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Discover Scotland Part 1 - Hiking the West Highland Way - Itinerary

The trip starts in Glasgow and ends in Fort William.

The trip leader will provide additional information to registered participants. Below is our planned itinerary. Please, keep in mind that it could change due to weather conditions, or other circumstances beyond our control.
B - Breakfast, D - Dinner.

Day 1 Wednesday 10 May, 2023: Arrival day

Check in at our iconic hotel, in the center of Glasgow from 3pm. Meeting and welcome drinks at 6 pm in the hotel reception. Dinner at 7 pm. D

Day 2 Thursday 11 May, 2023: Milngavie to Drymen 12½ miles, +850 feet, 6 hours hiking

In spite of its length, this is a pleasant walk and a rather easy start to our adventure. After a short train ride from the center of Glasgow, we arrive at Milngavie, and head directly to the granite obelisk which marks the official start of the West Highland Way. We quickly leave behind the conurbation of Glasgow, heading through parkland, woods and fields, largely on good paths, tracks and lanes and with no significant climbing from Milngavie. After a while, the path follows the track-bed of the disused railway from Glasgow to Aberfoyle, revealing a varied and rapidly changing landscape. Later, we pass the Dumgoyach standing stones, thought to date back to the Bronze Age and the Glengoyne distillery. Finally, we progress along minor roads and rolling farmland to the village of Drymen and our hotel, a former 18th century coaching inn beautifully restored. Overall, a calm and relaxing introduction to the rigors that lie ahead. B, D

Day 3 Friday 12 May, 2023: Drymen to Balmaha 7½ miles, +1,300 ft, 4 hours

Back on the West Highland Way, we rise to an old section of road before following good tracks and paths through various plantations. We then walk on minor roads through gently rolling countryside, gradually gaining altitude with pleasant views of the hills around us, including Ben Lomond (3,195 ft) to the north. The trail leaves the forest for open bracken and heather moorland with splendid views across island-studded Loch Lomond. We cross the tree-lined gorge of the Burn of Mar before starting the ascent across the flanks of Conic Hill (1,184 ft). This involves 700 ft of ascent, the first significant ascent of the route, but we are rewarded with fine views of Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond, the most southerly of the 282 Munros. Conic hill lies along the Highland Boundary Fault, that traditionally separates Lowland Scotland from the Highlands. After skirting the summit, the path descends steeply towards Loch Lomond Nature Reserve, unique for its flowers in Spring. A few steps lead down to a woodland path amid birch, larch and conifers to Balmaha, “the village by the water”. In the afternoon, there will be time to relax and enjoy this beautiful setting by the loch or time permitting, board a ferry to explore nearby Inchcailleach Island nature reserve, before settling for the night in our lovely village Inn, twice named Scotland’s best pub. B, D.

Day 4 Saturday 13 May, 2023: Balmaha to Rowardennan 7½ miles, +800 ft, 4 hours

Leaving Balmaha, the Way rises above the trees and across bracken covered banks to reach a viewpoint of Craigie Fort. This time of year, there is a good chance of spotting hungry ospreys, freshly returned from their wintering grounds in West Africa. Meandering through woodland, we get closer to the shoreline and arrive at a shingle beach at Milarrochy, a lovely spot for a short break. We continue through the majestic Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. Eventually the path emerges from the forest to rejoin the road along the loch shoreline. More woodland follow, with steep little climbs, including a few rocky steps before a much more agreeable descent. Finally, passing between flamboyant rhododendron bushes, we come within sight of Rowardennan Pier and our stunning hotel on the banks of Loch Lomond for welcome refreshments and a relaxing afternoon before dinner. B, D.

Day 5 Sunday 14 May, 2023: Rowardennan to Ardlui 11½ miles, +1,900 ft, 7 hours

Although spent mostly at low level, this is a tough, but beautiful day alongside the eastern shore of Loch Lomond and below the slopes of Ben Lomond. The path becomes rocky with crags and boulders on a tortuous up-and-down route. In spite of its ruggedness, the walking is of the highest quality with a feeling of satisfaction from coping with the very variable terrain. We enter the lands of Clan MacGregor and we pass a crag known as Rob Roy’s Prison, where according to tradition, the famous outlaw detained prisoners and hostages. We go through natural oak, birch and pine woodland. After a few small rises, all quickly lost again, the Way arrives at Inversnaid. Its nature reserve, accredited by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, is well populated with birdlife and animal wildlife. Leaving the nature trail, we continue towards the base of a short cliff, past Rob Roy’s cave. Rugged going persists for a while before the difficulties end on the approach to an open bay a short distance south of Doune, a splendid location. The route presses towards Ardleish, where we go down to the pier and summon the ferry from Ardlui. We cross Loch Lomond to our superb family-run boutique hotel on the loch. The friendly bar is a Whisky Ambassador and a great place for a memorable taster session. B, D.

Day 6 Monday 15 May, 2023: Ardlui to Crianlarich 8½ miles, +1,500 ft, 5 hours

After a hearty breakfast, we cross the loch again on the ferry to rejoin the WHW. We climb to a small ridge and begin to really travel into the hills. Walking however is much easier than the day before, with excellent views south over Loch Lomond. A gentle ascent on an ancient drovers’ road takes us to Glen Falloch with a trinity of Munros – Beinn Lui (3,710 ft), Beinn Oss (3,376 ft) and Beinn Dubhcraig (3,209 ft) towering over the moors, before a lovely descent along the falls of Ben Glas Burn. We pass by a few ruined cottages and head down to Derrydarroch. This area hosts some of the remnants of the great ancient Caledonian pine forest that covered this entire area following the last ice age. Near the top of the pass, we join for the first time the old 18th century military road built by General Wade’s successor William Caufield who contributed to over 800 miles of military roads. From now on, much of the Way will follow this road to Fort William. Roughly halfway on the West Highland Way, the village of Crianlarich offers a wide range of good facilities and is a much used halt for travelers bound for the western Highlands. B, D.

Day 7 Tuesday 16 May, 2023: Crianlarich to Bridge of Orchy 13 miles, +1,500 ft, 7 hours

This section of the Way takes the easiest line through Strath Fillan on a balcony path enjoying wide views of fine mountains and sweeping glens. Back on the military road, we start with a stiff climb through a larch plantation. High above the glen, the path undulates in and out of trees. We cross a small burn on a wooden footbridge, head beneath the railway bridge on the Oban branch line and hop over the River Fillan. We discover the ruins of 12th century St Fillan’s Priory with connections to Robert the Bruce. We continue past the King’s field at Dalrigh, and the “Lochan of the Lost Sword” before emerging at Tyndrum, (pronounced Tyne-drum). This small village, once an overnight rest halt or “stance” favored by cattle drovers, prospered from lead mining and more recently, it experienced a renewed fame as a gold mining center. It features two railway stations as the lines from Glasgow to Fort William and Oban diverge here. We head up over the top of a pass to face the magnificent Beinn Dorain (3,530 ft), an imposing hill rising almost 3,000 feet from the valley floor in a single craggy slope. This is prime red deer country as the deer graze high up the hills during the summer months. Striding into Auch Gleann provides a tremendous sense of openness and freedom. We descend to the wide valley floor, home to the Auch Estate where we hope to see very photogenic Highland cattle and cross the glen river before an easy walk to Bridge of Orchy. We check in our luxurious hotel for a restful night and a fine dining experience with local, fresh seasonal produce. B, D.

Day 8 Wednesday 17 May, 2023: Bridge of Orchy to Glencoe 12 miles, +1,600 ft, 6 ½ hours

We will be crossing our fingers for clement weather as this can be a very exposed section in poor weather, with no shelter for more than 6 miles. A short ascent on the forested hillside of Ben Inverveigh (2,096 ft) takes us out in the open for superb views of a sprawling mass of granite mountains to the north and a scintillating loch to the right. Next is a stunning descent without difficulties to Inveroran and Forest lodge at the western end of Loch Tulla. Here, we abandon the old military road for the old Glencoe Road and enter the fantastic upland plateau of Rannoch Moor, encircled by imposing mountains. This is the longest and most exposed stretch of the whole way, reaching an altitude of almost 1,500 feet. We walk in an uninhabited landscape of wild, open heather moorland, rocks and lochans (small lakes) of all shapes and sizes, with the chance to spot a golden eagle or a large red deer herd. We cross the River Bà, a beautiful, if lonely place. The route rises again, contouring Meall a’Bhuiridh (3,635 ft) before descending to Blackrock cottage and the track leading down to The King’s House Hotel, described by a surveyor of military roads in 1802 as having “more the appearance of a hog stye than an inn”. Fortunately, things have changed a “wee bit” since 1802 and the hospitality of the King’s House, in this most extraordinary setting, has become legendary. Time permitting we'll enjoy a drink here before our taxi takes us onto our next lodgings where we stay for 2 nights. B, D.

Day 9 Thursday 18 May, 2023: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven 9 miles, +1,500 ft, 5 hours

This is the upper end of Glencoe, a glen made eternally famous by tales of the massacre of Glencoe (1692), when most members of the Clan MacDonald were slaughtered by soldiers under Captain Campbell after 12 days of professed friendship. We have a taxi ride back to the King’s House, from where we take the bridge over the River Etive. There is a good path throughout, following the course of the old military road. We begin with a traverse of the lower slopes of Beinn a’Chrulaiste (2,811 ft), a Corbett, not quite a Munro. The valley is guarded by the monumental rocky mountain of Buachaille Etive Mor (3,351 ft) or the great herdsman of Etive. We can admire this magnificent scenery, probably the most spectacular of the whole West Highland Way, while ascending the “Devil’s Staircase”, a zig-zag track not at all difficult despite its name, winding its way upward; through ideal red grouse habitat. The pass marking the staircase summit, is the highest point on the WHW at 1,798 feet. On a clear day, the view from the gap is outstanding, with a first glimpse of Ben Nevis. From the top, a fairly relaxing rocky path descends to remote Kinlochleven. At the end of scenic Loch Leven, below the towering summits of the Mamores Mountains to the north, Kinlochleven is one of the best places for mountaineers and sportsmen to explore the high mountains of the Highlands. We return to our comfortable hotel with a cozy restaurant, the perfect place to rest and recover before our last day on the West Highland Way. B, D.

Day 10 Friday 19 May, 2023: Kinlochleven to Fort William 15 miles, +2,300 ft, 8 hours

This is quite a long stage with no refreshments and no shelter. A short steep climb through lovely birch woods, takes us to the hidden valley of Lairig Mor, a wild landscape of considerable beauty behind the high ridged summits of Mam na Gualainn (2,612 ft) and Beinn na Caillich (2,402 ft). The walking becomes easier on this broad track that crosses several burns, most of them on footbridges, but there is a real possibility of getting your feet wet on some crossings in time of spate. It is a great place to spot wild orchids and there are magnificent mountains on both sides. The track contours the southern flank of the Mamores and eventually runs northwards, parallel to the river. Beyond the glen, the route through the forest is rough in places, with a few more ups and downs. A final ascent cut across the hillsides, brings us above Glen Nevis and the impressive bulk immediately opposite of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain at 4,414 ft. Then, it's all downhill to Glen Nevis and the road into Fort William, where a statue marks the end of the West Highland Way. We head to our stylish hotel for well-deserved refreshments and our final celebratory dinner. B, D.

Day 11 Saturday 20 May, 2023: Departure

Check out 11 am. B.

The trip leader will provide 4 trip bulletins prior to departure with more detailed and specific information to help you prepare for your adventure. If you’d like advice on your in-country travel arrangements, please do ask, we are happy to help.

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Trip Dates: May 10 - 20, 2023 | 11 day trip

Trip Price and Deposit: $4,475 per person | Deposit $1,119 | Full single supplement $1,100 | Partial single supplement excluding nights 7 & 8 $625

Remainder due February 9, 2023

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