The West Highland Way is the most famous long-distance trail in Scotland. Not without reason; it is perfect for novice hikers who wish to enter the realm of the highlands. Being a newbie to multiday hiking at that time (or any hiking in general if I must be honest), but longing to discover Scotland by foot, my friend Eve and I decided to walk the WHW.
Five years ago, a hiker was born. The West Highland Way has infected me with the hiking virus and since then, I can’t think of anything else to spend my holidays.
Given the immense popularity of the WHW, much has already been written about it. So I won’t bore you with numerous facts or long walking reports. I’d rather share the best and the worst, learned lessons, and some personal insights and tips about the WHW in an upcoming blog series.
I still cherish warm memories of this first hiking journey and would like to start this blog series with my top 3 best bits:
Without doubt, number one! It’s great to share an adventure with a friend and hiking together can definitely make your friendship closer. But chose wisely with whom you would like to hike, as it is not all roses 😉 At some point, hiking can become suffering: your feet or back hurt, the Scottish midgies are eating you alive, you’re not as fit as you thought (or hoped) you would be, you can’t stand the hiking food anymore and so on…I was happy to have my college friend Eve by my side. We had the same walking pace, we could talk for hours but were also both ok with saying nothing at all from time to time. We didn’t mind getting dirty and sharing a small tent with each other without any privacy, and we could cheer each other up (with chocolate!!)
Not to forget: Eve turned out to be tough. Every morning, she walked an hour in silence because her blisters were hurting like hell. She didn’t complain, though. She just accepted it and knew that the pain would get less. And indeed, after an hour, she laughed about it and enjoyed the Scottish Highlands.
By hiking the West Highland Way, you don’t see the highlands, you experience them. Walking is a very slow way of travelling, which makes you aware of the small changes in the environment. Step by step, the landscape was changing in front of my eyes. It’s an experience that you cannot really explain to ‘fast travellers’. “Why would you go hike a small part of a country, while by car you could have seen so much more?” is something my fast-travelling relatives often ask. I always give the same answer: “I don’t think I would have seen more.”
A first glance of the hiker community
I don’t think the West Highland Way has the thru hiker community as what I expect from the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail. It’s simply too short for that. But I do believe that we got a glance of what the hiker community is like. People are open and friendly: fellow hikers gave us food and even shelter. We met an amazing couple during our hike with whom we exchanged contact details. We didn’t expect to meet them again as soon as we did, but when we tried to book a hostel in Edinburgh, everything was full because of the Fringe Festival. We started to freak out when we heard that all the campings were flooded. Luckily enough, Caroline invited us at her place in Perth and we did not only have a place to sleep, but also a great new hiking friend with whom we partied and visited Edinburgh.