29 Oct

West Highland Way – Day 6 – Photo Guide and Review

Day 6 – Kinlochleven to Fort William – 15 miles

The final day of the West Highland Way had arrived and I was feeling ready for the last miles of the adventure. I was feeling super pumped after the great previous day from Inveroran to Kinlochleven and I was ready to get on the trail. I powered through my fantastic breakfast at the Fort View Guest House, grabbed my bag and headed for the trailhead.

West Highland Way - Kinlochleven

The weather was warm and a bit hazy as I started my days walk out of the valley from Kinlochleven into the remainder of the Scottish Highlands. The trail from town takes you uphill, nothing outrageous, but it was enough to get the blood flowing and required me to take off an outer layer of clothing.

As you start to reach the crest of the climb, the views start to present themselves. The trail follows a valley for several miles and hills lie on both sides. Before you get into the valley proper though, you will get some nice views of Loch Leven to enjoy. It’s a nice view, even if it does have some power lines in the way.

West Highland Way - Kinlochleven

The next several miles through valley were along the hard packed old military road that I had come to familiarize myself with and they weren’t demanding by any stretch, though hard on the feet as usual. The trail stretched out ahead of me and I could see where I was headed out into the distance.

As I got further down the trail, a few miles, I came across some ruins which were being enjoyed by a couple of sheep. They were quite charming and I soaked them in for a few minutes before hopping back on my way.

West Highland Way Sheep

After the ruins, the view doesn’t change much for several miles. The trail stretches out in front of you and its time to just power through it. The views are nice, but nothing really changes for quite a while. I enjoyed it, but after the great previous day, I was hoping for a bit more.

West Highland Way - Day 6

As I approached the bend in the trail, I saw that I was venturing into a bit of different territory. The landscape was leading me to an old forest that no longer existed. There were fields of old, dried out wood and stumps where the loggers had come through in previous years. This was another one of those times where I felt that civilization was a bit too close, even though there were no people around. Real, standing trees are better than chopped, grey stumps any day.

West Highland Way - Fell Forest

The way got a bit more hilly as the miles went on and steered me toward Fort William and out of the dead forest. The views were still quite nice and awarded me me with a great view of Loch Lunn Da-Bhra off to the West and the hills of the highlands around me. I also got my first views of the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, on a rare clear day.

West Highland Way - Ben Nevis

After soaking in the view, I pressed on and I was soon entering some thick forest areas that finally weren’t cut down.  Tall pines lined the trail and bird songs provided a nice backdrop to the stroll.  I found myself really happy to be back amongst the trees and enjoying the forest.

 

At some point, the trail abruptly enters more dead forest and starts to climb some moderate hills. I kept thinking to myself how much nicer this would have been had the trees been allowed to remain in the area and provide some cover and a habitat for local wildlife. It wasn’t long though before I was back in the thick pines and happy again.

West Highland Way - Cleared Forest

The next several miles wandered down the hills, bring me lower and lower to sea level. The road was again a hard packed service road and it wasn’t nice on the feet. It did however provide some great views of Ben Nevis and the country side surrounding Fort William.

West Highland Way Forest

The trail continued to descend until it completely flattened out at the bottom, which marked the final stretch of the West Highland Way. This would have been my preferred ending point for the trail as the last stretch was my absolute least favorite part of the trail.

The remaining stretch, maybe a mile or a bit less, just runs along a sidewalk of a really busy road. Nothing to see other than hedges and traffic. Eventually you get to the traffic circle marking the original end of the West Highland Way and that is the first interesting sight along this stretch.

Highland Cattle

No highland cattle on the West Highland Way…just a sign…

I pressed on further into Fort William and I was happy to be off the busy road when I reached downtown proper. The town is quite nice and the views of the ocean off to the north were great. The final stretch of the trail is all on pedestrian only stretches until you reach the new, official end of the trail.

With some friends I had made on the trail, I ventured to the Ben Nevis Pub to have a few celebratory pints. I grabbed my Bridge of Orchy ale and ventured to the back patio to soak up some sun and enjoy the ocean views.

I had reached the end. 97 miles of Scotland laid behind me. I was done. I felt good.

Having seen the Highlands of Scotland from the ground level and experiencing it at a slow pace, I felt very rewarded. I had really “seen” what northern Scotland had to offer rather than just catching passing glimpses from a car. I met a lot of nice people along the trail and had some great experiences with locals.

I was happy.

Pros:

– Nice views of the highlands on the first stretch.
– Ben Nevis is pretty awesome.
– You get to celebrate the completion of the West Highland Way.

Cons:

– Hard military roads for walking.
– A lot of time in old, deforested regions.
– The last stretch into Fort Williams is the worst part of the trail and a lackluster finish.

 

Come back soon for my final reflections and suggestions for hiking the West Highland Way.

West Highland Way – Photo Guide and Review by Day

Introduction to the West Highland Way

Milngavie – Drymen – 12 miles
Drymen – Rowardennan – 15 miles
Rowardennan – Crainlarich – 20 miles
Crainlarich – Inveroran – 15 miles
Inveroran – Kinlochleven – 19 miles
Kinlochleven – Fort William – 16 miles

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