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The West Highland Way

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| |-+  West Highland Way, from near Glasgow to Fort William, Scotland
| | |-+  Advice about the WHW for newcomers (July/August 2010)

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Author Topic: Advice about the WHW for newcomers (July/August 2010)  (Read 6731 times)
Mason
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« on: July 23, 2010, 11:14:25 am »

Hello all
I am pleased to find this website. Indeed very helpful. Last year I biked from Edinburgh to Carlisle, and this season I want to walk the WHW and perhaps continue north from Fort William to Inverness... I have good stamina (i think) and can walk very long distances, but I am a bit concerned regarding places to stay. I'll stay anywhere I think the price is reasonable.  I like to stay in a B&B/indoors every second night, but I carry tent and midge repellent. Is there anything I should think about that is not available on the internet? Any good advice, or things that you have to share before I start? All suggestions welcome!
Regards
Mason
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Mason
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« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2010, 06:09:10 pm »

It might be a bit unorthodox to reply to myself, but I want to pass on a few tips that I learned during my walk.

1) Carry for yourself or have it carried for you?

I chose to carry myself. It was OK, but not a very wise choice. It is heavy, it slowed me down considerably. I had everything with me and it was a comfort to not plan exactly where and when to make camp, but should i ever do it again, i will focus on walking light, not being so tired and in pain all the time. With 15 kg on your back, you cannot just decide to "move fast" one day. You pretty much move, thats it. Should you however decide to have a day when you start at 06.00 and finish at 20.00, it is probably easier to adjust your walking pace to reach destination without luggage. I did see quite a few guys heavier loaded then me, and probably with better stamina, unable to carry on from day to day. My longest walk was from Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven, thats about 35 km and i walked between 06.30 and 20.30 with a few stops. I am 43 years old male and was loaded with about 14 -16 kilos at all times.

2) Food, drink and supplies.
Tiso on Buchanan street Glasgow have maps, and pretty much everything you perhaps forgot to bring. I strongly recommend “Smidge” against midges and map / maps. Besides that, everything you need for WHW can be bought there if you don’t want to bring from abroad. Water (heavy stuff) can be obtained at any camping along the way, or pretty much at any public place open. It's hard to know, so I'll suggest from own experience to absolutely stack up on water and food before heading for:
Inversnaid
Tyndrum
Kinlochleven
Fort William

Apart from those 4 destinations, common sense would be fine, but before heading for any of those destinations, you need to ask yourself if you have food and drink for a full day. (I use 2 litre pet bottle with Berocca, some lucozade and for food hummus, bread, canned tuna, flapjacks and cheese. I know that’s different from person to person and what's available in stores, but you need sturdy food/fuel, and day 4 I had a bit of chocolate that felt like jet fuel to me).

3) Items I could not have done it without
When babies have rashes from diapers, there is a balm / lotion available at the pharmacy. I don’t know about women, but if you are male, you might want to bring some of that to apply to your thighs  and around your genitals. If you don’t have it when you need it, you will not be able to walk WHW. For some, it might sound a bit amusing, but it is not if you need it. Scholls foot powder for athletes foot. We all expect blisters, but the powder works like grease and will make your toes / joints work smooth inside your footwear. Staves / sticks, without them, I would not have been able to go the distance. They give more support than you can imagine when you are carrying your own luggage, they help to keep balance and they support both up and down hill.

4) Instead of bringing my proper hillwalking boots, I made a compromise using my perfect sneakers and supporting that with tape. I figured that the sneakers are walked in, and they only weigh 120 grams each, its summer and this worked very well for me! (could not have done without tape mind that though).

5) In Sweden we have had a “outdoor code” for about a hundred years. I LOVE this, and I love Scotland for providing this also, but I am concerned that there are almost no public bins around the WHW. My litter is in campsites and tucked down in bins at B&Bs at Balmaha and Kinlochleven. I will write to the Scottish tourist board about this, but it might be good to know, that there are very very few places where people can dispose of their garbage along the way. I think it's sad as the banks of Loch Lomond were seriously littered, but also seeing all the litter along the way. This issue is so very easy to resolve with a little help from the government and the many walkers out there. (according to a spring issue of “The Big Issue” in Glasgow, the government is planning to restrict Loch Lomond for outdoor access due to littering / partying on the beaches).

6) The things I never used. I roll of duct tape, a roll of string, 3 pair of socks, 3 pair of underwear, 3 t-shirts. A towel, deet + skin so soft (Smidge was perfect), 2 bags of washingpowder. This would have saved me a kilo.

7) Most memorable: The staff at Inversnaid Hotel a cold early morning. The beautiful blonde ranger at the lake of “the legend of the sword” outside Tyndrum. Wild camping at the view point on alt route / military road on mid Loch Lomond. David, who walked between Inversnaid and Rowardennan back and forth in the evening to find his lost wallet (he found it next morning Fri 13). Glencoe. The bunch of young English dudes having “tea time” twice every day. Lovely Alice at the “Highland getaway” and all the other amazing people I met, and Jennifer who encouraged me by texts all the way believing I could do it.
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soggyfeet
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« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2010, 11:23:48 pm »

Being a novice, I need a bit of advice on doing the walk.  I plan on doing it with one or two friends.  My idea is enjoying the walk and scenery but also enjoying some pubs on route at night - few drinks and meeting up with good company.

Should i start the walk on a certain day to get the most out the pubs/evenings/company?, i.e. the Drover Inn sounds good with the folk session at weekends is it worth planning on arriving there for this?

Also considering just doing part of the walk - arrive in Crianlarich on a Saturday have a night at the Drovers stay at Strathfillan wigwams then do the rest of the walk over 3/4 days - Is this a decent idea or a mistake as i could be missing out on bits i really shouldnt be missing on the lead up to Crianlarich?

If anyone has an opinion or a good plan please advise: would be much appreciated.
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Jacquetta
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« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2010, 03:56:15 pm »

Welcome to the forum.  It's hard to advise in general but the Way is easy to combine with lots of pubs as it goes right through most of the villages and even Crianlarich (the mid-point) isn't that far offroute.

If you start on a Saturday from Milngavie, you will be part of a large "bulge" of walkers who all do that.  Starting on any other day will put you less in competition for accommodation and you'll still have plenty of company.  It's a lovely walk but it deffo is not a wilderness experience, especially during May to September.

If you start walking at Crianlarich, you will miss the whole of Loch Lomond which many people think of as some of the loveliest inland water in Scotland, and which includes the transition from the Lowland loch (shallow with many islands) to Highland loch (narrow, deep with no islands).  You get a great view of the Highland Boundary Fault from Conic Hill near Balmaha.

A better compromise might be to walk from Balmaha northward (ideally backtrack up Conic Hill first, for the view) and give yourself at least five days, ideally six.  Have you already studied the maps and read our guidebook?

Also, there's a really useful post by Mason, which I've just merged with this topic so you can find it easily above your own post.  He has also posted about where to find food and drink here.

Whatever you decide, good luck and please let us know how you get on.
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Jacquetta Megarry, publisher of Rucksack Readers and forum moderator
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