Walking The West Highland Way

Josh Stallard, friend Michael and Jock the Scottie walk the West Highland Way, Scotland’s first official long distance route.

The idea of a West Highland Way was conceived in the 1960s and took until October 1980 before it was completed.

‘The Way’ links Milngavie to Fort William, a distance of 152 kilometres (95 miles).  

‘The Way’ passes through a wide range of different terrain, ranging from lowland moors, through dense woodland and rolling hills, to high mountainous regions.

Josh, Michael and Jock intend leaving on Sunday 31st May 2009 from Milngavie and will be walking for seven days, finishing on Saturday 7th June at Fort William.  Josh and Michael decided to space the walk over seven days to make it a little easier for Jock (and Josh too from all accounts).  Although many people cover ‘The Way’ in 5 days Josh, Michael and Jock will take a much leisurely pace.

Josh commented “We are staying over in wooden wigwams as well as rough camping on some of our stops and hope to be able to forward more photographs, from different locations, along the way of our walk”.

“There are a few other people doing the walk with us, mainly family and friends so it should be good fun”.

“I just wanted to give something back to the Scottie breed as the wee fella we have, has given us so many good times and seeing as Jock is now 6 years old it is now or never as he is probably at his fittest”.

This is a sponsored walk and all money raised is being donated to STECS (Scottish Terrier Emergency Care Scheme) For more detail on the West Highland Way please visit www.west-highland-way.co.uk

9th February 2009

Just a wee update - we have started to do some training in the build up to the walk. We walked from Callander up the Strathyre path and completed a 7 mile trip.

We thought it better to get some training in and to be sure that Jock will manage an average of 9-11 miles a day.

As you will see from the pictures, (Slideshow ‘Jock’) he had a ball and this walk proved effortless for him.

We also climbed a hill at the half way point to take advantage of the views.  

14th March 2009

Sadly, Jock hasn't been too well over recent weeks and, on vet's advice, has had to restrict his exercise somewhat.  Hopefully, Jock is now well and truly on the mend, and plans are being made to resume "training" with Josh and Michael in the near future.

8th May 2009

Jock is in top form once again, and I'm really putting in the miles with him at the moment so that we are as best prepared as possible. The pictures are of Loch Katrine taken on the Monday after Easter. We were very lucky to have stunning weather for over a week at Easter so we made the best of it.

We are busy now preparing and making sure we have all we need for the walk.  We need to plan ahead as I'm busy doing exams, as I am in my final year at Stirling University doing a Degree in HR, so on top of revision we have exercise to fit in with Jock, as well as attending the gym myself so that I will manage the walk OK.

Anyway, not long now until our adventure, and we can't wait.

26th May 2009

We are in the process of getting organised now.  Jock goes in for his hair cut on Thursday 28th May so that he will be looking his best for the walk - and also it will keep him cooler as the long range forecast is looking good.

We have nearly broken the £200 barrier for the STECS charity, which we are over the moon with.

7th June 2009

An Overview (Day by Day comments follow)

Well! that’s the Walk completed and to say it was hard would be an understatement.

Unfortunately, we had to call an end to Jock's walk at the end of day 4.  He managed to complete an astonishing 50 miles, but due to the heat and the terrain ahead of us, I felt it was too much for his wee legs to cope with.  We stopped at Tyndrum, where we stayed over in the wooden wigwams.  It was here that we noticed Jock was becoming stiff and had little appetite so it was best to end his walk at this stage.  As it’s better to be safe than sorry, we arranged for family members to come and pick him up.  

Jock is now recuperating on holiday at the caravan in Dunoon - spending his time relaxing on the decking.  Mick and myself ploughed on with the walk along with the other five people in our company and completed the 95 miles (and an extra  mile and a half detour to Crainlarich).

We’re exhausted now, but just wanted to take five minutes to let you all know how things went.  I think we may have raised over £350 when we do a total for STECS so it has been a very worthwhile adventure.

Editor’s Note:

There were 7 people in Josh’s group who all completed the walk.  Josh was the only one walking for STECS, the others were doing it for the SNAC charity (Scottish Network for Arthritic Children), set up by Jacqueline.  This is a very personal matter for her as her daughter, Honor, suffers from Arthritis. The charity has Duncan Bannantyne as its Patron.  SNAC aims to provide national support for children with arthritis and their families through the provision of factual, practical and emotional support. It aims to pull together the wider community of affected children in Scotland as well as raise public awareness of childhood arthritis.

All funds raised by the others will be going to SNAC, which in turn forwards all monies to Yorkhill Hospital for Kids in Glasgow. They hope to have raised over £2000 by the time all the monies are collected.

Day 1


Our first stop was at the Beechtree Pub near Strathblane. This was a relatively easy stretch of the walk, mostly flat and was a welcomed break as it was around about 25 degrees C.


At Drumquhassle Farm we were supposed to be staying over in ‘Wooden Wigwams’ as we had booked well in advance but due to a double booking, we ended up staying in our tent in the owners private garden, whilst the rest of our group stayed in a very smelly room that was connected to the stable. They could hear horses, hens etc. all night. Not pleasant but a good story for our friends.


Jock crashed out in the shade as soon as we arrived.


Our room was the old Tackers room and it really did smell bad but as you can appreciate, when you’re out in the elements any shelter is welcome.


Day 2


We set off at 8.30a.m. and walked from Drymen to Cashel Campsite, which is on the banks of Loch Lomond.  Part of this walk includes an area called Conic Hill which we soon renamed "Chronic Hill".  There are two options when doing the West Highland Way - you can either walk around this hill or you can climb over it.  Being the hardy Scots that we are, we decided to take the hard route and climb. I can honestly say this was a total nightmare for various reasons.  The temperature was around about 25c which was very uncomfortable to be walking in. When climbing this hill we started to feel the first signs of blisters due to the severity of the climb mixed with the heat. We also witnessed someone being airlifted off the hill due to heat exhaustion so I think it's fair to say "We done well."

 

The drama, however, did not end there. I was taking Jock into a small river to get a drink and a swim and suddenly lost my footing.  Before I knew it I was over 3 feet deep in water.  Mick, seeing that Jock and I were in the water, came to assist and, low and behold, he ended up in the water also. This was a shock but, with hindsight, was also quite pleasant, as it really did cool us down for the rest of the day, having to walk around in wet clothes. I ripped my trousers, ruined my mobile phone and lost my sunglasses during this splash about in the water but looking back it added to the fun.


After Conic Hill we headed along the coast of Loch Lomond which was a lot tougher than any of us ever anticipated.  It is very rocky, very high in places and really did take it out on our feet walking in wet boots. This part was particularly difficult for Jock, simply due to the size of some of the rocks and the fences to climb - so we had to assist from time to time to get him over. On the other hand, the bonus of this part of the walk was that Jock was in and out of Loch Lomond for swims right along the way - he had a ball!

 

Cashel Campsite was lovely and clean.  We pitched our tents and enjoyed a few cold ciders. Jock simply just crashed out for the night.  We had to wrap up from the midges for protection (I bought a netted hat) as they really are fierce in this area. This just about sums up day two.


Day 3


We set off around 8 a.m. today.  We left without breakfast as the campsite facilities did not open up until 9 a.m. and we needed to be on the road for 8 a.m. at the latest, so we had plenty of goodies, i.e. choc bars, etc in our bags that would do us until we arrived at Inversnaid Hotel, which was our half-way point for the day.  This plan of action turned out to be the day from hell!

 

When you leave Cashel Campsite you continue to walk alongside Loch Lomond.  I think Loch Lomond is approximately 25 miles long and, if I am honest, we did not realise this.  There were two routes that you can take on this part of the walk once again, and we opted for the high route which would hopefully avoid the big stones etc for Jock.  How wrong were we.

 

This section of the walk was very hard.  It was all steep climbs, then back down hill to the side of the Loch all the way along.  There was also many steps, ladders etc to climb over. This route takes us past Rowardennan (I think that's how it is spelt) and we had originally planned on stopping here for breakfast, but decided, due to shortage of time and distance still to cover, that we would head straight on to Inversnaid Hotel. (This did not sit well with Jacqueline - lol).  She had a face on her about this decision as she was looking forward to her breakfast at Rowardennan Hotel but she did eventually realise and agree that we had to make up some distance and time.

 

The section between Rowardennan Hotel and Inversnaid was very difficult - although it did provide some stunning scenery.  Again this was all up and down and terrible underfoot.  Jock really did start to show the first signs of struggling here.  Our saving grace again was the fact he could swim and drink from the Loch every 5-10 minutes which soon perked him up.

 

When we arrived at Inversnaid Hotel (Mick, Jock and myself arriving 30 minutes earlier than the others) we went to organise some lunch for the gang. Low and behold the Chef went home at 2.30 p.m. due to the good weather so there was nothing left for the hotel to sell apart from 6 toasties.  We bought the 6 and then broke the news to the rest of the gang.  Jacqueline (who you may be guessing is very dramatic, but in a nice way) burst into tears.  This was our first low point of the walk and the troops soon rallied around her and she prepared herself for the next section of the walk.

 

After around about 40 minutes break we headed off for the remaining section of the walk.  This would take us from Inversnaid Hotel to Beinglas Campsite where we would be pitching the tents for the night.  This section of the walk was exhausting and again Mick, Jock and myself headed off from the group to try and secure us an evening meal at the campsite as well as getting the tents pitched up for the group.  Mick and I arrived at the campsite for 8 p.m.  A solid 12 hours walking we had completed (approximately) 19 miles up and downhill all the way.  The rest of the gang arrived around 8.45 p.m. and 9.15 p.m. - just as it was getting dark.  We were all completely exhausted.  We managed to secure steak pie for the gang although most of us only picked at it as we were too tired.  Beinglas was a great wee campsite - the staff were lovely, helpful and they have first class services for walkers such as breakfast, packed lunches and the all important supply of Compeed Blister plasters.

 

We all settled into our tents after our showers at around 11 p.m. - tired, sore but actually very proud we had managed a long and hard section of the West Highland Way.  Personally, this section was the part I found the hardest.


Day 4


From Beinglas our next stop was Strathfillan Wigwams which is near Tyndrum. The very fact that we were to be staying in a wooden structure with electricity was a huge boost to us all .... especially Jacqueline and Angie who are mobile 'phone addicts. This was a much shorter walk than we had done the past couple of days so people were more upbeat than they had been the day before.

 

As part of this walk we had to do a detour to Crainlarich (which adds about a mile on to our distance.)  It is a very steep descent to Crainlarich from where the West Highland Way track goes, so getting back up it was a total nightmare in the 24c heat.  We had to go to Crainlarich as my mum needed more blister treatment and different walking shoes, so we 'phoned a family member to bring them to the local train station here. What we did notice here was the amount of people who were quitting the West Highland Way at this stage, simply due to the heat and the effects the walk had on their feet.  We even noticed one group of youngsters from Glasgow who had attempted to do the West Highland Way in their Reebock trainers .... unimaginable really, lol.

 

Mum took about 40 minutes to get sorted, and felt much better with her new walking shoes, so we headed back up to the track. I think all in all we walked for around six and a half hours this day which, when you walked for 12 hours the day before, is such a relief.

 

The Wigwams at Strathfillan are ‘magical’.  We have visited these before so knew what to expect.  Everyone was in a much more elated and chilled-out frame of mind.  It's amazing what living in a triangular shaped wooden hut can do for the soul, lol.

 

It was after a few hours here that we noticed Jock had a limp on his back leg.  We decided that this was as far as was physically possible for Jock, so Mick arranged for his Mum and Dad to come up and take Jock to the caravan from this point.  Within the hour he was in their car and on his way to Dunoon to rest at the caravan.

 

That evening we enjoyed two bottles of wine over a lit fire.  Everyone felt better after their showers, and with some food in them - Arran cheese and oatcakes for supper to end the night.  Mick and I were on a 'downer' with Jock going but both accepted that he had done his fair share and it was now his time to chill.

 

We had a late night to bed, retiring around 11 p.m. - once the fire had died down.


Day 5


The route we were to follow was from Tyndrum to Kingshouse.  This is our toughest and longest day so we were all pleased to be having a touch of comfort in the wigwams the night before.

 

We set off from Strathfillan Wigwams at 8 a.m., all puffy-eyed and hungry.  Tyndrum is approximately 2 miles from here so we headed along the route towards the village.  

An eagle-eyed Mick spotted a sign on our arrival in Tyndrum advertising ‘All you can eat breakfast’ for £5.00 and that was it - sold to us. We all stuffed ourselves with as much as we could eat.  Today's walk was 21 miles in total so we would need to muster as much energy as possible.

 

After breakfast we stopped at the famous ‘Green Welly Shop’.   All the coach parties stop off here.  We bought tablets, sweets, juice etc. (basically as much as we could carry goody-wise) for the trip ahead of us.  I also managed to buy a new pair of sunglasses to replace the ones that are now floating around Loch Lomond somewhere after falling into the river and losing my old ones.

 

From Tyndrum we headed on towards Bridge of Orchy.   En route Jacqueline had another drama (told you she was a diva, lol) with the bursting of the button on her trousers. Being forever the professionals, one of us came equipped with a safety pin so soon sorted that.  


Bridge of Orchy was much smaller than I thought.  We stayed here for about 15 minutes and then headed uphill on the road to Inveronan.  Whilst climbing this section of the walk we met an elderly lady (she must have been about 75) who had jumped on the bus from Edinburgh that day to come and do this section of the walk.  She was very fit and full of information and warned us of the Rannoch Moor section of the walk ahead - simply meaning it was very boring and desolate.

 

We continued our walk to Inveronan where my mum took 30 minutes or so break to attend to her blisters.  She now had around 12 blisters at this point and had also lost her toenail.  Not good!  Once mum was sorted we headed into the Inveronan Hotel for a drink.  Some had tea and a scone - I had a pint.  We stayed here for around another 30 minutes which took us up until 1 p.m.-ish.   It was here that Mick and I decided to head off separately from the group as we still had the infamous ‘Rannoch Moor’ to walk.

 

As our destiniation at the end of this day involved us rough camping, with no facilities, in the grounds of Kingshouse Hotel, we telephoned ahead to try and secure some food for dinner.  The last meal was served at 8.30 p.m. and we knew we needed to be there before that time.  Mick, myself and Del, who caught up with us, pounded across Rannoch Moor as fast as our feet could take us.  It was scorching hot this day.   There is nothing but empty hills and gravel paths for as far as the eye can see and you never meet anyone en route.  It is apparently the part of the West Highland Way that most people find difficult.  I must say I really did buck that trend as I loved this part of the walk with the exception of the last 30 minutes.  Mick found this section very tough and was rewarded with two new blisters.

 

We eventually saw our destination in the distance - Kingshouse Hotel.  This is when I started to flag, as I just wanted to be there and sitting down.  The girls (who we began to name 'The Blister Sisters') arrived at Kingshouse Hotel at 8.40 p.m.  This was a tiring day, and most of us felt a bit down as not only did we have a long walk, we had no shower facilities and, furthermore, we still had a tent to pitch.   It is fair to say that this was the one evening that morale dipped.  The weather turned slightly colder and was threatening rain. Apparently it did rain slightly through the night but I never heard a thing.  It was 10.45 p.m. before all the tents were pitched and we eventually managed to get to bed. Thank God for baby wipes, as that is all we had to wash ourselves with that night as the hotel do not allow anyone to use their facilities other than the hotel guests.


Day 6

The route was one that some of us had been dreading.  It is from Kingshouse to Kinlochleven ..... and part of this walk includes climbing the infamous ‘Devil's Staircase’.  I must admit, however, this was not anywhere near as bad as we expected.

We woke up in a fairly organised state, considering we were rough camping at Kingshouse with no facilities.  We all enjoyed a hearty breakfast (called the ‘Climber's Breakfast’) before we set off.  We left Kingshouse Hotel at around 9 a.m. which was a bit of a late start for us, compared to other days.  Today's walk was not a long one - it was just a high climb which we assumed would take it out of us.

Leaving Kingshouse it is a steady walk to the foot of the ‘Devil's Staircase’.  The scenery at this section of the walk is quite dramatic as you are in the middle of Glencoe (with Glencoe Ski Lift just 5 minutes walk from the Hotel).  I think the pictures taken of this area will let you see just how rugged the terrain is.

When we arrived at the foot of the ‘Devil's Staircase’ we stopped for a breather before psyching ourselves up to tackle this challenge.  Wee Angie (still wearing the Jackie Onassis specs, lol), Mick, Ricki and Del all set off slightly ahead of myself, Mum and Jacqueline.  I just decided that I needed to do this at my own pace and not make any silly efforts to keep up with the rest.  Mum and Jacqueline must have been thinking the same.

The ‘Devil's Staircase’ is almost vertical when you look at it, but surprisingly when you are climbing it you don't feel as much pain as you would have thought.  Angie, Mick, Ricki and Del all reached the top before the rest of us, but still had to stop every 5 to 10 minutes for a breather.  I arrived about 5 minutes behind them, and Mum and Jacqueline both arrived about 5 minutes after me.

Whilst resting at the top of the ‘Devil's Staircase’ the scenery was stunning.  We also had a slight rain shower, some flurries of snow, scorching hot sun and wild wind, so you really must be up some height, as we experienced all weather conditions whilst resting there.

After we had all refueled with some tablet and chocolate, we set off on a pleasant walk over small hills in the direction of Kinlochleven.  This was an easy part of the walk, and everyone was in fine spirits - I think this was partly due to the fact we were staying over in small wooden lodges this evening.  The walk today lasted about 5 hours, which was “a breeze” compared to other days.  We arrived in Kinlochleven at around about 4 p.m.  This was the first time we had actually been at our destination with spare time to relax, shower and chill out for a while before dinner.

Everyone was sorted for about 6 p.m. so we went to the bar in the hotel.  We all enjoyed a good meal and a few drinks, along with a game of darts.  This was by far the nicest stop along our travels.  The food was amazing, the staff very helpful and the other guests staying over were all full of banter, which was good.

Staying in a wee lodge, with a soft mattress and heating, was first class.  We organised breakfast and packed lunches with the staff in the Hotel for the following day and headed off for a good nights sleep in our wee lodge - first class and probably my favourite day of the walk.

Jock arrived home safely from his holiday, with family friends, to be reunited with Josh, on Sunday 14th June 2009.

Waiting for Jock was a West Highland Way Rosette and a large box of well-earned treats from his Scottie dog friends, Lottie and Piper.


Editor's note:

Josh, on behalf of 'Team Jock' would like to express his thanks to everyone who so kindly sponsored Jock to raise well over £400 for the Scottish Terrier Emergency Care Scheme.

We extend our congratulations to the entire team for their brilliant success in their Scottish venture and hope that Josh, Michael and Jock will enjoy many more leisurely walks together, around their beautiful part of Scotland.  


See the story in pictures in the  Slideshow ‘Jock’





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