West Highland Way March 2011

For my most recent holiday I walked the West Highland Way. It was my third time completing the way (I’m a glutton for punishment) which is an awesome long distance path and the perfect length for a week’s holiday. The last time I did the West Highland Way in Winter so in many ways this was much less extreme, but in some ways the weather was worse. That’s Scotland!

Day 1: Milngavie to Drymen

We traveled to Glasgow by train and reached Milngavie (a suburb of Glasgow) by about 1130.

Bridget at the start of the way in Milngavie

Bridget at the start of the way in Milngavie

I found the first day fairly tough going; we had a late start and a few miles to cover through the sort of terrain that I don’t find particularly inspiring.

Entering the Garadhban Forest near Drymen

Entering the Garadhban Forest near Drymen

Part of the route through the forest was diverted to avoid tree felling. We camped in the woods alongside the diverted path.

Day 2: Drymen to Rowardennan

The day started off damp and misty (a pattern that would be repeated for most of the trip).

Mist on the way to Conic Hill

Mist on the way to Conic Hill

On the way down from Conic Hill Bridget was startled by some fell runners who appeared quickly out of the mist and then vanished back into it. I’m not quite sure how they kept their footing; the path was pretty slippy.

Once we reached Balmaha either the weather started to clear a bit or we were now below the cloud.

Looking onto Loch Lomond

Looking onto Loch Lomond

As the day went on and we progressed towards Rowardennan the cloud lifted and we could see blue sky and sunshine. The path alongside Loch Lomond undulates a lot so this part of the route is harder than you think just from looking at the map. In spite of me knowing this already it still took me by surprise.

Sunshine on the other side of Loch Lomond

Sunshine on the other side of Loch Lomond

We camped to the North of Rowardennan Youth Hostel in a lovely spot by the side of the Loch.

Looking North from our campsite near Rowardennan

Looking North from our campsite near Rowardennan

Day 3: Rowardennan to Inverarnan

The third day we continued North along Loch Lomond. To me it seemed like more of the same from day 2, but Bridget says that this was her best days walking of the week.

Bridget and a Wild Goat

Bridget and a Wild Goat

By the time we were reaching the top end of Loch Lomond the sun was out again and everything looked wonderful.

Looking back down Loch Lomond

Looking back down Loch Lomond

We camped at Beinglass farm campsite. The wind was pretty strong when we pitched the tent so we were relieved to find everything OK when we got back from having a burger and a drink at the Drovers Inn (which was excellent).

Day 4: Inverarnan to Bridge of Orchy

It rained quite heavily overnight and the weather in the morning was treading very close to the mist/rain boundary which is probably why we made excellent time to Tyndrum. I certainly wasn’t in the mood to hang around.

At Tyndrum we did a quick resupply and grabbed a meal at the Green Welly Stop. Our itinerary would let us live pretty well off bar meals from this point on so we didn’t need to buy much.

When we left Tyndrum the sun was out.

Me in the sunshine between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy

Me in the sunshine between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy

We stayed in the Bridge of Orchy Hotel bunkhouse for the night and ate a reasonable meal in a fantastic setting at the hotel restaurant.

Day 5: Bridge of Orchy to The Kingshouse

Rannoch Moor was very nice to us today; no rain, hardly any wind and just some ominous looking clouds to give a good sense of how wild an area it is.

Low Cloud on Rannoch Moor

Low Cloud on Rannoch Moor

Sunshine (in the distance) on Rannoch Moor

Sunshine (in the distance) on Rannoch Moor

Coming down from the moor into Glencoe we visited the ski resort for a cup of tea. The car part was about 1/3 full and the lift was fairly busy; not bad for a March weekday I though. One skier who I spoke to said the skiing was a bit crap but I was surprised there was any at all.

We camped in the wild camping area behind the Kingshouse and the retired to the bar for the evening.

Our Tent at Kingshouse

Our Tent at Kingshouse

Day 6: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven

This day was fantastic. Low cloud in the glen with clear slopes higher up always makes everything look amazing. I don’t have much to say about it, I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves.

Cloud in the bottom of Glencoe

Cloud in the bottom of Glencoe

Ridge of Buachaille Etive Mor through the cloud

Ridge of Buachaille Etive Mor through the cloud

The cloud began to lift as we climbed the Devil’s Staircase

The cloud began to lift as we climbed the Devil’s Staircase

Bridget on the Devil’s Staircase

Bridget on the Devil’s Staircase

Looking toward the Mamores from the top of the Devil’s Staircase

Looking toward the Mamores from the top of the Devil’s Staircase

Me with a very serious expression

Me with a very serious expression

We camped at the Blackwater Hostel in a pretty decent spot and ate two meals (each) at the Highland Getaway hotel. We also visited the Aluminium museum.

Day 7: Kinlochleven to Fort William

For the final day we were joined by our friend Lorna who is currently living in Spean Bridge.

The weather and views were pretty good, but I was too busy talking to remember to take many photographs.

The final part of the trail was diverted along road to avoid more forestry operations.

They love road signs in Scotland

They love road signs in Scotland

The road brought us in on the other side of Fort William right into the new West Highland Way finish in Gordon Square.

Me at the new finish in Fort William

Me at the new finish in Fort William

Bridget and Lorna mimic the sore feet statue

Bridget and Lorna mimic the ‘sore feet’ statue