The West Highland Way Part II

Part I of the West Highland way is available here 

Day 3 – Sallochy Campsite to Beinglas Farm Campsite 

The hardest day on the West Highland Way

  • Depart Sallochy 9:30AM. Arrive Beinglas: 7:30pm
  • Distance Covered: 17 miles / 27km 
  • Cost of campsite: £8 

I’ve emerged from my tent, keeping my sunglasses on in disguise. The right side of my face is throbbing with smartie-sized midge bites. I’m embarrassed as I run my hands along my cheek, which feels like heated bubble-wrap.
Darren crouches by my tent, handing me a blue sea to summit head-net. He insists that I take the gift for the rest of the West Highland Way.

With Jim, Darren and Cooper’s lead in hand, we set off together along the rocky banks of Loch Lomond!

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The trail brought back memories from May 2017. A bank holiday Bothy weekend formed the bedrock for my inspiration of tackling the West Highland Way. With my rucksack strapped on tightly , we clambered, ascended and descended the rocky shoreline of Britain’s largest loch, eventually arriving into the small rural community of Inversnaid at 3pm.

I ran to the bar to purchase drinks. The 3 days together with Jim and Darren had become an ongoing battle of open-handed generosity and a readiness to fight over the bill. We rested on a nut brown sofa, sinking into the cracked leather with a gentle sigh of relief. I wasn’t being bitten to death by midges, nor crouching in my coffin-like tent. The sofa felt like a touch of luxury.

With the late afternoon closing in, it dawned on us how much ground we had to cover. Throwing our packs on, the trail twisted and turned along the Loch side, and like a game of snakes and ladders, the constant up and down started to chip away at my morale. From huge boulders, to tree roots, to mossy undergrowth, the trek had exhausted me. With the evening fast approaching, I started to fall behind.

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At 7:30pm, I hobbled into Beinglas camp. I nearly sobbed in relief, having reached our end point before nightfall. We celebrated with one of the world’s greatest comfort foods, the hot, melting goodness of mac and cheese! This was the hardest day on trail, a day of trekking that nearly drove me to tears.

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Scotland = Mac and Cheese AND chips yum)

Day 4 – Beinglas Farm Campsite to Tyndrum 

Abandoned by a Musketeer

  • Depart Beinglas 10:00AM. Arrive Tyndrum: 3:00pm
  • Distance Covered: 12 miles / 19km 
  • Cost of campsite: £7

Daylight became the natural alarm clock on trail. I unzipped the tent door, ready for my unceremonious shoulder roll out of the tent. I glanced at the empty pitch beside me.

There are sachets of vegetable soup,  hot chocolate powder and tins of food placed near my tent. Dr Darren had left us! Throughout our trek, Darren had said repeatedly that he had to finish the trek in 3 days to catch a flight home. We told him it was impossible, it never crossed our minds that Darren leave. With Darren gone, Jim and I set off for our 4th day on the trail. With Day 4, my bag no longer felt like a boulder strapped to my back.

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The trail followed an old military track through ancient woodland. It’s a balcony route with a river and the Falls of Falloch cascading below us. The trail is level and wider, we’re able to reach Tyndrum in good time.

Tonight we pitch up at Pinetrees Leisure Park at £8 per camper.

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Day 5 – Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy 

The wettest day ever 

  • Depart Tyndrum 11:00AM. Arrive Bridge of Orchy: 2:50pm
  • Distance Covered: 9 miles / 14km 
  • Cost of campsite: Free (wild camping) 

Sometimes I wonder if I learn from my mistakes.We follow the road uphill out of Tyndrum, where I find myself at Brodie’s outdoor shop. My knees and the soles of my feet are in tatters. I’ve had to purchase an additional pair of walking poles, a trekking item I always denied the need for (same mistake made on the 192 mile Coast to Coast trek).

The poles help ease the weight of my rucksack, straightening my posture and lessening the impact with every step I took. The straining light of Autumn is a leaden grey, and we received the first splatter of rain on the trail. The rain increased in intensity, with a wall of droplets drumming against us. So much rain was falling that the sound blurred into one long, whirring noise, like the rotor blades of a helicopter.

We felt lucky that the rainfall was on our shortest trekking day. We emerged at the Bridge of Orchy and head straight for shelter, The Bridge of Orchy Hotel.

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Tired Cooper

We set up a wild-camp by the river bank just outside of the town and decide to shelter at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel for the evening, warming up with a nourishing bowl of pea soup and a warm crust of bread. Throughout the night, the rainfall hammered against my borrowed tent, keeping me dry but awake!

Day 6 – Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven

2 day combined into one 

  • Depart Bridge of Orchy 09:30AM. Arrive Kinlochleven: 7:00pm
    (Midway stop at King’s House for baked potato with haggis) 
  • Distance Covered: 19 miles / 29km 
  • Cost of Blackwater Hostel: £30 

The crossing of Rannoch Moor is one of the classic stages of the West Highland Way. Known for it’s vast wilderness, the moor is made up of innumerable lochs, lochans, peat bogs, and streams; all of which are surrounded by mountains that rise to over 3,000ft.

The morning was unforgiving with low lying cloud, a drizzle of rain (tempting fate for another storm) and muffling winds. Approaching the end of the moor, we emerged right into the jaws of Glen Coe with deep valleys and towering mountains. Patches of blue sky begin to show during our trek, revealing the true splendor of Glen Coe, one of the most spectacular locations in Scotland!

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We stopped at the construction site of Kingshouse Hotel (due to be finished in Feb 2019). A temporary shelter has been erected to house trekkers, providing warm cups of tea and hearty lunches. With wild deer roaming around us, we made a late lunch stop for baked potato with haggis!

It’s about 3pm and the sky has transformed from leaden grey to brochure blue. “Shall we keep going?” Jim asks me in a pensive manner. The next stage houses the Devil’s Staircase, the highest point of the West Highland Way. “Let’s do it!” I reply. Having not seen blue sky for a few days, we wanted to make the most of the clear weather.

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Wild deer at Kingshouse

We begin the steep climb to the highest point on the entire route, zig zagging our way to the top of the Devil’s Staircase!

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Two cairns mark the summit at 550m, a climb of 305m from the Kings House. The trek from King’s House to Kinlochleven had some of the most breathtaking views on the West Highland Way!

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It’s a gradual descent into Kinlochleven. Having combined two days into one, we started to grumble about aches, pains, and the desire for a good nights sleep. We were welcomed into Kinlochleven at Black Water Hostel, where we decided to upgrade from camping to a bunk-room for the night.

With Cooper on the lead, the hostel owner did not allow a dorm-share with a pet. Instead, he offered a 6-bed dorm for private occupancy. Jim suddenly became overly cautious, questioning me with forethought and consideration to check if I was comfortable with sharing with him. It was only through my absolute insistence, did Jim accept the reservation (whilst ignoring my money on the counter). .

We wrapped up a very long day with a delicious chicken curry from Tailrace Inn, where I had to sneak to the bar to settle the dinner bill.

Day 7 – Kinlochleven to Fort William 

It’s the final countdown! 

  • Depart Kinlochleven 10:30AM. Arrive Fort William: 5:00pm 
  • Distance Covered: 15 miles / 24.5km 
  • Cost of Camping: £8

Our final stage of the West Highland Way climbed up into the woods above Kinlochleven. following the route of the old Military Road through an empty glen flanked by grand mountains.  Today marked the windiest day of the West Highland Way, having been nearly blown off my feet on the final leg of the trek.

With barren hills and iron age forts, it is a spectacular yet exhausting finish to The West Highland Way! I finish in Fort William a day earlier, pitching my tent at glen nevis caravan & camping park. 

Trips Tips 

Transport 

  • I booked my train ticket 5 weeks in advance. A first class ticket was £40.25 with a 16-25 YP Railcard and a standard class was £25.25. Book as far in advance as possible to secure cheap train tickets. I normally book with Virgin Trains to collect Nectar Points.

Accommodation

  • Beinglas Farm Campsite is a lovely site with clean showers, laundry, flat pitches and an on site restaurant. The food portions are hearty, generous and reasonably priced.
  • Pinetrees Leisure Park caters to both campers and caravans. There was a great little bench shelter for rucksacks or for cooking breakfast in the morning. The leisure park is right in the centre of town.
  • Bridge of Orchy is a wild campsite. We were the only campers there for the evening, however the nearby hotel have a informal bar where you can fill up water, use the toilet facilities and have some dinner.
  • Black Water Hostel is situated right on the West Highland Way. Squeaky clean with good showers, reasonable prices and free wifi. We paid £30 for the dorm room without breakfast.
  • Glen Nevis Caravan & Camping Park.   A large campsite right by the foothills of Ben Nevis. The caravan park is situated 3 miles from Fort William Town Centre (I took a taxi into the town centre the next day as I didn’t fancy the roadside walking).
  • Fort William Backpackers A brilliant, independently run backpackers with a quirky feel. You are assigned a bed so there is no fighting for the bottom bunk in the dorm rooms. From only £17 per night, there is a free food cupboard, wifi and free tea and coffee.

Food

  • Day 3: Beinglas Farm Campsite has an onsite restaurant. The Inversnaid Hotel serves as an excellent midway lunch/drink spot on this trekking day.
  • Day 4: There are no food shops or restaurants on route, however Tydrum has the The Tyndrum Inn (serving great pies) and the Green Welly shop for snacks and sandwiches. It is the biggest town on route of the WYW (despite the town being very small!
  • Day 5: Bridge of Orchy Hotel does excellent meals and a warm welcome for walkers. Unfortunately the room prices are extortionate (we enquired on a last minute basis and they wanted to charge £240).
  • Day 6:  KingsHouse Hotel and Glen Coe Ski Centre both provide vestiges to shelter in, with warm meals served to hikers. In Kinlochleven, there is a chippie and two pubs. The Tailgate Inn serves delicious meals
  • Day 7: Fort William has 10+ restaurants, a large Morrisons and everything you could possibly need. On my spare day in Fort William, I took the Harry Potter train across to Mallaig, where there some of the best fish and chip restaurants in town.

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Cost 

  • The West Highland Way is truly spectacular and great value if you are camping. Pitch fees are between £5 to £8.
  • For the Route Notes, Trailblazer are the best brand out there. The WHW guidebook is £11.00 on Amazon.

This was a solo trekking adventure and I was very lucky to meet Jim, Darren and Cooper (the sheep dog) on the trail. Thank you for your good company, humor and compassion for the 7 days of trekking together!

The West Highland Way is often described as one of the most beautiful treks in the world. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an email or comment and I’ll be happy to help.

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