Arrival in Glasgow
The starting point of our journey is Glasgow, which is not a very beautiful city at first glance. You simply have to discover Glasgow, and there really is a lot: the unique Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the University of Scotland, the fantastic street art and the many hip cafés and places where you can have a really excellent meal.
Journey to Bridge of Orchy
Normally, the West Highland Way starts north of Glasgow in Milngavie. It is one of the most popular long-distance hiking trails in Europe with a total length of 154 kilometres. As we are only doing part of the tour, we take the bus to Bridge of Orchy and thus get on in the middle to walk the last three stages in the Highlands. I get my first lesson in correct Scottish pronunciation from the nice Scottish bus driver: It's not "Ordschi" but "Orki", and the "R" is really rolled and emphasised! The drive goes along the entire Loch Lomond, most of the time directly along the shore, and it offers fantastic views of Scotland's largest lake.
The village of Bridge of Orchy consists of a hotel, a bridge and a railway station, that's it!
In the evening we sit on the terrace, enjoy the last rays of sunshine and watch the many hikers on their own with a huge backpack and tent. The crowd is international, from young to old, many are here on the popular West Highland Way. We chose the luxury option with hotel accommodation and luggage transfer, and I'm quite happy about that now 😊
The first stage: from Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse
Today we have our first hiking stage with about 20 km to Kingshouse. A climb awaits us right at the beginning. It is overcast today, but relatively warm and the fauna and flora here are simply fantastic. We are rewarded with a beautiful view of Loch Tulla and walk on through a unique moorland landscape, Rannoch Moor, past Glencoe Mountain Resort (ski resort) to Kingshouse Hotel, the oldest pub in Scotland.
With magnificent views from Kingshouse to Kinlochleven
We start our tour at the Kingshouse Hotel. Today's stage is not very long with a total of approx. 15 km, but still challenging and probably the most beautiful section on the West Highland Way. On the old military road, we first take a narrow path across pastures with magnificent views of the Glencoe Mountains. The atmosphere is absolutely fantastic, the rain has subsided, the wind has driven away the clouds and the sun makes the landscape and mountains appear in a wide variety of very intense shades of green - breathtakingly beautiful! Then we climb steeply uphill, about 300 metres, until we reach the summit and are rewarded with a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
After a section on the crest of the hill, the trail continues downhill on stony paths to Kinlochleven, an idyllic little town with a few hotels and B&Bs, pubs, supermarket and pharmacy.
We are booked into the Forest View and are greeted by the friendly Jack, a young Englishman who took over the B&B a few years ago with his French girlfriend. They have furnished the small B&B with much love and personally look after their guests. It is so cosy, there are a few deckchairs in the garden and Jack offers us beer from a friend's local brewery. Later, we are served coffee and home-baked biscuits. For dinner he recommends the Blackwater Hostel, with good food and a unique location on the fjord.
Final stage from Kinlochleven to Fort William
Today is the final stage on our programme, approx. 25 km and a total of about 600 metres in altitude, passing Scotland's highest mountain, Ben Nevis at 1,343 metres.
Right at the beginning there is a steep climb and about 300 metres of altitude have to be climbed until the top of the pass is reached. There is another beautiful view of the fjord and the city of Kinlochleven. From there we can already see the rain coming in from the fjord and drenching us to the bone over the next hour, even though we have good rainwear with us. Despite the rain, the landscape is fantastic, the path winds spectacularly across the barren plateau. We walk past a ruin and further down through wooded terrain until we reach Fort William, the end of the West Highland Way, along the River Nevis.
Soon Ben Nevis is in sight and we are lucky because the rain has stopped, the sun is shining, it is getting warm and the wind dries our clothes in no time.
The summit of Ben Nevis is completely clear, which is really rare as it is usually shrouded in thick fog. Should we still dare to make the climb? Standing at the highest peak in Scotland is certainly insanely exciting and the chance of good visibility is quite high!
But unfortunately our legs are already too tired. The last 10 km to Fort William drag on and we decide on a leisurely finish with good food in Fort William.
My tip: It's best to book a few extra nights in Fort William. The place is incredibly nice and offers many activities in the area. A visit to the famous Isle of Skye would definitely have been nice.
Departure from Fort William
The next day we take the bus from Fort William back to Glasgow and on to Edinburgh. On the bus ride back, we can once again soak up the landscape and reflect on the last few days.
This trip has clearly exceeded our expectations. We found our walking days in the Scottish countryside wonderful and absolutely decelerating.
The unbelievable vastness of the landscape, the colour green in its various shades, the solitude on this very popular and much frequented long-distance hiking trail, the good beer and the excellent whisky had an absolutely relaxing and satisfying effect on us.
We would like to pass on a few tips to our guests:
- Best time to travel: There is actually no such thing, in Scotland you experience all four seasons in one day, the most stable month is supposed to be May, in summer the midges could be annoying.
- Midges: Yes, they really do exist and we experienced them first hand on the West Highland Way. But it wasn't bad and we had equipped ourselves with a spray, which you should definitely buy locally in Scotland as ours are not effective!
- Rain: Doesn't matter in Scotland, it's just part of it. The landscape is still unique and the pubs very cosy.
- Food: Was far better than expected. The breakfast is outstanding! There was so much to eat, it was so tasty and there is something for everyone. Especially for active travellers, this is a big plus, as you can fortify yourself for the day in the morning with everything your heart desires: porridge, pancakes, full Scottish breakfast, eggs of all kinds, fish and chips, ...
- Public transport: It's best to book everything in advance, it's cheaper and works wonderfully.