West Highland Way in Fabulous Weather

Date walked: 21/04/2022

When I used to try to persuade R (husband) to do a trail or a glen walk, he always used to say “Why ever would we bother walking between the hills when we can go up them?”

So now I only have myself to please, I thought I would try a Way, and what better than the West Highland Way which is so busy that if I came to harm someone would be along in a few minutes. Moreover it would be nice to identify the old friends we have climbed, starting with Ben Lomond and ending with Ben Nevis, though I did have to get out my map to identify things like Beinn Bhreac and Beinn a Choin.

I was too busy downsizing from a 6 bedroom house to a 2 bedroom flat and 18 sets of bookshelves to 2 to make all the phone calls and keep changing the dates, and reckoned anyway that a big firm would probably have a lot of the accommodation tied up, so contacted Macs Adventures to fix everything. Then Rounsfell from Scottishhills.com messaged me to ask if I was getting out these days, and would I like to join him for a walk. After some hesitation he signed up for meeting me on the Devil’s staircase, walking with me on the last day, and even driving me home. Brilliant since Trainline kept coming up with no return trains due to mending a tunnel.

The evening of April 21st found me in the Premier Inn, Milngavie. When I had got out my phone to look for the way, a charming old gent offered to walk me there. He only returned to Scotland on retirement, having spent most of his life nursing in Finland. When I said I found Finnish totally impenetrable, he confessed that he did too, but maybe he only nursed patients in a coma.
As everyone knows, the twelve mile walk to Drymen is flat, but to me, on the 22nd it seemed to go on for ever.



The only people I overtook were two youngish men with ginormous rucksacks. They were sitting down strapping up their blisters at a gate, and neither the couple from New York State, nor the Californians, nor the submariner and wife ever encountered them again, so maybe they pulled out, or maybe they just halved their mileage: having tents they could do that. I also met a young guy walking from John o’Groats. When I asked the others if they had met him, all denied any knowledge, but if you are not nosy like me, he would just be another walker, inexplicably walking the “wrong” way. I soon realised that in my head I was turning this walk into a strange version of “The Canterbury Tales”, much more interested in the people I met along the way than the scenery.


I hadn’t brought ibuprofen gel, so I suppose it was just the rubbing action that restored my legs using sun-tan cream in lieu of any better placebo.

Drymen to Balmaha (April 23rd) was much better. For a start, almost as soon as I left the road I took a photo which I soon realised had earned a BBC Weather Watchers Editor’s Pick.

Image /margt2008/]Margaret Squires, on Flickr

I had joined the scheme as soon as it opened in 2015, but lately have been getting far less at home, maybe they are bored with local views, or trumped by a contributor with foreground dog.
Conic Hill seemed to have eroded considerably since we last visited in 2004


Walking up it, I met an Israeli guy fresh from a conference about how to make the world a better place. I asked what conclusion it had come to, but it wasn’t that sort of conference, mostly one to one interaction where they learned about other people. The world couldn’t be a much worse place at present, so any efforts to be welcomed…I suppose.
The Californians overtook me here, and I got another Editor’s Pick of them walking over the shoulder of the hill.


Down at Balmaha I got chatting with a couple of London Ozzies. One was a psychologist and the other in advertising. When I asked what his best campaign was it turned out it was the one for American Airlines. They wanted someone with a really nasty image to become a pussy cat with their treatment, so went for James Gandolfinfi. 2nd Oz wants to get out of advertising into something more creative, but I won’t say what it is, in case someone else steals his ideas. They kept an eye on me from afar, emailing me every night to see if I had got in. I decided to be grateful rather than affronted.

I had only just set out from Balmaha (April 24th)when runners crossed my path and kept on overtaking me for miles. Below, the marshalls mind the road crossing



There was a race from Milngavie to Tyndrum and the elite athletes were just arriving. The London Ozzies got them on the really tough bouldery part of the track beyond Inversnaid. I would have hated that, but as it was only had to step to one side every 20 seconds or so. The winner took 7.25 hours. I managed another WW Editor’s Pick.


Nearly at Rowardennan I met three women, and chatting realised that they lived near where I had been brought up in Cheshire, and one’s husband took a photo of The Wilmslow Girls after I had discovered that The Rex had re-opened as an Art House cinema and the wonderful bookshop of my childhood had closed.



At Rowardennan I thought that the hotel was able to take advantage of its monopoly position: they appeared to have lost a pot of pepper in my vegetarian lasagne, and the replacement fish and chips wasn’t much better, but maybe I had hit them on a bad day. The situation was wonderful.

Out of Rowardennan (April 25th) The path split after a while and The West Highland Way is signed along the lower track, presumably because it is prettier, but the higher track looks (and was) reassuringly like a forestry track, so I went that way, and later heard people grumbling about the roots down by the shore.



Towards Inversnaid, I got overtaken by a guy who was fundraising for homeless ex-military people. He had been in the army himself, serving in Northern Ireland, Iraq, and all over on an eight year contract. He had decided that when he left he wanted to be in the Met. Before he left, got a letter assuring him joining would be a mere formality and gave in his notice, then an eye test ruled him out of his dream job and he is now a project manager for NHS buildings. He bought me a drink at Inversnaid, but it is impossible to get anything else, even a coffee out of the hotel. Their business model is to receive 3 coaches every evening, and see them off every morning. I was booked in at a B & B 1.5 miles up the road with dinner in a bunkhouse. I headed for the nearest bunkhouse and blundered into where people were eating looking for my dinner, until I located the owner who pointed me to a Bistro bunkhouse almost back at Inversnaid, where I landed up eating with the ex-soldier. He was very worried that it was getting dark and offered to see me home, but I didn’t want him ruining his slippers by walking me back, or accepting his torch, since our paths mightn’t cross again. I got back just as the last light went. I did see him on the penultimate day and got the fetails of his fundraiser.

The next morning (April 26th) my landlady had googled me and insisted on giving me a free packed lunch, presumably on the grounds of age (82). What a kind lady.

I met Sal who was walking John o’ Groats to Land’s end. She hoped to do it in 90 days, but I suppose I shall never know if she did , as with so many people are doing it, the newsworthiness of it must be declining.


Then I met a man walking John o’Groats to Land’s End with his 8 year old daughter. You can find them on facebook under “Our Spectrum Adventures”, they were fund-raising for autistic charities The next bit was one of the worst of the whole trail with big boulders getting in the way and I wondered how an 8 year old had managed it. . However, I knew the Californians had taken a day out to climb Ben Lomond and would be by-passing Inversnaid to get back in synch with me, so even if nobody else came along and I had to sit it out, eventually they would come along to haul me over them. I remembered being unable to drag myself up the side of a waterfall in the Lake District the previous month and having to go back and climb the hill a different way. Anyway, I just about managed to scrabble over them and the next day (hooray) was clean trouser day. When I met the Californians at breakfast I greeted them with “Good morning, clean trouser day.” To which Ann replied “How did you know?!” I had to walk along to the Ardlui ferry where I had just missed the 1.10 pm one and read that it ran at 10 minutes past the hour through the day EXCEPT at 2.10pm . I expect I could have caught the 1.10pm if I hadn’t been so distracted by the feral goats. It is quite true that you can smell them before you see them


I did a lot of sitting around and hoping the speedy Californians would have been slowed down as much as me by the boulders, but their long legs had sped over them and they were with me with 15 minutes to go enabling Rich to preside over the statutory lowering of the float I had so painstakingly secured aloft over an hour before.


So the next day (April 27th) I got up at 6.30 a.m. to grab another Editor’s pick,


After crossing the ferry, the Californians and I were a good 2 miles behind the people who had been at a B & B, or the Drovers, or the campsite.


Once the Californians had sped off, there was nobody to pester with my incessant chatter until I fell in with two National Park Volunteers in their uniform ( a retired psychiatrist and a retired counsellor) checking to see which bridges needed mending and picking up the odd bit of litter.


We met another John o’Groater, a retired teacher. She asked if the Volunteers were my guides (Obviously two are needed for such an elderly woman) so I replied “Yes, they charge £500 a day, and they’re worth every penny.”


My “guides" were duly shocked when I unwrapped my £9-50 lunch from the Ardlui Hotel and I discovered what it contained, but I wasn’t sure where I might get an alternative.


Sadly, after lunch they headed home leaving me on my own until two parties from Inversnaid overtook me near Crianlarich.

I went through the sheep creep,

and on the other side recognised Cruach Ardrain which we had climbed in 1995. It looked a long way away, yet I knew it must be a mile or so from Crianlarich which itself was around five miles or so from Tyndrum, that day’s destination. I started cursing Mac’s Adventures (a) for telling me it was a 12 mile walk when they had measured it from Inveroran rather than from Ardlui, and (b) for not finding me a bed in Crianlarich (surely there are B & Bs though to be fair there is only the single huge hotel which just does bus parties, from whence the Clan coaches sally out each morning. When we were Munro bagging in that area and saw Clan Campbell approaching, we knew we had set the alarm too late. ) Between Crianlarich and Tyndrum there is a lot of up and down walking through a forest, and to make matters worse, at the beginning is a notice “You are now half way.” This was a shock, as the clean trousers had gone on that morning. It seemed to go on for ever, and with nobody to talk to I felt very sorry for myself, trying to wedge compeed under my big toes and limping into my B & B at 6.45 pm. I didn’t even change out of my boots to go to the Tyndrum Inn and couldn’t eat much of my dinner, though I did cheer up on being introduced to an alcoholic dog who drank Guinness (though secretly disapproving.) To make matters worse, I had been so tired, I hadn’t taken in the bit about changing my sign from IN to OUT so had to disturb my landlord to let me in.

The next day, (April 28th) I didn’t really look at the map, but set out as soon as possible after a 7.30 breakfast. I remembered that the first bit from the end of a 14 hour day when we did the Auch 5 for my 70th birthday. Today it seemed much shorter despite the 12 year difference.


I was sitting on the hillside above the Bridge of Orchy Hotel by 11.30 eating my lunch. Some guys, destined for Kinghouse had sent their baggage on for a change anticipating a bad day and passed me looking like Dick Whittington with stuff for the day in an Asda bag.




At the Bridge of Orchy I posted a picture of the magnificent room the Bridge of Orchy Hotel had given me on facebook and got far more comments than for any beautiful loch or mountain.


I chatted for a while with a couple who were staycationing as they didn’t want to leave their very elderly dog in kennels in case he died while they were away. He seemed to be enjoying himself. He is a Colliepoo.

Next day (April 29th) I posted another picture that got an Editor’s Pick,


Met two more men walking from John o’ Groats, first Rob and second ???(or the other way round. Dreadlocks and Blonde I met later had studied my photos to see ow far ahead Rob had got, and in the bad reflections off my phone plumped for the first one).


Here are Bonde and Dreadlocks
and was overtaken by a lady walking the other way from Land’s End.


There was a complicated arrangement with her husband and a campervan as her husband was running the trail. Of course there might have been as many Lands Enders as John o’Groaters, but I never questioned people going the “right” way.

Time passed very quickly chatting to a nice German guy.


I thought his job working for the fashion industry sounded fascinating, but he quickly disillusioned me: he was in the legal side and made sure that contracts were watertight. During lockdown he had to do it all by zoom while caring for her two year old when his partmer was out doing neurosurgery. He was making a video of his walk, which involved setting up the camera, walking 20 metres or so, running back for the camera and catching me up which just about equated to my pace. At night he had intended camping on Beinn Chrulaiste. I told him which way to climb it remembering my expedition with The Blether Girls in 2010.


However It became far too cold, and half way up he descended and returned the loan of a woolly hat to the GP who had been walking the whole route with a litter picker and plastic bag. Apparently a huge amount was collected. I also managed to overtake the only person I had overtaken on the whole trip, a 72 year old Canadian bassoonist whose bassoonist friend set out an hour behind as he was so slow. I couldn’t help telling him that he was the only one I had overtaken, which he interpreted to mean “Do you know you are the slowest person on the whole trail?” There were no hard feelings as he later overtook me. In the hotel, I met some women who told me about the Scottish Women’s Walking Group, which I might investigate..though I don’t want to join something much speedier than me.

On April 29th I walked past Buchaille Etive Mor and wondered how on earth I had ever managed to climb it twenty years previously. It looked so steep.


The same thought must have occurred to the two Glasgwegian taxi drivers who, having climbed 8 Munros had decided the two up there were their next ones. They were having second thoughts though but when we set off I heard them say “If she can do it, we can.” and followed us. Very naughty sweary words were heard about half way up.

I met yet another walker from John o’ Groats.(Ian) He had been in the Travel industry, but Covid had wiped that out so here he was walking. I don’t think he fancied going back


I had been worried by the Devil’s Staircase, but it was far easier than some Wainwrights I had climbed this March.


Apparently climbing it at age 82 is a novelty and people kept asking me to pose for selfies.

Rounsfell (from Scottishhills.com) came to meet me and carried my rucksack up the last few yards to the top.


Unfortunately it was the day for vintage motor bikes and they were snarling and pop-popping all the way down the lower glen leaving clouds of dust and petrol fumes.


The Canadian Bassoonist hated them so much that he insisted on walking in the middle of the track at great danger to himself, but it made them get off for a while. Mac’s adventures had put me up in a B & B where the landlady, a former paramedic had a new vocation: spreading the word about how to get through the menopause. Having had friends with awful symptoms I can bring myself to believe what terrible times other women have despite having welcomed it myself as a chance to stop spending huge amounts of money each month. Rounsfell had brought his van to sleep in and was coming back by bus next day to drive it back to Fort William.

The final day (April 30th) was forecast to start raining at 9 am and to become heavy around lunch time. Rounsfell didn’t need much persuading to get instant porridge and set off at 6 am. There were more ups and downs than I had imagined, having avoided looking at the map.


It was rather gloomy compared with the beautiful blue skies of most of the rest of the walk, and I realised how lucky I had been.




My attempt at a WW Editor’s Pick with a dog in a mac failed


The Californians only overtook us once we were in Glen Nevis, and it was unlikely we would meet again, so said our goodbyes. It had been entertaining playing hopscothch with them, though they usually scotched me however early I set off. The charming Ann had also emailed me to make sure I was OK every evening.

So here I am nearly at the end,

Image /]

and even nearer,


and quite there.

Thanks to Rounsfell for making what could have been a tedious and long last day go with a swing


While Rounsfell went to check the bus time-tables, I got another Editor’s Pick with a photo of a soggy Fort William.


Unlike in the previous hotels, no-one in the Premier Inn seemed to have done the WHW , though I breakfasted with the two women who had dressed in pac-a-macs and walked along the trail to jump out on their friend Lands-ender with the two dogs . As a surprise it certainly worked, and they were off back to Sussex the same day.

Rounsfell drove me home, and like a wimp I turned down his offer of a hill en-route, but not before getting the last Editor’s Pick on Ranoch Moor. My mind had got out of gear, and I just wanted a sit-down.


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User avatar
Location: Fife
Activity: Munro compleatist
Mountain: Last one climbed
Place: Home
Gear: Headtorch
Member: MCofS, NT, RHB
Camera: Panasonic Lumix TZ90
Ideal day out: A few new hills in (mostly) sunshine in (mostly) good company...and an eagle or two.
Ambition: Lifelong hill walking.

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