Our guide Ian is losing count of the times he has walked and worked on the West Highland Way, but it still retains its magic. Just back from our first WHW trek of 2023 here he takes a look at the joys of Spring on this famous trail.
I can say with hand on heart that there is really no bad time to walk the West Highland Way. It’s a walk that changes with the seasons but is never anything other than a beautiful and enriching experience.
In Spring the mornings can be crisp and chill, but you tend to avoid the biting cold of the Winter or the sometimes muggier air of early Summer. In early Spring the trail tends to still be a little less busy, enabling more time for solitude and reflection when you find that perfect perch with a view of Loch Lomond or Buachaille Etive Mor.
As we left Rowardennan the other morning on route to Beinglas Campsite, the tops of Ben Lomond and Ben Vorlich were dusted with a sprinkling of snow that made the already picturesque vista from the hotel even more spectacular. This kind of unexpected magic is a feature of Spring, after a day of beautiful blue-sky walking, a night of heavy rain leads to this magical bonus.
The light changes with startling frequency at this time of year, sunbursts on Conic Hill are replaced by dark scudding clouds casting their shadows across the loch’s choppy waters, and Red Deer stand silhouetted on Rannoch Moor against skies of purest blue! The trees are starting to bud, the ancient Oaks on the North of Loch Lomond’s shore are coming back to life and the woodland below their feet can be carpeted with wildflowers.
The Bluebells are perhaps the best known and most spectacular, but there are Wood Anemones, Sorrel, fragrant Wild Garlic and Lords and Ladies, to name but a few others that dot the landscape. The visibility tends to be better, the views of the Mamores range and the Blackwater reservoir, from the hard won top of the Devil’s Staircase, can be at their most spectacular and the clear skies give a real sense of just how far the wild expanse of Rannoch Moor stretches.
If you’re lucky, on the last afternoon you may even get a view of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain without its head in the clouds! The wildlife tends to be more active at this time of year. As you follow the rivers and streams you’ll often get views of Dippers bobbing up and down in the tumbling waters or the beautiful Grey Wagtails hopping about the margins. The trees will be alive with Chiffchaffs, Finches and Robins all loudly proclaiming their territories and hoping to attract a mate. You may see, and you will probably smell, the hirsute feral goats at the far end of Loch Lomond, and if you are really lucky, around Crianlarich you may even catch a glimpse of one of the iconic Red Squirrels or on very rare occasions a Pine Martin!
The West Highland Way is magnificent at all times of the year with summer highlights including long, light evenings sat outside The Bothy Bar in Kinlochleven looking down the loch to the Pap of Glencoe, and autumn highlights including the changing colours of the leaves on the ancient trees above the rushing Falls of Falloch. However, spring always has the feel of renewal, and as the start of our trekking season each year our first springtime West Highland Way is eagerly anticipated. And, it never disappoints.
Our Spring treks are very popular and our dates for 2024 are now open for bookings. Head to our trekking calendar to see all of our treks for next year. And if you just can’t wait that long we also have a few spaces left on our August 2023 WHW. Just get in touch to book your spot!