Scotland’s West Highland Way Trek Day 8: Kinlochleven to Fort William: 15 miles

The last day was upon us, it was a big one, 15-miles, but we were ready and the weather looked promising!DSC02684.JPGPam pumped us up for the morning climb and off we headed to the hills…DSC02712After a long climb, we eventually hit more undulating type hills that continued for several miles.  We saw more groups of people on the trail this day than any other day.  DSC02737.JPGAn old home in ruins lie next to the path, an intriguing site along the way.DSC02747.JPGAbout a third of the way through we stopped for lunch planting ourselves right on the trail.  DSC02772.JPGThe second half the day had some fun obstacles to find our way over, several streams andDSC02780a log slide surrounded by mud in an area that had been clear cut not too long ago.DSC02820Eventually half of Ben Nevis (Great Britain’s tallest mountain), came into view (the other half was in the clouds), letting us know we were almost to the end of our 96-mile journey.DSC02834We finally made it to the last hill of the day, the last hill we would walk up on our adventure together, the hill that lead us to our final and gorgeous B&B 🙂  Exhausted, excited, and feeling rather elated over completing our long journey, we hit the showers and cleaned up for our last big dinner together.  What a trek, what a group, and what a view from our B&B!DSC02881DSC02887The end of the West Highland Way is marked by a tall rectangular sign, located at Gordon Square in Fort William.  It was the perfect spot for our last team photo!  DSC02869

Up next day hikes on the Orkney Isles

Until then,

Keep on Trekking!

Scotland’s West Highland Way Trek Day 7: Kings House Hotel to Kinlochleven: 9 miles

After yesterday’s nasty rainy day, we hoped for a better forecast.  However, the morning didn’t look or feel all that promising so we bundled up preparing for the worst…

DSC02441.JPGOther than a few rain drops, the worst never came and by days end the sun was making a showing, again we managed to luck out!

In the morning the hike took us towards the infamous devils staircase, the steepest climb of the route.

DSC02466On the way up, we couldn’t help but turn and look at all the great views the climb provided of the Glencoe Mountain range…

DSC02538We made it to the top and captured the moment as we were at the highest point of our entire 96-mile journey!DSC02585.JPG

The second half of our day took us down the other side on trails that were a bit rocky from time to time, towards Kinlochleven.

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Some trails rockier than others…

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Eventually the trails smoothed out and we made it to the cute town of Kinlochleven and to our B&B shown in the photo below.

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Where we enjoyed cozy couches, tea and wifi!

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Later that evening, we headed into town to the local pub for dinner, where Pam found herself in heaven.  Dogs are a big part of the pub life in Scotland.  They are just as welcome as the humans!

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Up next our final day… Kinlochleven to Fort William!

Until then,

Keep on Trekking!

Scotland’s West Highland Way Trek Day 6: Inveroran to Kings House Hotel: 10 miles

There was no avoiding the weather this morning.  The rain and wind were upon us and the forecast looked grimmer as the day progressed.  We bundled up with our rain gear and out the door we went.  DSC02389Today’s stretch was through the barren and remote Rannoch Moor, one of Europe’s last remaining areas of genuine wilderness.  This is an area that is often very windy and wet, with no shelter until the Glencoe Ski Resort about 9.5 miles into the hike or a half mile further, the Kings House Hotel.

After the first hour of our hike, light rain and wind turned to heavy rain and wind.  We pulled out our reserves (ponchos), and grabbed some snacks to eat on the go DSC02394.JPGand kept marching till our accommodations!DSC02405.JPGDespite the heavy rain and wind, we still managed to smile and have fun.  It wouldn’t have been a full experience on the WHW without massive wind and sideways rain!

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Our accommodations that evening were in a bunkhouse, as the Kings House Hotel was under renovations.  Apparently the renovations wouldn’t be finished for another couple of years.  In the meantime the bunkhouse and the ski resort provide this areas only options of places to stay.

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That evening, several deer came through the site.  We quickly realized why about 12 deer huddled right by the restaurant… they were fed by restaurant staff and sometimes by willing trekkers 🙂

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Up next, Kings House Hotel to Kinlochleven

Until then,

Keep on Trekking!

Scotland’s West Highland Way Trek Day 5: Tyndrum to Inveroran: 9 miles

It rained all night, through our amazing B&B breakfast, and as soon as we started hiking it stopped!  Gotta love our luck!  The sun only made a few appearances through the cloud cover,  but it didn’t rain on us and that’s all that matters!  Today, we were officially in the Scottish Highlands and were told that the scenery would be fantastic from here on out.  DSC02246.JPGOur morning involved a few obstacles to climb over and squeeze through, but it wouldn’t be a day on the trail without a few challenges…

We were on our first of three shorter days, a needed break from our four double digit days in a row.  The morning flew by and before we knew it we were crossing the railway tracks and

DSC02270.JPGat our first and only rest stop of the day (6 miles in), the Bridge of Orchy Hotel.DSC02285.JPGAfter enjoying scones and tea in the pub of the Hotel, we headed out for our short 3-mile jaunt over the hill to our accommodations.DSC02289.JPGThe climb over the hill was beautiful.  Mountains and hills of the highlands were all around, inspiring us to keep climbing.DSC02331.JPGWe made it to the top where we caught the first glimpse of our Inn.DSC02338 This 19th century Inn sits isolated on the edge of Rannoch Moor and is only still in use, thanks to the popularity of the West Highland Way!

DSC02363.JPGThe rain started up again shortly after we arrived, feeling rather fortunate we showered and then huddled in the small bar and watched other trekkers rolling in all wet and cold.  Some of these trekkers were camping and stopped in to dry off and have a drink before they had to set up camp.  We were so happy we were not them!

At dinner we were taken into a small private room next to the bar and served a meal that you would expect to get in a very nice restaurant in a major city.  Yet another surprisingly amazing meal along the WHW!

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Up next Inveroran to Kings House Hotel

Until then,

Keep on Trekking!

Scotland’s West Highland Way Trek Day 4: Inverarnan to Tyndrum: 12.5 miles

DSC02105.JPGToday’s trail was far different than yesterday’s slow maneuvering trail.  Soon after leaving Inverarnan, the gently rolling path took us along the picturesque, fast flowing River Falloch.  We lucked out again with the weather – no rain and bright clouds and blue sky, with the sun making a showing every now and then!  Perfect hiking weather!

The trail took us past a charming Scottish home,

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Today’s paths however smooth, did have a few obstacles, most were of the man-made type, taking us under a railroad track, under a highway, and over farmer’s property lines.   And it wouldn’t be a complete day on the West Highland Way without patches of mud to navigate…

Along the WHW, locals put out what are called honesty boxes in hopes of making a few Great Britain Pounds.  They are filled with drinks, candy bars, healthier bars and a place to put money for the treats.  When the gang starts diving in the honesty box’s, you know you had better stop for lunch soon!

Shortly after, a sign appeared, not one from above, (even though it looks that way in the photo), but one that let us know we were not only halfway through the days hike, but the entire hike.   Definitely another sign to break for lunch!  We had decided earlier in the day to bypass Crianlarich, a town .5 miles off the trail, as adding another mile to the day wasn’t too appealing 🙂  Some trekkers choose to add the extra mileage to eat in town.  We sat on rocks and dry grass and had a lovely picnic right by our sign.

DSC02197.JPGAfter lunch, it was time to climb.  It’s not always the best idea to eat and then participate in vigorous exercise, but we had places to go, so we pushed right through.  And, with our Canadian teammate leading the way we had no worries!

DSC02199.JPGHigher and higher we climbed…DSC02201.JPGUntil we found a place to stop, so we could stretch…DSC02202.JPGand another place to stop, so we could sit…  DSC02222We had no egos holding us back from a nice resting spot, and of course an opportunity for another team photo under the lovely arched bridge!

The rest of the day’s walk was lovely and mostly flat with a few undulating hills, and the best scenery at our backs.   Always a good idea to stop and look behind you from time to time on treks…DSC02233.JPGHowever looking ahead wasn’t all that bad either aside from dark clouds rolling in…DSC02230.JPGWe finally made it to our place of stay, 12.5 miles of walking completed!  We managed to make it without a drop of rain.  However, it poured right before dinner when we needed to walk into town from our B&B to the pub.  We did get a bit wet, but the drinks, great food, and people at the pub made up for the wet clothes!

Next up… Tyndrum to Inveroran: 9 mile day

Until then,

Keep on Trekking!

Scotland’s West Highland Way Trek Day 3: Rowardennan to Inversnaid to Inverarnan: 13.5 miles

Another beautiful day was upon us.  The trail hugged Loch Lomond most of the day

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leading us in and out of  tree covered foot paths with a few climbs

that eventually exposed beautiful views…

DSC01948The first half of our day, aside from a few midges, and blister bandaging stops, was quite peaceful with lovely trails that were mostly smooth.  This allowed us to make it to Inversnaid for an early lunch.  The photos below show the final walk into Inversnaid, which took us over a bridge with a view of an enchanting waterfall.  Inversnaid lay nestled in the hillside above Loch Lomond.

The second half of our journey proved a bit different and was probably the most difficult stretch of our entire adventure.  Our last six and a half miles felt more like ten.  Leaving Inversnaid, the trail began to climb,DSC02006leading to slow and challenging foot-paths.  Meticulously crafted benches were unfortunately surrounded by mud.

Eventually we made it out to better footing, walking through paths of ferns almost as tall as us.  It was gorgeous!

DSC02023.JPGWe came across an old house, and a bothie – a small hut or cottage open to hikers for sleeping or shelter during bad weather.  They are found along wilderness trails all around Scotland.  Bothies are free, and very simple as trekkers must bring their own sleeping bag, pad, stove and food.

DSC02056Eventually we made it to the end of the loch.  Looking back reminded us how far we had already come, from one end of the loch to the other.  One of the most impressive things thus far – the vivid greenery of Scotland!   Seattle may be known as the Emerald City, but just doesn’t compare (at least not during the summer months)!  Couple the brilliant green hillsides with a deep blue loch and sky – magical!

DSC02084The ups and downs and ferns continued as we hiked further and further away from Loch Lomond.  We started to wonder if we missed a turn-off to our hotel as the wilderness seemed to go on and on and on…

DSC02092.JPGHowever, eventually we did see the finish line to this long challenging, yet beautiful day.  Seeing the historic Drover’s Inn Hotel was a welcome site to say the least!

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Inside the doorway we were greeted by many furry creatures, one of which really stood out…

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Up next Inverarnan to Tyndrum: 12.5 miles

Until then,

Keep on Trekking!

 

Scotland’s West Highland Way Trek Day 2: Drymen to Balmaha to Rowardennan: 15 miles

This was our first of two 15-mile days, so we planned for an early morning leave, but only as early as our B&B hosts had breakfast ready for us.  We were finished and out the door by 8:30AM.  The first part of the trail that morning was a gradual climb through farmland that lead into a steeper climb through the Garadhban forest.

Halfway through the Garadhban forest we met up with a few Scots: Ross, his son Aaron and Ross’s friend Mike.   Ross was our Scotsman who helped ensure that all eleven of us had a place to sleep each night and that our luggage was transported each morning to our next accommodation.

After a short stint of shyness young Aaron grabbed the lead and showed us the way, pointing out roots not to trip over and the spectacular views.  He also let us know that the Loch Ness monster probably has relatives that live in Loch Lomond, and that not all boys and girls in Scotland believe in fairies.  He was a natural guide!

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Aaron led us all the way to the top of Conic Hill where we had great views of Loch Lomond, and

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where we took our 2nd official group photo.  This time with two new team members, Arran and Ross…

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After our team photo we headed down towards the town of Balmaha, our half way point of the day.  We passed many other hikers along the way, apparently hiking to the top of Conic Hill is a popular day hike for locals and out of town guests.

DSC01825.JPGOur lunch break in Balmaha…DSC01828.JPG

The second half of our day took us along the shores of Loch Lomond.   We meandered across pebble beaches, through camping sites, and beautiful wooded trails, a few portions hillier than others.  We had said goodbye to our Scottish friends at lunch and were on our own again!

However peaceful and charming this part of trek was, it was the second half of a 15 mile day.  It’s amazing how the last few miles can feel more like ten!  We eventually made it to Rowardennan Hotel hot and tired, but also feeling rather accomplished!

After a cool shower on this beautiful warm Scottish day, we sat on the deck testing out the local beer.  Once again, dinner was tastier than expected!

Up next Rowardennan to Inversnaid to Inverarnan: 13.5 miles

Until then,

Keep on trekking to beautiful places…

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West Highland Way Trek Day 1: Milngavie to Drymen, 13 miles

Each day of our journey started out with a large Scottish breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding, cooked tomato, mushrooms, potato scone, toast and if we were really lucky fresh cut-up fruit with yogurt and always some dried cereal choices).  Let’s just say, we didn’t starve.  If you are wondering how the vegetarians fared… they served vegetarian sausage!

After our large breakfast, we made our way to the start of our West Highland Way trek.  The official beginning or end (for those starting in Fort William), is in the middle of the town of Milngavie (pronounced mul-guy) at a granite obelisk, where of course we took our first team photo…

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After posing for photos, we picked up our official WHW passport booklets to be stamped at each town we walked through.  At the end of the journey we would present the passport and receive a certificate of completion, a fine souvenir.

With our first stamp under our belt we began our 96 – mile journey.  From the start we could tell this would be a well marked footpath as a variety of signs showed us the way.   The path shown below took us under a road into a lovely forested foot-path and eventually to footpaths with sweeping views.

 

The beginning of our 13 mile day started out dry, but then turned to intermittent rain and finally ended with a steady rain fall.  A warm welcome to the “fine” and unpredictable weather of Scotland!  Luckily we would only endure two rainy days on our trek.  And we learned that if rain does fall on your trek, the best day for it is on day one, as the foot paths are quite level (flattest day of the trip), relatively smooth and the spectacular views don’t come till day two.

We found trees to shelter us on our rest breaks…

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As we hiked along we saw the rolling hills and countryside of the Campsie Fells, but due to the rain did not see the mountains of the Highlands in the distant horizon.

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At the half way mark on this first day, basically at lunch time, a conveniently located restaurant sits next to the trail called the Beech Tree Restaurant.  We had packed our lunches, but wanted to dry off a bit, so we went inside and ordered tea and scones.  These had to be the best scones of our trip, served with whipped butter and homemade jam.  After our snack we were shown the trekkers’ picnic area where we ate our sac lunches.  It didn’t take long for us to start to get cold, so we ate quickly and continued on our way.

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The rest of the day was wet and a bit muddy, but mostly through lovely wooded areas.   We did discover one area of deep mud as we walked through some farm lands, giving us  a full-on initiation to the West Highland Way!

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We finally made it to Drymen and to our B&B, wet and very happy to be able to take a warm shower.  Our first day concluded with a celebratory dinner at the Drymen Inn’s Restaurant.  Our meals were phenomenal, and since we had burned so many calories walking, each table shared a sticky toffee pudding dessert, topped with ice-cream, of course!

 

Next up WHW Trek Day 2: Drymen to Balmaha to Rowardennan

Until then,

Keep on Trekking!

West Highland Way of Scotland 2017 – A Group Adventure

Six-months ago, Pam Perry of Grand Asian Journeys and myself, Sheri Goodwin of Transformational Journeys, decided to team up and hike the West Highland Way.   This was a trek we had not experienced before, but thought it would be fun to invite other women to join us on this exploratory journey.  Within two weeks we had eleven brave and adventurous women signed up to go.  Apparently, Scotland and the West Highland Way are on many people’s bucket lists.  We quickly sorted out the training plan and training hikes, reserved B&B’s, small hotels and bunkhouses along the trail, booked train rides and a tour of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.  We were ready and excited for the adventure ahead of us.

A bit about this trek: The West Highland Way is Scotland’s first long distance hiking trek and is currently Scotland’s most popular foot path.  This 96-mile trail, runs from Milngavie, north of Glasgow, to Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis (Great Britain’s highest peak- 4409ft) in the Scottish Highlands. It takes you along the rolling East Dunbartonshire countryside to the waterside paths of Loch Lomond, to the remote, wide open spaces of Rannoch Moor and the stunning mountain range of Glencoe.  All of which give the trekker new impressive scenery each day.

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Our trek started on July 10th and finished on July 18th, with the distance each day ranging from 8 to 15 miles.  We not only tackled the highlands of Scotland, but Nessie (Lochness Monster), midgies (basically a tiny mosquito), a bit of weather, and men in kilts, all the while tasting some of Scotland’s finest whiskey!

The next eight blog posts will highlight our eight days on the trail.

Below was our itinerary for our July 2017 trek.

Trek Day 1: Milngavie to Drymen, 13 miles

Trek Day 2: Drymen to Rowardennan, 15 miles

Trek Day 3: Rowardennan to Inverarnan, 13 miles

Trek Day 4: Inverarnan to Tyndrum, 12.50 miles

Trek Day 5: Tyndrum to Inverarnan, 9 miles

Trek Day 6: Inverarnan to Kings House Hotel, 10 miles

Trek Day 7: Kings House Hotel to Kinlochleven, 9 miles

Trek Day 8: Kinlochleven to Fort William, 15 miles

Stay tuned for the next blog featuring our walk from Milngavie to Drymen!

Until then,

Keep on Trekking!