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A Highland Hike on the West Highland Way

The West Highland Way is Scotland's first long distance trail and one of the most popular. Stretching 96 miles (154 km) from Milngavie to Fort William, the route offers a great variety of landscapes and a wonderful taste of the Scottish Highlands.

I was offered the amazing opportunity to experience the West Highland Way for myself as an Absolute Escapes research trip. People travel from all over the world to experience this amazing walk and now I know why! I was very lucky to have three gloriously sunny days to walk the 44 miles from Tyndrum to Fort William, which was an unforgettable experience.

Tyndrum to Kingshouse - 19 miles / 31km

Setting off bright and early we were ready for the 19 miles ahead of us, slightly apprehensive but excited to take our first steps on the trail.

The first 7 mile stretch from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy was a nice and gentle start to our day with the 1,000 metre munro Beinn Dorain in our view for most of the morning. As we departed Bridge of Orchy the next 12 mile stretch started with a climb through the woods towards a cairn sitting at one of the highest points of the day (320 metres) with spectacular panoramic views and a great photo opportunity.

Beinn Dorain on West Highland Way West Highland Way

After a quick lunch stop in Inveroran, the trail lead us through Rannoch Moor, which felt to be the most remote part of the walk but very peaceful. Our tired feet kept going and we made it to the last descent to Kingshouse. As I am sure most West Highland Way walkers will agree, it is a very nice sight to see Kings House Hotel in the distance, which was the end of our day. It was a great feeling to kick off our walking boots and sit down to some lovely food. Kings House Hotel was built in the 17th century and is said to be one of Scotland’s oldest licensed inns and is set in the beautiful Glencoe. 

Ballachulish near Kings House Glencoe near Kings House Hotel

Kings House to Kinlochleven - 9 miles / 14.5 km

We woke up to the most stunning views of Buchaille Etive Mor and Meall a Bhuiridh, which definitely set us up for the day.

The 9 miles from Kings House to Kinlochleven started with a gentle walk towards the ‘Devil’s Staircase’ (which isn’t as horrendous as it sounds) and continues gradually down into Kinlochleven. 

Buchaille Etive Mor and Meall a Bhuiridh Buchaille Etive Mor and Meall a Bhuiridh

The landscape on this section of the Way was just incredible and by far some of our favourite views of the whole trip. Kinlochleven is a picturesque village sitting at the eastern end of Loch Leven and was a perfect stop for the night. 

Dawn on Devil's Staircase summit Dawn and Michael on Devil's Staircase, between Kingshouse and Kinlochleven

Kinlochleven to Fort William - 16 miles / 24 km

After a great sleep and some breakfast we were ready for our last day from Kinlochleven to Fort William. We were unsure whether our tired legs and achy feet would carry us through the final 16 miles but somehow they did!

 Kinlochleven to Fort William on the West Highland Way

The last day was mostly a very gentle walk through hills and forestry but still just as beautiful. Finishing the walk with Ben Nevis in the backdrop was unimaginable and a great ending to the walk. It was a very satisfying feeling taking those last steps into Fort William, thinking back to the spectacular scenery and the miles covered over the few days is a great feeling. Although, we were definitely ready for a comfy seat and a cup of tea at the end of the day!

 Kinlochleven to Fort William on the West Highland Way

We met such kind and interesting people on the Way, both locals and fellow walkers which makes the experience so much more memorable. It was surprisingly easy to navigate along the trail, the way-markers are very helpful and guide you the whole way without the need of a map or guidebook.

As a first-timer on the West Highland Way, it was just an amazing experience to see and walk through some of the most incredible Scottish scenery I have ever seen and definitely exceeded all expectations. Of course the beautiful blue skies helped too!

Dawn Spence
P.S. Why don’t you walk the West Highland Way for yourself in 2017? There’s a first time for everything!
 

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