DAY 1: Milngavie – Drymen
This was supposed to be the least interesting part of the route and an easy start to our West Highland Way adventure at a mere 12 miles (19km) but “least interesting’ was far from true. A two-hour pit stop at Glengoyne Distillery for a whisky tour was a welcome break that peaked our interests. We were thrilled to be interviewed by the BBC for their 40 years of the WHW programme as we made our way towards Drymen. But the best bit was an amazing lunch; the best of the entire adventure, at Turnip the Beet, so not an uninteresting day after all.
DAY 2: Drymen – Rowardennan
We woke to a beautiful, warm autumnal day. Our 15-mile walk today was relatively easy with only one reasonably large ascent; Conic Hill, but it was definitely worth the climb. The views were spectacular, with beautiful blue skies and sunshine at the top overlooking the mist-covered Loch Lomond and its surroundings. We stopped at the Oak Tree Inn in Balmaha for a great lunch and a pint and spent the rest of the afternoon on the undulating walk along the lochside to Rowardennan. The day was topped off with a speedboat ride across to Luss for another pint, dinner back at the Rowardennan Hotel and a foot dip in the hot tub at the lodge.
Day 3: Rowardennan - Crianlarich
The forecast said heavy rain later on this day, so we set off super early in the half-light to beat the weather. We managed to get to Inversnaid on dry and relatively easy paths. The rain then started and our progress was slow. The terrain was rough and challenging in many places so we were glad to make it to The Drovers Inn at Inverarnan for another great lunch. Leaving the warm Inn was tough as we made the final stretch to Crianlarich in the rain where the paths were rough and now also very wet. We were delighted to get to Crianlarich for our overnight stop.
Day 4: Crianlarich - Kingshouse Hotel
This was our longest walking day at 26 miles (42km). A wet start threatened but the day did brighten up. The scenery coming out of Tyndrum was exquisite and improved with the weather as we ascended up onto Rannoch Moor and Glencoe. The going was good on the military road but tough on the feet. My fellow walking companions enjoyed every step of the amazing “big country” scenery. For me the best was yet to come. Our overnight stay at Kingshouse Hotel was great, well I’d expect nothing else from one of my own hotels.
Day 5: Kingshouse - Fort William
This morning was, by far, my West Highland Way highlight. It was going to be another long march at 24 miles (38.5km) and a target time of 5.30pm to catch the train home. The day started incredibly well. We thought there would be only one sizeable ascent (Devil’s Staircase) but there turned out to be two as we dropped to sea level at Kinlochleven. The walk from Kingshouse to Devil’s Staircase in the moonlight followed by sunrise illuminating the mountain tops will long be remembered by me along with sitting at the top of the Staircase listening to the Red Deer stags calling. The rest of the day’s walk was a blur. Fatigue was definitely setting in as we marched to catch our train but we made it along with sore feet, weak knees and a little dehydration. It was all definitely worth it and the great sense of achievement we all felt at reaching the end was immense.
My lasting memory of the West Highland Way will be the great company I had and the realisation that Scotland really is the most beautiful place in the world. Starting in the lowlands and finishing in the Highlands, each day was full of scenic surprises. With spectacular views and an ever-changing backdrop of sun, rain and cloud formations that framed the beautiful landscapes.
The hospitality shown at the various Inns and restaurants along the route was warm and friendly, with the right combination of warm hearty food and grace and flavour.
If I had to pick a single moment, for me it would be the walk up Devil’s Staircase, for my best friend; William it was the sun rise in Glencoe. Memories that we will both cherish forever, along with sharing great memories with good friends old and new.