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.
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’).
The UK’s fifteen national parks are an eclectic mix of landscapes, ranging from heather-clad moorland, rolling hills and craggy fells to expansive lochs, wooded valleys and sandy beaches. They’re home to our highest peaks, our deepest lake and miles upon miles of trails for everyone to enjoy. Oh, and millions of sheep (of which the Lake District’s hardy Herdwicks are by far the cutest). I’ve visited six of our national parks to date – some on multiple occasions, others just the once – and each of them holds a place in my heart.
We ended our trip on a high – quite literally, since we spent our last full day atop Tai Mo Shan, the SAR’s highest peak. Located slap-bang in the middle of the New Territories, it commands superb views of the rest of Hong Kong, and on clear days the southern coast of mainland China can be seen on the horizon.