13th of October till the 20th of October I have spent my holiday in Scotland with a friend to hike The West Highland Way. We have spent 7 days walking the route and the last day was a day to travel back to The Netherlands. In the 8 days we have spent in Scotland we have walked 233,30km. This was my second hiking trip and the first one of my friend.
I also uploaded a YouTube video about the trail, click “here” to see it!
Day 1 – Flight to Glasgow and start of the trail
Total distance walked today 40,22km
The alarm clock goes off at 03:45 in the morning, I feel excited to go on a holiday again! I start with changing into my walking clothes. I eat 2 slices of bread with peanut butter and take a glass of milk. The parents of Mitchell (which is the friend that joined me on the trail) picked me up at 04:15 to drive to the airport. Once at the airport we take out our backpacks of the car and put them onto a cart. We have to carry those backpacks long enough so better start enjoying the time without one on our back. We check in and head through security. After security we could board our plane which left at 08:07. The plane landed at 08:25 (local time). We get our backpacks of the conveyor belt and head to the nearest ATM to pin some cash. After we pinned the cash we walked out of the airport. It was raining already so we equipped our rain gear. I already knew beforehand that the weather was not going to be in our favour. One day earlier flights even got cancelled because of the wind gusts. Anyway, we start heading to Decathlon Braehead to pick up 2 bottles of camping gas. They did not sell lighters at Decathlon, so we had to search for them as well. On our way to the ferry that crosses the river from Renfrew to Yoker we found a small shop that sold them. When we reached the ferry, we could board it right away. The ferry took us over quickly. At the other side of the river we started our walk to Milngavie which is the starting point of The West Highland Way. On our way there it started to rain harder and harder. Some parts of the streets were even flooded. As cars passed by with high speeds we had to be careful not to get splashed over by water.
Finally, we reached Milngavie where the real trail starts. As we begin our first day of the trail we started to see already how beautiful the surroundings are. Bright colours in all kinds and ranges. Brown to orange, red to purple and bright green to dark green.
The terrain we walked was relatively flat with sometimes climbing and descending. Our destination for today was to get to, or further than Drymen. Which when we think about it was maybe a bit too much for the first day. At the end of the day it started to get darker. It was little after 19:45 when it was pitch black. We had to use our headlamps to start searching for a camping spot. We were about 2km before Dymen. It was difficult to find a suitable spot for the tent, but we finally found one. We set up the tent and start cooking, mashed potatoes witch spinach and salami…. YUM! Mitchell found 5 blisters on his feet already and took good care of them. We went to sleep early, it was a long day after all. I set the alarm clock for 08:00.
Day 2 – Continuing the Trail, destination Rowardennan
Total distance walked today 27,07km
Today we woke up at 08:00, the exact time we set our alarm clock. It was already light outside. Luckily it was dry today, so we could pack the tent relatively dry. We packed up the rest in our backpacks and headed into the direction of the trail again. Just a bit after we started we met 2 people, one from the UK and the other one from Germany. We started talking about the weather of yesterday and where they are heading. A bit later we left them behind as we walked a little bit faster. We started walking into a beautiful forest at which we met some people walking with dogs and a few day hikers. The forest is called “Garadhban Forest”. Once out of the forest we got a glimpse of “Conic Hill”.
As the sun came through I got warmer and stowed my jacket away. We started drinking a bit more and realised we needed to fill up on water. The nearest water source was perfect to filter water out. We did this with a “Sawyer Mini” which I brought from home. Shortly after we filled up on water we continued through the beautiful terrain. Just before the foot of Conic Hill there were 2 mountain bikers standing still with a leak tire in their hands. I hope they got their tire fixed and could continue their journey. As we climbed Conic Hill we started to see the hills in the distance where we are heading to later this week. The panoramic view on top of Conic Hill Was amazing and we managed to shoot some great pictures.
We noticed that it was quite crowded on top of Conic Hill, a lot of people climbed Conic Hill as a day hike. We started our descend of Conic Hill. The path down was very wet and therefore very slippery. You had to watch out where you did place your feet, or you could slip down. We have seen a rescue team carrying someone down on a stretcher. Further down we entered another forest which I found amazing. The trees in the forest were huge. We do not have that much large trees in The Netherlands.
Once out of the forest again we walked through “Balmaha”. The sun was shining very bright, it delivered a beautiful sight over “Loch Lomond”. Talking about Loch Lomond, the rest of the day we walked next to it. When walking next to it you realise just how big this lake is. Loch Lomond is the biggest lake of Scotland. A while later we entered a camping management zone at which 10 specified camping spots were marked. We took spot number 3 which had a beautiful sight over Loch Lomond. It was a nice and open place with even a spot to make a campfire. Sadly, the wood was to wet to make a campfire. We ate out dinner at the river and just enjoyed the moment.
We set our alarm clock at 07:00 to start walking early as we must catch up a little bit on the trail. My parents also wanted to call me in the morning when I did wake up.
Day 3 – Sad news from my parents, continuing the Trail, destination Inverarnan
Total distance walked today 32,94km
Day 3 started not that well as I got news from my parents that my Grandfather had passed away yesterday. It is sad to hear something like this when you are enjoying a holiday but, in my opinion, I rather hear this on the trail than after my holiday. It is something that belongs to living. It will sooner or later happen to everyone.
After it sank down and I realised what happened we started packing our backpacks again, we must keep going and it is something that my grandfather would have wanted me to do.
A little while later we started walking through Rowardennan. Which is just a very small village near Loch Lomond. We stopped for a moment at the parking place to eat a snack and enjoy the sun. We also filled up on water as there was a public toilet. Near to Rowardennan there was a statue that I have been wanting to take a picture of.
After we left Rowardennan we started talking a bit about my grandfather and just our family’s in general. The terrain was quite flat, so we had to opportunity to do so. The terrain was not flat for long. As we walked further the trail turned into a rocky surface with even some climbing involved. We stopped at a beautiful spot to eat our lunch and to rest for a moment. Just a bit after we rested we walked through “Inversnaid” at which a hotel is located and a few small buildings. After Inversnaid the trail turned more into a climbing and crawling path than a hiking trail. We had to climb over bigger rocks and between small passages.
It was beginning to get later, and we still had some kilometres to go before we were at Inverarnan. So, we decided to make a big push. For about 1,5 hours we have been walking faster, sweating more and risking a little bit more since the terrain was rough. In those 1,5 hours we pushed a lot and we arrived at a Bothy. A Bothy is a small house specially build for shelters for all of those who like to go to wild and lonely places. We decided not to sleep in the Bothy as there were already 3 other persons in the Bothy. So, we walked a bit further and found a very small spot just at Loch Lomond. We pitched our tent here, I was a little bit worried because of the tent being so close to the water. If the wind would pick up in the night, we might even get wet.
I cooked macaroni and noodles as dinner. It was getting colder as we were close to the water and the wind was blowing our way. We went in our sleeping bags early to stay warm. I was ready for tomorrow as we are going to head into the highlands! We set our alarm clock for 07:00 and go to sleep.
Day 4 – Continuing the Trail, destination Tyndrum
Total distance walked today 27,87km
After waking up several times from the wind hitting our tent the alarm clock went off at 07:00. It is chilly outside, so I start with a large mug of coffee to warm up. After our breakfast we start packing our backpacks again and start to head out. We found a water stream and start filtering water again. We have used up a lot of water with cooking previous evening, so we needed to fill up again. Just after we have filtered water we enter “Beinglas Farm”. At Beinglas Farm there is a small shop which we made use of! We bought a fresh apple, banana and 2 soda cans. We sat down on a bench and enjoyed the freshness of the fruit.
After we had rested we decided to buy 2 extra cans of soda and a roll of biscuits for the evening. I decided to carry the little added weight. Shortly after we left Beinglas Farm it started to get cloudy and about 30 minutes later the rain was pouring down. Time to get our rain gear out. Fully protected from the rain we continue. The trail started further with a climb followed by a descent. Even though it was foggy we could still see the contours of the mountains and hills around us. We continued the trail and had to crouch under a very small bridge where the train comes over. After the bridge we had a small but long climb in front of us. The trail was very wet with lots of puddles of water. My shoes began to let water through, so I was walking around with wet socks the rest of the day. We walked onto an intersection which headed us in the left direction. We had a steeper climb in front of us followed by a big forest. We took a small break just before we entered the forest.
After the short break we headed into the forest. Even though we were walking in a forest we still got very wet from the heavy rain. A large part of the trail in the forest was descending. We had to take a break quite often because Mitchell his backpack was not adjusted correctly. I had the same when I went to Iceland, I guess you just have to get used to wearing a backpack for a couple of days. Once out of the forest we bumped into a highway road which we had to cross. We were already discussing if we wanted to wild camp or pitch our tent at a camping. We decided while walking that we wanted to stay at a camping for a little bit more comfort. I kept saying to Mitchell that whenever we arrived at the campsite that we had a can of soda to reward ourselves. It wasn’t much further before we hit the first camping, the weather began to clear up a bit and before it was getting dark we arrived at “Pine Tree” camping. We set up the tent next to a table. We cooked dinner at the table and enjoyed our soda which I carried all the way, it was worth it!
Just before we went to sleep we cooked water for hot chocolate milk and a coffee. We ate some M&M’s and peanuts. Those moment are the moments that stay in your memory, just enjoying your time, no stress, no obligations, no work, no school…. complete freedom. After we enjoyed the evening we set the alarm clock for 07:30.
Day 5 – Continuing the Trail, Destination King’s House
Total distance walked today 32,72km
At 07:30 the alarm clock went off, we start off slowly with our breakfast and a mug of coffee. I noticed that my feet were hurting a bit. Luckily, I have not gotten any blisters yet from walking with my wet feet. A few other hikers were awake as well. One of them was walking the other way and told us that we have had the hardest part behind us. The trail should be quite easy but uneven as it was an old military road. After our breakfast we start to pack up again. The rain was making packing up a bit harder as I had to break down the tent by taking the inner tent out first. This way I kept the inner tent dry. After everything was packed up, we headed further. We walked through Tyndrum which seemed like a small village. After passing through Tyndrum we started to climb a bit, the way was opening up and we could see where we were heading already. A mountain in the distance was visible but disappeared every time because of the fog. On the way to the mountain in the distance we saw a lot of sheep just standing next to trail. Some even got close without running away. A little while later we took a break just on top of a bridge where the trains runs under.
Just after taking this picture we were already arriving in “Bridge of Orchy”. That was way sooner than we thought. In Bridge of Orchy was a hotel with a bar. We went into the bar to warm up enjoy a Cola and a Corona. We have spent about 20 minutes in the bar after which we walked further. The next part of the trail, the weather was just playing with us… every time we were wearing our jackets the sun was coming out. When we stowed our jackets away it was beginning to rain. At one point I just left my jacket of which got me soaked. Luckily the sun was coming through when we hit the top of the hill. After reaching the top we got a panoramic view of the area. We could see the way we climbed up and the way we had to climb down.
I loved how we could see the area change. The area was opening up as we have mostly walked the first 3 days in forests. This was the terrain why I was coming to Scotland. Once we climbed down we had a long way of climbing up to go. On the way up, we met 2 other Dutch guys. We have walked with them for a bit. We have been talking about the trail and their future plans of travelling. They later left us behind because of their packs being way lighter than ours. We really have to work on getting our packs lighter (ha-ha). Nevertheless, the terrain was beautiful. We really started to walk within the highlands. Mountains and hills are special for us Dutch people because we don’t have any of them in The Netherlands. The Netherlands is a flat country. My clothes were dry already but because we were climbing up it was getting colder, so I started wearing my jacket again. A little bit later it started to rain a little bit after which the sun was coming through again. This delivered us a great sight of a double rainbow which was very bright.
We only had a small climb to go until we were on the highest point for today. After we hit the highest point the sun was starting to go down and we still had to search for a camping spot. On the way down, we have seen 2 camping spots but those were near a water source which we didn’t want to camp next to. We have camped next to a lake on day 3. The water makes a lot of noise which makes us sleep a little bit less. We walked all the way down and still didn’t find a suitable camping spot. As we were getting closer to “King’s House” we thought that we wouldn’t see any more camping spots. After crossing the road, we found a small spot which we were not sure of that our tent would fit there. We took the guess and set up our tent there anyway. The cars and trucks made some noise but luckily the road was almost empty when we went to sleep. Before we went to sleep we ate our dinner which did good. We reflected back on the day. We had walked quite a distance today, but just like the man at the camping site said the trail was not that hard. We had some climbing and descending but both of those were relatively good to do. After we reflected back on the day and watched back the pictures we took on the trail we went to sleep.
Day 6 – Continuing the Trail, Destination Kinlochleven
Total distance walked today 26,59km
This morning we not only wake up from our alarm clock but also from a weird sound. Later that day we learned that that weird sound is made by the deer in the area. The morning is cold, and I start with a mug of coffee again. We dress up again in our hiking gear after which Mitchell has found a tick on his leg. I had a tick removing device with me. We removed the tick with some struggle. The tick delayed us a little bit, so we left a bit later. We knew beforehand that we did not have to walk a big distance today so that makes up. We were 10 minutes from King’s House which was being renovated. At King’s house were public showers and toilets. If we knew this beforehand we could have taken a shower yesterday. The surroundings were beautiful once more. The place was very open with mountains surrounding us. We could see deer walking in the area, they weren’t even scared of us. The contrast of the mountains compared to the rest just made the mountains pop out in the pictures.
Not a little further we had “Devil’s Staircase in front of us. It didn’t look that hard to climb and to be honest I didn’t find it as hard as everyone tells you it is. Mitchell had a hard time on Devil’s Staircase, but we are from a flat land and I struggled a lot on my first hike in Iceland as well. On our way to the top we met the Dutch guys again. We were cheering that it was dry and not raining. On top of Devil’s Staircase, we got to see where we are heading. I thought that we could see Ben Nevis already, but I am not sure if it was Ben Nevis. We headed down and took a break on the most beautiful spot we could find.
From this spot we could see “Kinlochleven” already. Our plan was to walk till Kinlochleven and take a break there. Then walk a bit further than Kinlochleven to make the hike for tomorrow a little bit easier. After a small break, a snack and a quick talk with a German woman we headed further down the trail. We could constantly overlook the mountains on our left side which made the walk down pleasant. At the lowest point of the mountain we saw a red car driving, this meant that we were getting close to Kinlochleven. Once at Kinlochleven we noticed that the village had a supermarket. We navigated there and bought ourselves some food to eat our belly’s full. We both bought a red bull, some fresh fruit and a hamburger. We ate it all on a bench just next to the supermarket. A German man who was also walking The West Highland Way joined us. He also bought something to eat at the supermarket. It was his first hiking trail and he enjoyed the hike just as much as we did! He bought some ingredients at the supermarket to make spaghetti in the evening. His spaghetti idea made Mitchell and me think about something we could bring up the mountain for our luxury evening meal. We choose hotdogs in a can with some fresh bread. We also bought 3 more cans of energy drink and an ice coffee for me. We only had to carry the extra weight for about 5km so that was worth it. It was still early in the day and we began walking back to the trail. Before we hit the trail again we discovered a public toilet at which we refilled our water. The trail went up for the most part.
There was some construction work being done on the trail where we were walking. A construction worker had to guide us through the construction site. Luckily, we didn’t see or hear anything of the work being done after we found a suitable camping spot. In the area where we wanted to place our tent were a lot of sheep roaming around. Some of them even got up close which delivered a great shot with my camera. After we had pitched the tent we just sat next to the tent. We still had some time of daylight. This was really the moment I came to rest. We enjoyed the quietness. There was nothing around us apart from a few sheep and deer. We talked about some private things after which we tried to check the weather. Our tent was very exposed, so I wanted to know what the wind was going to do. We saw that it was going to be a windy night, so I reinforced the tent with stones laying around. I learned that from being in Iceland with the crazy wind I got to experience there. Before we went into the night we still have our luxury meal to prepare… We warmed up the hotdogs and enjoyed every little bite we took. I also took my ice coffee which was the best I have had of the entire hike. It was so tasty after 6 days of only drinking water and normal coffee!!
After our dinner we looked at the pictures we took during the hike. We have already created some great memories that will stick around for ever. Just before we went to sleep we took a snack with the energy that we brought up from Kinlochleven. We noticed that since we went into the tent, that our tent is on quite a slope… we kept sliding down the tent which we kept laughing about… we better watch where we place the tent next time. I hope the wind is keeping a bit down for the night. We set out alarm clock for 07:30.
Day 7 – Continuing the Trail, Destination Fort William
Total distance walked today 21,46km
It was a rough night this day. I woke up several times from the wind blasting at my tent. The fact that we did place our tent on a slope didn’t help either as I was sliding down all the time. Even though I haven’t had a night without waking up from something I didn’t feel tired after all. Just when we began eating our breakfast the rain began to pour down. This meant that I had to take the tent inside out again. First the inner tent, then the Rainfly. It was a cold morning, maybe even the coldest we have had. We both started walking with our gloves on which we didn’t do before. It was still pouring down and we both got very wet. Because it was raining I had my camera in my backpack which prevented me from taking pictures of the surroundings. The surrounding area was beautiful as we still walked between mountains. It was foggy which showed us the typical Scottish landscape you see on the famous pictures from Scotland. When we walked further we saw an old collapsed building which stood out. There was no sign of humans in the area except for the small collapsed house. This made us feel far away from civilization. We are heading back to civilization though. We are heading to “Fort William” which should be a small city. The trail was constantly going up and down which kept us going. I felt like I already completed the trail but still had a small part to go. Just before we entered the forest in front of us we met a group of mountain bikers. The mountain bikers were very fast. A little bit further into the forest we just entered we had a beautiful view over the forest itself with the highest mountain of Scotland luring in the background.
“Ben Nevis” I wish I had a day extra planned to climb this mountain as it is possible within a day. The rest of the trail just went down through the forest. It was a wide path which was being used by construction vehicles. Once down at the foot of the forest we had a decision to make… We could walk all the way to the end point and search for a hostel or hotel or we could camp at the “Glen Nevis Camping” and walk the last bit tomorrow morning. We chose to camp at the camping to save some money. We were at the camping early, so we could take it easy and rest a bit. We bought noodles at the camping store, as well as a cider and Fanta for in the evening.
Luckily it was dry for the rest of the evening when we reached the campsite. We start cooking our meals and ate our belly’s totally full. After we ate our dinner we went and took our first shower for the past 7 days. It was lovely and warm. After the shower we went into our sleeping bags for the last time this holiday. We had to wake up early the next day to walk to the end point and to get our train at 7.44. We set our alarm clock for 05:00.
Day 8 – Travelling back from Fort William to The Netherlands
Total distance walked today 24,43km
We wake up at 05:00 it is early in the morning and everyone else is still sleeping. We start to pack everything back in our backpacks. Except for the fuel cannisters and the lighters. We left those at the recycling station at the camping. It was drizzling just a little bit when we left the camping. We have got a few more kilometres to go until we have officially completed the West Highland Way. The walk wasn’t special, but it was fun to walk in the dark with our headlamps. We started entering the city and reached the official end of the route.
We celebrated for a little bit after which we headed to the train station to step on our train at 07:44. The journey with the train was awesome, the train drove through mountains, forests and next to a cliff. We even saw some deer from within the train. The train was supposed to go all the way to “Glasgow Queen Street” but stopped in “Crianlarich” because there was some rail work being done. We had to step into a bus which brought us to Glasgow Queen Street. Mitchell and I both started to fall asleep but woke up just before Glasgow. We both were hungry when we left the bus In Glasgow, so we searched for the nearest supermarket. We bought a few donuts, cheese bread and something to drink. We ate and drank it all on a bench next to the water. The plan was to walk from Glasgow Queen Street all the way to the airport ourselves. We had completed The West Highland Way after all, so we could do this easy as well. On the way to airport we stopped at a baker and bought something to eat at the airport. Once at the airport we checked in, both bought whiskey as a souvenir and boarded the plane.
In the plane Mitchell was congratulated because of his birthday. Woops I almost forgot that it was Mitchell his birthday, so I congratulated him as well. We both got a free beer from the flight attendant. The flight itself was beautiful as the sun was just getting under. WOW! we both did it! we walked 233,3km in just 8 days! In my eyes that’s an amazing achievement, especially for Mitchell! It was his first real hike and I am happy that he enjoyed it! He is going to join me on more holidays, Hooray!!
Another trail off the bucket list! This trail was awesome, it was much longer than I did in Iceland. Both were unique in their own way. I especially liked the last few days of The West Highland Way. The landscape was getting rougher, wider and more colourful. I mostly liked that Mitchell joined me on the trail. Walking alone is no problem for me but it’s always fun to have a companion with you! Now it’s time to start searching for a new hike!
Like the Scottish people say: See ye efter (See you later).