The Great Glen Way

The Great Glen Way is a lovely walk but for me not a patch on the West Highland Way.Maybe my view will change tomorrow but today’s walking was a lot of forestry tracks, old railway lines and yet more old military roads all of which tend to be wide and straightish. There were some lovely glimpses of Loch Ness but not as many as I had hoped for – still not seen the monster.  Maybe my slightly less upbeat review is due to my feet still aching because of the new boots or maybe because of the rain. I have had lovely sunshine all day and made good progress to Fort Augustus where I had a lovely meal. After lunch I climbed the hill in scorching heat and took a nap resting on my rucksack. I was awoken by a lovely couple of German walkers who were much amused by my snoozing and much impressed by the distance I have covered.

loch ness
first glimpse of loch ness
caledonian canal
caledonian canal

I carried on till about 5.30 when the sky was clouding over – as I started pitching my tent the rain started – I got the tent up and got in it in record time and that is where I am writing this – it is still raining outside but I am nice and snug. I just hope it all dries up for tomorrow’s walk.I am amazed to see that I have covered nearly 25 miles today.

view from my tent
tonight’s pitch


Sore feet by a Lochy 

Breaking in new boots on a long walk was never going to be easy but it has to be done. Also I have long thought that it is the feet that have to be broken in as much as the boots. Skin hardens where needed, leather softens and stretches – eventually the boots and feet adjust to become perfect matches – in theory. But today my feet hurt. Still, I covered 19 miles and have a lovely wild pitch by Lake Lochy. It even has a fire pit.A local info panel says that there are lots of Pine Martens here and that they are secretive and smelly – I can relate to that …

 tent by a lake
tonight’s pitch
sign for end kf west highlxnd way
end of west highland way

Sore feet by a Lochy 

Breaking in new boots on a long walk was never going to be easy but it has to be done. Also I have long thought that it is the feet that have to be broken in as much as the boots. Skin hardens where needed, leather softens and stretches – eventually the boots and feet adjust to become perfect matches – in theory. But today my feet hurt. Still, I covered 19 miles and have a lovely wild pitch by Lake Lochy. It even has a fire pit.A local info panel says that there are lots of Pine Martens here and that they are secretive and smelly – I can relate to that …

 tent by a lake
tonight’s pitch
sign for end kf west highlxnd way
end of west highland way

Waxing Lyrical

Yesterday’s walk was shorter than usual partly due to the hangover forced on me by fellow walkers. Today’s walk was also a mere 12 miles into Fort William where I am stocking up with supplies and sorting out my kit. Top priority was boots.

new boots
look at me… new boots

Fort William has more outdoor shops than any town could possibly need – every second shop is catering for the massive West Highland Way market.  Having finish the WHW my memories of it are wonderful. The views are awesome – they almost moved me to tears. To wake up in a Scottish Glen surrounded by mountains with snow in gullies and clouds forming around their peaks, with the sun creeping over the horizon sending beams onto a distant loch, and realise that you are the only human to witness this show is very special indeed. Every day, every hour, the show is different. The interaction of sun and shadow on this landscape is fantastic but I think It might be a somewhat different experience in a winter blizzard. Strangely, I also enjoyed the interaction with people. I tend to be a bit of a loner when walking but I really enjoyed the comradery and the banter between the walkers on the WHW – it was rather like the Santiago de Compostela.  

ben nevis mountain in clouds
Ben Nevis in the clouds

sign  showing wnd of west highland way
the end of one more road

Having said that, I’m looking forward to walking my next leg – The Great Glen across to Inverness. I think I will enjoy the Caledonian canal and also Nessie watching on the banks of Loch Ness and lots of solitude.I called in to Cotswold Clothing and told them I had purchased my boots from their Truro branch a few months ago and showed them their condition – within 10 minutes they had issued me with new pair. Once again I congratulate Cotswold Outdoor for their excellent service. I had a chat with the manager and he pointed out the difficulty in recommending a boot for the type of walk I was doing i.e. Fell walking, mountain/ hill scrambling, grass/ gravel canal tow paths, paved and unpaved forest tracks. Most modern boots are designed to suit one of these categories not all of them.

fort william cotswold
fort william cotswold
old boots with hole on sole
not looking great

I would also point out that, touch wood, I haven’t had any blisters yet unlike most of the walkers I have met on the WHW. 

Staying in a B&B tonight to catch up with my washing.Congratulation to all my new friends who are completing the West Highland Way and commiserations to those who have had to drop out through injury. Those who have finished and those who haven’t have undergone a remarkable life enriching challenge and I look forward to meeting you again on another hillside path…

a treat for the end of the way
inchgower whisky
favorite of my seven tasters

Along the Devil’s Staircase

I knew it was dangerous camping near a pub. Needless to say I was led astray by fellow walkers who plied me with whisky. As soon as I walked into the pub I was invited to join a group of walkers that I had met earlier on the West Highland Way. A good night was had by all in this excellent pub, The Kingshouse Hotel climbers’ bar.

West Highland way signpost
at least I’m on the right path
Glen Coe
Lovely Glen Coe
stepping stones
stepping stones

I didn’t have a lot to drink but I’m out of practice. Ive hardly touched a drop on this walk apart from the odd nip from my whisky flask. Still, I slept well once I’d found my tent.

I’ve made good progress north over the past few days and should make Fort William tomorrow in time to get my boots sorted out. I thing I’ll stay in a hostel or camp site so that I can get my washing done and have a decent shower; Im feeling a bit dirty.
I’ve just met some young walkers that were finding the walk too difficult so they ditched their tents and camping kit and went to B&Bs instead. Without the extra weight the walk has become a pleasure for them – they were walking with a bounce and chatting merrily – they obviously made a wise decision. 

Devil's Staricase  path
Along the Devil’s Staircase

I am pitched beside the way in a lovely glen a few miles north of Kinlochleven.
Kerriann, Hugo and the motorhome are slowly heading north – it will be lovely to see them. 

Found My Namesake Pub

I have just pitched my tent next to the river around the back of the Kingshouse Hotel. 

Clearly I had to stay at a place called Kingshouse.

tent with mountain in background
tonight’s pitch
The walk today was across Rannoch Moor which the guide books warn us ‘can be a very tough stage of The West Highland Way if the conditions are poor. Luckily, today, the conditions were wonderful and the walk was easy if a tad long.

It was especially long for me because I wandered down the wrong track for a mile and a half and had to retrace my steps – never mind.

At Inveroran I had a pint of shandy ‘on the house’ because I had walked so far. I also had a nice toasted sandwich and another pint before the 10 mile hike across the spectacular Rannoch moor.

Tomorrow’s section includes The Devil’s Staircase which sounds like fun!

Off to the pub now for a proper evening meal – a real treat when wild camping.

Busy on the West Highland Way

A fairly good night in the bothy – it would have been an excellent night had two lads not arrived at 11 o’clock at night when all of the rest off us were fast asleep…….never mind.

graham on the trail
looking good

I have not had any wifi all day so have not been able to read the advice that Kerriann tells me has been sent regarding my leg pain. Thanks anyway – I will try and get it later but there is no 3 or 4G phone signal here so it might not work.

The good news is that the leg has been very much better today. I think a combination of being gentle with it yesterday, the anti- inflammatory tablets and creams and a good(ish) night’s sleep has done the trick.

I’m noticing that I have quite a lot of insect bites on my legs and a few on my face so have just applied loads of anti-midge spray – I will do the same in the morning.The ‘Way’ was very busy today and I kept meeting the same people over and over. One would stop for a break and the other would pass then the other way round. One woman I met had booked the walking week with some girlfriends then tripped on a paving stone resulting in multiple fractures. Rather than cancel the trip she was walking a ‘lite’ version of the walk and meeting up with her friends in the evening. She was getting pain from the metal pins holding her foot together. Her ‘lite’ walk was incidentally long and quite strenuous by most peoples’ standards. Good for her.

kings house hotel
had to stop here

There were a lot of strugglers on the trail again today – lots of blisters and muscle pains – often the young macho men with all the kit and usually with overloaded rucksacks.

I met a lovely group of American women who were clearly enjoying every moment of their holiday. They asked how far I had walked and on checking the gps it was exactly 900.0 miles – they were somewhat surprised and got a fellow walker to take a picture of me with them. Maybe they will send this blog a copy….  

I think having a cheery disposition like these ladies helps on a walk – even when limbs and feet are aching singing a song or trying to walk with a relaxed spring in your step makes the pain a little easier to bear. 

The views today have been superb – I will let the photos speak for themselves.

I am in a beautiful but not ideal spot tonight – lovely views but on a bit of a slope and quite close to a railway line. At about 6 pm I had done enough walking for the day and this spot looked better that it actually is. I think I will sleep well though.

Kerriann has set out from home in the motorhome assisted by Hugo out little dog. She has taken it to Taunton and had the MOT renewed and has had to stay an extra day to get new break disks/pads fitted. Then she will slowly make her way up to Scotland and support me on my last leg up to John O’Groats. This is a big adventure for her – agreeing to drive a big motorhome all the way up here is no mean feat. Well done K!

Knee Expert Needed

A good day’s walking on a gorgeous trail. Quite a busy trail, apparently 80,000 people a year walk this way and most of them seem to be out this week. 

view of loch lomond
love a loch in the distance
calm loch mirroring sky
mirrored loch
washing on line in front of mountains
washing done
field of bluebells
bells on the path

I don’t blame them, the weather is perfect.There are a lot of first time walkers on the West Highland Way and some of them are really suffering – one couple of nice chaps that I met, Craig and Steff, were struggling. Craig has problems with his hips and Steff with blisters and foot pain. I do hope they are OK and that I run into them again tomorrow.

This reminds me of walking the Santiago de Compostela across Spain – every day or two you meet someone that you have met before and everybody supports each other.
This is also a very cosmopolitan walk, I have met people from Australia, America, Germany, Holland, Poland, and many more places. 

waterfall along the way

I have been getting a strange pain in my right leg just above my knee on the inside. I assume that this is a slightly pulled mussel (oops I mean muscle) 
and hope that it’s nothing more serious. It hurts mainly when I am going down hill – not a sharp pain but enough to worry me a little. Any experts out there? Are there any stretches or exercises that might help this problem?

I am in a lovely bothy tonight with a few other hikers – we are getting the fire going to deter any midges rather than create warmth but it also makes it quite homely. Mind you it already has homely ornaments on the windowsill!

last night’s bothy
graham standing outside bothy
king of the bothy
fireplace inside bothy
small dog statue on windowsill
interior of bothy
neat and tidy

These Banks Are, Indeed, Bonny

It’s good to be walking again after my day off. The weather has been fabulous – far better than forecast –  the sun was out but not too hot, the wind was blowing but not too much and the hills were there but not too steep.

wood store
love a good woodpile

Walking the West Highland Way is yet another of my ambitions being fulfilled; it has been on my bucket list for many years. I always imagined that it would be a very difficult walk but it appears to be only difficult in sections. I think Rannoch moor might be one of those sections and The Devil’s Staircase doesn’t sound as if it’s easy going! I will find out over the next few days.

I did around 18 miles of relatively easy walking today. It was a little hard on the feet though; not much grass and lots of hard surfaces like compressed gravel. My boots are hanging on in there; no more obvious problems with them.

It was lovely to meet the West Highland Way Trust Team in their home-made shepherd’s-hut-style caravan made from recycled materials. I think I can feel a project coming on.

The trust raises money to help with search and rescue, does litter picking and lots of other good work. They give free tea and Mars Bars to walkers and hope for donations to their cause.

Of particular interest were their pets – a baby wolf and a tame wild cat! The wolf has been imported from Russia; apparently they have no fear so are particularly good for lowering from helicopters in search and rescue situations.

The wild cat was a rescue and they think it is the only tame wildcat in Scotland.

Because of abuse and over use, wild camping has been banned on the east banks of Loch Lomond. Yes I am on the bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond – so I am camped on a commercial site. I am sure that I could tuck myself away on the hills above the path and not be noticed but I respect the wardens, and the reasons for the regulations so I’m being a  good boy.

Such great folk music on radio Scotland.