.

WOW the views from Conic Hill, I really wasn't expecting that at all. There was a storm behind us and a combination of rain and sun ahead of us which made for an absolutely stunning show.
We eventually convinced ourselves it was time to leave and headed to Balmaha for a nice long lunch.

The “Oak Tree” was a great lunch stop, but heading next door for icecream before we left was even better! The “Kinder Bueno” icecream perked me right up and I was ready to go for the second half of the walk.

Here's where I royally screwed up. I had written up a plan which included 2 accommodation options for each night. “I'm so prepared” I said. “Nothing could possibly go wrong” I said.
I had planned for us to stay at Cashel Campsite, under the impression it was right before Rowardennan. Until, around 5 pm, I looked to see how far away we were from the campsite. We were close, but the city was still miles away. “Oh shiitake mushrooms”. We definitely didn't want to add that extra few miles onto the next day.

So at 5pm, we were googling frantically to find a campsite close to the city. We found Sallochy campsite, which was about 1.5 miles closer to the city. Not perfect, but we went for it! This still added well over a mile to our next day.

My bad.


Day 3: Rowardennan to Inverarnan (16.5 miles/26.5km)

Why did no one warn me about day #3?
Why did no one say “Oh and by the way, you'll probably cry today and question all life choices that led you to this point”?

That extra couple of miles we had to do thanks to my “oopsy” was all up and down (though extremely pretty). We didn't leave til 10am, because it was our first time packing up camp. And it was pouring rain, super midgy out, and we were lazy and unprepared bums.
When we got to Rowardennan, we stopped into a pub for breakfast. By the time we actually started our day where we were supposed to, it was noon.

The trail to the half way mark was not the easiest. Lots of ups and downs, rocks to climb over, and big steps that destroyed my little legs. Apparently, at some point, the WHW splits into two sections before this part. The easier/higher route, and the “strenuous, challenging route” right along the lake (according to my guide book). I don't ever remember seeing this split, but we most definitely took the challenging option.

We stopped at the hotel in Inversnaid for lunch...ok, it was dinner at that point. I was sitting there thinking “there is no way I can keep going”. I asked my friend why we couldn't just stay there for the night and split this day into two. He thought I was joking.
I was most definitely not joking.

I believe it was sometime around 5:30pm when we left to begin the second part of the day. This stretch was by far the most difficult part of the WHW. The first 3 miles were endless large boulders and rocks that I had to scramble over at some points. Being only 5' tall, heaving my body (and backpack) up rocks that were frequently thigh high was very quickly taking its toll.
At one point, I slipped on a wet rock and took a nice chunk out of my shin. I spent the next 20 minutes holding back tears and trying not to throw a tantrum. Mostly a success, though I did stomp my foot a couple of times.

It was getting late, we were completely exhausted, and so thankful we booked into a nice cozy hotel for the evening. We FINALLY saw a little town and jumped for joy, our pace getting much much faster as we got closer. Until we realized the path was going weirdly far around the town, and finally checked the map. It was a different little town, ours was still 1.5 hrs away.

By the time we got to our hotel, Drovers Inn, it was 11 pm. When the lovely man at reception told us our room was up two flights of stairs, I had to fight the urge to punch him.

Drovers Inn is falling apart and I absolutely loved it. I have never been to a place with so much character.
Our room didn't have a bathroom....our floor didn't even have a shower. But it did have a bathtub and nothing could have been more perfect in that moment. My feet were so tender I had to use the wall for support to walk the 5 feet from my room to the bathroom.

....We took the next day off.

I will say that I wish I could have enjoyed this more. While it was definitely a hard route, it was also really beautiful. I'd like to do this section again when I'm fresh.


Day #4: Nothingness
We stayed in Drovers Inn, moving to a nicer room on the second floor. At some point we hobbled over to Beinglas Farm Campsite to do laundry, buy a much better pair of socks, and eat way too many chips.
This day off was not planned but I am so completely glad we took it. Neither of us would have made it through another day and it would have been the end of our WHW journey.

Day #5: Inverarnan to Tyndrum (13.25 miles/21.25 km)

After learning a very hard lesson on day #3, we decided to pull ourselves together. Got up nice and early, and I started my morning by spending 20 minutes covering my blisters with plasters and wrapping other hot spots with tape.

This was a MUCH easier day and we were so very thankful for it. We hadn't recovered from day #3 and our feet felt like walking on bruises. This was quite similar to day #1, with good trails and very little ups and downs, except far better scenery. However it was quite muddy so a decent part of the trail was stepping from rock to rock.

We went at a fairly slow pace and took lots of short breaks, something we should have done from the start.

We took the 15-20 minute detour off the trail to Crianlarich and had a nice long, cozy lunch at the train station's tea room. There is also a well stocked store in the town, so we replenished our first aid kit and snacks.

The next few miles of the trail had a bit more up and down, but was still fairly nice (except the mud). When we were a couple miles from the end we stopped at another campground which had a tiny cafe...something wigwam's? It was nothing fancy at all, just a small store that also sells bacon rolls and coffee, but it was a nice break from the rain.

It was a slow walk to “By The Way” (hostel/campsite) where we stayed in a little hut. It was surprisingly roomy and had a bathroom, I loved it.


Day #6: Tyndrum to Inveroran (8.7 miles/14km)

Our original plan was to do this day and the next as a single day, but our bodies were just not having it. Plus we had scheduled an extra couple of days so there was no pressure to keep to that schedule. I'm definitely happy we split the day into two, it was lovely being able to rest in the afternoon.

The first half of the walk could not have been more perfect. It was a flat walk, absolutely lovely weather, and the scenery was stunning. So many mountains and adorable little lambs frolicking around.
We stopped off at Bridge of Orchy for lunch then headed off for the next section. We were warned that it was pretty much straight up hill and...that was accurate. This hill just seemed to go on forever, but wow did it ever reward us with some fabulous views. There was a short muddy path up a hill next to the trail that we went up and had a nice half an hour break at the cairn before getting back on track.

We wild camped for the night in the designated area just past the bridge in Inveroran. I've read on here how unfriendly Inveroran hotel can be to walkers and was lucky enough to experience that myself. We had both dinner and breakfast there (it's the only option I believe) and they seemed annoyed by our existence.




Day #7: Inveroran to Kings House (9.6 miles/15.5km)

I'm going to sound like a broken record but...what a beautiful walk. It was raining non-stop all day and I still loved it. There was a lot of gradual incline, but otherwise quite an easy day. Though after 6 days of walking, I'm not sure anything was really “easy” at that point. Our new friend who joined us the day before had a Jetboil, so we found a bit of shelter around the half way mark for a nice warm meal and some hot chocolate. Just a heads up: there is no half way point to grab food during this stretch, it's a bit more remote.

We decided some luxury was in order, so we grabbed a little hut at Glencoe Mountain Resort. They don't have much room, but the shelter was very welcome. The resort has a large cafe that is super expensive, but a good place for a hot meal.

Day #8: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven (9 miles/14.5 km)

Half of the trails were more of a creek, with clear running water that was usually a couple inches deep or more. Beautiful views of the mountains this day and we really took our time to take it all in.

There was no mid way town/restaurant, so we had our lunch on a bench across from the Devil's Staircase as we psyched ourselves up for the climb ahead.

I started off quite strong on Devil's Staircase, but it didn't take me long to lose steam. It's amazing how much a backpack can slow you down (yes, I'm blaming my pack. Shush.).
It wasn't near as hard as I thought it would be, but it was still unpleasant. We took our time, with lots of quick breathers on the way up.

We had a break at the top and with our newfound energy, considered continuing up the hill to do the munro (I think?). Until we laughed at our ridiculousness and continued downhill on the WHW.
The trail was a bit rough at times, with lots of rocks that were tiring on the feet.

We had hoped to get a hotel but everything was completely booked. We managed to grab the last two tent pitches at Macdonald hotel/campsite.



Day #9: Kinlochleven to Fort William (15 miles/24 km)

What a weird feeling. In some ways I was excited for it to be over as my body was pretty damn tired. But in other ways, I was going to really miss my friends. I'd miss the simplicity of getting up and having nothing else to think about for the day except walking. Getting to explore the beauty of Scotland, getting to push myself.

The walk out of Kinlochleven was around a mile straight up hill out of the valley. Not a gradual incline, either. It was pretty dang steep. I mean, how was there so much “up”? How did the hill not...run out of up? I was most unhappy.

There is no stop along this stretch, so we found a cozy place under some trees around the half way mark for lunch. The trail was quite slow going for a big chunk of it because of the rocky ground, our ankles were screaming at us pretty good by this point.

The second part of the trail was a bit of a let down, for the most part. The view of Ben Nevis was absolutely beautiful, but the walk is mostly through a deforested area.

That never ending walk into Fort William was bitter sweet. Though by that point my feet hurt so much that I was pretty excited to get to sit beside that statue.

As we walked down the main street, many walkers congratulated us and gave us the last bit of encouragement we needed (“the statue is just a few more meters!”, they lied).
When I finally got to the man with sore feet, I gave him the biggest hug. I have never been so happy to see a statue in my life.




I learned so much from this adventure. I learned how to pay better attention to what my body needs, I really got to know my kit. I feel like I know Scotland so much better now, and I'm even more madly in love with the country.
It's been a few days since I finished the walk and my feet are still a bit tender, weirdly itchy, and I'm already planning my next long distance walk. I came back 5.5lbs lighter and with a lot more confidence to get out more and explore.

9 days on the WHW and I made it through fairly unscathed. But the bus ride back to Glasgow....I spent the whole time throwing up. Those winding roads are something else.

Click to mark this as a great report. Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).

Comments: 12


User avatar
Activity: Hill Bagger
Gear: REI Flash 60

Munros: 1
Corbetts: 1
Sub 2000: 1
Long Distance routes: West Highland Way   

Filter reports



Trips: 1
Distance: 154 km

Joined: Apr 14, 2017
Last visited: May 23, 2020
Total posts: 13 | Search posts