My first hiking trip! What do you take with you? Will I be able to complete the daily stages of Hillwalk Tours? Is mom holding up? These were the first questions that came to my mind when we decided to walk the West Highland Way in Scotland together as a self guided walking tour.
If you are interested in the answers to the questions, further details of the trip and many photos – read on! 🙂
General information about the West Highland Way
The West Highland Way – in future called WHW – begins in the heart of the small town of Milngavie. Milngavie can be reached from Glasgow in 30 minutes by train. But we took the bus from Edinburgh which took about two hours. This way was unfortunately necessary, because there is no direct flight from Hamburg to Glasgow. If you have to ask for the way to Milngavie, please note that the place is written “mill’n’gavy” but pronounces itself completely different – “mull guy”.
From Milngavie the trail leads to open country, leaving the northern edge of Glasgow behind. The trail follows small country roads and a disused railway track, leads through a forest park and over the picturesque Conic Hill to Balmaha at Loch Lomond lake.
From there the route follows the lonely, wooded eastern shores of the lake via Rowardennan and Inversnaid to Inverarnan. This part of the route is quite uneven and although no climbing is required, it can make you quite tired uphill and downhill. However, the path past Loch Lomond is also one of the most beautiful sections of the trail. The trail then leads north via Crianlarich to Tyndrum.
North of Tyndrum, the WHW becomes a little more remote. The route leads through the Glen Orchy Valley before crossing the pristine moorland of Rannoch Moor and down to the famous Glencoe. Glencoe is often described as one of the most spectacular and beautiful places in Scotland. From there the route crosses Devil’s Staircase and then leads to Kinlochleven with a slight gradient.
The last part of the way runs along the Mamore Mountains on an old military road, leads down into the Glen Nevis Valley and ends in Fort William.
Terrain and trailcharackter
The terrain on which the West Highland Way runs is varied: wide, comfortable forest paths, winding paths through moorland and heathland, paths on mountain slopes, hilly tree-lined paths, and cross-country paths provide variety. The trail has been designed along historic communication routes and runs along old military trails, disused railway tracks and former cattle drive routes.
Since the trail avoids great heights, it is passable for most hikers. One of the most difficult stretches is the trail on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond and some other sections offer little protection from bad weather. The climb along the entire route is about 3900 m with some long and steep stretches, especially near Glencoe. With 550 m height Devil’s Staircase is the highest point of the whole route.
Because of the many hikers, some parts of the trail are often very worn down. However, the route is much and regularly maintained and thus preserved. The trail leads through a variety of forest areas. The forests along the route are now strictly protected.
Arrival and Milngavie
Early in the morning we made our way to Hamburg Airport. From here our flight to Edinburgh left at 7 p.m. and less than two hours later we were punctually at the baggage claim and waiting for our suitcases.
The first connection we took was the City Link Bus 900 from Edinburgh to Glasgow. The bus takes about an hour and a half and drops you off in the centre of Glasgow. From there we started looking for a SIM card for our mobile phone, so that we could make decent phone calls and also had internet access.
The next means of choice to get to our starting point Milngavie was the train. Scotrail drives the route every 15 minutes and one is not half an hour on the way, while one can enjoy the green surroundings of Glasgow.
A few other ways to get to the starting point of the WHW, for example from Glasgow International Airport or Prestwick, are described at Macs Adventures.
As accommodation for the first night in Milngavie Hillwalk Tours had booked us a room in the Premier Inn Glasgow (Milngavie). The hotel is not too big, very beautifully located, has very friendly staff and the rooms are spacious, well equipped and cosy. Right next door is the restaurant “Beefeater West Highland Gate” where we had a very good dinner (English 10oz Rib-Eye Steak for the win! 😍). I also drank Brewdog’s Punk IPA there in the restaurant for the first time in my life, a great India Pale Ale with a light herbal note – definitely worth trying!
Before dinner we strolled through the village Milngavie and discovered the starting point of the WHW – but more about that later. What we also saw was a welcome sign with an overview map of the hiking trail, which made us want for the next day with the following text.
Welcome to the beginning of your journey. As you hike the West Highland Way, look out for these people of the past. They have also hiked along sections of this route for a variety of reasons and all have a story to tell. We hope that you will enjoy your holidays and experience a pleasant hike.
After dinner we watched as we came into the hotel and into bed, because none of us knew exactly what was waiting for us the next day. You can read how we fought each other on the first stage on the next page.