Sandwiched between Manchester and Sheffield is the UK’s oldest National Park: the Peak District. It’s a bit short on peaks (unless you class a plateau at 600-odd metres above sea level as a peak), but fortunately it more than compensates for that with its picture-perfect villages, adorable furry residents and heather-covered moorland.
Given the West Highland Way finishes in Fort William, it’d be rude not to climb ‘the Ben’ whilst in the area – or that was our thinking, at any rate. Standing at 1,345 metres above sea level (a dwarf compared to many peaks in Europe, but a giant by British standards), Ben Nevis is the highest peak in the UK – and the only one of the Three Peaks we hadn’t yet summited.
Sitting on the shore of Loch Linnhe, Fort William (or An Gearasdan, “The Garrison”, in Scottish Gaelic) is a picturesque town and tourist hub in the Scottish Highlands. Much like Betws-y-Coed in Wales, it’s an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Whatever you fancy doing – whether it’s bagging a few Munros (more on Ben Nevis in the next post), trying your hand at sea kayaking or hitting the trails on a mountain bike – you can do it in Fort William. If you just fancy meandering round the town, that’s fine too. We spent a couple of days unwinding in Fort William at the end of our trip to Scotland, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone wanting a taste of the Highlands.
The West Highland Way only came onto my radar earlier this year, and when we began plotting a budget break for the summer, it sprang to mind as a suitable option. Scotland’s first long-distance footpath traverses through some seriously scenic countryside, and if you’re planning on walking it, these top tips should come in handy!
We’d originally planned to complete the West Highland Way in six days, but persistent drizzle and the promise of a rest day ahead of tackling Ben Nevis prompted us to push on and complete the ninety-six mile route in five days. We spent a fair amount of time scouring blogs and websites for itineraries (the official West Highland Way website was particularly useful) before we went, and since those sorts of posts were helpful to us, I thought I’d add ours to the mix. Whether you’re short on annual leave or simply fancy a challenge, the West Highland Way can be done in five days – even with a weighty rucksack.
Walking the West Highland Way was exhilarating, tiring (full disclosure: we were carrying fifteen kilo rucksacks, and completed the route in five days) and rewarding in equal measure. Beginning in the sleepy commuter town of Milngavie, just outside Glasgow, it stretches for 96 miles through Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park and The Mamores, and finishes in Fort William, at the foot of the UK’s highest peak (that’s Ben Nevis, or just ‘The Ben’).
Glasgow may be Scotland’s second city, but that doesn’t mean it’s second-rate by any stretch of the imagination. For the culture vultures amongst you, Glasgow is a juicy carcass bursting with world-class cultural venues, including concert halls, theatres and more museums than you could possibly visit in a weekend. If you’re a foodie, you’ll be spoilt for choice when mealtimes roll round, whatever your dietary requirements may be. We only had a day to discover the delights of Glasgow, and here’s what we got up to . . .