Part 3: Inveroran to Fort William
3 days, 52 km
You might want to read my introduction to hiking solo the West Highland Way, the description of the West Highland Way trail’s first stage from Drymen to Inverarnan, and second stage to Inveroran .
West Highland Way: The Best Of!
At this point started my favorite part of this trail. After the initial soreness, my body slowly was getting tougher and used to the life afoot. I also learned how to better pack my backpack and properly adjust it, so it was much less of a burden. The few days on trail helped me accept my limitations and figure out my own tempo and my body’s limits. Most of my anxieties and worries left by then, I felt happy and calm (if still slightly sore). But what was most important – the terrain. Wherever I looked I was astonished by the vistas, I couldn’t believe that I could be so surrounded by so much beauty. I was glad my camera fit in my backpack’s belt pocket – I was reaching for it very often!
The Pure Magic of Rannoch Moor
I was lucky – I had a good weather when crossing the Rannoch Moor, a 50 square miles area, filled with bogs, heather, and lochans. The path leading to it was somewhat boring; along tall ferns and trees, I couldn’t see a thing. But then it opens up… and I was simply speechless.
It’s a completely open terrain – so it can be quite challenging in heavy rains and winds. But to me, the biggest challenge proved to be the distance I could make without stopping and taking photos. I am open to more challenges of that kind!
The trail passes a few burns and one bigger river Ba, which flows dramatically over a rugged rock formation. When walking downward you are welcomed by the view of the Great Herdsman of Etive (Buachaille Etive Mor), foretelling the entrance into the Glencoe.
I took a detour to the White Corries ski areas in hopes of a campsite, but to no avail – there is hardly any spot for tents. But they have a café with a stunning view – well worth to take a break there.
Kingshouse Hotel: Where were all the famous deer?
I pushed on to the Kingshouse Hotel, passing by the iconic hut for the Ladies’ Scottish Climbing Club, and found a spot behind the hotel to pitch my tent in the designated wild camping area.
Although my view to the left was towards the back side of the Kingshouse Hotel, the view I had directly ahead from the entrance to my tent was just absolutely stunning. I spent a long time watching the sun setting behind mountains. Cooking my dinner in that setting felt purely magical.
I’d read it was a common spot for the red deer to frequent, but I was unlucky to see any. Not just here – throughout my whole stay in Scotland I had never seen a deer! It’s good that at least on Skye I was able to see the iconic highlander cows. But still – I will just have to go back for the deer 🙂
West Highland Way: Up the Devil’s Staircase
The next day, knowing that the famous Devil’s Staircase awaits me, I decided to splurge on a big, full Scottish breakfast. There was no problem with ordering a gluten-free version and I was well fed and ready to face the climbing challenges of the day.
It might be the breakfast or some other change in my body – but I felt fresh and with spring in my step. I approached the Devil’s Staircase head on, resting often, but climbing it with no bigger issues. The views, again, were breathtaking – I kept looking back, anxious to miss a view, trying to fill my memory with every inch of the vistas.
… And the Worst of
The downhill walk to Kinlochleven was a huge anti-climax. Some parts of it were really steep (bad for the feet and knees), some were simply boring. I thought the walk took forever! When I reached the Blackwater Hostel and Campsite I was absolutely exhausted but decided to push on even though I was on my last feet. I didn’t fancy pitching my tent opposite a huge power plant. I’m all for post-industrial climates, but not this time. They managed to conveniently crop the huge and ugly power plant from all photos at their site.
Finally, I got to the MacDonald campsite on the other side of Kinlochleven and was pretty happy with the place (not the midges). I had a breakfast at their hotel the next day and liked it a lot. It wasn’t as rich as the one I had at Kingshouse Hotel, but it also wasn’t as expensive 😉
Ben Nevis – Here I come!
The final day on the West Highland Day delivered some great views. After a very steep path through the woods, one is able to see stunning views down to Kinlochleven. Farther down the route we pass some otherworldly area with fallen trees and abandoned buildings.
There are also some interesting cultural and historical spots along the way – battle sites and a loch where it is said Lord MacBeth lived.
After a while, we can see the highest mountain in Britain – Ben Nevis. I wasn’t lucky to properly see it though – for the next few days it was always hiding behind a thick cover of dense fog and clouds. Another reason why I have to go back one day 🙂
I diverted from the trail to make my stop at the Glen Nevis campsite, where I would spend three nights, resting, exploring Fort William and getting soaked. By the way – the campsite is huge, but thanks to it have amazing facilities. I highly recommend them! There is a bus that stops right next to the entrance, but it doesn’t run too often, unfortunately.
The next day I reached the official end of the West Highland Way and took the obligatory photo with The Tired Walker. I’ve done it! 🙂 It’s hard to describe how much pride I felt upon completing it. Doesn’t matter how fast or slow others do it – hiking the West Highland Way gave me a tremendous help for my self-esteem and it made me realize how much I loved doing it. I suffer from a pretty serious anxiety disorder with social phobia… I got used to feeling anxious and worried all the time. For the first time, I experienced moments of calm and relaxation. Those come very rarely – my mind tends to race with all kind of stressful thoughts, worries and “what-ifs”. But suddenly, I realized that I stopped worrying as much, with those precious moments of thinking only about the landscape, food, trail… normal and non-stressful things. I knew at that point, that I have to fill my life with more of those moments, finding safe haven among trees and hills. No matter how tired my body was – I haven’t been as mentally rested in a long time before.
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All you need to know about camping accommodation along the West Highland Way.
Have you done this trail? How did you like it? Any tips for others who think about hiking it? Let us know below!