|The Kelvingrove Museum & Art Gallery, the starting point on our ramble up to Fort William.|
Day 1 Milngavie 18 kilometres 212m ascent.
I decided to start my journey from the excellent Kelvingrove Museum & Art Gallery which was a couple of kilometres from our hotel in Glasgow. Sam on the other hand thought I was a bit crazy adding a day onto an already long walk so decided to spend the day shopping in Glasgow before catching a taxi out to Milngavie in the afternoon. The first day of the walk was a great warm up for the rest of the WHW, after leaving the Museum I followed a paved path up stream along the banks of the River Kelvin for a couple of hours. Eventually I left the beautiful riverside track and climbed up through the outer suburb Maryhill, gently climbing past a trig marking the only high point of todays walk. Setting off from Maryhill I was now walking through a rural landscape, I was a little surprised at how quickly I'd walked out of Glasgow's embrace but I was now walking past wheat fields and I even spotted a deer drinking from Allander Water as I neared Milngavie. Arriving at Milngavie I checked out the real start of the WHW before heading to the Premier Inn, our accommodation for the night, where I was reunited with Sam. The rest of the afternoon followed what would be a familiar theme, spending the afternoon kicking back having something to eat with Sam while typing up the days adventures for my crazy guy journal.
|Passing through the suburbs of Glasgow on the Kelvingrove Walkway.|
Day 2 Drymen 21 kilometres, 39 kilometres total. 293m ascent, 505m total ascent.
Today we actually started the WHW, after a comfortable night in Milngavie we were on the track before 9am, about 4 hours earlier than I normally start my walks. The WHW makes its way north by a series of local park lands before breaking out into the open near Craigallian Loch, and from this point on the walking continues to improve until we got to what I thought was the best section of the day, a gentle walk down the valley under the rocky plug of Dumgoyach. Soon after passing Dumgoyach the WHW meets the old alignment of the Blane Valley Railway which it faithfully follows for the next couple of hours, crossing a mainly rural landscape the walk was broken by lunch at the Beech Tree Inn, very civilised walking indeed! After leaving the old railway line we followed some quiet country roads most of the way into Dryman, arriving mid afternoon we had plenty of time to kick back and explore the village.
|The official start of the WHW in Milngavie.|
Day 3 Balmaha 15 kilometres, 54 kilometres total. 639m ascent, 1144m total ascent.
Our second day on the WHW delivered us to Balmaha on the shore of Loch Lomond. We had a nice comfortable night in Dryman and set off nice and early towards our days destination, soon after leaving we climbed gently up into series of Pine plantations, at one stage the trail actually passed through an active coupe. The views of Loch Lomond were getting quite extensive now as our next objective Conic Hill, loomed closer. Conic Hill is the first real climb of the WHW and the climb is fairly solid without being overly hard, with the WHW bypassing the summit I left Sam sheltering from the wind in the grass while I made the short side trip to the summit, trying not to get blown off the mountain. After completing the crux of todays walk all we had to do was to descend steeply down to the beautiful village of Balmaha, spending a very relaxed afternoon having a few drinks at the Oak Tree Inn and checking out Loch Lomond up close.
|Loch Lomond in the distance.|
Day 4 Rowardennan, 14 kilometres, 68 kilometres total. 400m ascent, 1544m total ascent.
We woke this morning to steady light rain, we'd been in the UK for well over a week and today was our first day of real rain so we couldn't really complain. Todays walk had us following the shore of Loch Lomond up to Rowardennan, in hind site it would be one of the easiest and shortest days walking so it was not a bad day to get some inclement weather. The WHW makes a series of small sharp climbs a descents as it makes its way up the lock, in-between the short climbs we followed some beautiful beaches although it was a bit of a melancholy scene in the rain.We passed tonights accommodation before lunch time but were under instructions to continue on to the Rowardennan Hotel were we would get picked up after we ate. We arrived in the early afternoon at the pub and after a great meal I spent some time checking out the tiny village, the rain having eased a little bit I was able to get some half decent photos of Loch Lomond.
|Today would turn out to be our only wet day on the WHW.|
Day 5 Ardlui, 22 kilometres, 90 kilometres total. 593m ascent, 2137m total ascent.
Today we tracked up Loch Lomond all day, this would turn out to be the toughest day on the WHW. There are no big hills today but there are a lot of short sharp descent and ascents which along with the reasonably rough track made it a solid day. After a night spent at the excellent Anchorage Cottage we started our walk nice and refreshed, and with no precipitation falling we were two happy walkers. The WHW initially climbs high above the shore of Loch Lomond on an old road, with the occasional view through the trees and an easy gradient it made for an easy start to the day. By the time we arrived at the Inversnaid Hotel for lunch though the WHW had started its undulating journey north, still suitably fortified after another pub lunch the undulations didn't quite seem so bad. After passing by numerous beautiful small coves, all looking at their best in the afternoon sun, the WHW starts to climb a little away from the loch, this is the furthest we would be from the shore for the whole day, crossing a low saddle we spied our hotel at Ardlui on the other side of the loch. All that was left to do now was to descend back to the shores of Loch Lomond and hail the ferry that would transport us quickly over the calm waters, checking into the Ardlui Hotel in the late afternoon this was one of our longest days on the walk.
Day 6 Crainlarich, 19 kilometres, 109 kilometres total. 683m ascent, 2820m total ascent.
After yesterdays harder day, today was pretty cruisey. After our ferry dropped us off back on the other side of the loch we continued our journey north, we were now heading towards the highlands which was what I'd been looking forward to. After crossing a low saddle we left Loch Lommond behind, the loch having been our constant companion for the last few days , now though we preceded up a series of river valleys. Today we even walked through an operating mine site, not something that I've ever experienced on a walk in Australia, walking through a sheep creep was another first for me (check out my crazy guy journal for more on that). The A82 was never far away today but for the most part it didn't spoil the days walking. We actually walked a fair way past Crainlarich today to get to our accommodation for the night at Ewich House, catching a taxi back into town for dinner at the, you guessed it, pub!
|Our last views of Loch Lomond.|
Day 7 Inveroran, 23 kilometres, 132 kilometres total. 457m ascent, 3277m total ascent.
We had a great night at Ewich House, another great accommodation option. Today we walked up some grand valleys the scenery getting better the further we went. We stopped for our second breakfast in the old industrial town of Tyndrum and, after leaving there we got into some typical highland scenery on the walk to Bridge of Orchy, the open valley allowing us to see the odd shower sweeping through. After a few hours walking up the beautiful valley we arrived at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, time for another long lunch. While relaxing at the pub the weather deteriated a bit and for only the second time on the walk we had to don our wet weather gear as we walked out of Bridge of Orchy. Our short afternoon walk had us climb up through a pine forest before dropping down to our accommodation at the historic Inveroran Hotel, this old drovers hotel is older than European settlement in Australia so it wasn't really surprising that the room sloped a bit and I had to stoop to get through the door.
|An old bridge over the River Fillan.|
Day 8 Kingshouse, 18 kilometres, 150 kilometres total. 375m ascent, 3652m total ascent.
To cut to the chase today was awesome, one of those days that will stay with me forever. After a comfortable night in the historic Inveroran Hotel we left in bright sunshine to climb onto Rannoch Moor. Once we'd climbed up the historic drovers road and were on the moor we spent the next few hours ambling away across the sodden landscape, stopping numerous times to take in the vast views in every direction, the numerous small tarns glistening in the golden sun light. With the weather perfect we lingered as long as we could without actually being consumed by the ever present midges. Eventually we started the very gentle descent down to the Kings House Hotel, another historic drovers hotel, arriving in the mid afternoon we had plenty of time to relax, it was after this great days walking just when I thought that life couldn't get any better we found out that Australia had a new prime minister, ahhhh....
|The awesome scenery on Rannoch Moor.|
Day 9 Kinlochleven, 16 kilometres, 166 kilometres total. 436m ascent, 4088m total ascent.
After a foggy start to the day, the day developed into another great day for walking. We had to climb the Devils Staircase today, a climb to the highest point on the WHW, but really it wasn't that bad. The climb involved a lot of switchbacks but the gradient was pretty good and we were up on top after a couple of stops, once on top though it was more or less down hill for the rest of the day to Kinlochleven. The descent is a long one though, we followed a great walking track initially before picking up some old hydro roads that led us into Kinlochleven, an old hydro town that used to be home to an aluminium smelter, the industrial setting a bit jarring after the beautiful wild country we'd been walking through. The good news today was that just after we checked into our hotel it started to rain and didn't stop until the small hours of the morning.
|We had a foggy start today on our walk over to Kinlochleven.|
Day 10 Fort William, 26 kilometres, 192 kilometres total. 759m ascent, 4847m total ascent.
Our last day on the WHW was another cracker, the rain that had fallen over night had cleared and as we climbed out of Kinlochleven we left the fog behind. This morning was spent climbing up to The Laigigmor which at 330 metres was todays high point, the views were once again extensive and a feature of the days walk. After crossing the gentle pass we descended another wide valley before climbing once again, with Ben Nevis in view the WHW felt like it was coming to its conclusion but the last day has quite a few twists and turns as it meanders its way to Fort William, at 26 kilometres its quite a long day too. Wandering into Fort William in the late afternoon we headed through town, eventually finding the official end to the walk about 200 metres from our hotel, The Lime Tree Inn. Finding the official end of the walk was probably the arrest navigational challenge that I faced on the whole walk, I'm definitely more at home in the bush than in town.
|Our last day on the WHW was another stunner.|
Ok, we walked with a company called Macs Adventure on this walk, they booked the accommodation organised our bag transfer for us, I'd highly recommend them and wouldn't hesitate to use their services again. We stayed at some great accommodation on the WHW, the standouts being Anchorage Cottage, a small family run B&B that we arrived at after our wettest day. Ewich House was another beautiful stop with a friendly host and our stay at Fort William was at the beautiful Lime Tree Inn, a place that should be on everyones itinerary even if only to eat in their great restaurant. I used the Trailblazer guide book on the walk, the mud maps are perfect for walking and the guide also had maps and notes for my walk from Glasgow to Milngavie as well as my unusual climbing route up Ben Nevis, of which I'll do a post about one day. The WHW was my first experience at a long distance walk in the UK and I came away mightily impressed, it was a great holiday and I'd love to get back over and do more walks, even more importantly Sam had a great time on the walk as well. Finally if this little story has wet your appetite for some more about our adventures on the WHW then maybe check out my crazy guy journal, there is over 300 photos on it though, so you'll be in for a long haul if you want to read all my waffle.
|We made it!|