A Final Farewell to the West Highland Way

September 6, 2015:
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Living large at No 6 Caberfeidh B & B in Fort William with a huge Scottish breakfast featuring ham, sausage, eggs, black pudding, tatties, all kinds of cereal, granola, coffee and juice. Most of our nights are in hostel type accomodations so this is a real treat.  Too bad we aren’t hiking 15 miles or more today to wear off our breakfast.

 

whw_day9-1100528eIn front of the B & B, we find the couple from Austria that have been guiding a large group of about 18 people walking the West Highland Way. They are checking into possible lodging options for their 2016 West Highland Way tour.

whw_day9-1100541eShrieks of delight fill the air as we spot the Scottish mother and son on their way to the bus station.

whw_day9-1100542eOh, wow!!  It’s the Canadian minister from the bar last night on her way to church. What an interesting person with a charming, sincere personality. Her name is Donalee Williams and she has a blog which I linked to her name.

whw_day9-1100544eManchester, England claims these two hikers who camped all along the West Highland Way and this gentleman has been observing my hiking speed along the trail. At the bar in Tyndrum, I slowly crept past their table while carrying two pints of beer, trying NOT to spill, to which he commented, “Fastest I’ve seen you walk all day!”

whw_day9-1100550eFinally… It took us longer than expected to get to the new end of the trail sculpture due to all of the bonus socializing this morning. As we continue on to the bus station, we are grateful to have another farewell session with Mike and Stacy who are going the Isle of Skye before returning to Belfast, Ireland.

whw_day9-1100533eFor us, it’s time to catch a bus to pursue new adventures and explore Inverness, Scotland.  Stay tuned…

Here is the short video of our last day in Fort William:

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West Highland Way: Kinlochleven to Fort William

September 5, 2015: Kinlochleven to Fort William

WHW_Day7-1100286e While gazing over at the campers cooking their breakfasts, I do a last-minute check to see if I have everything.  Yes, I remembered to get our sandwiches out of the hostel refrigerator and pack them in my backpack. (I have been known to forget!)

whw_day8-1100312eWe start our day with Laura from Berlin. I often find myself thinking of her and hope all is going well with her life.

 

 

whw_day8-1100333eWhat a beautiful site for wild camping, overlooking the town of Kinlochleven. Beautiful weather today and hikers seem to be going at a leisurely pace as if savoring their last day of hiking.
whw_day8-1100444eJoan, AKA The Beast, is ready to tackle the last leg of the hike with Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the U.K., in the background.

whw_day8-1100474eWe are fortunate to be able to share part of this last day with Mike and Stacy (Ireland/Ukraine) as we descend into Fort William. Such a lovely pair…

whw_day8-1100493eThis is the last we see of Leon and his gang from Holland as they are staying in the campground just outside of Fort William. We notice they still have energy to play tricks.  Oh, to be so young again.

We see many runners from the Ben Nevis race walking back to their vehicles with their medals and trophies.  Apparently, I didn’t have enough energy to pull out the camera. After walking 16 miles today, I don’t think we’ll attempt Ben Nevis.

Maybe, some other time.

Mike and Stacy are going on through town to pay homage to the new end of the trail, but we are close to our check-in deadline for the B & B so we must bid them farewell.  Sad to see them go.whw_day8-1100497eWe appear to be faking glee and excitement. Maybe we are a little disappointed to not have all of our WHW friends cheering with us at the end.

Hold on.. Who is that I see chatting in the distance? No, it can’t be.  Yes, it is!!!  Mandy just happens to appear along our route.

whw_day8-1100507creLater, we meet up with Mandy and Karen at a the Grog and Gruel Pub, popular with the Ben Nevis race crowd as you can see by the race numbers in the background. The fun-loving Scottish gentlemen in these photos are our photographers tonight so that we could get some group photos. You can’t help but love the Scottish people.

whw_day8-1100508dmvWe also spend time this evening visiting with a minister from Canada on sabbatical doing research. I can’t remember her research topic…  Could an evening in the pub provide inspiration for a few sermon topics?whw_day8-1100510eCheers to the West Highland Way!
96 miles and we did the WHOLE thing! We may walk slowly, but we never walk backward.

Here is the video of our last day hiking the West Highland Way:

 

West Highland Way: Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy

September 2, 2015:

We make our way to The Green Welly Stop  in Tyndrum, Scotland to pick up snacks for the short 7 mile hike from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy.  I am quite sure that the hikers doing the long twenty-mile walk today are long gone and quite a distance down the trail.

WHW_5-1090816eSurprise! We are delighted to see Scottish friends, Thomas and Allan, just outside the shop. We get in some last-minute chatting and bid them farewell again with best wishes for the remainder of the hike. Sure going to miss those guys…

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According to Google, Tioraidh is a greeting similar to Cheerio in Gaelic. Not sure why it appears on this stone monument.

WHW_5-1090821eRandy is striking up a lively conversation with young Leon towering over him at nearly seven feet. Not surprising that he is a basketball player from Holland.
WHW_5-1090896eScottish mother/son hiking together and going for a long twenty-mile hike today.  We have quite a bit in common since they are also farmers and the mother does daycare for her grandchildren.

WHW_5-1090912eIt’s about time I bring out the Love Rock.  This rock was given to me by a woman camping in the Black Hills of South Dakota and I’ve been carrying it with me on this journey. Click on the Love Rock link for more background information on this heart touching story.
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We enjoy the company of Laura, from Germany, who has just finished her master’s degree and is celebrating by hiking the West Highland Way. I feel as though we are celebrating along with her through this experience.

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The path isn’t too bad today as this is the only rocky, hilly section with uneven footing.

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Sheep creep under the railroad.

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Someone did not watch their step and found a monster sized cow pie. (Wasn’t anyone in our group).

Much of the route today follows a military road. In the years after the 1715 Jacobite uprising the government put a huge amount of effort into building roads and bridges over the length and breadth of the Highlands. Previously, drove routes had existed to move cattle to the lowland markets. This bout of road building was intended to provide a means of moving troops quickly around the interior to suppress rebellion. Those rowdy, high-spirited clans, right? They built some 1200 miles of road and 700 bridges in the years from 1725 and 1767.  ~Undiscovered Scotland.co.ukWHW_5-1090936e

We are tickled to see our Northern Ireland/Ukrainian friends, Michael and Stacy  catching up with us as we near Bridge of Orchy.

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Bridge of Orchy Hotel looks  a little like the background of a Harry Potter movie. We eat our dinner about 2:30 p.m. in the hotel bar while we wait for our room. Since we didn’t sleep that well in the hobbit house last night, we are weary and feel like napping.

It’s time to check in and they inform us that we have been upgraded to a cottage (Our own bathroom/shower, no less!) at no extra charge. Yippee!!  It seems as though two people were in need of a room and they figured the three of us would fare better in the cottage while the couple took the smaller hotel room. Little did we know it was Michael and Stacy who decided to try to get a room instead of waiting the rest of the afternoon for the hostel to open up. (I think they felt in need of a nap, as well.) Thank you!

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From the back door of our cottage, we can easily see the Bridge of Orchy which spans over the River Orchy and dates back to 1751 .

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Our lodging is very posh, it’s cold and rainy outside, so we really want to stay inside where it’s nice and warm.

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I mix some dehydrated peanut butter powder with water, slather it on a prepackaged (doughy?) baguette and we have supper.  Yum?

Laundry is drying, we’ve had hot showers and we are sipping hot tea which means a cozy night in luxury. Z-Z-Z-Z…

Below is today’s video:

 

West Highland Way: Drovers Inn to Tyndrum

September 1, 2015

WHW_4-1090643eThe air is still, so the midges (small gnat like flies common along the West Highland Way) are out in full force this morning and we see Joan sporting her stylish midge netting. Many years ago we would wrap netting around our heads similar to this as protection from mosquitoes, gnats and deer flies when hoeing weeds out of the soybean fields.

WHW_4-1090743eThe plan is to hike 13 miles today through the area of Crianlarich Hills, which are a large group of mountains in Scotland.

WHW_4-1090672eIt’s tricky ducking down through the sheep creep while wearing a full backpack.

WHW_4-1090753eWe pass by the ruins of St Fillan’s Priory, which is a small monastery or nunnery that is governed by a prior or prioress. It is from the 13th century and associated with Robert the Bruce.WHW_4-1090761eAcross the path is a graveyard dating back to the 8th century.

WHW_4-1090783eThis is a bench commemorating the battle of Dal Righ, or ‘King’s Field’ where Robert the Bruce was defeated by English troops in 1306.WHW_4-1090807eHome sweet home tonight is this cute little hobbit house at Tyndrum By the Way Campground.

WHW_4-1090812eQuite cozy and we have a microwave and coffee pot. What more could one need?
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We end our day at the Tyndrum Inn and meet up with several of our hiking friends with fun conversation peppering the air. Now we must bid a sad farewell to our current path mates since we are opting for a shorter hike tomorrow, while they are planning on hiking about 20 miles. Hugs all around and I feel a little tear in my eye as if saying a goodbye that is probably forever. We do hope they take advantage of our invitation to visit and stay with us at our farm on the Minnesota/South Dakota border. Randy and I may even whip up a batch of Rocky Mountain Oysters to go up against their haggis!

Following is a video of our adventures today:

The Ghosts of Drovers Inn

August 31 – September 1, 2015

It’s 9:30 p.m. and we are the last hikers to check into Drovers Inn. The kilted desk receptionist explains a room change due to wiring issues, so Randy and I now get haunted room #6 at no extra charge.  Lucky us.

Below is a YouTube video I found online that has a section from minute 1:00 to 2:15 showing the creepy hallways and the inside of Drovers Inn. You may want to skip the rest of the video… just sayin’.

The old hallway winds around  through another doorway, we climb more steps and arrive at our home for the night. Ghosts aren’t a scary deal for us, so we are quite content in our quaint little room. It is decorated much like a home 100 plus years ago with old portraits, antique dressers, etc. Kind of reminds me of the bedrooms in my childhood home.

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 Who are these ghosts?

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A little girl who drowned in the burn and was placed in the bed in one of the rooms?  People have reported waking up and feeling a cold body next to them in the bed.  Yikes!

 

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An ancient cattle drover wandering the hallways late at night?

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Click on the following link for more ghoulish history of Drovers Inn:

  http://www.thedroversinn.co.uk/drovers-inn-ghosts.php

After such a strenuous day of hiking and, thanks to our hiking friends who open our eyes to the pleasures of mince & tatties plus haggis, we are too tired to even notice ghosts.

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On the morning of September 1st, 2015, we leave the inn and cross the bridge that takes us back to the trail. A woman from Taiwan is walking in front of me and she stops, turns around and speaks to me;  Do you know what happened to me last night?  Drovers Inn put me in the haunted room.  I tried it, but got SO scared that I refused to stay there all night and had them switch me to a different room.

Hmmmm….that’s interesting.

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The light shines through haunted room #6.

West Highland Way: Drymen to Rowardennan

Sunday, August 30, 2015:  Day two…WWW_Day2-1090332Glenalva B & B near Drymen, Scotland provided a restful sleep and we go downstairs to another delicious smoked salmon and egg breakfast. Shared a breakfast table and delightfully, entertaining conversation with two Scottish gentlemen, Thomas and Allan, who are also walking to Rowardennan today. We chat throughout the day while walking, so we are slowly making new friends along the trail. Fascinating people and their stories add another dimension which makes the hiking experience rewarding on a social level.

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Glenalva B & B displays the spirit of the trail with boots as flower pots.

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Early in the day, we miss a sign and take the wrong path (along with other hikers), which means we must backtrack. Many hikers are now passing us, including a large group of Austrians on a group hiking tour. About an hour and a half later, Randy looks back and notices our starting point is right across the meadow as he points with his walking stick. Slow progress…

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The trail climbs through a section of forestry before crossing moorland to reach Conic Hill.

We spend some time today visiting with a college girl from Colorado who is interning while going to school and traveling in the U.K. I enjoy listening to hopes and dreams of young people as they explore and discover their paths in life. I guess that’s the optimistic teacher in me.

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Up, up and away, we climb…

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We finally reach the top and the views of Loch Lomond are spectacular, although it starts to drizzle. (The video at the bottom of this post will show the panoramic view from the top of Conic Hill.)

 


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Sunday is a popular day for hiking. We meet many day hikers who must have parked at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and approach Conic Hill from the opposite side.

 

WWW_Day2-1090462eOne of many “kissing gates.”  It allows people to pass through but not livestock.

WWW_Day2-1090494eWe hike along the banks of Loch Lomond as we proceed along the trail. We find the last stretch today to be quite rocky and somewhat challenging.  We are thinking that today is about as challenging as it gets. (After all, the Youtube videos look pretty tame!)

Towards the end of the day, we strike up a conversation with a lovely couple (Belfast, Northern Ireland/Ukraine), which makes the path seem less severe. Thank you, Michael and Stacy (Anistacia).

 

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The last couple of miles seem to take forever as we sludge past the Rowardennan Hotel, envious of those stopping here for the night. Wondering…  will we ever get there?  Exhausted, we arrive at the Rowardennan Youth Hostel  (Yes, old people can stay in youth hostels!) after our hilly hike and happy to have beds. It does appear as though our backpacks exploded upon arrival.

WWW_Day2-1090509eLucky for us, a bar and food are available a few feet away from our beds, so life is grand.  We are invited to sit with two new trail friends from England, Mandy and Karen. Such fun and interesting gals and both have travel tales from around the globe!

Bonnie N’ Blonde is a locally brewed beer from Loch Lomond Brewery and hit the spot after walking 14.5 miles carrying a backpack up and down hills and scrambling some rocks.  Tomorrow will be MUCH easier, right?

Below is a short video/slide show featuring highlights of day two on the West Highland Way: