The West Highland Way, Scotland

September 2015

Two years after my hiking tour across the Isle of Skye, in September 2015 I finally returned to Scotland. Together with my cousin, this time I had planned to cross the Western Highlands, trekking along the West Highland Way for seven days. And just like on the previous tour we were completely self-sustained, carrying close to 30 kilos of equipment such as tent, sleeping bags, stove, food, water treatment, and some extensive photography gear along the whole path. Despite the strains that inevitably come with such an endeavour, we spent a marvelous time walking a trail which is repeatedly ranked among the world's most epic hiking paths. And returning with more than 150 GB of raw picture material, carrying close to 10 kilos of camera, batteries, lenses and tripod alone has certainly paid off. I will need some more time to go through all the material that I have shot, but below I have selected some first photographic impressions.

Those interested in following the tour themselves (either in reality or virtually via Google Earth) can find detailed GPS track data here. Some more photographic impressions from Scotland can be found in my gallery.

Day 1: Start in Balmaha

On the day of our arrival in Edinburgh, we took the bus to Glasgow where we equipped ourselves with gas for our stove. Using train and bus, we then continued to Balmaha, where we arrived at late afternoon. We concluded the day by a short two hour hike to the campsite of Sallochy, one of the few legal places to pitch a tent in the southern part of the eastern shore of Loch Lomond.

Day 2: Along the shore of Loch Lomond

We woke up rather late and, probably due to a lack of routine, took quite some time to get packed. We followed the West Highland Way northbound along the eastern shore of Loch Lomond. The trail wound up hills, took us down to the Loch from time to time and offered beautiful views across Loch Lomond and the surrounding mountains. In the evening we arrived at Inversnaid, where we admired an impressive waterfall of the river Snaid. We finally pitched our tent at a small beach of Loch Lomond.

Day 3: The northern coast of Loch Lomond

On the third day, we woke up on a beautiful silent morning to see the sun rise above a calm mirror-like Loch Lomond. We then continued our journey to the norther coast. After about one hour we passed Rowardennan. Shortly after Rowardennan, the trail started to become quite difficult, requiring us to climb up and down large stony steps such that we only made slow progress. When we arrived at a small, isolated beach we rested for a while. From now on the trail became easier again, taking us away from and above Loch Lomond. We eventually reached the campsite of Beinglas, where we spent a nice evening in the local pub.

Day 4: Into the Highlands

Our plan for the forth day was to start out early in order to reach Brudge of Orchy before sunset. We thus got up before sunrise, got packed and left Beinglas using an old military road. The West Highland Way took us through Glen Falloch, passed the Falloch Falls. It then rose up high into the hills above Crianlarich. We passed the village across the hills, the path ever descending and ascending through the wooded hills. Finally, it desceded towards cropland. We finally arrive at Tyndrum and we must realize that it is too late to head on to Bridge of Orchy. Our feet and ankles ached and so we spent the night at a campsite in Tyndrum.

Day 5: Rannoch Moor

The morning of the fifth day began with some problems. After completing yesterday's stage with our heavy luggage we had problems with our achilles heels. In order to complete our trip in time, today we would have had to walk more than 30 km and we were in doubt whether we can manage this with our heavy bagpacks. We thus decided to seize the last opportunity for a 10 km shortcut, taking the train from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy where we arrived around 11 am. After admiring the beautiful river Orchy, we started today's hike which first took us up a small mountain. From there we had a marvelous panoramic view over the mountains and Loch Tulla lying at our feet. Now the path lead down the mountain to Inveroran close to Loch Tulla. It lead us up into Rannoch Moor, a marvelous deserted mountain valley full of streams, small Lochs and bogs. For hours and hours we crossed this isolated area, enjoying the silence and solitude. When the sun set behind the hills, it bathes the landscape in amazing warm colors. We left Rannoch Moor with the very last sunrays and we arrived at Kingshouse hotel. Here we pitched our tent at a small little creek and we are literally eaten by trillions of midges. We fled to the famous climbers' bar of the hotel, where we rested until the sun had finally set. Now the midges were gone and we enjoyed a relaxing night by the small creek.

Day 6: Glen Coe

We woke up early only to find that the midges had finally returned. We quickly packed our stuff and went to Kingshouse hotel in order to have breakfast. We then got ready for today's walk which first took us through the beautiful Glen Coe valley. After a few kilometers, we reached a point where the trail winds up the mountains across a steep path which is called the devil's staircase. Despite the name, the ascend is not too difficult and on the summit we can enjoy an amazing panorama of the surrounding mountains and the Glen Coe valley. A small Loch on the summit makes the view even more perfect. For many kilometers the path descends again towards today's destination, the small town of Kinlochleven at Loch Leven.

Day 7: The Lairig

On the final day of our trek, more than 25 km through the Lairig mountain area awaited us, so we decided to start out early to arrive in Fort William before sunset. We left Kinlochleven around 8:30am, climbing up about 330 meters to the Lairigmor pass. Here, for what seems like endless kilometers the West Highland Way follows a small river valley and passes old ruins, small creeks and cascades. When we arrive at the Lochan Lunn da Shra in the afternoon, we still have more than 13 km ahead of us. Now the trail descends from the mountain pass, leading us through beautiful forests along the Glen Nevis. We walk the final kilometers along a road through Fort William, where we happily reach the official end point of the West Highland Way in the town center.