There is a very good chance that Scarlet has guided more West Highland Way walks than anyone else in the UK, she guides it about 6 times a year. Below are her top 10 tips for a happy walker!
The Hare and the Tortoise
We have a huge range of different paces when guiding walks, and a day which might take the fastest group around 7 hours can take another group around 10 hours. However, while the 7 hour group might sound impressive, what you need to know is that hardly any completed the next day but all of the 10 hour group completed the entire trail. We see this time and time again, remember it is 96 miles and you are better off taking your time than rushing and not finishing it.
Repel the Midges
Some summers are worse for midges than others, 2013 saw hardly any midges at all. However, 2014 proved to be a bad year with them already swarming by May. If you are walking the trail anytime between May and September a midge net is essential for enjoyment and also use repellent if necessary. Midges won’t follow you when you are walking, you will only see them when you stop, so at lunch time find a windy spot (they can’t fly in the wind), and avoid stopping near any water. Lots of people ask us about midges before a trek, but hardly mention afterwards.
Prevent those blisters
A blister can stop the strongest, most hardened walker, so take care of your feet by using well worn-in footwear and good socks. However, I know that a lot of people walking this trail ignore that last bit of advice! So if you start to feel a blister coming don’t ignore that, use a blister plaster or tape immediately, carry them in your day bag. What works for one person with a blister can make it worse for another, so ideally take a few different types of blister treatment to find out what works for you.
Be prepared for all seasons in one day
When getting your bag packed for the day remember to always have those waterproofs, spare fleece, hats and gloves with you, even if the weather is due to be good. After a few days of good weather some people will leave these items out of the rucksack and it will always be on that day the weather changes. Also, always pack sun block and a sun hat, I have seen many sunburnt walkers on The West Highland Way!
Be Ready for Loch Lomond
When looking at the map many people think the side of Loch Lomond will be a gentle walk along the shore, however it is the most difficult section of the walk. From Rowardennan to Inverarnan the path is very rough and slow going underfoot. While some people love the challenge, others find it a real drag. Once you have completed it don’t start to questions your ability to finish the trail. You have done the hardest sections and nothing else will be as slow underfoot.
Rain gets everything wet….
Including your phone. Many people remember their waterproofs, bring liners for their rucksacks and even have waterproof socks! However, time and time again we have seen people forget to waterproof their mobile phone and they really don’t like getting wet. You don’t need to go and buy an expensive case (but they are usually very good), just putting the phone in a plastic zip lock food bag usually does the trick. But when it does start raining make sure you protect your phone, putting it in your waterproof jacket pocket is often not good enough.
The Green Welly
The Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum is an excellent place to restock on food as it has some of the best selection of snack and food along the whole trail. But also they have an outdoor shop so items such as walking poles, midge nets and waterproofs can be replaced here if your own aren’t as waterproof as you thought.
To Pee or not to Pee
Many people get very dehydrated along the trail because they are worried they will need to pee, don’t be one of them. It is perfectly normal to find a discrete spot to have a quick pee (not by a stream though). Also there are public toilets or toilets in pubs (always buy a snack or drink if using a pub toilet, many sell chocolate bars or canned drinks you can have later on) all along the route. Getting dehydrated really does make you feel very tired, so drink plenty and if you need to go when not near a village, there are plenty of discrete spots for men and women.
It isn’t over until it’s over
Many people navigate the first 95 miles of the trail quite easily but I see many people stopping at “the original end of the West Highland Way” happily taking their finishing photos and celebrating their achievement. But this is now a 96 mile route, so once you reach the massive thistle, proudly implying you have reached the end, you have not! Walk all the way down the High Street, passing all the pubs and shops until you reach the unfortunately named “The Great Glen” pub and you will see the current West Highland Way finish.
Celebrate your Trek
Once you have completed the walk you need a great place to celebrate and The Grog and Gruel is the pub to do it. It has great food, great ale and a great atmosphere so use any last bit of energy you have left to walk back up the High Street and enjoy your final evening of the trek.