West Highland Way
West Highland Way - Part1
The route followed will be from Milngavie (pronounced Milguy) to FortWiiliam.
1. I booked a ticket on the Aberdeen to Glasgow route for £10.00. It had to be bought about 3 days before travel to get that price. Arrived in Glasgow, Queen Street Station 4pm 18 August, and made my way to Buchannan Street Bus Station asking directions on the way.
2. The No. 10 bus from Buchannan Street takes about 45 minutes to arrive at Milngavie, but travels past the road end leading to the camp site (the driver even told me where to get off), very handy.
The train was another alternative, which stops at the end of the line at Milngavie. I tried the train on the Thursday coming back from Glasgow with some provisions. The train stops at the town centre so the only option to get to the camp site would be by foot or bus.
Walking through the town in the rain with shopping has never been fun, even if you know which way it is. I tried and got lost. I eventually found my way to the railway station again and waited for a bus. A compass is no use if you don't know where you are and have no map. If you decide to travel by train, turn right out of the station.
3. I had to wait in Glasgow (Milngavie) a day as I needed to buy food etc. It was an unusually wet week. Thursday morning was very wet, no break in the rain. I stayed at the camp site until Friday morning, hoping for better weather.
I started the walk Friday morning and met a man called Israel, from Israel. He was about 70. We walked from the start of the the walk at Milngavie High Street and talked all the way to Drymen where we parted. I stayed at a camp site and he in a hotel. We made arrangements to meet up for supper, but I did not find him when I walked down to the village at 7pm. Very heavy showers on the way. We had joined with a couple from Germany on the way so I met them in the village and we ate together. Bonnie had some too. We all took a cab back to the camp site as it was dark and wet.
4. The trip from Milgavie to Drymen was mainly through trees and gradually winds its way to the foot of Loch Lomond then up into a road about an altitude of 500 feet.
Saturday – The walk ascended to the forest track and followed this track most of the time. I met again with Israel, who maintained he was walking slowly to wait for me to catch up. Hmm.
The path graduated into a hill walk. I wanted to stop and look at the view and eat, so Israel and I parted. The rest of the walk to Balmaha followed a route round the east and north of Conic Hill. It was a hard climb but the but the views at the top looking over the Loch were breathtaking.
On descending Conic hill we put up the tent in a clearing among the trees.
5. Sunday – Walked to Rowardennan. The forecast was heavy rain an we got our moneys worth. I used my mobile phone to get updates from MWIS.org (Mountain Weather Information Services). They were very accurate with Sundays forecast. On the way to Rowardennan there was a camp site. I bought breakfast in the form of baguette, ham and coleslaw. The camp site was flat, low-lying and was there was extensive flooding. The owner said they were only taking in tents that were pre booked. Poor them.
6. At Rowardennan it had rained out, so it was a very sunny evening. I intended to climb Ben Lomond Monday morning, so I set up the tent in a clearing half way up the hill above the tree line. I made a poor choice of site and spent the entire night constantly pushing back up the tent. There was a tree stump I used as a support to push against. Broke tent pole no. 1.
Woke about 6am Monday – set off up Ben Lomond. We reached within about 20 feet of the summit, and visibility was nearing 5 feet. I didn't wait for the weather to clear, the forecast had promised clear sky and good visibility. I am kicking myself for not waiting for the cloud to clear. We started back and as we were descending we were meeting crowds totalling 100. They all were imagining me coming down from the summit. The only reason I had given up was that I had left my over trousers at the tent. Now I need to go back and finish – very annoying as a few minutes later the clouds moved to reveal a warm sunny-looking top. I packed up our gear and set off down the hill and off to the next marker – Inversnaid.
7. The walk to Inversnaid was through tree lined avenues. It was very beautiful and peaceful. We set up camp about 2 miles before the hotel at about 8pm.
8. Tuesday - The morning was dry so we went to the hotel for breakfast. I was offered a table after 8am. There were 2 coaches of guests eating so it was good to be offered a table – it only cost £5.00.
The path to the hotel was very hard and we had to climb over rocks which had steps chiselled out with the aid of a stone saw. As I was worried about the weight of the tent, bag, food, clothes, cooking equipment, I tried to find another path. At the hotel they thought there was another path leading to the ? cottage.
I tried to find it and followed a path I thought would lead me to the cottage but ended up climbing down through the trees to a path I had been on before. There was no path that I could find.
I got back to the tent and as the weather was now dry I waited for the tent to dry and lay down to rest in the sun. Here is the start of a very funny tale. As I was lying there, groups of walkers were trailing past. They were laughing when they saw me lying there. A group of children I had met on Ben Lomond were singing as they went. I shouted out “be quiet or you will frighten the natives”. I will tell the end of this story later.
I packed the tent etc. and started out on the trail. A couple of ladies (about 60ish) were walking with me, so I said, “Shall I go first and show the way?” They asked, “Why, have you been here before?” “Only three times today, so far.” I felt a bit stupid saying that as they were very 'with it.'
I managed to the hotel and the group from Germany were having lunch at the tables outside the hotel. Now Bonnie was doing her usual introductions at all the tables, relieving the occupants of their lunch.
I am not fully convinced how I feel about this, as the food may not bee good for her. I think I will not allow her to continue in this manner. A difficult issue to solve – dogs are natural scavengers. To allow all, some or none to give treats. She likes to entertain and gets excited at meeting new friends. Socializing is good for her, so a sacrifice needs to be made – eat at the tables and visit the vet or keep her away from snacks and stay away from the vet. We intend to go to Europe next year, so the problem of rabies now comes into it.
We continued that day to the top end of the Loch at a clearing just past the walkers refuge hut. We put up our tent at the side of the Loch. I washed some clothes. A big mistake as the night pelted the tent until mid afternoon the next day.
9. Wednesday – All things being equal, we decided to make a push for Crianlarich – about 10 miles further. We had not found water anywhere on the Tuesday and used up all our water by the morning. Before we left the camp we got water from a fast flowing stream next to the tent.
The weather had improved, so we started out, but later it slowly began to rain. We passed a camp site but wanted to get to Crianlarich. We got to a shepherds cottage next to the main road. I had enough of the stony path and thought the road would be easier to walk on and a straighter route.
We walked for what seemed another 6 miles along the road before we came to Crianlarich. The traffic was fast and uncomfortable in the extreme. I would not recommend this route to anyone, it is better to walk all the way along the path.
We walked into Crianlarich at about 8pm (half way 45miles). A householder having a smoke outside pointed me in the direction of a local pub.
Remember the meeting along the path with group of Germans? One of the walkers at the pub beckoned me over to their table as I walked into the pub. While we sat he said' “You are famous, every one is talking about this man and his black dog.” “What are they saying?” I asked.
“They are all saying how hard this route is and they keep finding you relaxing on the path. Yesterday you were asleep and they were struggling to keep going. It seems to them and to us that you are making this walk too much fun for the level of difficulty it really is!”
I replied, “I don't find it that easy and I am seriously thinking of giving up tonight.”
It shows how looks can be deceiving.
We found another walker in the pub and he wanted to sit and talk after the first group left.
We made a kind of agreement to catch a train fro Fort William. We would meet at the station in the morning. I kind of said I would be getting the 9.30am train.
After leaving the pub at 11pm, Bonnie and I found another piece of grass to sleep on and put up the tent, breaking another pole in the process.
We woke about 4am, so made our way to the station.
10. Thursday – It was a cold morning and another walker came by the platform about 6am. He was getting the 6.30am train to Fort William and getting of at Bridge of Orchy. The train was the sleeper, so we sat quietly whispering.
I got off the train at Fort William and inquired if there were any tickets to Glasgow/Aberdeen.
I went to Fort William to see if I could get replacement poles. When I got to Fort William, I went to the Blacks shop. No real joy there as the poles I wanted were going to be too expensive. It would have been as much for the poles as the price for a new tent. I didn't want to wait a whole week for the cheaper ticket and I was eager to get home, so bought a ticket to Aberdeen paying over £70.00. What a difference from the £10.00 ticket.
I tried to pick another day but there was no cheaper ticket for a whole week. I would have stayed had the tent poles not have broken,the clothes wet and the tent very cramped. Sharing the tent with Bonnie was cramped, so another person would have been unbearable even without their haversack. At Fort William I would have sorted out my wet clothes and continued the walk from Fort William and back to Crianlarich. I intend to buy another tent before the next trip.
11. By the time I got home I was violently sick and kept being sick all the following day.
I eventually had to go to the hospital and was given an injection to prevent me being or feeling sick. I was worried about taking my regular medication that night. A duty doctor was called to the hospital for two other patients. I was given some water to drink. When the doctor arrived about an hour later, he looked at the empty cup and said' “The injection looks like it is working, you will be able to take your medication tonight.”
“You have a stomach infection, don't eat anything for a couple of days and it will clear up. If you eat it will feed the infection and take longer to die out.”
I was poorly for about two weeks after.
This is why it says on the West Highland Way map, “DON'T DRINK FROM THE STREAMS!”
Be careful where you find water, it is not worth the risk.
1. All the camp sites are listed on the West Highland Way map, ref:
2. At most of the camp sites along the route there are “Wigwams” that can be used instead of the tent if the weather is cold and wet. There are benches around the walls with foam mattresses. It would be wise to check with the individual site owners before you travel to find out prices etc.
All the recognised camp sites have showers for guests and some have washing machines.
3. I met with a man from Israel, called Israel. He was staying at hotels along the way – This meant he had to walk about 15 – 20 miles a day. He had booked the hotels in advance, so he had no choice to walk shorter distances. This would have been a problem if he could not keep up the pace. He said the hotels would fine him for not staying as he had pre-booked.
If the weather gets wet, (as it did), the track is very wet and muddy, so clothes get very dirty. There is no time to wash clothes, so the hotel will accept baggage and pass it on to the next hotel by organised taxi service ready for the next night.
This was a problem for one person, who had to get a train to Tyndrum to pick up his baggage, as he had fallen behind the timetable.
One advantage of staying at hotels is a clean and comfortable bed for there is no. For dog owners there is no option to use this method as the hotels will not accept guests who have dogs. Comment if you know different. It would be a good idea to check with B&Bs and hotels before you start to get updates to their terms.
My overall opinion for the walk:
Make sure your dog has a health check before attempting the route.
This would involve rabies inoculation – there are a lot of other dogs on the route, maybe from other countries.
Tick treatment – Ticks carry parasites that can cause meningitis type illnesses in dogs. There are hundreds on the route.
Worm treatment – People will give your dog treats, not knowing the possible effects on your pet. It is impossible to keep 100% control of your dog – they are very nosey and inquisitive.
Waterproof coat for your dog would be an an advantage, even in summer. It is very easy for your dog to freeze when he gets wet. Your next problem is to get him dry before it gets dark.
You will find a tent very cold when it is wet, so extra warm clothes and dry towels for your dog. I had to put Bonnie on a couple of fleeces and on top of her to keep her warm.
As we are doing the walk to raise money for Stigma Trust, we will use a Moblog account to post info: http://blog.stigma.org.uk/sw2009 will be our blog.
We have a Facebook account too. Find us by searching for: www.facebook.badjohn64.com