I love hiking, a lot and when I looked for a multiday hike and found the West Highland Way in Schotland, I was sold. It would be a challenge, because it would be my longest hike so far (154km in 7 days) and it was the first time trekking with camping gear. I asked my brother to join me and off we went. It was a heck of an adventure.
We arrived in Edinburgh in the evening (not the perfect timing, but the cheapest flight) and went straight to our hostel, the High Street Hostel. It's a simple stay in the center of Edinburgh. Not a lot of luxury, but all the basics are there. We install ourselves and head out for dinner, but return immediately after to get to bed in time. It will be our last night in a bed for a while (or so we thought).
We spent our morning in Edinburgh, walking around the city. The capital of Scotland is really beautiful and we definitely are planning to come back. However, we decided to take the train to Glasgow after lunch, so we can get a head start on the hike (being it our first long distance hike with heavy backpacks). In Glasgow we take the bus to Milnvagie and that's where we'll start our hike.
We go to the village shop to buy water to fill our camelbaks (I brought one of 3 liters, which was definitely a minimum for this trip) and buy some food for the evening and for on the way. We start the hike around four o' clock and we walk for about two to three hours (can't remember). We camped along the way - it wasn't the best stop and cooked some spaghetti.
The view was breathtaking but the worst moment of this trip was on Conic Hill. We walked quite a lot on day 3. We left early in the morning (you wake up with nature) and walked to Milngavie. What we didn't read in the guide we had with us, is that the town of Milngavie was a detour. So we walked 3km too much and it was not a pleasant path back to the Way. But, we made it and we decided to walk to Balmaha.
It was our first full day of hiking and it was quite intense. The climbing of Conic Hill was hard for me and I was quite exhausted when I made it to the top. But the view was stunning and going down is easier than going up (unless for the knies that is). However, it wasn't. Once we were on top (like really on the highest point of the path) it started storming. It started raining very hard, but that wasn't too bad. It was the wind. It was crazy! Honestly, I was really scared. I was still getting accustomed to the heavy weight of my pack and the way down was quite steep. In combination with the rain - everything was so slippery - and the wind, I almost couldn't keep standing. I really thought I'd get into an accident because I had difficulties not getting blown away, literally. Luckily, my brother kept his head cool and urged me to get down.
The way down was even heavier than the way up because of all that wind. I had to use every muscle in my body to keep myself up right and to slowly descend. I took us a long time to get down from the hill. Once we were lower, the wind was less strong and the descend became easier, except for the fact that I was exhausted. My body was trembling and I felt so weak when all the adrenaline left my body. I also found out that my rain jacket wasn't very effective. And by the time we came in Balmaha I was completely soaked and cold. And I didn't have the courage to walk any further.
We walked to a local coffee shop to warm up and to decide what we would do for that evening. It was 6 o'clock and we had still enough time to walk further, but I wasn't so sure if I wanted to do that because I was so tired. And we also didn't know where we would find a camping spot because we were about to walk into a stretch of the Way where camping wasn't allowed. So, we decided to stay in Balmaha and had the luck of getting the last room in a small hotel. We even got a two person bedroom for the price of two bunk beds.
I was a bit ashamed for quitting our camping on the second night already, but I was so happy with a hot shower to get warm and a place where we could dry all our stuff. I did regret it a bit the next day though, because we found some really nice camping spots on the next part of the Way - but it was 5km further down, so it probably was for the best.
Allright, a small sidenote. Although I am an experienced traveller and I have some hiking experience, I never hiked with such heavy gear. And that was quite obvious, because my backpack was 16kg heavy. If that doesn't say enough: it was the maximum I was allowed to carry (1/3rd of your body weight). And they recommend hiking with a pack under the 10kg. So yeah, it's lightly put if I say that I was a newby. It was mostly my sleeping back and mat that were too heavy (I didn't want to buy lighter gear - which I did regret). And also, I was stupid enough not to train with my pack before starting the hike. So, this will explain some of the roughness to you. The amount of km's we hiked daily was something I could easily handle - but in combination with that pack. I underestimated this. And I recommend you not to make the same mistake - that is why I share this. Train with your pack and pack as light as you can. It was good that I have a good physique, otherwise I wouldn't have made it.
PS: I called my pack 'my Monster'. That's a reference to Cheryll Strayed btw - whom I love. Spoiler alert: I did fall in love with my backpack in the end though.
This part of the hike is said to be the nicest of the whole Way and it was indeed very beautiful. We walked next to Loch Lomond and through the woods and it was beautiful. It was also quite heavy near the end, but I really enjoyed this part of the hike. When we arrive at Ilversnaid we decide to stop there. We camped on the camping ground of The Bunkhouse and the hosts were lovely. We decided to buy ourselves a meal to enjoy inside.
Ilversnaid marks the fourth day of our trip and we have four more days to hike (we hiked the trail in 7 days - well, 6 technically, but you can read about that later) and 5 more days in Schotland. Honestly, at this point I realize that I have seriously underestimated this trip and I'm a bit anxious about what comes next. However, I'm also just doing it and I'm not planning to quit. I want to finish those 154 kilometres and I'm not a quitter. Giving up was no option. And I mean, everything is really beautiful. Scotland's nature is stunning and it's raw and quite untouched by humans (except for the many sheep you see). So it's hard and at the end of the day, the last kilometers, I'm dying. But I'm also loving and enjoying every bit of it.
You can read about the next days on the trail in my next blogpost - thank you for reading and stay tuned! Love, Elise