Hiking Scotland’s West Highland Way
Because we are crazy, we decided to walk 90 miles in 7 days. Yup. As the title of this post states, we limped our way through Scotland. And we were Oh. So. Happy.
We hiked the West Highland Way which is a stunning trek through the Scottish Highlands. Along the way, we traveled through friendly towns, across the foothills of folklore, along the shores of famed lochs and through rolling green, green moors (aka grassland).
Beginning in Milngavie, (pronounced Miln-GUY) the West Highland Way marches northward along the west side of Scotland near Loch Lomond and ends in Fort William some 96 miles later.
Not gonna lie, some aspects of the trip were exhausting. It’s no mean feat hiking 10-15 miles per day, every day, for a week and we took a more moderate, measured approach to the hike. The terrain, while mainly straightforward, is not particularly forgiving, especially when it’s Day 3 and your ankle has had just about enough time navigating uneven, rocky paths on steeply inclined downhills. Overall, it was breathtaking. Standing on a craggy hillside overlooking a sea of green and purple moor as far as the eye can see with the sun at your back and the charming rooftops of a town peeking out from the valley below – we couldn’t get enough.
The trail is well marked and dotted conveniently with enough civilization (but not too much) that you can restore your self and your backpack, and meet the most incredibly warm and wonderful people.
Conich Hill for lovely views and nice elevation over…
Loch Lomond, a spectacular lake along whose shores you can find Rob Roy’s cave where…
Rob Roy MacGregor, a kilted, Scottish outlaw from the early 1700s, raided cattle. He became a local folk hero and is basically the Scots’ version of Robin Hood. He hid in a cave along the shores of Loch Lomond to escape the law, similar to…
James Bond (bit of a stretch transition?) but Glencoe, directly along the WHW, is where where scenes from the movie, Skyfall were filmed and provides a resting point before…
The Devil’s Staircase where you traverse uphill some 550m before being greeted with vistas of…
The Ben Nevis Mountain range which is the highest mountain in the British Isles at 4,414ft above sea level.
In looking back, what I enjoyed most about the trip wasn’t the big, grand, gorgeous scenery and views…ok, well not JUST the gorgeous scenery and views, but the moments of wonder and reflection I experienced while on the trip. I think the combination of physical exertion, mental determination and awe-inspiring landscape worked miraculous things on my sense of self and well-being.
Without getting too new-agey on you, when we were maneuvering through trees and scrambling over rocks, there wasn’t a lot of chit-chat and that level of mindless focus (you’re just walking for goodness sake) was restorative.
About halfway through our trek, we met a woman from Canada who was walking the West Highland Way entirely alone. She was incredibly friendly (you could tell she wasn’t typically a lone-wolf) and shared with us that she decided to undertake this trip as an opportunity “to think.” That about sums up exactly how I felt. You might say buying a ticket and traveling across the Atlantic Ocean to walk 90+ miles is a mighty costly way to find some time to think, and you might be right. But, truly the the chance to literally disconnect (there is not a lot of Netflix and chill up in the highlands, let me tell you) and engage yourself in something both so wholly vast and infinitesimally small does wonders.
We used Hillwalk Tours to help plan and book our trip and they were great! They provided a full self-guided tour complete with a resource book and maps, detailed route explanations and they organized accommodations at B&B’s along the way. I highly recommend them!
If you’re up for adventure and a bit of exercise, hiking the West Highland Way should certainly be on your bucket list.