Our 2nd Anniversary Adventure - Hiking The West Highland Way
My husband and I just returned from a wonderful trip to Scotland. We had previously visited for 4 days as part of our honeymoon 2 years ago and we had seen people walking the West Highland Way and knew we had to come back to do it. The trip was challenging physically, but both renewing to the body and soul!
What is The West Highland Way [WHW]?
It’s a 96-mile trail that runs from Milngavie to Fort William on an old military road from the 1800s. It’s a popular destination and we met people from all over the world on our trek. While it is popular, there are stretches were you don’t see anyone for miles. There are many options for walkers along the way… you can camp, you can stay in hostels or you can stay in hotels. We did a combination, we camped the first 5 nights and stayed in a hotel one night and above a bar the second night (we planned to camp this night but got completely soaked by rain and knew it would be best if we could dry our things out).
The neat thing about the WHW is that you pass through small Scottish towns almost daily. Something that we aren’t used to in the states on our long hikes. There was one stretch where there was no town, only a hotel, so it inevitably bottle necked at this location as everyone wanted to rest their feet and get a pint.
Walking The West Highland Way
How can I even describe it? Pictures will never do it justice. Of course it was absolutely stunning, but there is a feeling you get after being outdoors and away from a busy city that cannot be explained, only experienced. Not to mention that the air in Scotland is some of the best in the world, so crisp and clean! The entire walk took us 8 days to complete and we walked 9 to 18 miles per day. Each days hike varied as we had specific campsites/towns to get to each night.
We saw plenty of adorable animals during the first part of our journey. The Scottish Cows (or coos as they call them) were my favorite, wee harry beasts. We also saw miniature ponies (they are called Shetland ponies), feral goats, tons of sheep and lambs, a red squirrel and lots of birds.
The landscape changed from wide open spaces to large hills all carpeted with green. There were waterfalls, large rocks, lush trees and beautiful bright flowers lining the banks of Loch Lomond.
We walked the entire length of Loch Lomond which is a freshwater Scottish loch which crosses the Highland boundary fault, it’s often considered the boundary between the lowlands of central Scotland and the Highlands.
At the beginning of our longest day, we went the wrong way for about 3 miles but although we added more mileage to our hike that day it was so beautiful that I didn’t mind. I snapped the photo below of a cottage that I would love to live in one day. How cozy and beautiful is it?!
We went through forests and along rivers. We even went through farmland. All of it beautiful, and all of it unique to the highlands.
Since the West Highland Way follows an old military road the ground can be challenging for your feet. We definitely had tired feet at the end of each day, but I was impressed that our bodies took on the repeated long miles each day without too much of a rebellion.
Stopping into the towns to have a beer, a hot meal or a cup of tea was also a really neat experience. We found some pretty amazing places in the middle of nowhere, like Country Mumkins (pictured below) which was an old church turned into a restaurant with the sweetest staff and best cup of tea I had!
Another part of the West Highland Way that was so enjoyable was the people we met. There was a group of us that kind of stuck together and at the end of each day we would meet at the pub or local bar to have a drink and exchange stories. It truly made the adventure that much better! Plus there were 2 Scottish Sisters that were doing the hike too and they were hilarious, they should have their own reality show! haha
Camping at The Bridge of Orchy was amazing as well. We stayed up late enough to see the sun starting to set (10:30pm). The midges (tiny little flies that swarm around you and bite you) were pretty bad here but the scenery was outrageously beautiful.
The last few days of the hike were wetter and more gray than when we started. But I imagine that you can’t really understand and appreciate the highlands without the rain! The rain is the reason that the highlands are so green and covered in peat moss. These days were a little more challenging as our feet were soaked (even though we had waterproof boots on). In my opinion, nothing is waterproof enough for Scotland LOL!
The last day of the hike was a long one, about 15 miles. The West Highland Way finishes in the city center of Fort William, kind of in a strange way after being out in the wild for so long. Nevertheless, it felt good to have finished such a long hike!
The West Highland Way was an INCREDIBLE experience and these pictures are just a few from our journey. My husband and I hope to do the walk again. After we finished we took a train to Edinburgh and were able to see the entire route that we had just walked… it was amazing to say the least. I will say that I actually felt homesick for the highlands when we reached the city. It was a strange feeling, like culture shock in a way. We had been out in the wilderness for over a week, breathing the fresh air and entering a busy city with loud noises and the strong smell of diesel and cigarette smoke was almost too much for me to handle. Of course, a few whiskies helped ;), but I still have that longing for the highlands in my soul!