Testing the West Highland Way

Originally I had planned a Hiking retreat with a group of women in Glen Coe. Organised by the blogger Kathi Kamleitner. Watchmesee.com – if you need tips and help organising a trip to and around Scotland – she knows her stuff :). Unfortunately Kathi had to cancel the retreat.

I had taken the Friday off now anyways and I was very much looking forward going to Glen Coe again, so I decided I just go again by myself. I booked 2 nights in a cute B&B in Kinlochleven. I had a look at a few walks to do but generally I did not have a real plan what I wanted to do.

I left early Friday morning and arrived in Glen Coe before lunch time. While I was driving up, I briefly thought of why am I goin to Glen Coe again. I mean, this was the 4th time already only this year… I was last year in autumn and the year before as well. But as soon as I passed the sign “Welcome to the Highlands” and the unreal landscapes of Rannoch Moor came into view, I knew why. And I remembered why I love driving that road so much. It is definitely my all time favourite even though there are stunning drives on Skye as well and driving the Bealach na Ba (‘Pass of the Cattle’), which crosses the peninsula of Applecross was also pretty awesome. But when you come down the A82 and you see Loch Bร  on the right and then the hills of Buachaille Etive Mรณr and Glen Coe in the far, it is just an absolute stunning view. And that long road through this scarce landscape makes you think you are not on this planet anymore. Especially when there are clouds around and the top of the hills are befogged.

I first drove through the Glen and stopped at the car park from where you have a view on the Three sisters and the Glen with Loch Achtriochotan. I then decided I wanted to walked the path again that run parallel to the A82 – just to see how far it would actually go. Turned out not so much farther than I had went last time ๐Ÿ˜€ but still had some great views.

I then drove back to the car park overlooking the Stob Na Cabar on the right and the valley of Lairig Gartain. As I found out now you can walk a circle through the two Lairigs – Lairig Gartain and Lairig Eilde. But I only walked the one which I had tried before in August 2017 but ended up in the mud and had to turn around…

I just started walking just seeing where I would end up and what to find. I then got a proper fright :D. Stags were belling from the hills! But I did not know what was going on at first as obviously I did not see anything, I just heard the noises. But the further I went into the valley the more I heard them and then also saw the herds. Unfortunately they were too far up the hills to take a proper picture but I saw a massive stag with my binoculars.

I soon went back and then headed to the Clachaig Inn. But I parked at the car park for the Signal Rock and then went over the bridge and the woods to the pub. I ordered Apple Crumble – kind of thinking if would be like German Apfelstreuselkuchen. Which obviously it was not ๐Ÿ˜€ Still nice though.

I then wanted to do a quick stop at the Glencoe Lochan. It is one of my favourite places up there. But I was proper shocked when I arrived. It was almost like half drained! Apparently they do some work on the dam but I don’t understand why they had to ruin the Lochan like that! :,(

I arrived at my B&B shortly after 4pm. Jo, the host was lovely. Super friendly and showed me loads of ideas of walks on a proper relief map. It was great to actually see the whole area as it really is! Now I want one too :D. I had thought of walking to the Blackwater Reservoir but then Jo showed me that the start of the last part of the West Highland Way was just around the corner. I thought about it during the evening and decided I would just give it a go. I thought I could always just turn around and go back.

As always when in Glencoe I had dinner at the Bothy bar. Actually wanted the Highland Burger but ended up ordering the normal burger with cheese. I take it I was just tired ๐Ÿ˜€ But had the Highlander Burger the next day then. For some reason it was not as good as I remembered it.

So the next day after breakfast I made my way up the West Highland Way. The actual length of the part from Kinlochleven to Fort William is 15 miles (24 km). It is one of the longest and hardest part of the West Highland Way and that after people have already walked all the way up from Glasgow.

It started right of with a steep uphill walk… But you had great views across Loch Leven, Kinlochleven from above and the Pap of Glencoe.

Then the path turns into a valley – the Lairigmor (the great pass) which runs between steep and grand mountains. It goes on for miles though. Passes the old ruins at Tigh-na-sleubhaich, a watershed with the great peak of Stob Ban towering behind. However the path is really daunting at some point…

It then turns and you pass through some forestry and reach a little shelter from where the old Military road leads into a paved public road into Fort William. Jo had told me that many call a taxi to pick them up there when the way gets too tiring. I am not surprised. When you read on the sign in the shelter that you just did 7.5 miles and have another 7.5 miles to go to reach Fort William taking on another 4 hours you can get really desperate ๐Ÿ˜€ . Well, I did not want to give in and call a taxi but I also could not bare another 7.5 miles over rocks and water.

Hence, I walked on the paved road. Which was daunting enough. And by that point it rained… When I finally set eyes on Fort William after 2 hours on the road I was wet and tired and thought I cannot do one more step. I honestly thought of stopping a car. I was surprised there were quite a few coming on the road. If I hadn’t had music I could not have done it but it gave me new motivation and strength to carry on.

I actually wanted to take the bus back to Kinlochleven. But I had missed the one at 2.30pm and the next one was only at 5.30. I could not wait that long. All I wanted was a hot shower and lie down. So I made the decision to call a taxi. Sharon, the taxi lady picked me up and I had a nice comfortable ride back to Kinlochleven. Let’s not talk about how much it cost me but at that point I could not care less…

After a hot shower and some rest I was hardly in the mood to go for dinner but dragged me out again. But as soon as I had finished my burger I went back and into bed. It was not even my legs that hurt but my feet. I guess because of the unevenness of the path. However I can say I walked on the West Highland Way and I walked 21 km (13 miles) which is the farthest I ever walked in my life I think.

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