Sunday, July 24, 2011

West Highland Way - Scotland Day 7 - Kinlochleven to Fort Williams

West Highland Way - Scotland

Day 7 - Kinlochleven to Fort Williams(17.25 miles)

We woke up to beautiful weather once again at our usual time. There wasn't really even a cloud in the sky and the temperature was rather warm (not the usual scotish weather from what we've been told).

I over indulged in a huge Scotish breakfast which could have easily fed two pe0ple. I at so much that I actually felt worse than the previous morning after drinking 11 pints in Kingshouse.

We headed out a little after 9am. The first mile or so climbed steeply out of Kinlochleven which we took slowly through the woods. This was the first day that we really started to notice the midges and flies. They are ferocious little buggers with nastly bites!

Once out of the woods we connected with another old military road which wound through a peaceful valley. The sun was bright without a cloud in the sky, but a nice swift breeze kept us cool, but not from getting a little red around the face, neck and arms. We passed two ruins which were very interesting to see.

After six miles or so we hit trail again which took us through pine forests. The woods were spectacular and filled with moss, ferns and clover which Lisa and I spent a bit looking for 4 leafs. There was a small section at the end of the woods that had been logged which was a little depressing, but the sites were still beautiful.

At the end of the trail section we hit the logging road which would take us to Fort William. We could see the town off in the distance which made us feel a sense of accomplishment as well as a bit of sadness that our journey was coming to a close.

Several miles of road walking along with the heat and the sun started to take its toll on Lisa, but she was a trooper and marched on to the end without complaining.

Once in town the trail became a bit confusing. We were unaware that the end of the WHW had changed since last year and that the statue had been removed. We took our picture and the "Original End" of the trail (95 miles) then followed the markers through Fort Williams streets to the new end where we once again took our photos.

We headed back to the Grog and Gruel to get our completion certificate and celebratory Guiness. We had officially had walked the 97 mile West Highland Way trail and over 100 miles with trips into towns and B&B's. I was extremely proud of Lisa for pushing herself to achieve such an accomplishment.

We headed to our guest house to clean up and then headed back into town for dinner at The Tavern. While sitting enjoying our soup and appetizers we were surprised by our old friend Jack who just happened by. We chatted a bit and he was on his way.

After dinner we headed back towards our B&B making one final stop for a drink and then off to bed like the elderly folk we are by 9:30 :)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

West Highland Way - Scotland Day 6 - Kingshouse to Kinlochleven

West Highland Way - Scotland

Day 6 - Kingshouse to Kinlochleven (9 miles)

Waking up this morning I felt the effects of last nights beer tasting binge. I'm not as young as I used to be :).

We woke up a little later than usual today and finally made our way to breakfast around 8:30. We ate a little lighter today than usual, but we only had a 9 mile day ahead of us.

Even though we got up a little late we were still on the trail by a little after 9. We took the first few miles slow even though it was pretty flat.

We arrived at the base of the Devil's Staircase by 10am. The name was much more fierce than the actual climb. The mile to mile and half climb was a little challenging considering I was sweating out about a beer every quarter mile.

I arrived at the top around 10:45 and found myself a rock to sit on while I waited for Lisa to reach the top. I took some pics, videos and caught up on my journal. The view was absolutely breathtaking and brought tears to my eyes.

Lisa arrived around 11:10 and we sat together enjoying a snack and the beauty of the Highlands. We placed our rock on top of the cairn, since this was the highest point on the WHW and were again on our way.

The rest of the hike was all downhill and since we couldn't check in to our B&B until 3pm we took our time.

We arrived in Kinlochleven around 2pm and stopped at the Tailrace Inn for lunch. Lisa had a very tasty lentil soup and I had a burger. We both had salads as well.

By 3:15 we were at the Edencoille Guest House and greeted by the proprietor. We were given a family suite which was amazing.

We did our usual routine of showering and changing into our street clothes and then relaxed for a bit while watching what happened in Norway on tv.

Shortly before 6pm we headed back to Tailrace Inn for dinner. Lisa had a big bowl of pasta and I had a ribeye steak. We sat around watching Harry Potter until the locals started pooring in to get their "drink-on". We hung around a bit then headed back to our B&B around 8pm.

Friday, July 22, 2011

West Highland Way - Scotland Day 5 - Tyndrum to Kingshouse

West Highland Way - Scotland

Day 5 - Tyndrum to Kingshouse (20 miles)

Knowing we had a long 20 mile day we woke up early (6:30am). The owner of the B&B was nice enough to have our breakfast ready by 7:30 so we could be on the trail by 8am (rather than our normal 9am start). I had fresh trout that her husband caught the day before and Lisa had muselli and cheese toast.

For the most part the trail followed old military roads which made walking fast and easy. We were easily doing 3mph pace which kept us on course for finishing too late in the day. The views were magnificant and the weather was once again on our side.

We made it to the Bridge of Orchy by 10:30. I found out that this is one of the places that they filmed Harry Potter.

We arrived at the Inveroran Hotel by 12:00 where we decided to stop and have lunch. Lisa was hurting pretty bad at this point (10 miles in) so it was nice to take a break and let her heal up a bit. She took a nice bath in "Icy/Hot" before we headed back out around 12:50.

The next section of trail just kept getting better. We followed the military road for the next 10 miles to Kingshouse Hotel where we would be staying for the night.

Arriving around 4:45 we immediately jumped into the shower to get refreshed before heading down to the hotel pub for dinner. Lisa had a goat cheese salad and I the Steak and Ale pie with vegetables and potatoes. We both had a bowl of vegetable coriandor soup to start.

I was asked to have a pint of beer by several people for them while in Scotland and I believe I had enough this night to cover everyone :) (11 pints total = next morning headache). So here is one for you: Dad, Mom, Ronnie, Bruce, Cindy, Jennifer, Jill, Kristin, Tom and any other friends that needed one :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

West Highland Way - Scotland Day 4 - Inverarnan to Tyndrum

West Highland Way - Scotland

Day 4 - Inverarnan to Tyndrum (12 miles)

Todays routine was similar to our last several. Wake up at 7am, get things together, head down for our scotish breakfast at 8am and on the trail by 9.

The day started off a little overcast, but we were fortunate enough to avoid any rain.

The trail was really beautiful. This seemed where the true highlands began. We followed the River Fillan for the first half of the day between two mountain ridges. It was pretty cloudy so my picture quality was a little off, but it kept the temperature down which made for an enjoyable hike.

Shortly after navagating away from the river we stopped for lunch. Unfortunately our sandwiches were not that great, but I ate them anyway. Lisa could only eat the ham & tomato relish (? on what it really was) half down, but could not eat more than a bite of the other (which I really couldn't tell you what was on it other than the colour was deep brown and had shredded cheese). After finishing lunch and packing up we stepped back to the trail at which point I looked down and found a British Pound ($). The fact that I found a coin in the middle of a field made me feel pretty lucky for the day.

We then proceeded on climbing over the hill and through a wooded area. Here we ran into trail maintenance. This was very different from what I have seen while hiking in the past. The group (4) had a bobcat and were all dressed in "business casual" attire. A far cry from various aged volunteers with pic axes, shovels and looking like they were bathed in dirt that I recall.

After descending through the forest we came to what I felt was some of the most spectacular sections yet. The sun had come out ong enough for us to come through a sheep ranch area. The place was covered with sheep and the backdrop was breathtaking.

The last bit of the hike into Tyndrum was relatively easy. When I say easy I mean Lisa didn't have to climb any hills :)

When we arrived at our B&B we immediately showered up and set upon the task of filling our bellies. We found a local restaurant and loaded up. Lisa had 2 fish cakes, chips and a bowl of fish soup. I had fish and chips, mashed green peas and a side salad. The portions were huge and more than satisfied our hungry appetites.

We lumbered down to the local filling station and bought supplies for the next day and then stopped at the Tyndrum Hotel to get our stamp (I'll expain later) and a drink.

Back at our room we made P,B & J Sandwiches and fell into bed to rest up for our long 20 mile day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

West Highland Way - Scotland Day 3- Rowardennan to Inverarnan

West Highland Way - Scotland

Day 3- Rowardennan to Inverarnan (13.25 miles)

Rise and shine at 7:00am, showers and another good scotish breakfast (which unfortunately took quite a while to get to the table).

We were on the trail a little after 9am and experienced our first almost full day of rain.

For the first 5 miles we walked along old dirt road beds until ariving at a true trail. This made for a nice easy grade which was mostly uphill.

The trail for the next few miles was rocky, but not all that bad. The rain and cloud cover kept the temperature cool, but for the most part was only drizzling.

When we reached Inversnaid we were once again surprised to find an exquisite hotel situation right on the lake. Since we were waterlogged and covered in mud from the knees down we opted to sit outside at some picnic tables and enjoyed our packed lunches (Beef and mustard and bread with a paper this slice of meat, chips, banana, cookies and juice).

As we were getting ready to leave Jack popped out of the hotel. He arrived at the hotel in the rain so decided to head inside and get a bowl of soup and eat his packed lunch. He headed on up ahead of us and we all made our way northward.

The next several miles of trail were very slow going. The trail was exrtremely muddy and we had to scramble over rocks which were slippery. The area around Rob Roy's Cave (which really isn't a cave, but a large crack in the rocks) was extremely difficult. A little after the Doune Bothy the rain finally subsided and we were able to take off the rain gear. The views began to open and we enjoyed our final views of Loch Lomond.

We arrived in Inverarnan around 4:40 and headed to our B&B - Roses Cottage - which was just a short walk to the Drovers Inn.

Lisa immediately hopped in the shower and I sat in the room listening to her enjoying the water soothe the aches and pains from the day (quite comical, but you had to be there :) ).

We headed over to the Drovers Inn aroudn 5:45 for dinner. There we met up with Jack for what would most likely be our last time together (he has an 18 miles day tomorrow and we only have 12). It will be strange not having him around for meals as he has been with us since our first stop at the Hillview Inn. Lisa had a hamburger and I had the Hunters Chicken. We had a few beers together, share a few more stories and said our goodbyes.

Hopefully tonight we will get a goodnight sleep and rest for a short 12ish mile day tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

West Highland Way - Scotland Day 2 - Drymen to Rowardennan

West Highland Way - Scotland

Day 2 - Drymen to Rowardennan (13.5 miles)

Once again we awoke at 7:00am (the sun had already been up for hours) and down in the dining room by 8:00 for another great Scotish breakfast.

We hit the trail around 8:45 after a 1/2 mile of road walking out of Drymen. The morning started off misty, but soon cleared up.

The first part of the hike was through pine forests that made me think of Little Red Riding Hood walking on her way to Grandma's House. The only dissappointing part of this section was all the logging that was going on in the area and the sections of clear cutting. We followed old road beds through most of this section of the Garadhban Forest.

Once through the woods it was now time to conquer Conic Hill. This was the first real climb we had and Lisa's first real test. Once again she made me very proud. Although a little slow on the climb and descent she hung in like a trooper. We had lunch of ham, turkey and cheese sandwiches (we made the night before) at the top while enjoying our first "REAL" views of Loch Lomond (the view was breathtaking!!).

We made our way to Balmaha which was a very nice lakeside town right on the shore. We decided to stop at the local restaurant for an Italian Coffee to get a little rest break and some caffeine to keep us moving.

After the short stop we were on our way. For the most part we skirted the shore on our way to Rowardennan.

Everything about this section was incredible. We had fabulous weather (we have yet to truelly experience the fabled Scotish weather - Rain :) ), beautiful views and really no sign of midges. I took plenty of photos and videos and just enjoyed looking out over the Loch most of the day.

Just before reaching our destination we met a woman who had hiked the WHW a couple times before and gave us loads of information about the trail as well as other things to see and do before leaving Scotland.

Entering Rowardennan was another wonderful surprise. The hotel was situated right on the lake which our room conveniently overlooked. We showered up and headed down to the restaurant where we once again met up with Jack for dinner. Lisa enjoyed the Fish and Chips while Jack and I had the Sea Trout all with rounds of Guiness (which really taste much better than back home!!). Then it was off to bed. We dozed off to the sounds of Sudden Impact (Dirty Harry) coming from the flat screen tv.

Monday, July 18, 2011

West Highland Way - Scotland Day 1 - Milingavie to Drymen

The morning started off with a breakfast fit for a king! A full Scotish breakfast for both which I had trouble finishing and Lisa could only get half of hers down. There was sausage, ham, hashbrowns, fried eggs, beans with tomatoes, mushrooms and black pudding.

After stuffing our faces we were off to the start of the West Highland Way (WHW) at 9:10am. Our idea of getting something for lunch at the local market did not work out as planned. The signs at the door stated an opening of 8:30, but at 9:10 the doors were still locked. We decided to take our chances with eating in Dumgoyne which our map showed had food.

The hiking today was very easy and passed through farm land and countryside. The trail was more like a smooth dirt/rock/gravel road than the typical AT trail I am use to from back home. No real elevation changes allowed for us to make good time and truelly enjoy the scenery. We only had on slight sprinkle of rain that lasted about 15 minutes, a far cry from what the weather report stated the night before.

We stopped for lunch around 12:00 and were very impressed with what we found. The Beech Tree Inn - Restaraunt and Bar was right on the trail and had spectacular fresh food. Lisa had a bean burger with fries and slaw and I had a Greek Salad with a St. Andrews beer (had to make sure I stayed hydrated :) ).

After an hour we decided to hit the trail. The next five miles went by pretty quick (the last 2 miles were road walking). Once again more beautiful countryside and NO rain!!

We made it to the Hillview Inn a little after 3pm. We were greated by the proprietor who immediately made us fresh coffee and tea with cookies.

We then met another hiker who joined us for snacks - Jack, who was from the States as well. He has been hiking a compelation of trails that will take him approximately 1,200 miles covering the length of Great Britain.

We took showers to wipe the stank off so we could head out and get food for the next day before dinner.

We went to the local store across from our B&B. We got a couple of buns, chicken and ham slices and some cheese to make some rather thin , but expensive sandwiches.

After taking our edibles back to the fridge we took a quick trip around town to see what Drymen had to offer. We found a nice overlook to get our first real glimpse of Loch Lomond and the surrounding hills. Absolutely beautiful country which pictures really don't do enough justice.

Returning to the Crachin for dinner was a perfect way to end the day. Lisa had half of a chicken with vegetables and a glass of Pinot Noir with an apple pie and ice cream for desert. I had a Ribeye with fried mushrooms, peas, carrots and chips (french fries) with a few beers to wash it down. We were fortunate to be joined by Jack for dinner and we shared stories and the company.

Back at the B&B, by 7:30, we got things organized and ready for the next day. Lisa made sandwiches and then we watched a little tv while waiting for our clothes to dry.

We were both very tired from the jet-lag and Lisa was little sore from the hike. I was very proud of her for the way she handled herself and kept up a good pace.