In May, Dick, his wife Maaike and their daughter Irene from the Netherlands, took on the challenge of hiking the entire West Highland Way from Milngavie to Fort William by taking our 10-Day Moderate West Highland Way tour. The family had the time of their lives with the sun beaming down and nature blooming all around. Read about their dream family walking holiday below!
Day 1: Milngavie to Drymen
We have spent the budget of a medium-sized Central American country on rain pants, waterproof jackets and gore-tex shoes. Reason: the weather in Scotland, of course! However, today we were already able to put our jackets away in our backpacks at breakfast ahead of spending the first day of the West Highland Way walk under a bright blue sky of sunshine.
After the official start in Milngavie, we went through the forest for a while before getting our first glimpse of the Highlands. We will see more of the Highlands tomorrow with the ascent of Conic Hill and the trip along Loch Lomond, but the first part of the West Highland Way was already very impressive.
Today after 21 kilometers we arrived in Drymen, where we will spend the night in the Kip in the Kirk (Translated: “A nap in the church”). From this B&B, we will continue our second walk tomorrow, and it looks as if the weather gods are in our favour again – if the prophecies of WeerOnline, our local weather website, come true. But now, first into the village to buy the only thing we did NOT bring: AfterSun
Day 2: Drymen to Rowardennan
It is a beer, it is whisky, it’s a song and today we discovered that Loch Lomond is also a lake. Well, we actually already knew that having stopped at it when we were passing through Scotland on a previous holiday. But until today, we had never seen Loch Lomond in its full glory. On our walk from Drymen to Rowardennan (24 km) the lake showed itself in all shapes and colors, most spectacularly from the top of Conic Hill, our first serious climb of this journey along the West Highland Way.
After a delicious lunch in Balmaha, we had anticipated a fairly flat route along the waterfront, but every few meters a climb had to be conquered, roughly the ascent percentage of the Keutenberg, a hill in the Netherlands. And, at the end of the route, Alan – the driver of the local school bus – was waiting for us to drive back to the Kip in the Kirk where we were due to spend another night. After walking for 6 hours, the journey back in the car was only 6 minutes!
Tomorrow he will drop us off at 7.40 am (sharp!) in Rowardennan, to continue our journey. Then Alan picks up the school children. Life just continues here, while we walk through it.
Day 3: Rowardennan to Inverarnan
“It seems like a fairytale,” said someone in the family WhatsApp group today when we shared a photo of the banks with lavishly flowering bluebells, fragrant hawthorns and mossy tree trunks that seem to come straight from the land of the Hobbits.
But then there was also some parts of the trail that looked like the total opposite with stone boulders and rugged paths, that showed us just how varied and exciting this trail was. We also experienced some really beautiful corners of Loch Lomond which seemed endless.
After 26 kilometers with breathtaking views and unbelievable scenery, we arrived at our B&B for the night.
Day 4: Inverarnan to Tyndrum
“Did you take a day off?”. It’s a frequently asked question on our West Highland Way forum. Yes, we did, and it was today. We did not walk our usual 25, but 12 kilometers, still 2 kilometers more than the shortest distance of the Chicken Run (June 14) that my colleagues at work have been looking forward to for a year. Once again we continued where we had stopped at the bus stop yesterday afternoon according to our route planning, at The Drovers Inn in Inverarnan. From there we walked between the first beautiful foothills of the Highlands back to our B&B for the night, Hillview B&B in Crianlarich.
After lunch we gave up for today, especially given the alternative: continue to Tyndrum (another 11 kilometers), then return by bus to Crianlarich and tomorrow by bus again to Tyndrum, to continue from there to Bridge of Orchy. We are not crazy! So tomorrow we planned to walk from here to Tyndrum (lunch) and then straight on to Bridge of Orchy. No, don’t worry, we will not be missing one bit of this scenic trail!
Day 5: Tyndrum to Inveroran
Finally, Scottish weather! Hooray! After four days of sunshine where my Kookaburra Bush Hat (made from original Loch Ness Leather) almost dried out, the majestic headpiece is in its element today. And for the first time, the rain jackets came out for the trip from Crianlarich to Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy.
This part of Glencoe was for many centuries the battlefield of Scottish and English armies and the hiding place of Rob Roy, the Scottish Robin Hood. More blood has been shed here than there is rain today, and it is pouring out of the heavens all day long. But, as a well-known saying goes, there is no bad weather, only bad clothes, which means that we arrive more or less dry at the chic Bridge of Orchy Hotel. Robert the Bruce, king of the Scots from 1306 to 1329, would have killed for it.
Day 6: Inveroran to Kingshouse
It was what the Scots call “another lovely day”: grey, persistent drizzle and, certainly in the early morning, low visibility. Great weather to turn around in bed for another while, but if they did that here, then they would not leave the bedroom for three-quarters of the year.
There is also something special about walking through the Glencoe Valley under these conditions, where every meter of land is steeped in history and the blood of many battles. For those who prefer a bit less history of the past: large parts of the James Bond film Skyfall have also been shot here and even our hotel – Kingshouse – was part of the decor. No wonder the ladies at reception whispered to each other, “James Bond is home,” when I walked into the reception with my two Bond girls after twenty kilometers of walking. Oh well, everything is possible in the movies….. and on Facebook.
Day 7: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven
The valley of Glencoe doesn’t just let West Highland Walkers go. Those who want to get out, further towards Kinlochleven, have to climb the Devil’s Staircase over the mountain ridge. This route, once constructed by the soldiers of General Wade, owes its name to, among other things, the fate of many workers on the nearby Blackwater Dam, who after being paid their salaries gladly grabbed a pint (and more than one) in the nearest bar, that of the Kingshouse Hotel.
On the way back over the mountain to their quarters, the drinking party had to pay the price in the cold winter months. “The devil often claims his own.” With us, those few beers and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from the previous evening have long since evaporated, so that on our route from the Kingshouse Hotel (highly recommended!) to Kinlochleven (16 kilometers), we are only treated to breathtaking and beautiful views.
Day 8: Kinlochleven to Fort William
The last leg of our West Highland Way hike also becomes the longest. From Kinlochleven to Fort William it is more than 27 kilometers, not counting the last walk to our private guesthouse on Loch Linnhe. So let me start with the good news: we made it! But it was certainly not a “walk in the park”.
After the steep climb from Kinlochleven this morning, we had the impression that the very long but beautiful valley stretched out before us never seemed to come to an end. However, it finally did and we passed the flanks of the colossal Ben Nevis which also marked the last kilometers to Fort William. Once we arrived, we took the obligatory photo at the official end point of the West Highland Way
And after that it was “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt” in the lively main street and our Hillwalk Tours Walking Pack once again gave us a tip for a great fish restaurant on the loch to end this day in style. Tomorrow, a breathtaking train journey through the Highlands awaits us where we will review all the highlights of this trip in reverse order. This time, seated and from behind a window. A fitting end to a dream family walking holiday.
Thank you so much to Dick, Maaike and Irene for their daily updates and insights into their hiking adventure on the West Highland Way. We hope that you enjoyed this guide to their dream family walking holiday with Hillwalk Tours.
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