Well, there’s just under 2 weeks to go until I start on the West Highland Way. The plan is to set off on 23rd April and try and do the walk over 6 days. I hope to go for a couple of long days to start the walk off, but then reduce it to shorter days from there.
The Planned Route
It’s a rather unusual pace, in terms of stopping off points. I’ve not heard of anyone else trying it quite like this. The main reason for trying it like this is Rowardennan. Ok, it’s not illegal to camp at Rowardennan when I go for my walk, but from June it will be (and anywhere on the 9 mile coastal stretch between Drymen and Rowardennan). So, I wanted to come up with a walk which avoided wild camping along that section. As a result, it makes for 2 longer days to start me off.
- Day 1 is planned as Milngavie to Milarrochy Bay – a walk of 21 miles, including Conic Hill, which could be a bit of a challenge at the end of the first day
- Day 2 is planned as Milarrochy Bay to Beinglas campsite, Inverarnan – a 19 mile walk, including the stretch from Rowardennan to Inversnaid, which is said to be pretty brutal
- Day 3 is planned as Inverarnan to Tyndrum By the Way – a nice, easy 12 mile walk and hopefully a bit of recovery time at the end of it
- Day 4 is planned as Tyndrum to the Kingshouse Hotel – an 18 mile walk, but over easy ground. The Kingshouse Hotel doesn’t have any formal camping facilities, so it’s effectively wild camping here, though with a bar close to hand!
- Day 5 is planned as the Kingshouse Hotel to Kinlochleven – only a 9 mile walk, but it does include the infamous Devil’s Staircase, so I’m leaving extra time to complete that part.
- Day 6 is planned as Kinlochleven to Fort William – a reasonably straightforward walk of 14 miles
As you can see, it really is a pretty gruelling first two days, but assuming I survive those, the rest is pretty plain sailing in comparison.
Now, it all comes down to how fit I am as to how manageable the above route will be. I realise that the walk reports I’ve been giving on this site haven’t been all that regular, but rest assured, I have been getting a fair amount of exercise!
During January, I walked to work every day – a walk of 4.5 miles per day. Over 20 days, a fair bit of walking and a chance to build up muscles. Also, at the weekend, I made attempts to do longer walks, and walks over slightly more hilly terrain, such as the Lomond Hills and the Pentland Hills
In February, I continued walking to work, but occasionally, I made the return trip as well (which was a bit interesting, since I finish work at 11pm – walking in darkness has it’s own challenges!). I also started doing walks of a reasonable length. The walk from Dalgety Bay to Kirkcaldy (16 miles) has become quite a regular one for me. I’ve done it 3 times now
March was a bit more of a challenge. I got a bit demotivated, doing the same walk day in, day out, so I stopped walking to work for a bit and tried to do similar length walks during the day, before work. Again, at the weekends, I tried to get out in the countryside and onto some more varied terrain. By the end of March I was back walking to and from work, but with a slight difference. I realised that I was going to have to start carrying more weight, so I added 2kg of lead weights to my pack and made sure I had full bottles of water (which came to 2kg) and a few other bits and pieces. My total pack weight was 8-9kg. I have to admit, the first couple of weeks were a killer! I didn’t realise how much of a difference all that extra weight would add! I’m glad I did it, though, so that I now know what I’ve got in store for me (though my pack for the West Highland Way is heavier still!)
My most recent walk, on Saturday, was 17 miles from Newport-On-Tay to St Andrews. I had the extra weight in my pack for this. The walk was actually fine, until I entered Leuchars town. From there onwards, it was tarmac all the way, which really isn’t very pleasant for walking on in big boots. As a result, my feet have been feeling a little the worse for wear the past couple of days.
I’m reasonably confident that I’m fit enough to carry the load and do the miles for the walk. It all comes down to whether my feet hold out or not. Luckily, the West Highland Way isn’t as heavily covered in Tarmac as the Fife Coastal Path.