Long before I moved to Scotland, I travelled there many times for holidays. In June 2008, just a few months before I actually moved there, I went for the very last time. The main purpose of this trip was to show my girlfriend the country as she was at the time still thinking of moving with me (what happened to that plan, you can find out here)
So the plan was to stay in a hostel in Glasgow for a night, drop the excess luggage off at a mate’s place on the southside and then spend a couple of days walking the West Highland Way before returning to Glasgow for some more nights.
I had been looking forward to the West Highland Way-part for some time with my mate Torsten. We had a wee book with the most important facts and advise and were therefore well-prepared. Well, at least so we thought…
After we had dropped off an actually pretty insignificant amount of luggage as planned, we went to bed early, in order to be fit in the morning and catch the first train.
We went to Glasgow Queen Street Station and purchased tickets to go Crianlarich, from where we would be starting to walk towards Tyndrum. We did have a lot of stuff with us – tent, camping stove, canned food, cider and loads of other stuff I don’t even remember.We did, however, not have anything against the midges with us, which turned out to be a huge mistake. We thought we would just buy something on the way once we get further north, but as soon as we left the train in Crianlarich we were attacked by swarms of the little monsters. My ex found out that the best way to keep them away is to smoke, which was not my favourite solution, though, and so we were running down the hill into the first shop and asked for something against midges. They had several products on offer, but one one immediately caught my eye – an Avon product called “Skin So Soft”. It was well-known that even the British Army were using it when going up to the highlands, doing whatever soldier-stuff there is to do.
That bottle would become my best friend for those days and proved far more useful than having my ex with me. I basically renewed the layer on my skin every hour or so and not only was my face “so soft, it was also “so greasy”.
As soon as we found the “entrance” to the WHW, Torsten started speeding up to be well in front, as my female appendage had a sense for drama, which would still drive us of our nut a little bit later on…
We loved every bit of he scenery we have seen, but the weather, despite picking the driest month on average, was not really the greatest. It was mostly cloudy and drizzling.
We haven’t been walking too far when I felt an uncomfortably moist sensation on my back and trousers – it turned out that one of the cider cans in my backpack had burst and so I had to keep walking in cider-soaked trousers. At least the backpack was half a kilo lighter, because I realised pretty fast how stupid it actually was to bring so much stuff, including a tent that we were never be able to use in that weather and with the midges around.
We did also realise that no matter how much luggage we had with us, we had been planning far too optimistic in wanting to walk more than one part per day. Tyndrum was only supposed to be a quick stop before going ahead to Bridge of Orchy. Only another 7 miles, right??
When we finally arrived in Tyndrum, we (especially me, carrying 20 kgs of luggage) were so sore and exhausted that we didn’t want to do anything but find accommodation and rest. I talked to the first guy I have seen by chance in front of his house, because a sign was suggesting that he had “vacancies” and we booked ourselves in for the night.
After a relaxing shower and a hot cup of tea we went to the local pub and have been conspiring over a couple of pints how we were to continue this trip and we decided unanimously to take the bus to Fort William in the morning and just stay there for a couple of days before eventually returning to Glasgow.
This turned out to be an amazing idea, because even though we had picked the month with the supposedly lowest precipitation, it was absolutely bucketing it down whilst we were on the bus.
Once in Fort William, we got a list of B&Bs at the tourist information and also found a place pretty easy. The Stobahn Guest House had a small but comfortable room with 3 beds and their Scottish breakfast was amazing. The host was very helpful and even gave us a city map for our return to Glasgow.
Even though we did not really walk too much of the West Highland Way, we still had to take the poser pictures at the end and visit the official WHW shop in Fort William.
The rainjackets proved very useful again as we walked in the pouring rain to visit Old Inverlochy Castle, now merely a ruin, and the Ben Nevis Distillery.
On our last day in Fort William we decided to take the Seal Island Cruise on Loch Lhinne, as “Seal Island” sounded very interesting. The cruise itself was a nice experience, the weather again very harsh but as the boat had a roof AND was selling coffee inside, we were sorted. The price for the cruise was quite reasonable, however, Seal Island did fall slightly short of expectations, not really being an island but a mere rock.
The 4-hour train ride back to Glasgow did offer some stunning scenery – some of which we were supposed to see whilst walking up north.
Our accommodation of choice in Glasgow was, as always, the Bluesky Hostel in Berkeley Street – very reasonably priced and centrally located. The staff was always friendly and they have everything from double rooms up to 14 bed dorms available. I can only recommend this hostel to everyone going to Glasgow on a budget.
As a last activity, except watching the EURO 2008 final between Spain and Germany in our favourite pub, we have been visiting the Auchentoshan Distillery – a much nicer experience than the Ben Nevis distillery in my opinion. Auchentoshan was a bit hard to reach by public transport and so we had to take a train to Dalmuir (not the nicest part of Glasgow) and a taxi, but the tour was well worth the hassle.
Our WHW-attempt was clearly a fail back then but we do, of course, learn from our mistakes and another attempt at walking the WHW, at least partially, is already on the list ever since.
Thanks so much for reading!
As a last picture, I hope you will enjoy this very Glaswegian way of advertising..