West Highland Way – Why Concrete Is Overrated

West Highland Way – Why Concrete Is Overrated

I’ve recently got back from a 96 mile multi-day hike across the Highlands in Scotland. It’s a well known walk called The West Highland Way. I did it with my husband Adam and we completed it in 7 days. I survived (barely) and this is my story.

We have a little experience of hiking and we have never been to Scotland before. Our holiday plans to jet away to Thailand were scuppered quite quickly due to Covid so we decided to do something completely different and I don’t think you can get any different from a 7 day multi day hike through the lochs and highlands to a month of beach hopping in Thailand.



We first started off by choosing the month of September for our hike as apparently it’s when the midges are at their least annoying and it’s not peak time which meant more chance of us getting accommodation, which brings me onto my next point of how we chose to do it.


We are not into camping. Nope. Never camped and I never will. So, we knew staying in accommodation along the ‘Way’ was the only way for us to do it. Preferably, a private room with a bathroom with a bath but now I’m getting picky! So month and accommodation picked now time to plan!


We planned our time away by joining the 2 Facebook groups which were super helpful. We also used the official West Highland Way website and also read and watched numerous travel vlogs. We also bought this book which was fantastic.


When we planned the route there were 2 options for the 7 day itinerary (see below)


We decided to use the route on the right as we thought we’d much rather prefer the 19 miles on day 5 rather than day 6. Get it over faster! Turns out the 19-miler wasn’t even the hardest day, the hardest day was day 3 but I’ll talk about that in more detail later.


We also used a GPX viewer app in conjunction with this site http://trailblazer-guides.com/gps-waypoints and the book we mentioned above it worked brilliantly!


We started by arriving in Fort William (the end of the trail) and leaving the car there before heading down to Milngavie the day before we started the walk and stayed over there so we were fresh to start the next day. Our reasons for this were, we wanted the car there for when we finished the walk as we are not seasoned walkers and we knew we would be in pain after finishing the walk. We couldn’t think of anything worse than having to do the train journey with possible injuries. We prefered the push at the beginning to the end. We booked our car into the West End Roundabout car park in Fort William at a cost of £20.00 for a months pass. More info on this in our vlog here.


Because we were planning to head up on ‘The Way’ during the Covid-19 pandemic we knew things were going to be a bit different. This is where the Facebook groups really came into their own. People were completing the way every day so the updates were thick and fast. It was great to be able to get first hand, up to date knowledge on which villages had shops that were open and which hotels on route you were able to get lunch from. It really was so helpful.


We took a decent supply of cereal bars, porridge bars, dried fruits, nuts and biscuits to keep us going for when our accommodation didn’t come with breakfast or we couldn’t get lunch. They proved very handy!


Here is a list of the accommodation of where we stayed and our reviews are below. I’ve also made a note of which ones offered a packed lunch.


We also opted for a baggage transfer service as there was no way we were carrying our bags. My back would not cope with that. I’m not exactly known for packing light. We used Baggage Freedom which worked out great. It was £35 for 1 bag and then we decided to add on another bag last min and that was £40. Weird, I assumed it would be the same price as the first bag. The service was good and the whole baggage transfer worked well, most of the accommodations are used to this and they have a dedicated space for the bags.


The Clachan Inn


2nd best accommodation in my opinion and definitely the best food and the best staff. The room I booked was a twin room with a shared bathroom but we didn’t see anyone else using it. We were provided with our own anti-bacterial spray and cloth to take into the bathroom with us so we could spray down handles, light switches and taps after use. Brilliant idea. Good tea and coffee making facilities with bottles of water and comfy beds. Plus we had a little shared terrace outside which was a bonus. When booking the room we were given the option to book a table for dinner and I’m so glad we did this as they were turning away people at the restaurant that evening. It just shows how popular they are I guess. Note, no breakfast provided so we ate from our stash we brought with us and it’s about a 20 min walk to get back on the WHW route. For a room tour see our video here.


Room only – £50


Rowardennan Youth Hostel


This was an OK stay. Good Covid measures and we felt secure. There were alot of rules though, I understand they were there to protect us but it felt a bit like a school trip! I kept getting confused with the 1 way system and ended up feeling scared to walk around! We were in a 2 bunk room. Bunk beds are not my fave but I knew this on booking. We didn’t have an en suite but we were assigned a private bathroom that was attached to another room if that makes sense? I don’t understand why we couldn’t stay in the room where we were using the bathroom to be honest. The bathroom smelled musty and it wasn’t the best shower. It felt a bit grim. We were offered the chance to book a pack lunch which we pre-booked. It was £6.50 and well worth it as there was nowhere to get lunch from the next day because Inversaid Hotel is closed due to Covid. There was a little issue with the luggage store, we couldn’t get the padlock open and even the staff member struggled which resulted in a drill being brought out which meant a 15 min wait to get our bags. It isn’t a big deal now but at the time after walking 12 miles when you’re drenched in sweat and just want a towel so you can get a shower it was a big deal!


Cheap room though and it’s a shame most of the facilities were shut, such as the common room, laundry room etc. I wonder if this is reflected in the cost of the room rate. Each room was assigned a microwave, cutlery and a table and you could prebook a microwave meal. This wasn’t our bag tho so we stocked up with food at the shop in Balmaha. All in all, ok stay and suited us rather than paying the £112 we were quoted for the Rowardennan Hotel.


Total Price – £50 for the room and £6 for temp membership.


£56 in total


Beinglas Campsite


This was THE best room we stayed in. Now, being completely honest we don’t know if it was that good or if we were that knackered and exhausted from the terrors of day 3.  However, it did feel that good in our experience. It was probably one of the most expensive rooms but it was well worth it. Beinglas is literally right on the trail and a lot of people on the way seemed to stay there. It’s got a variety of rooms and it’s also a campsite. It’s well equipped with a lounge bar and restaurant, shop, shower blocks (if you’re camping) and washing room. We booked a B&B chalet and it was massive! We had a double bed, decent mirrors (which you never seem to get) a powerful shower, fans, brilliant hospitality tray. It was cracking. Now, the food, chicken curry is the one! Honestly, get it. You’ll thank me later. Beer wasn’t cheap, my preferred pint was £4.90 a go but they’ve got you and honestly after the hells of day 3 you’ll need it! We booked a packed lunch there and it was more expensive than the Youth Hostel. It was around £8.00 I think but it was a decent packed lunch with loads of treats that kept me going for 2 days! Covid measures were good too. Plastic screens around the bar and you had to wear a mask when you were inside the restaurant and bar when you were walking around. The place was sparkling too. Breakfast was great too. Loads of options and endless offers of toast and tea. We opted for a Scottish breakfast and it was massive.


We loved the whole vibe of Beinglas. It was definitely one of our better stays.


Total price – £90 including breakfast.


Tyndrum By The Way


This place was OK. We booked a double room in the hostel. Room was tiny. No room to swing a cat and the walls were really thin and there was hardly any storage. We didn’t have a private shower but the shower and separate loo was next door. Good laundry facilities though. We managed to wash all of our clothing which was a welcome change from handwashing! There was a shared kitchen and a nice big lounge with no TV which was good. Not too sure on the Covid measures to be honest as the lounge was full of books and games and previously places had removed all unnecessary items due to Covid. Kitchen was well equipped. We ate in TJ’s diner and it was cracking. Early start for us so we didn’t hang around in the morning, just long enough to grab some porridge. No packed lunch offered.


Total price – £45


Kingshouse


I was dreading staying here. I’d heard so much about the place via the Facebook groups about how they weren’t welcome to walkers, about how you aren’t allowed certain places, how overpriced the food is, how if you book the hotel part it’s a 2 night minimum stay, how they’ve forgot their roots etc. Jesus, it was enough to put anyone off. Turns out don’t listen to everything you read. We had a fantastic stay. We stayed in the Bunkhouse and it was perfect for us. We had bunkbeds and the room was simple but effective. Charging points near the bed, beside lights, good storage at the foot of the bed. Showers were shared with same gender but there were plenty of them and they were clean. There was also a kitchen with access to a microwave and hot water. A drying room and as a guest you had access to the hotel’s facilities. I loved our stay there. Breakfast was included and it was massive. We are definitely going back there to stay in the hotel next year, we loved it that much. Packed lunch offered.


Total price including breakfast was £90


Blackwater Hostel


Good stay here. Bonus is it’s right off the way and close to town. Cons, room was upstairs. Excellent Covid measures, the place was super clean and residents were respecting the social distancing and face mask rules. We had a private room with an en suite. Beds were bunkbeds and we hired sleeping bags as no bedding was provided. Shower was annoying, it was on a timer and kept going off and it was quite small. There were no towels provided and no bath mats which meant the floor got soaked when you were showering. Kitchen was great. Very clean and very well stocked. No packed lunch offered but there was a Co op in Kinlocleven to grab stuff from.


Total price £75.


List of things we found handy to pack


Zinc Oxide tape for your feet


Small towel in day bag along with fresh socks.


As many painkillers as you can carry and the same for blister plasters.


Tick remover tool


Smidge


Powerbank


Jelly beans and sugary snacks.


Water filter (we used ours loads)


Moist toilet tissue


Rubbish bags in your day bag.


The Body Shop Peppermint Foot Spray (lifesaver)


Don’t bother with epsom salts none of our accommodation had a bath!


Waterproof cover for your bags or a dry bag to put inside your bag.


Hiking poles


Thermos mug for hot drinks


Hat


Newspaper (to dry boots)


Overall, it was an unforgettable experience but it was so much harder than I expected it to be. I’m not being negative here, I’m simply being truthful. I struggled more than I thought I would because it was harder than I thought it was going to be. I researched the trip well and watched plenty of vlogs and a lot of people didn’t go into a lot of detail about the days and days of hiking, the route, route options and terrain. That’s why we decided to vlog the entire trip. We made a promise to ourselves we were going to be honest and reflect the trip truthfully. So you can watch all about it here.


I would just like to point out the horrors of day 3. For me personally this was the worst day! It was brutal but oh so gorgeous at the same time. The views are incredible, the wilderness, the scenery but wow it was painful. When you leave the loch it doesn’t get easier but you can do it! Even if you have a breakdown on the side of a hill like me you can do it! Day 5 was difficult as I didn’t have the sturdiest of hiking boots and the military roads killed my feet. Like, killed me off. I found the descent down into Kingshouse a killer too. You can see it for ages but you never seem to arrive at it! That path is never ending.


It definitely opened up a new love for us though and that has to be our new obsession with Scotland. We loved everything, even the weather! The people in Scotland and along the way were amazing. Every single person we met had an effect on our journey and we loved meeting all different types of people. My husband Adam summed the whole experience up perfectly and I will leave you with his wise words.

Does the West Highland Way bring out the best in people or does it just bring out the best people?

Adam Bowles


I hope you’ve enjoyed this very long review. I hope it’s helped. Any questions drop them in the comments and I will get back to you soon. Don’t forget to watch our vlogs.


Thanks for reading!


BBB


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