Why we love the West Highland Way

We have been celebrating the 40th anniversary of the opening of the West Highland Way over the past few weeks and it has given us the chance to reflect on what it means to us. Since 2011 Thistle Trekking has spent a lot of time on the route, enjoying it in all sorts of weathers, and sharing the experience with hundreds of our wonderful customers.

From the lush green forests of Loch Lomond shore to the harsh expanse of Rannoch Moor the WHW truly has everything. Each of our guides has plenty of memories and tales to tell about their experiences on the trail. My first trek along the route was gloriously sunny with a group of happy Americans who delighted in the ever changing scenery. We made friends with other groups who we met each day and this culminated in a foot race along Fort William High Street, between one of our group and a man whose boots were held together with gaffer tape! The finish line is always a celebratory place and on any given afternoon it is a cheerful place full of tired satisfaction.

I asked our guides about their favourite bits of the WHW and to indulge in a bit of reminiscence. Here are a few of their responses.

Ed

“I’d say one of my highlights would be Conic Hill. It always has good views and phenomenal views on a good day. It’s a nice small challenge for the group to overcome and you get this great sense of literally stepping into the Highlands across the boundary fault.

My favourite day is along Loch Lomond – you get a great sense of isolation with beautiful views, lots of flora and fauna and rare woodland to talk about and experience, a great lunch spot full of history at Inversnaid and (most importantly) a bar at the end.

My favourite moment is still probably persuading a client that the hydro pipes across the loch from Inversnaid were Scotland’s highest water slides…”

David

“For me it was when I was 13 and doing the WHW with my parents. We checked into the Kingshouse with our room full of army surplus furniture, guided by an old Scottish lady with a hunch back, speaking in a strange accent. I went to run a bath and more peat and heather came out of the tap than water, so didn’t persist. When I looked out of the window in the morning after ‘dreaming’ of a hunchback I saw the Buachaille with a halo of cloud at half height.

This has always stuck with me. It was 10 years later when I was driving up to Scotland that I saw it again and realised I had been here before. I was on my way to my first job as a pot washer at Raasay Outdoor Centre and at the very beginning of my instructing career.”

Borrowdale Harry

Harry

“Day 3 along Loch Lomond has to be the highlight for me. From Inversnaid to Beinn Ghlas farm you feel like you could be on the other side of the world not just the other side of the loch!”

Ian

“The Devil’s Staircase has everything. Human history, mountaineering history (WH Murray in Glencoe), views, sweat, pain and a great spot to eat a cheese sarnie on the top. It’s also generally a stage that plays on the mind so there is a lot of joy on the top!”