I’m used to waking up under canvas on hiking trips; on this trip, we branched out into the world of camping pods and B&Bs. I woke snug as a (fried) bug, toasted by the underfloor heating. Outside, blue skies, sunshine and footpaths (twenty-odd miles of them) beckoned.
First stop: Tavistock, a stannary and market town on the fringe of Dartmoor National Park. From Exeter, it should have been two trains (down to Plymouth, up to Gunnislake) and a bus ride away, leaving us with a short, scenic walk across the moorland to our accommodation. Two trains in, outside Gunnislake station, those plans unravelled.
Dartmoor National Park is peat bogs, pine forests and ponies (lots of ponies); mile upon mile of open moorland, crowned with tors; and stars – more than I could count, than I’ve ever seen before – twinkling against inky skies. Over Easter, Laurence and I spent five days hiking across Dartmoor National Park, sampling cream teas, exploring market towns and quaint villages and getting very (very) sunburnt along the way. I’ll retrace our footsteps through Tavistock, Princetown, Postbridge and Widecombe-in-the-Moor in subsequent posts, but for now, here’s a selection of my favourite snapshots . . .
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.
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.