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The West Highland Way

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| |-+  West Highland Way, from near Glasgow to Fort William, Scotland
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Author Topic: North to South?  (Read 21081 times)
Eric Club
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« on: February 04, 2007, 05:07:45 pm »

I'm planning to walk the West Highland Way later this year. Is there any disadvantage in walking it from north to south? It would make my travel plans a lot easier but I don't want to spoil the experience!

Any advice gratefully received.
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Jacquetta
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« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2007, 10:12:06 am »

Eric: people will tell you that south to north is recommended because you have the less demanding lowland gradients first (and more chance of wind at your back than in your face).  But this could be offset by the fact that most people walk south/north so you can avoid most of the accommodation problems by reversing the trend.  You'll meet more different faces that way, too, and in my opinion the main argument against north/south is that the suburbs of Milngavie isn't much of a grand finale compared with Fort William and maybe a trip up the Ben?

What do others think? Jacquetta
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Jacquetta Megarry, publisher of Rucksack Readers and forum moderator
Eric Club
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« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2007, 04:30:15 pm »

Thank you Jacquetta, that really is very helpful. I expect I'll also meet more people since I'll be walking against the flow, so that's another plus.

Mmm, food for thought.
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jimmystep
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« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2007, 03:33:18 pm »

I would think that the north to south trip would be a bit of an anticlimax as all the best, most dramatic, scenery is seen up north. The final stretch from Dumgoyne to Milngavie would be such a letdown, IMHO compared to what had gone before. Mind you, The Talbot Arms in Milngavie sell some good beer  Cheesy

Cheers….Jimmy
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sandrahal
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« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2007, 09:32:17 pm »

Hello there
I walked the WHW last October, starting in Milngavie and finishing at Fort William.  I wouldn't have dreamt of doing it in the opposite direction, the main reasons being that you'd be walking away from the mountains and down into the flattish, pastoral lands and finally suburbia - a HUGE anticlimax.  You can argue either way about meeting people - I passed walkers going in both directions.

The idea of having a tail wind, or walking into it, is irrelevant - the WHW doesn't go in a dead straight line and the wind always seems to come from any or all directions anyway!  Finishing at the foot of Ben Nevis is a really big incentive - compared with which Allander Water and Milngavie just don't rate.
I'm sure you'll enjoy it whichever way you go - I certainly did. (It's easily the best long distance route in Scotland IMO.)
Sandra
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Allan
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« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2009, 12:00:24 pm »

At last, someone else who wants to walk against the crowd.  My question is, and I have been searching the web for an answer, what are the physical issues in walking north to south?  In 1999 I walked from Inverernan to Inveroran and in 2007 from Inveroran to Fort William - a great little town.   This year (?) I plan to walk all the way north to south.  How different will this be?   I know I will not have the challenge of the Devil's Staircase or the climb out of Kinlochleven, but what about the walk out of Fort William and Kinlochleven heading south? 

I know I said g'day to many other walkers previously so some people do walk against the herd.  I think I will do it anyway but what should I know?
(PS. I hope to use a bag carrying service - I'm in my 60s and past carrying my home on my back)
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Stottie
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« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2009, 06:37:48 pm »

At last, someone else who wants to walk against the crowd.  My question is, and I have been searching the web for an answer, what are the physical issues in walking north to south?  In 1999 I walked from Inverernan to Inveroran and in 2007 from Inveroran to Fort William - a great little town.   This year (?) I plan to walk all the way north to south.  How different will this be?   I know I will not have the challenge of the Devil's Staircase or the climb out of Kinlochleven, but what about the walk out of Fort William and Kinlochleven heading south? 

I know I said g'day to many other walkers previously so some people do walk against the herd.  I think I will do it anyway but what should I know?
(PS. I hope to use a bag carrying service - I'm in my 60s and past carrying my home on my back)

I relate to what you're asking, being over 60 myself (about 55 when I walked the WHW from the south).

I'd say the climbs out of FW and Kinlochleven are no problem to an average walker, but as Jacquetta says it is a more gentle start from Milngavie. Take it steady out of FW, and it's a short day to Kinlochleven. The climb from sea level at Kinlochleven over the Devils Staircase is straightforward enough, despite being the biggest single climb you'll face, and once again it's "steady as you go" for the best views of the entire trip from the top of the staircase. Relative to climbing the Staircase from Kingshouse, it does obviously involve more ascent, but most of it is very easy going.

I met a southbound wayfarer who believes it is the best way to go, and he may have a point, because Glasgow is a superb city, and I spent two nights there after travelling back by train from Fort William. I just did the tourist things and reverted to what was, at the time, my more accustomed urban lifestyle.

Travelling should be about "what is there", wherever "there" is, and a slice of Glasgow life is essential to the Scottish experience. Brief city interludes always stimulate me between my preferred pedestrian excursions, whatever continent or country I'm in, so after the Tour of Mont Blanc it was good to spend a short time in Geneva, and after the Atlas Mountains it was good to experience Marrakech. Of course, you don't have to WALK into town...the train ride from FW to Glasgow is superb...but don't miss out on Glasgow, however you get there. Get a place to stay in the centre, then take an open-topped bus ride with commentary and thereafter go between the parts that interest you for the rest of the day.
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Loon Dod
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« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2009, 08:37:10 am »

Whichever way you do it, you will climb and descend around 14,500 feet – just in a diffrent way.

I have done it both ways on a number of sections, but could never be bothered to do the last stretch down south.

Last weekend I did Beinglass to Rowardennan on Sat, then Balmaha to Beinglass Sunday: it was like 2 different routes.

I have to say if I prefer going north.
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Allan
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« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2010, 04:09:17 am »

G'day
I started this topic quite some time ago and now I can comment on the north-south question from experience.

I was fortunate to walk the WHOLE of the WHW in May/June 2010 from north to south, and here are the advantages and disadvantages.

On the plus side, you get to meet many more people, but then only for a very short time - no friendships established.   

The walk is very much the same in either direction and the wind and rain does move around.  Starting in Fort William you do the 'hard' part first and finish with 2 easy days.   The haul out of Fort William and Kinlochleven can be a bit of a slog but very satisfying.  Generally you do not meet other walkers (some runners) in the first or last hour each day - makes it a bit lonely.   Accommodation is no easier and only one bag service operates n/s - exception service though.

On balance, north to south is my preference.   Either way, it is pure magic and I would cheerfully walk it all again (for the 3rd time).

Allan
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Jacquetta
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« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2010, 09:01:38 am »

Welcome back, Allan

Really appreciate your coming back to tell us how it was for you Smiley.  Over how many days did you split the walk, and where did you overnight?

Was there any sense of anticlimax about finishing in Milngavie?
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