West Highland Way

As i wrote my previous post Dan paused me halfway and said “You do realise this is going to be hard right?” I replied, “Yeah”… I didn’t know how far a mile was. We were going to walk 100, and I said “Yeah.. cool!” When the nice ladies at the visitors centre told us about the popular walk which took on average 7-8 days we thought “oh that’d be fun.” I didn’t realise the ‘walk’ was called the West Highland Way, or that some people actually trained for it. But I guess that was best- I didn’t know what was to come. We set off spirits high, mine higher than Dans as he knew a bit more than me what was coming, “Are you sure you want to do this?” me “Yeah it’ll be fun.” 

So we set off at 3pm on Tuesday the 3rd of September, on this day I learnt we were doing a hike which was called the West Highland Way. I also learnt we were walking to a suburb in Glasgow called Milngivie. So you can say I set off with absolutely NO idea what I was doing, I was just happy not to be working. HA

First Day (We don’t count this day as it was so short) : We set off from Fort Williams and walked 4 miles to a grassy hill just beyond the forest, the terrain was fairly boggy so it was hard to find a suitable place to camp. We meet a German couple beginning the same way as us, unlike most other people who do the walk South to North. We quickly leave them in our dust as we speed over our first hurdle- a hill. We have soup for dinner followed by tea and some milk powder which works surprisingly well. 

Day 1: 13 miles. With sachet porridge for breaky we set off for a big day ahead. We walk 8 miles to Kinlochlevin where we find a pub and have a  much needed cooked meal after all our hard work! Because we were doing the walk backwards we bumped into everyone walking the opposite way. We queried where their bags were, as we hurled our bags up and down hills they seemed to dance with ease with just their water bottles! (dans bag weighed around 20 kg, mine around 12-13 kg) Turns out the majority of people pay to get their bags transported from one B & B or Hotel to the next. So we were HARDCORE according to the scottish man who served us. After our lunch in Kinlochlevin we set off to do a few more miles over the hill to find a campsite, “About 1-1/2 hours” according to the gentleman working at the bar. This 1-1/2 hours turned into 3-4 of the most horrific hours where I found every swear word I possibly could to explain how much pain I was in. Then I cried- Dan laughed. To explain how hard this day was, to give a slight understanding, we began by climbing step by step up a 2000 feet mountain, we reach the top, go round a corner and approach another one, then we go down, then back up again, then round, then back up. This torment goes on for 3-4 hours until we find a square foot of grass by a midge ridden river where we set up and collapse. It’s fair to say I’ve realised what I’v gotten myself into by now. 

Day 2: 9 miles. We wake up to a black mist of midges. They don’t seem to mind the midge spray either- so we resort to packing everything up with as much haste as possible and walking up the next mountain in our way to find a place to have breaky. We reach a nice bit of grass over the next mountain which turns out to be the much dreaded Devils Staircase, and have some spam sandwiches. MMMMmmm. We are accompanied by the German couple again, they continue to comment on our untrustworthy map, our lack of experience and in short- annoy the hell out of us for the entirety of this day. We stop at the Kingshouse for a drink, (The Germans depart us then) and we find a beautiful wee spot to camp by a river by the Bar Bridge. This is my most memorable day, as we walked the shortest amount of miles, had a fire which Dan laboured away at, and had a nudey clean in the river. A much needed clean I might add. 

Day 3: 15 miles. We set off to do a big day today to make up for the short day previously. Lots of beautiful scenery. The walking itself was enjoyable, but once 10 miles came and went my feet started to feel the pain. We stopped in Tyndrum and had a 3 course meal at the local Inn. Much needed. 

Day 4: 15 miles. We set off a bit later after a relaxed breakfast at the “Real Food Cafe” where we had a Scottish Big Breakfast with the works. ( I discover a like for black pudding, Dan discovers he likes Haggis) Then, reluctantly I walk 15 miles, through the rain, through tears over sore feet, over coldness, over angriness, and we finally make it to a campsite where a hot shower is in order. We have chicken stock rice and go to the bar for a cider and Guinness and listen to a lovely old Scottish man sing for a few hours. A very memorable night. It has become a habit to thank Dan for putting up with my tears at the end of every day, “I really am enjoying myself I promise…Its just so harrrrrd.” 

 

Day 5: 15 miles. We set off bright and early at 6am for the supposedly hardest part of the walk, according to our trust HighLand map. We met a lady at the campsite the previous night who fell and cracked her head open on all the tree roots obscuring the pathway. Safe to say we are warned. So we set off with concern from fellow walkers “Are you going to be alright carrying all that stuff?” We scoff, “Oh yes.. we’re tough!” Its now become a mission to complete the walk in the same amount of time those without bags do, just to prove a point. Along the way people stare in awe as we clamber with our huge backpacks. Its quite satisfying really. Anyway, we set off enjoying the interesting terrain, comparatively to what we’ve been walking its a bit more interesting in the woodlands climbing over boulders, tree roots, rivers etc. We stop for some soup in the rain, and realise that 5 miles has taken us 3 hours because of the amount of extra time needed to clamber up and down. The day gets longer, and longer, and harder and harder. Dan has blisters, my feet sore, I’m cold, we’re tired. We eventually reach the Rowadennan Hotel where we get a bunk room for the night. Absolute bliss. All our stuff can dry out in the ‘drying room’ we can have a BED for the night, and another big cooked meal. Which is all we want, and need. 

Day 6: 15 miles. We set off with a full belly to complete a 15 + miles in order to be able to finish in 7 days. Its becoming a push to get it over and done with now, and if we don’t complete a certain amount we will have to add on another day, of walking, and camping. So we want to be done by this point. We stop in Belmaha for macaroni cheese and a burger and tackle Conic hill. (More of a mountain in my opinion) we then eventually make it just out of Drymen where we set up in the forest for the night. 

Day 7: 13 1/2 miles. Today its just about making it. We have a slight detour to Drymen for a big breakfast then walk as quick as we can to Milngivie. Not without tears, some swearing, some lying down and so on. This is the hardest day so far as we reach the bottom of a hill, I practically run up hoping to reach the end… but know, it just leads down, and then up to another hill. Here I get a real sense of how far 1 mile is. Its far. We finally get to the end, take some accomplishment snaps and run to subway. (The entire walk I craved a chicken teriyaki subway, I practically cried when I saw rubbish from subway 1/2 a mile from the city.) 

So, over the course of 7 days, walking up to 15 miles per day (24.14 km) me and Dan walked 100 miles (160 km) from Fort Williams to Milngivie. We made it! We made it carrying everything we needed for the week, and we made it with no injuries, its a miracle! It was amazing, definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done but not an experience I look back at in resent, it was really really satisfying and the scenery was spectacular. The hot meals we stopped for were what got us through, “Just imagine the meal we can have in ******” without all that FOOOOD we would have struggled, and we’d be rakes by now! 

We caught the night bus from Glasgow to York on the 10th at 11pm, arriving in York on the 11th at 8.30am. The bus was horrid, stopping in Manchester to swap over, then Leeds. But we made it to Dans Dads house where we have a little room for as long as we need it, and a BED. We had fish and chippies for dinner with mushy peas and lots of vinegar. YUM. Dan birthday is on Saturday so we are resting up before then, Im going to make a Chocolate Cake, then on Sunday we are off to a Restaurant for a 10 course meal and a night at a hotel- compliments of Dans brother for his birthday. Then its time to look for some work. Back to reality. But a tick off the bucket list “Walk 100 miles in 7 days” DONE. 

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7 thoughts on “West Highland Way

  1. squarewhiteworlds says:

    better than being a hardcore tramp, I suppose. Just letting you know the hoi polloi are reading you and officially hardcore appreciative. Not of the walking effort. The writing! well done! Now you have to find even more bizarre things to do to write about them. And photos please.

  2. yoyo says:

    Been looking at the photos via internet and they look amazing…so many Lochs no wonder you had bog probs. Can sympathise with your subway yearning. Makes me think of the time when we first moved to the country and your papa and I went for a wee bike ride in the forest only to get hideously lost. Approx four hours and kms of peddling later we panted past an old coke bottle on the side of the highway (after finally making it out of the forest!). I cried and felt I might die from the pure want of it. Sooo thirsty. Sooo needy. Hope your teriyaki chook was as good as my coke. So proud of you xx

  3. Sally Reid says:

    Milly, I know that part of the world so well!!! And I know exactly how hard it is to walk over, with umpteen bogs and hills arising out of nowhere. AND I know how vile the midges are – they are 100 worse than sandflies and mozzies. Like you and Dan, I’ve woken up with black hordes of them hovering overhead (and attacking every piece of exposed skin). Their awfulness cannot be explained to anyone who hasn’t experienced them. So…absolute sympathy! But, you walked across Rannoch Moor, which I’ve always thought was one of the most beautiful places in Scotland…fantastic!! Well done, both of you!

  4. Becky says:

    Hi there! I’m about to walk half of the WHW from north to south so I read your blog with interest, thanks for posting. My sis and her husband will carry on after I head back to civilization. I’ve never done such a long walk but they are experienced. Thanks for posting. Did your feet get very muddy? Were you cold at night? Any essentials to bring/not bring? Thanks!

    1. thisbeparepa says:

      Hey Becky
      We went at the end of summer, and you are going at the beginning, so it’s likely to be similar conditions- but maybe slightly wetter. I’d recommend taking AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE, one set of ‘dry clothes’ and one set of ‘wet clothes’ so that when it rains you change into your wet clothes- and vice versa. We spent a fair bit of money throughout the hike on big Scottish breakfasts, this kept us going- if your planning on carrying all your food I’d recommend porridge!! It was muddy in places… There was a bit of everything… Mud, streams, rivers, forests, swamps.. Hills… More hills… And mountains!! A camel pack is a good idea- there are places to fill up water bottles but often they are a good days hike away. If you can get those pills that turn stream water into drinkable water that may help you out- we just boiled stream water and it was fine. INSECT REPELLENT!!!!! AND MOSQUITOE HEAD NETS! This was the most important… The repellent didn’t always work- the head nets are KEY. We spent one morning running up a mountain away from the thick mist of black bugs. It’s a hard trek but we were ill prepared- we each carried 20-25 kg!! It’s an amazing accomplishment and the scenery is amazing!! You’ll really have an amazing time- if you have any other questions please fell free to ask 🙂
      Milly

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