Malcolm has been a regular customer of Running Bear for over twenty years. He’s always had a passion for fell running and cross country and since he retired from the police in 2015, he’s enjoyed many running adventures, often far afield. He recently decided to conquer the West Highland Way in just three days, that’s over 100 miles, including some scenic detours! Here’s his diary….
After working hard for many weeks as a volunteer for the Wilmslow Running Festival, I knew that I’d want a few days away afterwards and I fancied the challenge of The West Highland Way. 96 miles seemed manageable and I found a company that specialised in taking care of your baggage each night. The recommended time to walk is 6 to 9 days, so I thought I’d be ambitious and target 3 days run-walking.
The starting point was an overnight stay at the Premier Inn in Milngavie. However, due to a compelling invitation to a football match on the following Wednesday evening, my logistics were a little more complicated. I drove to the end in Fort William, deposited my car and took the train back to Milngavie, just in time for bed before midnight. Not a long night’s sleep before a testing day, having lost an hour with the clocks going forward. But I was now familiar with both the start and the finish, which was a benefit. The train journey back south between Fort William and Glasgow was also very scenic: Rannoch Moor, Bridge of Orchy and many of impressive viaducts.
On Sunday morning, I set off after a hearty breakfast, with water, energy bars, gels and wearing my trusty Asics gel Sonoma trail shoes.
The first part of route was pleasant, along a disused railway line, the path eventually became more undulating and I followed a long climb up to the top of Conic Hill, with spectacular views over Loch Lomond. It was a lovely day with many walkers enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. The path then descended to the banks of Loch Lomond and I followed it for about 10 miles…it’s an even longer loch than I remembered!
That night, I stayed at Rowardenan Hotel on the banks of Lomond… highly recommended for a good steak and ale pie! I was feeling good and looking forward to the next day.
Day 2 began at 7.30am. I swapped from my trail shoes to my Asics Gel Pulse, with more cushioning to give my feet a rest. With a little bit of chaffing, I thought I’d try my new Running Bear twin skin shorts and I’m now a convert to twin skin.
The first section of path is rough and undulating through woods with lots of steps and roots, so concentration was key. I was running where possible but stopping to take photos, read the information boards about the local history and take it all in. I was there for a holiday after all! The next stage was through a valley towards Crianlarich (the half way point), then an old military road followed by moorlands and woodlands. After Crianlarich, the weather got a bit damp and wet but good conditions for running. I was grateful for my OMM jacket, as there were a few windy showers towards the end of the day. The route criss-crossed the A82 many times, via bridges and under-passes. Farmland was followed by a riverside path along the river Fillan, through Tyndrum and then a climb up to Bridge of Orchy on a moorland path. From there, it descended to my accommodation for the night….with no wifi or phone signal…so an early night, after a hearty venison supper!
The weather forecast was terrible for the next day…and my crossing of Rannoch Moor and I felt a pinch of intrepidation. I was pleasantly surprised to awake to blue skies and sunshine and experienced the bleak moor at its best. From there the path goes past Glen Coe ski resort and I could see people skiing on the higher slopes. I also encountered many deer along the way through the valley and onto another old military road. From there I headed up and down the arduous hillsides towards Kinlochleven and back to sea level. There was a very tough climb, probably the hardest of the route, after that, with the weather closing in again. This was the last real climb of the journey, over the hill and towards Fort William. It was cold and the rain got heavier as I got closer but I was encouraged by the views of impressive Ben Nevis. It was a long, long descent into the town and the last few miles were tough psychologically.
I arrived at the hotel drenched but happy to be there. I celebrated with a hot cuppa and shower. This was the best accommodation of the trip. Guisachan Guest House, and I was reunited with wifi and the rest of the world! As I relaxed, the accumulation of three hard days started to kick in and I slept soundly.
An early start on Wednesday got me back home to Macclesfield by 3.30pm and ready for the match and a Manchester City victory vs Cardiff. A highly recommended trip….but not necessarily in three days!