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 . . .
Once we’d filled up on a hearty Premier Inn breakfast, we checked out and made our way to Edinburgh Zoo. Over a thousand animals call this 82-acre hilltop zoological park home – though there were two in particular that I was hoping to see: Tian Tian (Sweetie) and Yang Guang (Sunshine), the UK’s only giant pandas.
At the start of July, my parents and I travelled 242 miles up the M6 (and on assorted other roads) to Edinburgh – all in the name of attending my Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award Presentation and meeting HRH Prince Philip. Whilst the trip was planned around this short but sweet encounter with royalty in the gardens of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, we did manage to get our fill of the Royal Mile, Scottish pubs and other points of interest whilst we were there.
Nestled between two extinct volcanoes lies the Scottish capital city of Edinburgh, a city exuding cultural charm and brimming with bagpipes. Its Old Town runs the length of the Royal Mile, from Edinburgh Castle in the west to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in the east, and spans a vast network of closes (=narrow streets) which run perpendicular to the Royal Mile. On the other side of Waverley Station lies the New Town, filled with shops, restaurants and parks.