A Travellerspoint blog

Kinlochleven to Fort William

Final day - 15 miles/ 24 km

semi-overcast 24 °C
View West Highland Way on Laura Walking's travel map.

Well here we are - the last walking day. I can hardly believe it!
It feels to me like the walk sort of started out slow (or perhaps it was just that I did!) ... and now it has accelerated to this point, and today we’re reaching the end of it. This of course comes with the usual bittersweet feelings. Glad but sad ... Sad but glad ... however you’d like to look at it, in varying degrees.

After the rain of yesterday coming down into Kinlochleven, (situated in a real valley ... at sea level), this morning dawned misty, rainy and gloomy. When I looked out the (closed) window this morning and saw all the little beasties hovering around out there in the dampness, and could not see the tops of the mountains surrounding us for the fog and mist, I was concerned about this last, very long walking day in possible rain, with bugs as my constant companions. Jack, (one half of the very nice young couple who were the proprietors of the B&B), had mentioned that the heater in the drying shed out back would be on all night so that my things would be dry in the morning. So around 6:30 am, I put my rain jacket on over my pyjama-type clothing, and with sandals on (my hiking boots were out in the shed), I trudged out there to retrieve my clothes. I noted that it wasn’t actually raining at the moment. Even if they weren’t particularly clean, which they sure weren’t (!), at least my clothes would be dry enough to either wear or pack. I was glad to find that everything was dry, including my boots. I got dressed and ready, packed as much as I could, and went downstairs to breakfast.

The previous day, upon arrival we needed to “order” which things we wanted for breakfast and at what time.
I usually order as many of the protein items as I can, (eggs, back bacon, potato pancake (like hash browns), mushrooms, etc.) to keep me going while walking. So I had checked all the usual items when I noticed there was an “Or”... and then Special Forest View (the B&B) porridge. It listed the items in it. It included nuts, muesli, chocolate chips, dried fruit and a sliced banana on top! I was curious about this porridge, so I crossed off all the Scottish breakfast items I had checked, and ordered the porridge and some toast. Well, it was the most delicious concoction ever! Sweet, but not too sweet, very filling but not heavy. After each person in the cozy dining room who had ordered it, finished this special porridge, Sarah (the other proprietor) would ask if we would like our toast now ... I think to a person, every one of us was too full to contemplate any additional food! She laughed and said they always wait until their guests have finished the porridge, before automatically bringing the toast ...
It was a lovely place, brand new, beautifully finished and decorated in neutral shades ... a warm and friendly atmosphere too. Some of the guests I had seen along the Way in previous days.

I got on the road about 9:15 and was concerned once again about my lateness in leaving and the length of the walk today. There is so much to do in the morning it seems. As I left the house with all my equipment on, I discovered it was now raining. I whipped back inside, took everything off - put my waterproof raincoat on and put all my gear back on. It’s quite a procedure ... but I was then, finally, on the road about 9:30. The path took us immediately up, up, up and out of Kinlochleven. Terrain like this is difficult for me, as I have mentioned, and so I huffed and puffed and trudged my way up these hilly paths through woods over streams, etc. With this exertion, eventually I got so hot in this rubberized coat, I could feel the perspiration pooling at my elbows, as my hands were up with my walking poles! I had to stop and take everything off again, to get out of the jacket - it was just too warm. I felt a little better after that, but unfortunately had not gotten any more energized. At the top of many of these high winding hills - some were switchbacks through the woods - we would come to a clearing where there were beautiful views of Kinlochleven way down low, as we were climbing out of the valley ... beautiful in spite of the low clouds and mist that still prevailed. These pictures will have to remain locked in my head, however, because I had secured my camera away in plastic as it had gotten very wet last Saturday on the walk to Tyndrum. It was still working, but I was intent on walking today and not spending too much time taking pictures in the rain. (Incidentally, I had bought a dry bag for my iPad which is working well, so it’s fine, but that same Saturday, my little iPod got so wet, that it has yet to look and act normal. It is still working, but very temperamentally ... when I get back I will put it in a tub of rice which seems to save some electronic gadgets by absorbing all the moisture out of them. This worked well in Iceland for some whose devices got soaked.)

Anyway, there were a few people in our little group today that we saw over and over again as we passed each other all day. We all plodded up and over and down and around these varied paths. It was a long day. The path did eventually open up and we were in a vast wide valley, with beautiful green mountains on both sides. So many variations of green that they have yet to be named. At one point I needed to stop and get some food out of my pack. So I did ... and was absolutely swarmed by midges. Oh my goodness! It must have looked comical to see a person dancing around, swatting like mad, while unzipping and rummaging around for things in a backpack! I was absolutely covered in them. Fortunately I had on long leggings - my only saving grace at that moment - others were wearing shorts as it was still warm, even though it was wet. They must have been in a world of hurt (i.e. itchiness) later, as I would be (and still am!) ... as I was literally getting chewed up by these bugs!
Well that sped me up considerably! I moved a lot faster after that! It seems that if you keep moving, they can’t really attach themselves to you. If there’s a wind, or bright sunshine there are fewer of them too. But on a dark, gloomy, still day, after a rain ... they are ravenously hungry!
(My upper arms are covered in bites that look like welts - and they are SO itchy I had trouble sleeping last night (which was Friday night) from the constant urge to scratch!)

The day was a long one ... some of the sections were quite muddy. Lots of little rivulets to cross. Eventually the rain stopped, and maybe somewhere around 2 pm, the sun came out. It became a hot and blindingly sunny day! I had caught up with two women whose paths had crossed mine every day for several days. They were sitting, taking a break and nursing their tired feet. I continued on and eventually we walked together for the last little bit. It was a long and winding road down into Fort William ... and again, even though we could see the town and the majestic Ben Nevis (highest mountain in Britain) towering over her ... it took several more hours before we reached the “Official End” of the West Highland Way! When I arrived, my Fitbit said: 42,974 steps, 29.27 km.
I walked into my B&B that night at about 6:30 pm.
I had a lovely big room with high ceilings - in an old-fashioned Victorian home. It was a big place. Twenty-four rooms, the manager said.

So ... it’s done! I finished the West Highland Way and I have a certificate that says so! It took me 9 days to complete it.
Other than that little bit (6 miles) where I took the train from Crianlarich to Tyndrum on that rainy, rainy day ... I walked it all ... sore feet, bugs and all!
It was a really fun, beautiful walk. For me it was challenging in many places, but there were also some really good days, or parts of days, where one could walk and think.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey with me - I’ve enjoyed writing about it. These entries will serve as my memories about this walk too.

Now I’m in Fort William for a couple of days, resting and exploring the place ... and will start the Great Glen Way on Monday.
I will start that blog (remember to change the letters from whw to ggw), after I get started.

Posted by Laura Walking 13:03 Archived in Scotland Comments (1)

Kingshouse to Kinlochleven

8.5 miles/ 14 km

sunny 22 °C
View West Highland Way on Laura Walking's travel map.

Well I did it! I survived the Devil’s Staircase!

At the Kingshouse Hotel last night it was very quiet where my room was, and it was an excellent bed, so I had a pretty good sleep. When I got up and looked out my window, this is before 7 am, even though it was very misty and foggy, the Scouts had all their tents down and were packing everything up! I was about to open the window again, but I saw all the little beasties on the outside, so I didn’t dare!
We have to keep our windows closed at night because of these darn “midges”. These are tiny little things, smaller than a fruit fly and look equally as innocuous - but once one pregnant female finds you (like mosquitoes, those are the ones who bite you!), she sends a signal to her other pregnant friends that there is a feast afoot - and they all come and get you!!
I boil at night with the window closed, however, I learned my lesson about the beasties!

I had breakfast at 7:45 am; many people had already left. I finally got packed up and took my luggage down to where it was to be picked up, got all my gear on and set off. I kind of had butterflies in my stomach, as I just didn’t know what to expect from this ominous climb today. There had been so much “hype” about it. Perhaps just in my own mind! As I had said to myself on the Camino, climbing over the Pyrenees on that first long day, just put one foot in front of the other. As long as you’re doing that, you’re moving forward. That’s all you can do.
I was on the Way at about 9:25 ... there was a low, meandering path winding here and there, eventually leading to the bottom of this quite steep “hill”, actually mountain. I could immediately see the switchbacks zigzagging back and forth across this hill, way up at the top. It was easy to see the path because with today’s brilliantly coloured hiking clothes and backpacks, it was like a line of neon pink, orange and lime green ants moving across, back and forth, inching ever so slowly up this mountain. It took a while to even get to the switchback area, there was quite a long climb before that. So I joined the line - actually by that point people were pretty spaced out. From where I had been at the bottom, it looked like there had been quite a large group in the wave way above me, before I got to that part. So I put one foot in front of the other and trudged on up. It was a long haul ... I had to stop every few minutes to catch my breath. I would move aside every so often to let those faster ants go ahead. My knees and/or legs are never the problem, it’s shortness of breath that gets me on the hills. It’s good to look back at where you’ve come from and see how far you’ve climbed ... that can sometimes be motivating too! (I don’t often feel afraid of heights - so I like to look down occasionally and see what’s over the edge!)

By 11:35 I was up at the top! No problem!
Hah, just kidding ... it was A LOT of work!
The views of course were tremendous ... everybody was busy snapping pictures at the top. I took a few on the way up as well. I sat on the flat area at the top to have lunch. It was a relief to get up there, but there was still the majority of the day’s walking to be done. Much of the rest of the day would be a lot of “down”. Many people find this more difficult than going up, but for me it is much easier, as it doesn’t exacerbate the breathing issue. The thing to watch is footing. Many times on these winding downward paths there are loose rocks and uneven ground, so you really have to watch every step. If you want to look around, you are best to stop and take a look, if you don’t stop, that is the moment you will step crookedly on a larger rock or trip on a tree root or something.
The rest of the day was good walking, there were little ups and downs around corners of hills, but basically we were winding our way down into the village of Kinlochleven. When we were on the outskirts of this town, and were walking down a road, (I was walking with a couple from the Netherlands), we noticed it was becoming very overcast. All of a sudden a cloud opened up and poured on us! They (and others) were very quick at getting their rain gear on and covering their backpacks, and were completely out of sight before I had found my waterproof things in the bottom of my backpack and put them on! My backpack was soaked, my head was down looking for things, and my glasses were completely filled with water - I couldn’t see a thing! Of course it was just a cloud burst but I was completely soaked anyway, beneath my waterproof jacket! By the time I was moving again, alone, the rain had just about stopped! It almost took me longer to find and put on the waterproof stuff than the rain had actually lasted! I almost wasn’t going to bother because it seemed like we were “almost there” ... I have since learned that this may mean another hour, sometimes two.

I got to my B&B around 2:30 or so and proceeded to hang all my things in their drying room! I showered and went into the main part of town (yes, more walking!) to the Tailrace Inn for dinner. I had the most delicious burger ever, with salad and onion rings!
I had a lovely room at the B&B with a very comfortable bed. With a fan for when the window is closed at night! I found myself very tired after today, and by 9:50 pm it was lights out!

In case you’re keeping track ... tomorrow is my last walking day of the West Highland Way! And it’s a long one - 15 miles (24 km) - I’m a bit nervous about such a distance in rain or in heat ... all the more reason for the early night tonight!

Posted by Laura Walking 12:50 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Inveroran to Kingshouse

10 miles/ 16 km

sunny 25 °C
View West Highland Way on Laura Walking's travel map.

Today was a spectacular walking day!
The weather was sunny and hot! I have sunburned arms and a pink nose!

This morning we all, at the Inveroran Hotel, got an early start ... because at 6:24 the fire alarm went off! It was deafening! A few of the guests peeked from their rooms, others were in the hallway in their night clothes looking bleary-eyed and dazed. One of the staff people rushed in, and up the stairs to ask what had happened, etc. Turns out it was a couple of women getting ready in their room with hair dryer, kettle, TV and then the shower on ... and I guess the circuit was overloaded. No fire. Just a good test of the alarm system! I went back to bed, but I guess just about everybody else got up and got ready and got on with their day ... because I was alone in the breakfast room at 8:00!

It was an absolutely spectacular walk. At first on smooth walking tracks through woods and over bridges, just lovely. I got into an excellent walking rhythm and time passed without my being conscious of it. I even found myself in that (unfortunately all too rare) place of complete and total happiness. (Probably all those endorphins being dumped into my blood stream?!) ... Every once in a while in my life I have experienced this (strange) sensation. When I’m walking ... I mentally examine my physical self, feet okay, knees, hips, back okay ... I have enough food and water, everything is great ... and then I realize I am totally “present” in this moment. I don’t wish I was anywhere else on the planet; or doing anything else at that moment. Perhaps that’s a bit strange to say, or try to explain. And more often than not it’s a pretty fleeting moment. However that was part of my experience today.

I wish I could adequately describe the scenery. It’s grandeur was beyond words - there just are not enough superlative adjectives to encompass the vastness nor the beauty of this country ... particularly the area that we are walking through. My pictures, and I took quite a few today ... really don’t even adequately capture the scope of what we’re actually seeing with our own eyes. An area called Rannoch Moor was particularly breathtaking. I found a rock to sit on and have my lunch while gazing out over this flat but expansive area from way up high. There was a highway in the distance, and although we could hear some of the highway noise, the cars looked like toys, they were so small and far away.

It was a beautiful walk, as I said, and a hot one ... and coming around one last bend on a hill way up high, we could see our destination, a large building (although it still looked pretty small from way up there!), and just because you can see it, doesn’t mean it’s close! I must say, it is motivating to see where it is you are actually aiming for, even if it takes another 2 hours to get down to it!

Turns out the Kingshouse Hotel is a very large hotel ... and beautiful. It has recently been renovated and so is very nicely decorated and the rooms are modern. When I finally got checked in - there was a bit of a wait, where some of sat in the lounge (air conditioned!) and had cold drinks - I have a room facing out the back of the hotel. So all I can see are a lot of tents - there is a group of scouts I think, or some other sort of Outdoor Education group doing part of the WHW. They were in Inveroran as well, last night, and their Yoga class (in Spanish!) was right outside my window when we got there! It was lovely and calming to listen to!
As well as the tents, the rest of the view is big mountains ... and the beginning of the path for tomorrow ... the one that will ultimately involve the Devil’s Staircase. Yikes! Fortunately it’s a fairly short day tomorrow - only 8.5 miles (14 km) but with a Big Hill, I’m sure that will be plenty!
Remember, where you have to go up ... at some point you have to come down too!

Posted by Laura Walking 12:38 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Tyndrum to Inveroran

10 miles/ 16 km

semi-overcast 20 °C
View West Highland Way on Laura Walking's travel map.

Today was a beautiful walk - on a wonderful walking day! Slightly overcast, but mild.
It was a little difficult to get up and on the Way this morning - out of Tyndrum - after having a day of rest and relaxation. When my alarm went off this morning I was in a deep sleep. I woke up with a start, and was a little disoriented. However all went smoothly - got my suitcase to the shed on time for the baggage transporters to pick it up, and left the premises. I was on the path by about 9:50 am. Yes, that is a tad late, but I knew I had only 10 miles/ 16 km to walk, and the terrain, according to the info I had, appeared to be reasonably level, so off I went.

It was indeed a beautiful walk. Up a bit, down a bit - and lots of level walking on wide old farm tracks; easy on your feet, all of it very well signed. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking! Huge mountains to both left and right - I was stopping every few minutes to take several pictures - I just could not/cannot believe the beauty of these majestic hills. Mountains, rather. I made very good time to Bridge of Orchy, about 7 miles (11 km) away. This place is named for an old stone bridge, and basically consists of that, a community fire hall, a beautiful hotel and a railway stop. I arrived there just after 12 noon, despite all the stopping for picture-taking! I had lunch at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel (lentil and veggie soup with crusty bread and butter - yummy!) and got on the road again about 1:20. Only 3 miles to go. The terrain was slightly more uphill for a little bit - but I was so busy with my head UP looking around (instead of how it usually is - down - concentrating on your next footfall) that I didn’t really notice the incline.

I have also heard it said that it takes about 5 days or so to really get one’s “walking legs” going. I believe that is true for me, as on past walks I have experienced something like this. This was my sixth day of actual walking (omitting the rest day) and I certainly felt “in the zone” today! I met some nice people along the way - some of whom are here at the Inveroran Hotel tonight too. Walkers tend to greet each other all the time, even when we don’t know each other - this is the “community” I spoke of the other day.

I saw two deer along the way today. Some other walkers were closer to them than I was, taking pictures. I wondered if they would still be there when I got up to that spot beside them. Not a problem at all - these two deer could not possibly have cared less about me and/ or what I was doing. They were only focussed on eating the long delicious grass they were standing in. I did get several pictures of them - trying to snap them quickly when they brought their heads up to look around - but I don’t think I was quite fast enough - in my pictures they look headless, just standing in some grass!

I arrived at the Inveroran Hotel just before 3 pm. It is a quaint but very busy place. Very well organized too; the staff are very polite and obviously well trained. There is no Internet at all here at the hotel because of its remote location, so I am writing this all down longhand to type into my iPad tomorrow. Tomorrow our destination is Kingshouse - very close to Glen Coe - in case people are familiar with that area. I doubt I will be able to get into Glen Coe Village to look around, as it is about 9 miles away.

I should have mentioned earlier, that on the WHW there are two major ascents or climbs. The first was Conic Hill, on the second day on the way to Balmaha. The second is the day after tomorrow, and it’s called The Devil’s Staircase! I’m sure the reasons for this happy moniker will become painfully obvious to me as I am in the throes of climbing it! Like the O’Cebriero climb on the French Camino, walkers fear it! I am one of them!
The Devil’s Staircase at its summit reaches 1797 feet (548 m) and is the highest point on the WHW. At the beginning of that day, in Kingshouse, we will be starting from a height of 250 ft, so it will be quite a climb! There are several switchbacks (12 or 13?) which will hopefully mitigate some of the steepness. Undoubtedly the views from the top will be spectacular!

I can’t believe there are only three more days of walking before we reach Fort William! It has gone by fast!

Posted by Laura Walking 11:21 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Tyndrum

Rest day - Sunday

sunny 18 °C
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As guests, when we arrived yesterday we needed to fill out an informal “breakfast order form”, stating which sitting we would like in the morning, (7:30 or 8:00), and tick off which items we wanted in our big Scottish breakfast! I filled this out and handed it to the proprietor, who asked me if I would mind sharing a breakfast table. I said I wouldn’t mind at all, and then who should pop her head around the corner in the hallway, but the British woman (who now lives in France) I had spoken with on Friday in the vestibule of the Inversnaid Hotel! How nice, we would be breakfast companions!

Today dawned a bit overcast, but at least the rain had stopped. It continues to be very humid! It turned Into a sunny, pleasant day of about 18 C.
We had a lovely breakfast she and I, in the busy dining room, and caught up on the previous day’s walks and adventures (unfortunately she had fallen as well, in that horrible, rocky, dangerous area), although she had still made much better time than I had at getting to her B&B at a reasonable hour that day - was it only two days ago?! And as I entered the dining room for breakfast this morning, I also noticed that at the next table was again, yes it’s true, the fellow from Vancouver!

Of course the proprietors knew that I was staying two nights, so I had inquired about where to do laundry in town today and so on. I had also inquired about possibly attending a church service somewhere, this being Sunday, which, they informed me, would likely involve a bus or train ride back to Crianlarich. I didn’t know the time of the service, if there was one; where it was or anything ... and was unfortunately not quite organized enough this morning to get going on this. I really needed to get some clothes laundered and so headed up the road to the centre of the action: The Green Welly Shop. What a busy place! Bus loads of people (literally!) arrived every few minutes! I walked around to the laundry at the side of the building and who was already there but yes, my Vancouver friend! He had his washing underway, so there was waiting involved during the washing and drying for each of us - taking turns going to get coins and so on. It was nice not to have to cart everything around, and to pass the time so pleasantly while waiting. We talked about a lot of things, one of which was the history, way back, of his family and how it pertains to this area of Scotland we’re walking through. Very interesting.
When it came to the walk, he had a plan for today that involved other modes of transport than walking, as it does cut into your walking time when you need to take care of other things ... like laundry! Anyway, we chatted again, and he was on his way ...

Some new guests arrived at this B&B today, also walkers, from New Zealand! Two couples. Over a dram of Whiskey they had bought at the Glengoyne Distillery, which we passed on our first day walking out of Milngavie (yes, they shared with me, too!), one of the women mentioned that (remember the day with the mean rocks that were trying to do injury to us all?) ... the first part of that day was as bad, if not worse than the second half! It was Friday, on the way up to Inverarnan, and if you recall we had a choice early in the day to walk the “high”, regular route, which was easier, but slightly farther ... or the low route, closer to the lake shore, but more difficult. I (very fortunately, I see now), chose the high route, which was a lovely, pleasant walk through the woods. Anyway, this woman said that apparently the low route was just more of those horrible rocks and difficult obstacles on the path. I cannot imagine negotiating that sort of awful, frustrating path for any longer than I did. It was not only treacherous, but downright dangerous. Many heard from others how bad it was and had taken a ferry across and then up the lake to avoid that area altogether.
Had I known about either, I would have certainly done that too.
By the way, my Fitbit, for that very long “mean rocks” day on Friday said: 40,194 steps and 27.37 km.

Tomorrow (Monday) I have about a 10 mile/ 16 km walk ahead of me, and it is forecast to be about the same as today, 18 C, which is a little cooler than the brief heat wave of last week, but great for walking.

Note: I know it might be odd (and tiresome), not to use these people’s names, however I want to be mindful about invading others’ privacy in a public forum such as this. I suppose I could “change” their names ... I’ll think about that should the need arise.

Posted by Laura Walking 10:17 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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