6 of us met on a wet Sunday morning in the centre of Milngavie, a few miles outside Glasgow, to begin walking the West Highland Way.
After the obligatory start-of-walk group photos, and having handed our main luggage over to a luggage transfer company (with the exception of Steve, who as usual would carry everything with him), we headed off at around 9:15am. We would be walking a distance of 19 miles on the first day - the longest day in terms of distance, although not (as we would later realise) the hardest day. The weather started off as showers, but by the time we reached Drymen, this had changed to more or less continuous rain. Those first 12 miles were fairly flat, but the last 7 miles included the ascent and descent of Conic Hill, from which the views on a good day would surely have been excellent, but in the driving wind and rain we could only make out a small part of Loch Lomond below. In fact, the weather was so bad that only 3 of us (myself, Steve and Carol) climbed the hill - the others took a lower path (that was also 2 miles shorter), reaching Balmaha before us.
On the second day, the rain had gone and was replaced by bright sunshine. This was our first day of walking along the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, walking 14 miles to Inversnaid. Although a shorter walk than the previous day, the path along the shoreline ascended and descended a fair amount, especially as we got closer to Inversnaid. Our accommodation was a bunkhouse (actually a converted church), around half a mile inland - Steve and I decided to walk to the bunkhouse, taking afternoon tea after arriving at our accommodation. The girls decided to stop for drinks at the lakeside Inversnaid Hotel before taking advantage of the free pickup service provided by the bunkhouse.
On the third day, the good weather continued, and we walked the remainder of the length of Loch Lomond, and onward to Crianlarich along Glen Falloch for our overnight stop, a distance of 13 miles. The section along the lakeshore was probably one of the hardest parts of the entire walk (as we had been warned).
The fourth day's walking took us to Bridge of Orchy, a distance of 13 miles. Although the distance covered was almost the same as the previous day, the walking was much easier, and our main concern was to try to reach our accommodation before the rain arrived - thankfully we were able to do so.
The fifth day's walking was another 13 miles, and the first day when the path took us well away from any signs of civilisation - the day included the crossing of Rannoch Moor, and once again we were very lucky with the weather - the overnight rain cleared up just as we were starting our day's walking. We all reached the King's House Hotel in Glen Coe by mid-afternoon. Probably the most atmospheric (i.e. rather dated!) accommodation of our trip, where deer would come quite close to the hotel, and were quite unafraid of us.
The distance to be covered on our penultimate day's walking was a mere 8.5 miles, but this included the so-called Devil's Staircase, one of the steepest ascents of the walk, which was followed by steady descent into Kinlochleven. We all reached our accommodation by early afternoon, so we were able to take advantage of the unexpectedly good weather to take tea and coffee on the patio of the guest house where we were staying.
The seventh and final day's walking took us the remaining 14.5 miles to Fort William, where, due to some confusion by the walk leader, Steve and I finished the walk at the official end of the Way in the centre of town (where Steve proceeded to wait several hours for the rest of the group to arrive), whereas the girls stopped walking when they reached the original (i.e. no longer the official) end of the Way on the outskirts of the town, and then headed directly to our accommodation. We were finally reunited at the official end of the Way later that evening!
Thanks to Steve, Carol, Emma, Mary and Nina for joining me on, and completing, the West Highland Way!
Report by Phil
A wet start to the walk - Photo by Phil
Approaching Conic Hill - Photo by Phil
Not much of a view from the top, unfortunately - Photo by Phil
A sunny start on day 2 - Photo by Phil
Heading up from Loch Lomond - Photo by Phil
Walking from Balmaha to Inversnaid - Photo by Phil
Taking a break on the lake shore - Photo by Phil
Leaving the Inversnaid Bunkhouse - Photo by Phil
Walking from Inversnaid along Loch Lomond - Photo by Phil
Rocks and tree roots - Photo by Carol
Emma checks up on one of her eBay sales? - Photo by Phil
View from near the top of Loch Lomond - Photo by Phil
End of Loch Lomond - Photo by Carol
Walking from Bridge of Orchy to Kings House Hotel - Photo by Phil
Crossing Rannoch Moor - Photo by Phil
Military road - Photo by Carol
Lunch stop by Ba Bridge on Rannoch Moor - Photo by Phil
Checking out the deer around the hotel - Photo by Phil
Buchaille Etive Mor with HAWOG walkers - Photo by Carol
Glencoe valley - Photo by Carol
Heading for the Devil's Staircase - Photo by Phil
Lunch stop at the top of the Devil's Staircase - Photo by Phil
The final day's walking - Photo by Phil
Approach to Ben Nevis - Photo by Carol
Ben Nevis - Photo by Carol
No longer the end of the walk! - Photo by Phil
The girls finally join us at the end of the walk - Photo by Phil
The guys are back here (again!) - we were here several hours ago - Photo by Phil