West Highland Way, one week away

Hey! I hope you are keeping safe and well and all that. Just a quick one today to say that we leave for our West Highland Way adventure this Saturday, 1st August, hiking 96 miles from Milngavie in Glasgow to Fort William. After nearly two months of preparing for what will be our first multi-day hike, it feels sPeCTAcuLAR and DrEAMy that it is only a few days away. Jillianne and I are so excited, so ready (fingers crossed), so grateful to be able to experience Scotland’s beautiful national trail on what will be its 40th anniversary.

This blog will briefly cover our itinerary and the walks we have done to train our bodies (and our minds, actually) for the West Highland Way. Stick with us, k. šŸ™‚

Our itinerary

In my last blog I went through our itinerary for the West Highland Way. Since then, our itinerary has basically stayed the same, with one small change: instead of camping in Drymen on the first day, we are walking a bit further north with the hopes of pitching our tent in the Garadhban forest, which is outside of the wild camping restriction.

We are doing the 7-day route, which is by far the most popular, and we are wild camping the whole way (with the exception of a night in Beinglas Farm wigwams, simply because we’ve heard great things about this experience and neither of us have stayed in wigwams before.) I’ll be writing a travel journal of our trip as we hike, along with the places we camped, so keep an eye out for that when we return!

Training for the West Highland Way

We have tried to do as much preparation for the trip as possible. Not only because we want to enjoy the route and the views it offers, but because we want to give ourselves the best chance of getting to the finish line in Fort William. A lot of people (including you, reading this) know that we are doing it now, so we want to do you proud and complete it with our fists raised victoriously in the air.

We’ve been practicing hikes for the past two months. We started small, doing walks we’d done previously around Glasgow (Pollok Park, Linn Park) but each week we did them with more regularlity and pace. Then, we gradually increased the mileage and varied the terrain, walking on dramatic ascents and rocky trails, using and testing our gear each time. Eventually, we brought our full backpacks with us. This has probably been the most significant step, given that we will be carrying them for 7 days, at the complete mercy of the Scottish weather.

Living in Scotland, we are no stranger to hiking or wild camping in the rain, mist, or even light snow (shout out to New Years Eve 2019 in Glen Etive, with the zips of our tent frozen). We are expecting it to be rainy and dreich most days of our hike – there is no point in expecting for better to be honest. If there is any spot of sun we will be amazed and ecstastic. If there isn’t, well, this is what we expect. You may think I’m being negative about this but our weather is temperamental and rapidly changing, especially in the mountains, so I’m just being realistic m’amore.

Below are the walks / hikes we have done in the two months leading up to us doing the West Highland Way. Some of them we enjoyed so much we’ve done them multiple times. I’ve added some notes of what we thought of them too, in case you would like to venture out on them yourself.

Short walks (under 3 miles)

WalkDistanceTerrain / difficulty
Carron Valley Reservoir Shore Trail

Rating (out of 5): 3 stars
2.75 miles / 4.25 km Easy-going and mostly flat walk, more suited to dog-walkers and families. Good views of lochs. Boggy in parts. This is a lovely walk if you’re feeling chill and want to get outside without doing anything strenuous.
Pollok Country Park, Glasgow southside

Rating: 4.5 stars
3 milesOne of our favourite walks in Glasgow. For a country park close to the city centre, this is a beautiful walk with plenty to see. Cafe, a country house and flower gardens (owned previously by the Maxwell family), a golf course and a herd of highland cows. Class.
Linn Park,
Glasgow southside

Rating: 5 stars
2.6 milesThis is my all-time favourite walk to do in Glasgow. It is similar to Pollok Park but it feels more wild and remote in places. The trail differs in ascent and terrain, as does the scenery. You pass under tall trees, garlic plants, a burn and even a waterfall, which is a great picnic spot. Appparently the park is home to over 60 species of birds, too, so there’s that. (hoot, hoot.)
Conic Hill, Balmaha

Rating: 5 stars
4 km / 2.5 miles

350 metres
Conic Hill is a classic hike, with a short but very steep climb to the peak. It offers some of the best views of Loch Lomond and the surrounding trossachs than I’ve ever seen. We will be hiking up Conic Hill for years to come, which is just as well, because we climb it again on day 2 of the West Highland Way.
These walks are perfect for calm Sundays and week nights where you want to get some fresh air.
Me perching on a tree-seat in Linn Park, Glasgow. Taken on a film camera. June 2020.
Jillianne about to reach the peak of Conic Hill, July 2020.
View of Loch Lomond from Conic Hill, so worth the climb.

Moderate walks (3 – 6 miles)

WalkDistanceTerrain / difficulty
Locherwood & Lady Muir woodland, Clyde Muirshiel

Rating (out of 5): 3 stars
7.5 km / 4.75 milesThis walk was seriously boggy, so I recommend wearing waterproof hiking boots and gaiters, if you have them. The path was confusing at times, and the forestry work in the area makes this even more difficult. A short ascent up Windyhill leads to a wide track path which eventually leads to a farm with sheep fields either side. We spied some beautiful oak trees here.
Chaterherault Country Park, near Hamilton

Rating: 4.5 stars
7.5 km / 4.75 milesThis country park is a recent discovery of ours, and we have walked the route twice already, in different directions. The path is well sheltered by mighty tall trees and I love watching the sun shine through them. There are amazing views of the River Avon from several bridges along the path, including a stone bridge which stands surprisingly high above the burn. I love this walk and its simple tranquility.
Cort-Ma-Law, near Lennoxtown

Rating: 4.5 stars
9 km / 5.5 miles – 351 metresThis was a pretty scary walk for us as the mist ascended suddenly and it was hard to see the path. However, the views before this of the surrounding hills (Meikle Bin) and Glasgow city in the distance were gorgeous and moody. This hill is extremely boggy in areas (to quote Jillianne, “boggy is putting it lightly”, and it is far boggier than the Muirshiel walk above) so please bring suitable footwear and a map, as you won’t have signal.
Cathkin Braes, Glasgow southside

Rating: 4 stars
Around 6 milesCathkin Braes is officially the highest point in Glasgow, and there are pretty views out over the city here and on a clear day Ben Lomond and the Cobbler can be seen. When we walk in Cathkin Braes we just wander everywhere, I don’t think we’ve followed the same path each time (hence around 6 miles.) There is a looong set of steep stairs too which is a big ascent to test your stamina.
We found most of these walks via the Walkhighlands website, check it out for more info on each walk!
Jillianne on a unnervingly misty Cort-Ma-Law, taken on a film camera. July 2020.
This is one of the early views as seen from Cort-Ma-Law, only just the beginning…
Waterproof jackets are a girl’s best friend. Me at Chaterherault Country Park. July 2020.
The Green Bridge at Chaterherault Country Park. Beaut.

Longer walks (over 6 miles)

WalkDistanceTerrain / difficulty
Lochgoin circuit, Whitelee Windfarm, near Eaglesham

Rating (out of 5): 2.5 stars
13.5 km / 8.5 milesDon’t be dismayed by the rating. Being mostly flat and with clear, wide paths the Whitelee windfarm is ideal for dog walkers and families as there are shorter walks you can do. However, for the full circuit the novelty of the hundreds of turbines wears off and the views become very repetitive, which makes the walk feel WAY longer than it actually is. If you like wind turbines, and standing right beneath them, this walk is perfect for you. It’s cool that we did the whole thing but we probs won’t be doing it again.
Glen Loin loop, near Loch Long

Rating: 5 stars
17.5 km / 11 milesThis is one of our favourite walks so far (and by far the longest) which we completed in 5 hours the weekend before the West Highland Way. The route has a range of terrain from smooth gravel paths to slow rocky inclines, and it frequently ascends and descends and ascends again, reaching the highest point of 455 metres. There are so many munros you can spot in various sections of this walk, including our pal Ben Lomond, and our acquintances Ben Vorlich and Ben Vane. You walk alongside a gorgeous glen and multiple waterfalls too, and for most of the hike we were alone and it felt just heavenly.
For these longer walks we brought a full packed lunch with us, as well as oatcakes and cheese obv.
SO MANY WIND TURBINES YOU WILL START TO GO CRRAAZY. Taken on a film camera. June 2020.
Jillianne standing in the sun, about an hour into the Glen Loin loop, July 2020.
There is shit loads of sugar in this and it has quickly become my hiking necessity. Glen Loin loop.
The path is ascending once more, as we are surrounded by munros. Glen Loin loop.

These are the walks we’ve done so far. We are planning a couple more this week, squeezed in just before we start the WHW on Saturday.

Other thoughts

I feel very grateful for these months of prep and for having Jillianne by my side with every step and every glug from our nalgenes. We have been able to see so many quiet, wild places and country parks and waterfalls and old oak trees and random stretches of peaceful land that we would have never found if it wasn’t for lockdown travel restrictions and the need for WHW training. We are constantly amazed by the sense of remoteness and the stunning views we get to see after just a 30 minute drive outside of Glasgow. What a privelege it is to be here. Even if you are not embarking on a 96 mile hike, even if you are not an experienced hillwalker or camper or whatever, hopefully these walks inspire you to get outside and start exploring, because I promise you in these unsettling times you will feel so much better, physically and mentally.

If you have any thoughts on the WHW, or on the walks I’ve talked about today, I’d love to to hear them. Stay safe out there. Wish us luck!

Until next time,

Sophie X

Published by sophiegracehollis

I'm a solid girl from East London, England, now living in Scotland with my partner, Jillianne. I like to read, write, travel and play scrabble by the fire. I graduated university three years ago with a degree in English Literature. Now my work focusses on queer poetry and a heavy sense of nostalgia. I am obsessed with sand dunes, oak trees, the sea.

3 thoughts on “West Highland Way, one week away

  1. Iā€™m filled with awe and pride and love at how you see and appreciate the outdoors and then express your delight so beautifully. It makes me yearn to really get out more. So looking forward to your WHW stories, xxxxxxx

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  2. Sue and I loved the West Highland Way, our second distance backpacking trip. We enjoyed the bunkhouse at Inversnaid. It is uphill a half mile from the hotel, but they picked us up and took us back to the trail the next day. They offer camping, showers, and great food in their restaurant in the converted church. The next day is the most challenging of the trek along Loch Lomond. A great, great trek, is the West Highland Way. My best wishes!

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    1. Hey Reg, thanks so much for this. I just went on your website and saw the ‘Trippin’ through my sixties’ book preview. Your adventures sound incredible – what a journey to be proud of! Thanks also for the tip on the Inversnaid bunkhouse, I’ll look into it – we may need a proper bed if the next day is a killer šŸ™‚

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