For the first time since we have been in Scotland, the midges have appeared at our Lochside campsite and they sent us scurrying inside to the sanctuary of the hotel. Even though I was well covered, they still found their way into the gaps in my coat to leave itchy red bumps over my face and arms. Our packing procedure was down to a fine art and the hotelier laughed at how quickly we managed to pack up our tent. “Too many midges!” we told him and he assured us that, now they were here, they would stay til September.
Scratching uncomfortably, we quickly set out on the West Highland Way, rising up the steep climb through a forested track before being spat out at the top; we didn’t mind the climb today, though, as it meant we were higher than the midges! And it was a great relief.
I’ve seen 20 year olds on this trail with day packs. They are using the luggage transfer service so only carrying day packs. I’m 50, with all my gear and I can still move faster than them!
A beautiful trail with breathtaking views lay ahead of us but it was busier than we had experienced before. The West Highland Way was the M25 of trails, with walkers jostling for position, speeding past the groups in front. There was no road rage here, though, just light hearted banter as walkers overtook with satisfied smiles!
Not everyone could overtake us though. “You’re setting a cracking pace!” one walker told me, struggling to match my speed. But he was proud of his West Highland Way Walk and I slowed a little to walk with him. “I’ve seen 20 year olds on this trail with day packs. They are using the luggage transfer service so only carrying day packs. I’m 50, with all my gear and I can still move faster than them!”
Some of the trail led us through forested land although much of this has been harvested, leaving behind it a landscape scarred with the carcasses of dead trees. This forest graveyard stretches for mile upon mile, devoid of chattering birds that noisily inhabit the thriving counterparts earlier on the trail.
And the trail here begins another ascent; even though the sun shone and my feet seemed to have recovered from our previous days’ walking, I began to lose heart. We had only walked 12km and had the same to finish the day. But the majestic peak of Ben Nevis rising ahead of us urged us on. It is said that the summit is visible for only one in every ten days and here it was, a rich prize for our weekend’s labours.
In The Ben’s shadows, we made a quick descent along wide forest paths, following the signpost to Braveheart Carpark then via Cow Hill which led directly to Fort William town centre.
And there it was all over. If we had done all of the West Highland Way we would have walked 154km; there is a signpost in the town to mark the end of the route (and places where you can get certificates!). I hadn’t, of course, walked 154km but I visited the spot anyway, mingling with those who had. “So what now?” I heard people ask when they had posed for their finale photos. There was no response, just an embarrassed silent shuffle back into the town.
I had walked about 80km over our weekend and their question was the only appropriate one left, “So what now?”