West Highland Way April 2017

Date walked: 15/04/2017

Time taken: 7 days

Distance: 150km


The original plan was to complete the journey in 6 days, camping out for the duration. I was intending to take the route of Head for the Hills Scotland (you’re a legend in your own lifetime sir). Taking the trip with me were my stepson and his fiancée (more on them later). Before I start out I should point out a couple of things, this was my first long trek, so obviously a few rookie mistakes were made (more on them later also) but lessons were learnt and the same mistakes won’t be made again. Also I have a condition in my left heel, plantar faschitis, which at its best can be described as inflammation of the heel and a burning pain/sensation through the heel, and at its worst can be described as, imagine a stone or pebble in your shoe/boot and every time you step down your heel is stepping on said stone or pebble.

The first (and possibly the most important part of a trip) is the planning and the sorting out of the logistics of it all. The plan, therefore, was to start trip at Easter weekend, so only need a few days off work and hopefully the weather would be slightly milder.

Day 1: Sunday 16 April.

After getting the train we arrive at Milngavie (and after taking the obligatory selfies at starting point) we are ready to start out at 10am. The weather at this point is most unpleasant, constant incessant rain. We make our way out Mugdock Park and already my 2 companions are struggling (yes, at this point). I must admit also to being struggling with my own pack and my own weight I am carrying (first of the rookie mistakes, packed way too much unnecessary gear and food). I’m trying to set a reasonable pace, wary of the fact that I am not 100% sure of where we are pitching for the night (Garadbhan Forest was the destination). At approximately the 5-mile mark my 2 companions are again really struggling and lagging quite a bit behind me. We stop at the Beech Tree Inn and go inside for a bit of a heat, a coffee and something to eat. The time taken to get here is not good. We continue on our way and after passing Gartness my 2 companions are really struggling (again) with the inclines and roads. By the time we have come off the A811 just after Drymen and heading into High Wood, they are really, really struggling with my stepsons fiancée in considerable pain and in tears. At this point I am pleading with them to quit, to head into Drymen and take a taxi home. They are adamant that they want to continue despite my protestations that it would only get harder and that they may not have such a suitable chance to make their way home further down the line. In spite of my protestations they decided they wanted to carry on. At this point then I decided that the best plan would be for me to boost ahead, hopefully find a suitable place to pitch our tents (hopefully relatively quickly), head back, get their tent, boost forward again, pitch tent, then hopefully by this point they would have made their way (or pretty much thereabouts) to me. I left them my map, I explained to follow the trail that they couldn’t go wrong, but as I said I left map with them as means of insurance. As I was making my way through the forest I was really beginning to panic, I hadn’t found anywhere suitable. I phoned my stepsons mum and asked her to phone him and tell them to make their way home but she said I was being bad and that they would be fine. I tried to impact on her the physical state that they were in but she was having none of it. I finally found a suitable location, right at the edge of the forest at about 7pm. I got my gear off and pitched my tent and after stowing gear away in tent it was now about 7.30pm. I was now about to make my way back to them (thinking that they would have been making their way along trail) and get their tent to bring to the location when I received a call from my partner to say she had received a call from them to say that they hadn’t moved from where I left them and they were expecting me to return to them and pitch their tent for them. To say I was apoplectic with rage would be an understatement. After numerous phone calls made back and forth between all parties they finally decided to get a taxi and return home.

I was absolutely livid with the pair of them. I had given them approximately 8-9 months notice of doing this walk and I think that the only preparation they done in this time was one 6 mile walk. I had bought them each their rucksacks and walking boots in January and in the interim period they had never went out with their rucksacks, never tried it with any weight in it. I offered them books to read which they they refused. I sent them hyperlinks of YouTube videos to watch, which they didn’t. Basically their preparation was absolutely zero, zilch, nada, a big fat nothing. They were disrespectful to me; they were disrespectful to the walk. They failed to realize that things had to be done to a schedule. I told them that not only did they put themselves at risk, they put me at risk, and had they continued they would potentially have put others at risk. I have never known in the whole history of people doing the West Highland Way such a miserable, pathetic, feeble attempt at it. I feel like it was like having a couple of children with me. The amount of emotional energy of my own that was spent wasted on the pair was unbelievable. They really did bring me down and I was having many a moment of doubt myself. From hereon in I shall refer to them as the idiots.

The camp that night wasn’t pleasant, as I said; too much emotional energy had been wasted on said idiots. I didn’t sleep well and it was unbelievably cold through the night, something that I thought wouldn’t have concerned me (being a macho man and all that).

Day 2: Monday 17 April

Todays plan was only to do a few miles, get to roughly about a mile or two shy of Rowchoish Bothy and wild camp again. My intention was to avoid Conic Hill. I was finding my pack incredibly heavy and I must admit to struggling with it. I set off shortly after 10am. After a while it soon became apparent to me that I must have missed the sign for the alternative route round Conic Hill and that I was in fact going over it. I was really, really struggling at this point. The load on my back was way too heavy and I was finding myself having to stop numerous times and rehydrate often. I struggled to the top of Conic Hill, and even managed it to the peak, minus my pack though as it is quite a narrow ledge making your way to the summit. The views however were stunning and this lifted my spirits a bit. The descent down into Balmaha car park was tricky, a lot of steps. I have to give a big thanks to the kind gentleman who helped lift my rucksack over the fence as the stile at the bottom wasn’t big enough for me to fit through (not that I’m a porker, there just wasn’t room for me to swing myself round with rucksack fitted on my back). I made my way across to The Oak Tree Inn and treated myself to a steak pie for lunch and a Guinness. After coming out of Oak Tree I was still really struggling with my rucksack again and decided on a change of plans, Cashel campsite would now be my destination for the day. Once there I had a shower and I was able to ditch a few non-essential items (like the 30 or so Alpen bars I was carrying). Again a very cold night and following morning although I did sleep a bit better this time.

Day 3: Tuesday 18 April

Todays plan was to make it as far as Beinglas Farm Campsite at Inverarnan. I set off reasonably early this morning at about 9am. I was making steady progress up to Rowardennan, my rucksack had lessened weight slightly but I was still finding it difficult and really sore on the back. The stretch from Rowardennan to Inversnaid had some hairy moments along the banks of Loch Lomond.

I stopped off at Inversnaid Hotel for a coffee and a juice and then continued again. The stretch north of Inversnaid was absolutely brutal, and yet perversely I found this one of my most enjoyable stretches. Every single step was a concentration in effort and all your focus was so intent on picking the right step and making the right movement. I think due to this I found myself thinking less of the load that I was carrying on my back. It was still however a brutal stretch of the walk, but the camaraderie that you have with your fellow walkers at this time was a joy. If ever “Ninja Warrior UK’ ever want to do an outside broadcast then get your team up here.

Once you leave Loch Lomond behind it was back to the mundaneness and the drudgery again of “normal” walking. I was again finding myself really, really struggling with the physicality of it all. I just wanted to get to the campsite and turn in for the night. The last 2-3 miles seemed to go on forever and seemed to last forever. I eventually reach the campsite about 7.30pm. My body was absolutely spent and I made a bit of a pigs ear in putting tent up, it wasn’t taut enough and there was rain through the night which left me with patches of the inner section wet the following morning. All in all it was an extremely demanding day but very, very rewarding. Approximately 18.5 miles done in the day. I had a steak pie at the campsite restaurant and a pint of Tennents. I even ate the cauliflower with my steak pie.

Day 4: Wednesday 19 April

Todays plan was to make it to Bridge of Orchy and wild camp again. However this was to end up being my most challenging day. I am still really, really struggling with the weight of my rucksack and I am not making a good pace at all. Some of the terrain coming out of Beinglas Farm was also extremely challenging. There were huge stretches where you were just walking through mud and you would have to be very careful of your footing. Some bits you would stand on and you would just sink into it. There was a later stretch (again quite a long stretch) where it was literally just cow s**t you were walking through. At this point I’m thinking just give it up, what is the point. Whilst trying to pick a path through the cow s**t I had a slip and fell into it, not literally face down, but a slip and my left boot went right into it right up to the ankle, thankfully with my boots there was no ingress. I thought this is taking the s**t now and I literally almost was taking the s**t. I dare say they heard my cursing and expletives all the way back to Beinglas Farm.

At Crianlarich crossroads it’s becoming more and more apparent how much I am struggling with the weight again. My legs can handle the walking, it was just my back, neck and shoulders were really struggling with the carrying. I know now that I am going to struggle to make it to Bridge of Orchy now so I revise my plan and Tyndrum has now become my destination for the day. I am now thinking of chucking it, my spirits are quite low, the traipsing through cow s**t hasn’t helped me and I know that Tyndrum has a station for train back to Glasgow. I have to say a big thanks to all the fellow walkers who gave me words of encouragement and suggestions here. Some were telling me to ditch the rucksack, have the couriers send it on, others were telling me to get a room for the night and get a good sleep and tackle it again refreshed in the morning. On entering Tyndrum I note that there is a post office. I book into Tyndrum Inn for the night and decide to weed out more non-essential stuff that I can send home. It was staggering the amount of crap that I was carrying. Amongst others, a bottle of whisky, my Bear Grylls knife (what was I thinking?? Maybe I was preparing for a zombie apocalypse), either stab them to death or have a party with them and feed them my whisky, multi tool, Ipod, speakers, batteries, clothes and copious other bits and bobs that were of no use to man, beast or zombie. I had a steak pie and a pint of ale (Edinburgh Castle, quite tasty actually) that evening had a shower and felt a bit better about following morning.

Day 5: Thursday 20 April

Todays plan was there was no plan. First off carried my garbage to post office got it packed up and sent away. Jesus H Christ, that was a heavy package. Got my proverbial **** together in the inn and made my way just after 10am. Straight away I can feel the difference. There is a spring in my step and I am gayly skipping along the trail like Dorothy about to see the wizard. I pass a guy doing it North to South. I stop and have a blether with him, he gives me a heads up on what’s to come, he tells me I should reach Bridge of Orchy for about 1.30pm. I get to Bridge of Orchy for 12.35pm, a victory, at last. I am feeling like Ben Johnson on steroids. I begin to wonder what they gave me for my breakfast at Tyndrum Inn. Was my poached eggs laced with amphetamines??? Who knows, at last a victory of sorts? I lunch in Bridge of Orchy Inn (ham and cheese Panini, no steak pie this time) and it was lovely jubbly. I even give myself time to read the newspaper. I read the Lions squad that has been announced, shame on you Warren Gatland, only 2 Scots????

I leave Bridge of Orchy at 1.30pm and I am mad with delirium. What is the plan now, could I make Kinlochleven? I am beasting this now; I have no map and not much sense of what is coming up. I decide what the hell; let’s try for Kinlochleven (bad mistake). Whilst cutting across the ridge to Glencoe Mountain Centre the weather goes mental with wind and rain just cutting right across you. My left arm is numb with the cold, but who needs left arms anyway. Carry on I must. I eventually make my way to Kingshouse Hotel for about 6pm. There is a forest behind the hotel (which is currently closed) where I wild camp for night. The weather is still wild though. I have a burger and potato salad for dinner (no chips, fryer wasn’t working ☹) and 2 pints tonight. To hell with it I’m living life on the edge now.

Day 6: Friday 21 April

Todays plan was just to make it into Kinlochleven. I now obviously realize that I am not going to do it in my original 6 days and that I will need to allow myself 7. Ah well what the hell, I’m enjoying the scenery and I have nowhere else I need to be. No rush to get home and plus the idiots are back there. Don’t think I could trust myself not to tear strips of them or to knock 2 shades of s**t out of them. Todays route incorporated the Devils Staircase (anything with devil in the title cant be good). The weather again today is not good, more rain and wind that really cuts right through you. I am really struggling again today. It was particularly bad night weather wise with the rain and wind and I have packed up a soaking wet tent. Didn’t get much sleep due to the aforementioned wind and rain. The Devils Staircase wasn’t too bad actually, now I’m carrying a decent weight. My plantar faschitis by this point is really playing up now though and I am finding myself limping quite a bit. Once atop Devils Staircase you then begin your descent into Kinlochleven, this is a particularly difficult stretch. As I said my heel is now quite bad and I am finding myself limping quite a bit, which is then putting further strain on my right leg and my right knee is now suffering and swelling quite a bit, the joys eh. I finally make it into KInlochleven, feeling a bit scunnered. The tent is wet and sodden from last night. I can’t really be arsed finding a campsite so decide to book into the Tailrace Inn. Steak pie and a pint of Belhavens tonight.

Day 7: Saturday 22 April

Left Tailrace Inn early in the morning, about 8.45am. Need to allow myself plenty of time to make it into Fort William for train back home at 5.37pm. Bit of a tough day, my heel is really playing up now and I am limping on it really quite badly now. There was a group of guys from Paisley doing the walk along with me. I think they were auditioning for roles as extras in a Cheech and Chong movie. Every time I could smell weed I knew I was catching them up. Ah well, whatever gets them through. In spite of the heel I made relatively good going, this particular section wasn’t too demanding and I made it into Fort William just before 4pm. Into the Great Glen for a steak pie (nah only jesting), ham eggs and chips this time. Time to let loose now. 2 pints of Tennents and a double Oban. I decide to treat myself to an expensive bottle from the Whisky Shop. The kind gent throws in a freebie of a 10cl bottle. I pick myself up 4 cans of Tennents from Tescos. Im going to rock this train journey home. Get into Glasgow Queen Street for about 9.30pm (above mentioned whisky and Tennents found a suitable home in my stomach). I pick up a taxi and I am home for about 10.15pm. My odyssey complete.

To all the walkers who I met and chatted with along the way, I would like to offer my sincere and genuine thanks. For all those who offered me advice and encouragement a big debt of gratitude goes out to you all. To the person who gave me a wave from the passing train, a big thank you. Such random acts really do go a long way to lifting your spirits.

Would I do it all again??? Hell yes, and without the rookie mistakes that I have made. Particular highlights for me were the herd of deer outside the café bar on the 6th morning at Kingshouse Hotel and seeing a squadron of RAF Tornados on maneuvers making their way on the descent into Kinlochleven, such an awesome sight.

What advice would I give to any first time walkers?

Read as much as you can, read peoples blogs. Watch peoples videos, prepare as much as you can. Insure you are physically fit enough. If you are camping consider what time of year you go and ensure you pack right and you don’t take any unnecessary garbage with you like I did. Ensure all of your group are fit enough and leave any idiots at home.

Finally, if you have managed to read all of this without falling asleep, congratulations. I will try and make any future blogs less of a War and Peace epic.

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Comments: 19


Location: East Kilbride
Occupation: Test Technician
Interests: Walking, travel, cinema.
Activity: Walker
Pub: All of them
Mountain: Ben Lomond
Place: Home
Gear: Meindl boots
Member: NA
Camera: GoPro Hero 4 and iPhone 6
Ideal day out: An idyllic walk taking in beautiful scenery.
Munro rounds: 2
Corbett rounds: 1

Munros: 6
Corbetts: 1
Grahams: 1
Sub 2000: 2
Islands: 2
Long Distance routes: West Highland Way    Three Lochs Way   

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Trips: 1
Distance: 150 km

Joined: Apr 09, 2017
Last visited: Jan 22, 2020
Total posts: 145 | Search posts