Walking the West Highland Way

So. In my first post I said that I have always wanted to walk the West Highland Way, which is true. I have family on the west coast of Scotland and so we have to drive through the highlands in order to get there. It seems nuts to me now that I will actually be walking 96 miles of that journey! I cannot express to you how much I love the highlands – it’s my spiritual home. There’s something about the weather (drizzly and cold), the winding road, the loneliness, the valleys and the mountains! They are otherworldy. My favourite part of the drive is spent with my face glued to the window. I’m excited I’m going to walk in this part of the world. 

I always know when I’m actually going to go through with something when I start planning for it. I have already compiled a kit list – marking off what I have and what I need, I have come up with a meal plan (4 meals a day, 3 of them hot, plus snacks) and worked out the nutritional content, sorted my itineary, and worked out the cost. I aim to make this last 9 days – 2 will be spent solely on travel, 6 days will be spent on The Way and 1 will be spent summitting Ben Nevis and then finding a pub and staying there. I have worked out that it will cost me around £400 including train fare, camping costs and a hotel in Fort William. The actual cost will be more with £450-500 being spent on a quality tent only (the Nordisk Halland 2 LW), then I need a Jetboil Flash stove, and a few other kit essentials such as another pair of boxers, another sports bra, a midge jacket, midge mittens, a head torch, a self-inflating sleep mat, a dry bag, a gilet, a merino top, and a small trowel. Other than that, I already have everything I need. 

There is a hike that my Dad and I have done twice now. It’s another hike I’ve always wanted to do, we finally did it twice this year, and is 12 miles. The most strenuous day of The Way will be 20.5 miles and the least strenuous will be 12 miles. I aim to re-do our walk with a full rucksack, and I will see how I do and I can also try out my jetboil stove and try the meals. Since I will be wild camping as well (which I have never done before), I will be camping in the garden for at least a week to get used to sleeping outdoors and tweaking my night time kit, and learning to erect the tent. Of course I’ll be cheating since I will have an actual toilet and an actual shower, and I don’t plan to shit in the garden. The only time on the way I will not be wild camping will be on the east coast of Loch Lomond where it is banned. Seems some ‘wild campers’ have been leaving beer cans, dog mess and other nasties, which has all ended up in the loch. Due to these inconsiderate pigs, wild camping is now banned on that part of The Way and I’ll be spending only half of my walk wild camping to the full extent of what that means. 

The only outstanding issue is, when? Given I have no job once I get back to England and the tent I want is pricey, I’m going to have to work to be able to afford this. Following further research, I have discovered that the first week of May is taken up with a cycle event, so the place will be busy. I aim to start the second week of May, mid-week, and this will enable me to avoid high tourist season which is June to August. I guess an actual starting date can only be locked down when I actually find a job. 

I’m excited. I’ve also realised when reading this and planning that I’m quite a determined and outgoing person (my sister and mum say I’m stubborn, but as far as I’m concerned, sticking to what you believe and not allowing people to push you around is not stubborness. It’s called ‘determined to not take any bullshit’). 

I’ll admit, I do hope I lose weight doing this. Considering the miles, having to carry my own body weight and the weight of my kit, I’m sure it will result in weight loss. I just have to ensure my calories are high enough that I can actually keep going. 

However, I am not looking forward to three things:

  1. The Evil known as Midges.
  2. Not having the use of lovely, white porcelain for 3 days
  3. The Stink (I won’t be able to wash and daily sweating will mean The Stick is inevitable). 

The Evil known as Midges is easily dealt with by way of a midge jacket and midge mittens. 

The lovely porcelain is a luxury and its absence is something I will just have to deal with. 

The Stink is also something I will just have to deal with. Since I will be going on my own, I guess it won’t be too much of an issue if I become one of the Great Unwashed for a while. I also plan on wearing my hiking kit on the journey up and I will have a bivvy roll of clean socks, a thin top and clean underwear for the trip home, plus my gilet (which is for night time use on this trip). I will need to wash my hiking trousers though, but I should be clean and presentable for the journey home, especially after a well-deserved stay in a hotel for 2 nights.

So that’s me plan. I’m excited, I can see myself doing it. I know I will enjoy it and hopefully it will be the first of many long-distance solo hikes. There is also the East Highland Way (unofficial walk, 82 miles) that links to The Speyside Way (official walk, 65 miles). The East Highland Way starts at Fort William so is a perfect follow-up to the West Highland Way. Maybe I will even be able to persuade my Dad to join me, since he loves hiking and has never done anything like this before. He is near retirement age but is still active, so I think this will be perfect for something to do together.


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