A week of walking in rough and beautiful nature… Last week I hiked the West Highlands Way in Scotland. The famous Lochs, the foggy valleys, volcanic hills, the food and culture. A great time off from London and its buzz!
The Way is a famous tourist attraction and there is quite some infrastructure around it. We made reservations for all our accommodation beforehand (which was not necessary in April, but is well advised in the high season from May). We had a map, which is not required for the well-marked way, but nice because it gives you an idea of the distances and the names of rivers and mountains around you!
We only had 6 days, so we had to skip a couple of days (the hike can take 6-9 days).
There is a bus and train pretty much every day to give you a short cut of 4-7 hours walk, so it’s good to print the bus plan of C8 and 916. Also if you know your return date, have the train return ticket booked before to save money.
Regards Luggage you want to be prepared for any weather (snow through hail and rain to sunshine). We had Travel Lite transport our luggage from every hostel to the next (40 GBP, book here) and only carried our day pack with rain coat and food. What a luxury, but a great delight, especially on the hills!
Day 1: Arrival to Glasgow on train where we had a walk around the river and city centre. Then we took the 6pm bus to Drymen (we skipped the first Day from Glasgow/Milngravie to Drymen). We stayed in a pretty B&B (Elmbank), and had dinner from the supermarket.
Day 2 Our first actual hiking day from Drymen via Conic Hill to Rowardennan. You get to climb the Hill from the less steep behind and through pretty valleys filled with the famous sheep. After lunch on the hill with great views on the loch, we took a shortcut down the hills straight to lake (cutting out Balmaha) and spent the rest of the afternoon walking on the shores of the lake to the Rowardennan Youth Hostel. We stretched the 24 kms over nearly 8 hours, because we took all opportunities for photo taking, picnics and stops on the beaches of Loch Lommond.
Day 3: From the Youth hostel we took the first ferry to the other side of the Loch, an amazing 30 minutes which stunning views over the lake and the slopes. Then we got a bus to Inverarnan, where we had a quick lunch at the Drovers Inn (great pub!). From there we just had to finish a 3-hour through another valley walk until we got to the Youth Hostel in Crianlarich. We met Highland cattle, which can be frightening, especially as they are taking well care of their fresh offspring.
Day 4: A nice surprise waited for us: It has snowed overnight and our walk to Bridge of Orchy started in fresh white. After a warming lunch in Tyndrym we finished the 21-km-leg through light rain: A simple walk through a long valley with steep slopes on both sides and near the railway tracks. The old military road (build in 17xx) on which we were walking is held by an old wall and there are nice views to the wide river at the valley bottom. We also tasted the fresh spring water. The railway has an exciting horse-show form at some point, but we weren’t lucky enough to catch the train in this corner. On arrival in Bridge of Orchy we stayed at the Bunkhouse and had great dinner in the restaurant of the (one) hotel in the place.
Day 5: The next lag is a 5-8 hour hike over the moor, which we summed up in a 20-minute bus ride. Having gotten off at Kingshouse Hotel, we walked an hour or so until we crossed the Devil’s Staircase, which lead into another valley. The descend to Kinglochleven was as beautiful as diverse. We reached Blackwater Hostel at 2pm and stocked up at the Supermarked, then relaxed there. With a bit more courage, we could have done the whole hike without the bus, just as most others who arrived at 7pm, had 🙂
Day 6 marked already our last day of the West Highland Way with a final lap of 24kms to Fort William. This was actually the most beautiful day and somehow the summary of the whole walk: starting with a nice climb and amazing views out of the valley to another long valley, through forests and volcanic moor until reaching the snow gaped mountains close to Ben Nevis and down to Fort William through the rain on (guess what… boring) car-wide tracks. After a photo at the official end of the track we had dinner on the High Street (Alexandra Restaurant has amazing BBQ chicken, what a meal after 5 days of hike!)
On Day 7 we went shopping for souvenirs, then walked to the old castle and visiting the distillery. Another alternative is climbing Ben Nevis, if the weather is fine.
The highlight and summary was the 4-hour train ride from Fort William back to Glasgow, which showed us the whole hike backwards and many more views over the moor that we had not seen before!
Full cost: 430 GBP incl. train return trip from London, a great deal that we achieved by making our own food and using hostels and early booked transport. You can save more by carrying your luggage, and sticking to hostels or camping.
Full experience: While the way is not too exciting for an experienced hiker in terms of its appearance and not technically demanding, it is highly rewarding for it’s beautiful landscape and the views are amazing every single hour!
An amazing holiday!
(And for some silly reason Channel 5 is showing Water Horse right now… the legend of the Monster of Loch Ness!)