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The West Highland Way

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The Highlands of Scotland is a magical and evocative place and The West Highland Way takes in the very best this area has to offer. Almost 100 miles long, the trail begins north of Glasgow in the town of Milngavie (pronounced 'mull-geye') but soon leaves civilisation behind. The route builds gradually along the trail, both in terms of drama and elevation, as lowland pasture and woodland gives way to open moorland, isolated valleys and forests, the wide and wild vastness of Rannoch Moor and the high mountains of the north. Only at the very end, with the arrival at Fort William, does a sense of significant habitation return.

The West Highland Way

Most of the trail is on excellent paths, many of them disused railways, ancient drovers' tracks or military roads but there are certainly sections that are serious undertakings, requiring good judgement and suitable equipment; Rannoch Moor in particular is extremely exposed and the weather here can be exciting.

The route makes a quick exit from Milngavie along the valley of the Allander Water and almost immediately, peace and solitude descend as you pass through pockets of woodland along the banks of small lochans. Soon the valley of Strath Blane appears with views over to the craggy western edge of the Campsie Fells. At the striking hill of Drumgoyach the trail meets the old Strath Blane railway and follows this and then a quiet country lane to Garadhban Forest. Soon after, Loch Lomond appears round the shoulder of Conic Hill, and a short detour to the top offers splendid views over the loch's string of islands and even out to sea on a good clear day. A short descent from the summit brings the eastern shore of Loch Lomond and the start of a long and glorious walk northwards. The road ends at Rowardennan but the trail continues through woodland past the isolated Inversnaid Hotel and Rob Roy's cave to the head of the loch just east of Ardlui.

A marked change occurs here, as the hills become bigger and the landscape much wilder and more open. The valley of Glen Falloch heads northeastwards and the trail hugs the bottom alongside the river, road and railway all the way to Crianlarich. A left turn in the woods above the village has the trail joining an extra railway down Strath Fillan to the village of Tyndrum with its two stations, one on each line. Here the hills squeeze the path briefly before it spills out into the wide bowl under Beinn Dorain on the way to Bridge of Orchy. This marks the beginning of the most serious section of the walk as the trail cuts across the awesomely huge and wild expanse of Rannoch Moor.

To the right is nothing but empty space and to the left are the most challenging mountain ranges in Britain; Glen Etive and Glen Coe. This is very different from the pleasant wooded slopes of the walk's early stages. Crossing below the foot of the massive bulk of Buchaille Etive Mor, the trail climbs the Devil's Staircase and drops to the old military road coming down from the Blackwater Reservoir. An easy and pleasant descent through the woods leads across the River Leven and into the village of Kinlochleven. Climbing out of the valley, the trail works its way round the slopes of the Mamores into Nevis Forest opposite the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis. From here, it's a short and easy stroll into Fort William at journey's end.  




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