The West Highland Way is among the most famous multi day trekkings in Europe, or maybe even in the world. It’s an epic 154.5 km long hiking trail leading from Milngavie just north of Glasgow to Fort Williams, based on the foot of Ben Nevis. When planning our trip to Scotland back in 2012 we knew we totally wanted do this hike!
However, we had never been to Scotland before and found ourselves with a dilemma: the trail would take us about a week to finish and we only had two weeks for our trip available. During these two weeks, we would also have to take the ferry to/from Newcastle and drive up to Scotland from there. When researching all there’s to see we found out quickly that there’s in fact a ton of walking opportunities. Various sources told us the West Highland Way (WHW) is too crowded and that in case you are unlucky, the bad weather will chase you for a whole week. Wanting to see more than just one part of Scotland plus Edinburgh and wanting to be able to escape the poor weather if desired, we decided not to do the whole walk but just do a day trekking instead.
We went to Scotland very un-prepared. Other than the boat and a mountain hut in Glen Affric, we did not book anything. Which turned out to be a wise decision as our first week we had (almost) nothing but rain. We got soaked while hiking out in the Cairngorms and along Loch Ness, and felt blessed we did not have to do the whole West Highland Way that week. Luckily once we made it into our second week (after we spent a fortune on accommodation as our tent and all gear was soaked) it got pretty dry and good weather. Upon arrival in Fort Williams we grabbed our chance and decided to hike the final part of the West Highland Way, from Kinlochleven to Fort William.
This stretch is not too hard, it just very long (24 km) and will take you about 7-8 hours. You can easily get to Kinlochleven by bus which will take about one hour from downtown Fort William, go here to see the current schedule. Once we arrived in Kinlochleven we found the trail pretty quickly and started our walk, having beautiful views over the Loch in the distance.
The first part of the trail led us through a forest and steeply up onto an old military road in an empty yet stunning valley. Even though it was a fine day (the second in about 2 weeks) it was quiet on the trail and we were only accompanied by some sheep. We passed by a lonely shed which was a great place for a rest. The silence was overwhelming and all we heard was the sheep surrounding us. We continued our journey on this easy and relatively flat road that swings itself through the valley and seems to be never ending.
At the end of the valley we reached a small settlement at Blar a’ Chaorainn. There’s a small lake, cows are grazing and we still haven’t seen a single soul. And this is supposed to be the busiest trail in Scotland? Shortly after leaving the lake behind we got the first views of the mighty Ben Nevis. We are lucky because he’s out of the clouds for the second day in a row and from a distance it doesn’t really look like there was a huge pack of snow on the top, which we experienced the day before.
By then, we’ve reached the Nevis Forrest. The trail swings right through it and gets slightly boring. Here we pass our first hikers of the day, a group of school kids out on a survival week. While we are nearing the end of our hike, they seem full of energy which cheers us up and makes us ready for the final push. Eventually, a tarmac road takes us back to Glen Nevis and our campsite. As we walked on mostly soft grounds all day long the last part is pretty hard on the feet, especially since we’ve already done about 22 kilometer and somehow, no matter how far you have to go and how good or poor the trail is, the last stretch is always the hardest.
We fell down on the benches before our tent and laid down for a rest. Stepping into the cold water feels like heaven to cool our feet down on this humid day. Later that night, over a well deserved dinner in a nice restaurant we decide the hike was gorgeous and for not one second we were bothered by the lack of people. The views were perfect because they were so lonely and we agree that it couldn’t have been much better. One day we will do the entire West Highland Way. Including the chance of a week full of rain…
This is our first article about Scotland, however if you enjoyed reading you this, we think you may also like:
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– we12walk: the Laugavegur in Iceland
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