Along the West highland Way
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A comprehensive walking travelogue of this popular Scottish hiking trail.
Runs 2 hours!
A FOOTLOOSE SPECIAL IN THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS
Along the West Highland Way
~ 5 chapters on one 120-minute DVD
If it's your first time on the West Highland Way it's a very good idea to "get in practice" and get your fitness level up a bit, more miles on the legs as we have been told. Its not the hardest trail in the country by any means, but there are a few rocky clambers and steep inclines involved, but no mountaineering! Make sure your footwear is well worn in, take all-weather clothing and have supplies of food and drink for the lonelier stretches. The trail is well defined and well signposted, and because of its popularity you will always find others to chat to along the way. Although our trail is broken into five sections on our DVD, we actually took nine days to walk the whole way largely because of carrying and using quite heavy camera gear.
DETAILS of our 96-mile hike...
1. MILNGAVIE - BALMAHA 20 miles
A relatively gentle start to the the Way, with no major hills to climb. It is recommended to start this way from the suburbs of Glasgow in the south as a "warm up". You then walk northwards to Fort William where it becomes a whole lot steeper and by then you should be ready for it. You pass through Drumclog Moor and Mugdock wood, with a pleasant country park. You pass the village of Carbeth to arrive at Drymen. Some of the trail is quite flat on the disused Blane Valley railway line. It is a good idea to build in time for a visit to the Glengoyne Whisky distillery too, a wee dram helps the aching feet! We took 2 days to reach Balmaha at Loch Lomond breaking our journey at a B&B near Drymen. It was then a pleasant forest trail and steady climb to the top of Conic Hill on the second day. There are fantastic views of Loch lomond from there. You can clearly see the divide between the dramatic volcanic moutains.
2. BALMAHA - ARDLUI 18 miles
If you are breaking your journey at the pleasant resort of Balmaha, you can visit the uninhabited island of Inchcailloch before you move on. The next part of the Way skirts the whole of lovely Loch Lomond through some pretty woodland. Not all the trail is by the lake though, the trail can be quite relentless as you climb up and then down on countless steps. Trees can obscure your view at times as you enter Rob Roy country. Our overnight stay was at Rowardennan. From here the lochside road peters out and just the West Highland Way is left with more forest and nature reserves to enjoy, and charming views of the Loch through the trees. Stop off for a drink or a bite to eat at the Inversnaid Hotel, but dont stay too long ...if you are getting the ferry to Ardlui allow enough time to get to the jetty! (we nearly missed the finishing time!) There is more accommodation at Inverarnan 3 miles further on.
3. ARDLUI - BRIDGE OF ORCHY 22 miles
Now this is where you walk into the Highlands! Leaving Loch Lomond you'll probably find wild goats (you'll smell them first). A must stop is the Drovers' Inn at Inverarnan, oozing with atmosphere and legend. The Way follows an old drove road winding its way up Glen Falloch to the town of Crianlarich. You are accompanied by a fast flowing River Falloch and the West Highland Railway line (mind your head as you creep under at one point!). The further you climb up the Glen the more Highland scenery you see. We stayed overnight at Crianlarich which is also half way along the magnificent trail, and it's worth dropping in to the station tearooms for a brew to celebrate! The next day promises almost uninterrupted mountain scenery as you pass through the village of Tyndrum. The trail is undulating but quite easy going along Glen Fillan. Three modes of transport here: the West highland Way, the railway and the A82 trunk road all traversing this fantastic scenery together. For a novelty accommodation at Bridge of Orchy you could try the bunkhouse, actually on the railway station platform!
History and interpretation boards
Placed in strategic spots all the way along this famous trail are many boards depicting the history of this fascinating area of Scotland: The Blane Valley railway line; Rob Roy; Saint Fillan; drove roads; the Jacobite risings; battles & military roads; to name just a few.
See what it's like - watch a preview from our DVD -
press the 4-arrows button if you want full screen playback
4. BRIDGE OF ORCHY - KINLOCHLEVEN 21miles
Now you will be walking for most of the Way on military roads built by General Wade over 250 years ago, allowing his troops to keep check on the Scottish Jacobites. These roads are reasonably easy going and are well restored for the walker. You march past lovely Loch Tulla down into Inverroran at Glen Orchy. The scenery on this part of the trail is even better than what has gone before. Then it's a bleak crossing of the infamous Rannoch Moor. The track skirts a very isolated marshland for ten miles before descending past the White Corries Ski area down to the lonely Kingshouse Hotel. If you are not able to obtain accommodation here, then there are plenty of options at nearby Glencoe: some proprietors will pick up and drop off their guests from the trail. Next day you have the chance to climb the Devil's staircase, the zig-zag military road up the side of the mountain, with superb views of Glencoe and other spectacular peaks. At the top, on a clear day you can witness the huge bulk of Ben Nevis in the distance. Now the military road descends steadily, beautifully yet relentlessly down to sea level at Kinlochleven. This town's recent heritage was in aluminium production, using abundant hydro-electric power available from the mountains.
5. KINLOCHLEVEN - FORT WILLIAM 15 miles
These is no escaping the length of this trail. There are no roads for 13 miles and no accommodation either, so you have to tackle this part of the Way in one go. At least you should be somewhat fitter than when you started! It's another zig-zag climb out of Kinlochleven like the Devil's Staircase, and when you get to the top, great views are to be had across Loch Leven. Now the going is a lot easier... a beautiful trail along a well preserved military road past some atmospheric deserted farms at Larigmor then on to Blair a' Chaorainn, with seating and an interpretation board. From here it's uphill again with more superb views of Ben Nevis, then quite dense forest till you reach the edge of Glen Nevis. Time to drink in the views before taking the long descent to the road that leads you into journey's end, Fort William. There is a huge West Highland Way marker to have your picture taken against... You'll have found it's more than a journey, it's like an odyssey!
Wildlife & Nature
The West Highland Way runs through three main types of habitat: river valley and farmland; woodland; heath & moorland. Depending on the time of year, how close to towns, and how quiet you are, you can see highland cattle, feral goats, Roe Deer and Red Deer, Pine Marten, grouse, buzzards, woodpecker... The list is endless, but do look around you, don't have your head down while you trek ...you will miss a lot.
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We recommend Jacquetta Megarry's superb waterproof guidebook and map on AMAZON
links & information:
We were informed that MAY is the best time to walk the West Highland Way.
Usually a drier month in Scotland and just as important, there are hardly
any irritating midges at this time of the year. The west of Scotland is
famous for these pests. Weirdly the cosmetic AVON skin-so-soft acts
as an effective midge repellant and smells nice too! Mel Gibson
raved about it whilst filming Braveheart apparently. Whilst
walking the trail we also heard that both the British Army and Glasgow
builders swear by the product!
Official Website www.west-highland-way.co.uk
Transport to reach the start of the trail in Milngavie is best done by train, but if you have arranged for your luggage to be carried for you along the Way, you could ask your transport provider to pick you up from Glasgow Airport, drop you off at Milgavie, whilst your luggage goes on to your first night's accomodation. The West Highland railway line is a great way to return to Glasgow from Fort William.
We recommend the family transport business who were invaluable whilst filming "Along the West Highland Way":
Various accomodation providers may be able to give you transport to and from the trail, or at least advise on taxis & ferries.
Accomodation is sparse on the West highland Way so book well ahead. You will be lucky if you can find a bed for the night close to the path for all of the distance. If you are camping and don't want to carry your pack, a transport provider could drop off your gear at the next campsite, although they won't take your tent down! . There are hostels and "Wigwams" to spend the night in too, at a reduced cost compared to the hotels and B&Bs.
AMS accommodation directory
West Highland Railway
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