West Highland Way Journal 2008

After many long weeks in preparation and many editing sessions the journal of my 2008 long distance path is finally released and published on the web site. It tells the story (in words and pictures) of my walk from Glasgow to Inverness, using first the West Highland Way and then the Great Glen Way.

It’s ended up being quite a bit longer than I first anticipated, but none of the text felt like it needed to be forced out onto the page – when the mood took me it just sort of flowed and found it own length. Part of the reason for the delay in publication has been that I’ve never tried to force the words out when they didn’t want to come – there were times when I thought I’d never get the damn thing finished.

Hopefully the result is an accurate description of my walk and how I felt and what I saw. Enjoy.

Journal is here: West Highland Way 2008

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11 thoughts on “West Highland Way Journal 2008”

  1. John, that’s certainly one way to do it, but thank goodness we’re all different – and we all have different goals and ambitions – just because you choose to carry all your gear doesn’t make it the right way, it just makes it the right way for you. It also doesn’t mean that people who choose a more comfortable option aren’t true walkers. Each to their own!

  2. hi am reading a lot of west highland way stories and where are the true walkers, meaning you carry what you use that includes tent etc theres too many people getting bags carried, staying in hotels etc is missing the whole point.the drovers inn and kingshouse hotel are the true walkers@ climbers pubs.

  3. Hi Stuart

    I’m planning to do the WHW in June 2012 so have been reading some journals by way of research as this will be my first ever long distance walk (a late starter at 50!!). Incidentally, I live about 4 miles away from the “Arbroath Four” you met up with on the GGW.

    I have to say that your journal has been the most informative I have read as your daily route/stop overs more or less match my plan with only one small difference (I plan to walk from Inverarnan to Bridge of Orchy then the following day from Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse). I also like my home comforts so like you will mix and match B&B’s with hotels rather than camping.

    Thanks to your advice I have changed my plans for accommodation in Kinlochleven as the Tailrace Inn sounds good. One slight concern I have is that my plan also includes a stop-over at “The Shit Hole”. I see from the Trailblazer guide book that they have a lodge accross the road so maybe that would be a better bet than the main hotel building?

    I have a few questions for you that I hope you can take the time to respond to.

    1) Whilst I do a reasonable amount of hill walking I have never done a long distance walk so what advice would you give a novice (I understand the basics re keeping hydrated, don’t take new boots stuff)?

    2) It doesn’t sound like I need my normal sturdy walking boots to do the WHW?

    3) If you did the WHW again, how would you plan it to avoid the dreaded stop over at Inverarnan?

    4) Does the additional mileage on day 4 from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy seem reasonable (I know from walking in this area when doing a couple of Munros that it is reasonably flat).

    There is one other addition I am making having read your journal, if I enjoy the WHW in June 2012, I’ll follow it up with the GGW 3 months later in September.

    Thanks again for the journal, the narrative was great and the photos were also really good (as an amateur photographer I worry that I will spend more time taking photos than walking!).


    PS You mentioned seeing the odd tree left after commercial felling in some forests – from what I have read this is intentional and is designed to help wildlife (eg birds of prey have a perch to watch for movement in the undergrowth below).

    PPS Assume from your rant you are in favour of the new finishing point for the WHW in the centre of Fort William?

    1. Hi Gordon, I’m so pleased you enjoyed the journal – it was a labour of love – I loved the walk so much I was determined to make the journal reflect that. Despite the numerous rants I managed to fit in there πŸ™‚ Hopefully I can answer some of your questions and I’ll take them in order, or I’ll lose my place and forget one.

      In terms of the place that shall not be mentioned in Inverarnan, some people love it – it just wasn’t for me. If I have put you off though, I’d have a look at the Beinglas Wigwams. There were a number of these wooden chalets in the grounds of the campsite. I bet they’d be more comfortable than the hotel and you could still eat in the hotel as the evening meal was superb. No idea if they’re still there though – it was over 2 years ago when I did the walk. Not aware of the lodge across the road, so can’t help with that one I’m afraid.

      1. You’ve done a few Munros, so you’re no novice walker, but my advise to most people embarking on their first long path would be preparation, both mental and physical is paramount. Day walk fitness is not long path fitness. By the end of the third day you have aches and pains in places you didn’t know existed – simply because it’s constant punishment – at the end of a day walk you get a day off, but there is no respite for a long distance walker. Hence the mental preparation. Make sure you’re ready for that third/fourth day depression. Especially if it’s raining πŸ™‚ If you can, try a two, or better still, three day walk a few weeks before the walk, that’s great preparation.

      2. The WHW was hard surfaces all the way (except the section over Conic Hill), so footwear with good soles is important – I used lightweight fell running shoes, with little cushioning and my feet felt it. But you’re right you dont need boots as you would for Munro bagging. However, walk in what you’re comfortable in. I wouldn’t buy new footwear, if you have a comfortable pair of boots I’d use them.

      3. To avoid Inverarnan I’d speak to the people I stayed with in Tyndrum (see journal, can’t remember the name of the place off the top of my head), they said they’d collect from Inverarnan and you could stay with them for 2 nights. They would collect from Inverarnan and drop you back off there in the morning, then you walk to Tyndrum and stay there again. The place was brilliant and such a friendly couple too. Only slight issue was the walk into the village for evening meals, about 1/2 mile or so along the busy road.

      4. I dont think the extra mileage would be a problem, you’re right, it’s mostly flat – there’s about 300 feet of height gain over 2.5 miles and then its 5 more miles downhill to the Bridge. You end up with a 20 mile day and about 2300 feet of height gain – this is easy peasy for a long distance walker πŸ™‚ especially 4 days in, you’re finding your walking legs by that stage.

      Scotland makes photography so much easier – even an idiot like me can point a camera and end up with a great shot. The GGW was an anti-climax after the WHW, but I still enjoyed it, probably as much for the company I had as much as anything – the four guys were brilliant.

      PPS, I’ve not seen the new end point in Fort William, but it has to be better than where it was. And of course it makes sense for the end of the WHW to be right next to the start of the GGW. Have they also changed the route into the end then? Or does it still run along the dreadful main road? Sorry to finish with a question πŸ™‚

  4. It’s worth contacting a company called Travel-Lite in Milngavie for any advice on accommodation along the way. Gilbert is an absolute fountain of knowledge and what’s more his company Travel-Lite is a baggage delivery service so whether you are B&Bing or camping it, his guys will pick up and drop off your baggage along the way! Rumble has just produced them a professional web video, which is well worth a look if you have a couple of minutes. This link will take you to the video and a direct link to the Travel-Lite website.


    Hope this is helpful to anyone looking to walk the West Highland Way!

  5. Excellent blog, will heed the advice about accom in Milngavie.
    I have bookmarked for future reference.
    I’m doing the way in 2 weeks time, though don’t have as far as you did to travel to get there, just across scotland in Fife.

  6. my fav overnight stays on the west highland way are the clachan in drymen, used to be the hawthorns, but new owners meant a downturn. fiona”s at rowardennan. drovers (for me at least) teigh na fraoch in tyndrum.kingshouse(no real option) hermon b&b in kinlochleven (a ghost town) guisachan house house fort william all the best on your next walk tom from kilmarnock

  7. Hi Tom
    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. It seems like the Drovers is one of those places that you either love or hate – there’s very little middle ground opinion that I can see. I’ll have to go back and give it another go I think.
    Glad you enjoyed the journal πŸ™‚

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