Trip report by site editor Rick McCharles
I flew into Scotland on a Thursday.
Friday I hopped the train directly to what most consider the best multi-day hike in Scotland, the West Highland Way.
… The West Highland Way, from Milngavie to Fort William, a distance of 95 miles … Hills, dense woodland and wildlife make it one of the favourites with hikers from all over the world. …
Scotland Welcomes You
This kind of hyperbole is typical of the WHW.
I was quickly disgruntled.
Unless you are a Glasweigan bent on bragging rights for walking out the pub door all the way to the top of Ben Nevis, I can’t see any reason to spend a week of your life doing this hike.
• midges (Spring and Summer)
• bad weather
• many sections walking on roadways
• inconsistent signage
• inconsistent trail maintenance
• too few highlights / km
You won’t get lost. The trail is blazed.
But why spend a week on this route when there are so many better hikes in Scotland? And the world.
As many guidebooks recommend, I skipped the first two days and started at Balmaha. On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.
That section alongside the lake was OK, especially between Rowardennan and Beinglass Farm. Not one of the great walks of the world, but OK.
From there to King’s House Hotel was disappointing in many ways.
But I must admit, the torrential rain from King’s House over Devil’s Staircase was the quintessential Scottish Hill Walking Experience. Even the Scots called it a “heavy rain”. High praise. My most lasting memory.
Next day the forecast was for clear skies. I hopped a bus at Kinlochleven, giving up on the WHW for good. I wanted good weather to climb Ben Nevis.
Over the 3 days on the West Highland Way I have only 22 photos worthy of posting. That’s sad.
I love Scotland. But why is the hiking so unimproved there?
Why was the first National Park not established until 2002?
That famed son of Scotland, John Muir, must be rolling in his grave. Authorities are trying to promote a John Muir Way, a 73km coastal walk.
As Lonely Planet Walking in Scotland says:
… you can’t help but wonder what Muir would think of a path through two power stations, one of them nuclear …
He would not be amused.
Walk the John Muir Trail in California. Not the one in Scotland.
And don’t make a special trip to hike the West Highland Way. Instead, go to … Spain.