West Highland Way and Ben Nevis


 

Having completed 2 long distance walks in England and Wales we decided to head North of the border this year. The West Highland Way had been recommended and would also give us an opportunity to climb Ben Nevis. As it turned out we ended up in Fort William at the same time as the Fours group were there (they had gone specifically to climb The Ben). June had been chosen as the best time to go as we hoped to miss the worst of the dreaded midges, but at the same time be late enough in the year to benefit from some warm weather (on arriving in Fort William we were told that it had snowed a few days earlier).

 

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If you wish to move quickly to a particular day please select from below:

[Journey to Milngavie], [Day 1], [Day 2], [Day 3], [Day 4], [Day 5], [Day 6], [Day 7], [Ben Nevis]

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Journey to Milngavie
We caught the 10.29am train to Glasgow and arrived at 1.14pm.As we had time to spare we decided to explore a little of Glasgow before continuing to Milngavie. Sauchiehall Street sported a number of artists - painting on canvas taped to the pavement! We admired the red sandstone buildings of the past and had a quick trip to the river before returning to the station. Having just missed a train we had half an hour to wait for the next one - Marie made good use of the time - making a cup of coffee!

Street artists in Sauchiehall Street

 

Exploring Sauchiehall Street

 

Red Sandstone buildings . . .

 

much nicer than the modern ones!

 

Glasgow Bridge - a replica of the bridge originally built here by Telford

 

South Portland Street Bridge, originally built in 1870

 

A memorial to those who went to Spain to fight against fascism from 1936 to 1939

 

Where's my banana?

 

Marie makes a cup of coffee as we wait for the next train

 

The start of 'The Way'

 

Milngavie Precinct clock - a 3-faced clock from Copland & Lye Department Store in Glasgow, re-erected in 1981

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Day 1: Milngavie to Drymen, 12 mls, 740 ft
We left Milngavie at 9.30am and walked initially through Mugdock Park where there were numerous dog walkers. This was followed by 4 miles on a disused railway and 2 miles on a road. We had a couple of light showers but only needed umbrellas. After exploring Drymen we had a half mile walk to the B & B, Bramblewood, which was quite an upmarket establishment and to be recommended to others. The owner gave us a lift back into the village where we had dinner at the Winnock Hotel.

 

Ready to start the walk - only 95 miles to go!

 

Another view of the clock in the precinct seen the previous evening

 

Time for a rest before we start?

 

Walking through Mugdock Park - frequented by many dog-walkers

 

Strathblane Hills

 

Dumgoyne and Dumfoyne, near the distillery (Bill would have stopped here!)

 

Signs of things to come - long straight roads!

 

A clump of daisies to brighten the path . . .

 

zooming in

 

Instructions to open the gate??!!

 

No - not someone's front garden - just a nicely mown patch of ground en route!

 

The mandatory poppies - to remind Marie of home . . .

 

taking a closer look

 

Sandstone Cottages at Gartness . . .

 

make an interesting feature . . .

 

with a beautiful display of lupins

 

A clump of Red Soapwort . . .

 

followed by colourful rhododendrons . . .

 

worth a closer look

 

What's for afters?

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Day 2: Drymen to Rowardennan, 14 mls, 2,054 ft
Again our friendly host gave us a lift back to the route which was a mile from the B & B. We enjoyed the climb up Conic Hill which is on the line of the Highland Boundary fault, a massive geological fracture separating the Lowlands from the Highlands. The views over Loch Lomond were glorious and the camera was running hot! From the top Balmaha looked most inviting and we were certain we would find an ice cream shop! Following an interesting descent - off the steep end - we quickly reached Balmaha and the anticipated ice cream. The next part of the route was mainly through forest with some glimpses of the loch. We stayed at the Rowardennan Hotel and with no other establishments close by decided to eat dinner in the bar -not one of our best choices!

Heading towards Conic Hill - and looking forward to a bit of climbing

 

The route up the right hand side can be clearly seen . . .

 

but we find time for a breather before we head that way

 

On the way up we are treated to some fine views of Loch Lomond, looking south . . .

 

and north . . .

 

and more irresistible shots as we climb higher

 

Now could that be Ben Lomond (not on our itinerary)?

 

The line of islands follows the Geographical fault which runs across the width of Scotland from Kintyre to Stonehaven, just south of Aberdeen

 

Zooming in on Balmaha from the top of Conic Hill . . .

 

and to the harbour Inchcailloch Island

 

Relaxing on the summit as we enjoy a coffee break and great views . . .

 

but all too soon it is time to move on

 

Safely down following an interesting descent

 

Did you remember to bring your Teddy Bear?

 

We find a spot on the shore to try to avoid the dreaded midges . . .

 

and enjoy the view over the water . . .

 

whilst watching the antics of the local bird population

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Day 3: Rowardennan to Inverarnan, 13 mls, 1,224 ft
Leaving Rowardennan we found the impressive War Memorial, dedicated to those who lost their lives in World War 2, before continuing along forest path and by the side of the loch. We arrived at the Inversnaid Hotel at about lunch time and took advantage of the picnic tables to eat lunch.  Just before leaving the shores of Loch Lomond we passed the Doune Bothy - glad we weren't staying there. Diverting off the route to Inverarnan our B & B, Rose Cottage, was one of the first buildings we reached. Not overly impressive from the outside we found it to be quite comfortable inside. The 'not to be missed' Drovers Inn was to be our venue for dinner. In the words of the guide book this is 'an eccentric mix of smoke-blackened walls, sagging velvet-covered chairs, moulting stuffed animals with bar staff wearing kilts and t-shirts.!

Looks like another sunny day in store as we leave Rowardennan

 

World War 2 Memorial Stone . . .

 

and from the other side . . .

 

right on the shore of Loch Lomond

 

Elevenses - on the Bonny, Bonny Banks . . .

 

and along the rocky, rocky road

 

Hey! Wait for me!

 

The picnic tables at Inversnaid provide the perfect lunch spot (and toilets at the adjacent hotel)

 

A cheeky chaffinch is on the lookout for his dinner . . .

 

while we enjoy the views in comfort

 

Having left the forests behind there are more views over the loch

 

Crossing one of the many bridges

 

Doune Bothy - thankfully not our next B & B!

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Day 4: Inverarnan to Tyndrum, 12.6mls, 1,953 ft
No sooner had we got to sleep than we were disturbed by road works just outside the window – flashing lights, noise, etc. The hostess was most apologetic but there as nothing she could have done about it. Returning to the route we walked beside the river which wasn't too far from the road. After a reasonably interesting start we soon changed to military road - stony and hard.  We reached the halfway point of the whole route just as we entered a forest, again on military tack. Emerging from the forest we passed a checkpoint 4 for the Caledonian Challenge – 54 miles from Fort William to Ardlui in 24 hours. However most of the walkers passed through Tyndrum while we were having dinner. Tyndrum Lodge was adequate though the furnishings, etc were a little tired. Again, with no other venues we had dinner at the hotel and were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food.

Crossing another of the many bridges - all with very little water beneath them . . .

 

but the rocks show signs of much erosion from wetter times

 

Zooming in on a passing butterfly

 

It's no good waiting for the train here, Marie!

 

Match up the mountains to the picture below . . .

 

view from the information board

 

Camping in style at Auchtertyre

 

An alternative view of the Crianlarich Hills from the kettlehole lochan

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Day 5: Tyndrum to Kingshouse Hotel, 19 mls, 1,665 ft
The tracks today were rather tedious as mile after mile was just the same underfoot, though it was a little more interesting between Bridge of Orchy and the Inveroran Hotel. Rannoch Moor was completely different from what we expected. Whilst there was the sense of being more 'out in the wilds' we were walking on an engineered track all the way - no grassy hummocks or boggy areas etc to navigate. The last hour was rather wet and whilst there was a bath in the room the water was not hot enough to take advantage of it. The view from the room was brilliant, looking towards Buachaille Etive Mor at the entrance to Glencoe.

We saw lots of foxgloves along the route - and a fair number of mountains in the distance

 

Beinn Dorain, one of the Munros overlooking Bridge of Orchy(3,529ft)

 

One of the two steel viaducts that carry the railway across the glen

 

Heading towards Bridge of Orchy

 

Going underground!

 

The 1751 bridge over the River Orchy which gave the village of The Bridge of Orchy its name

 

Looking north . . .

 

and south from the bridge

 

Continuing along the route . . .

 

we are able to see Loch Tulla

 

Kath prepares for a group shot . . .

 

and here is the result!

 

Another view of Loch Tulla . . .

 

which has the Inveroran Hotel at its head . . .

 

is overlooked by Black Mount . . .

 

and has an impressive Victorian Lodge on its banks

 

Rannoch Moor . . .

 

and again . . .

 

another one . . .

 

and the last one

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Day 6: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven, 9 mls, 1,427 ft
A more leisurely start today as we didn't have far to walk (especially compared to yesterday). This was a more interesting walk but the Devil’s staircase was nothing more than a zig-zag path up the side of a valley. There were good views of the surrounding mountains and Blackwater Reservoir. Arriving early in Kinlochleven we visited Ice Factor - time to browse and watch climbers before heading for the B & B at the opposite end of the village. On arrival it turned out that the hostess was an avid collector of ornaments - they were everywhere - display cabinets, window ledges, fireplace, etc, etc. In the room there were teddy bears on the beds and a doll on the chair – these were banished to the cupboard for the night!

Looking from Kingshouse to the entrance to Glen Coe with Buachaille Etive Mor on the left

 

Looking back to Kingshouse, the ski area being in the distant centre

 

Half way up Devil's Staircase

 

Top of Devil's Staircase with Buachaillie Etive Mor behind the cairn

 

Taking a break at the top

 

Surprised to find a clump of wildflowers

 

Ben Nevis and The Mamores

 

and again - with walkers

 

Blackwater Reservoir

 

Trip, trap, trip trap . . .

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Day 7: Kinlochleven to Fort William
The breakfast at Edencoille was about the best we had on the walk with a great variety of fruit for continental breakfast, along with cold meats and cheeses, etc. It rained on and off during the day but more heavily for the last hour. The route was yet another tedious military track for much of the way and there was a long road walk at the end. The highlight of the day (apart from the finish) was a tree felling machine which uprooted or cut a tree, stripped the branches and bark and cut it into shorter sections. The B & B, Guisachan, was quite comfortable and had a lounge with a bar and it wasn't far to walk into the shopping centre to find a suitable venue for a celebratory meal.

Kinlochleven

 

Loch Leven

 

There's water in the waterfalls today!

 

Another cheeky chaffinch . . .

 

thinking about colour co-ordination

 

A tree felling machine chops the trees down and strips the branches and bark off all in one operation

 

Ben Nevis in cloud - is this an omen for tomorrow?

 

Nearly at the end

 

Finally there . . .

 

even if it is raining!

 

Celebratory meal

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Ben Nevis, 11 mls, 5,000 ft
We travelled to the youth hostel by bus and took the short steep route up to join the main path. The path climbed gradually to Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe and, with a light drizzle in the air, we decided to continue without a break. Passing banks of snow on the way we eventually summitted out - in mist! After a quick lunch and a few photos - when we could find one another - we headed back down. The path was much rockier than I remembered – a comment made by others in the B & B - which made it hard going underfoot. As we reached the road it rained quite heavily and continued until we got back. Soon after we arrived back we had a phone call from Bill who arranged to pick us up so that we could join the Fours Group for dinner. It was great to meet up and compare notes, though they were a little miffed that they had been talked out of climbing The Ben today!

The Jacobite was preparing for its journey to Mallaig as we waited for the bus

 

Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe

 

Loch Linnhe - beneath the cloud

 

A higher vantage point shows the bend in the loch

 

One for the album . . .

 

before continuing up the rocky, rocky road

 

I think I've found the top . . .

 

No, I think it's over here . . .

 

Let's take a closer look . . .

 

This looks more like it . . .

 

YES! We've made it!

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