The West Highland Way is Scotland’s first and most famous long distance hiking trail. It starts on the outskirts of Glasgow and winds its way up to Fort William and the foot of Ben Nevis over the course of about 7 days. The distance is 96 miles and the scenery ever changing but spectacular throughout.
We gathered at the rather inauspicious Holiday Inn express at Glasgow airport, on the evening of Thursday 19th May. It was a convenient meeting point and meant that everyone could travel at whatever time they wished. Then we were up and out on Friday morning to be transported to the official start point in Milngavie.
The route passes through the outskirts of the town and then moves into more open country. Around mid morning we get our first views of the hills to the north.
We had a stop at the pub stop around lunchtime and then continued on towards Drymen our first evening stop. We stayed at the Buchanan arms hotel and had dinner at the Winnock Hotel. As we approached Drymen we got our first views of Loch Lomond which was to be our constant companion for the next few days. Then we popped into the post office to get our West Highland Way passports stamped.
After re-joining the trail from our hotel we started through forest as we headed towards the start of the first real climb of the week. Conic Hill is in a very prominent position overlooking Loch Lomond, so gives us fantastic views across the Loch and on to the hills beyond. Its our first real view of the mountains and its quite breathtaking.
Its also a great place to take another group shot with Loch Lomond in the background.
It was Donnett’s birthday, so a lunchtime trip to the pub at Balmaha was definitely required.
The afternoon walk from Balmaha is a great stretch along the lakeshore and through woodland, giving more great views of the Loch and surrounding hills and countryside.
We stayed at the hostel at Rowardennan which is right on the Loch and were greeted by a fantastic rainbow as we arrived and then a spectacular sunset as the sun went down.
Day 3 was a bright and sunny start and gave us another opportunity to get a great group photo from outside the hostel overlooking the lake.
We had a great day as we made our way along the lake shore, through swathes of bluebells in the woods and more spectacular views of the Loch. We had a lunch stop at Inversnaid where we did a bit of impromptu stretching of aching muscles then it was off again to the Drovers Inn.
We had an afternoon stop beside the loch for cooling hot feet and a bit of posing for photographs with the great views.
The Drovers Inn is a fantastically atmospheric pub. It is very unusual, but it has loads of character and interest and I for one really enjoy staying there. The plumbing leaves a bit to be desired but the staff are fantastic as well.
Day 4 brings us ever closer to the highest mountains in Scotland as we pass by Crianlarich and make our way to Tyndrum.
We stay at the By the way hostel, which is a lovely comfortable and quiet hostel and head on out to the Real Food Café in the evening for the best fish and chips in Scotland.
This is our longest day of the entire West Highland Way trip. But the first section to Bridge of Orchy is relatively flat and easy walking and then the second section over Rannoch Moor is one of the most spectacular.
After a brief stop at Bridge of Orchy there is a steep climb up through forest before we get more great views across to our lunch stop at inverornan and Loch Tulla. But its also a great opportunity to share a dram with some fellow hikers.
After Inverornan, its a long afternoons hike across Rannock, but with some great scenery as we make our across part of one of the last great wildernesses in Europe.
But there are still some amusing sights on the way.
As we cross Rannock Moor the views just keep getting better.
We arrive at the KingsHouse to be greeted by deer roaming around the grounds.
Another spectacular day with non stop sunshine, so we start with a group photo in front of one of the most famous mountains in Scotland, Beauchaille Etive Mor.
Then climb to the top of the Devils staircase for our first distant views of Ben Nevis.
We make our way downhill then towards Kinlochleven our lodging for our last but one night and stop for a lunch break with a view.
We are staying at the Blackwater hostel but eat at the MacDonold hotel with its lovely views down the Loch.
Our final day and we are blessed with yet more sunshine as we climb up from Kinlochleven.
After a very pleasant hike down the Glen the path finally brings us to our first close up glimpses of Ben Nevis and the end of our trek.
The final leg is a hike up Glen Nevis to the outskirts of Fort William for an essential celebration.
And one last group photo.