‘Tis the season of Spring in Scotland
Get out your midgie spray, Barbour jackets and umbrellas, for temperatures have risen from the minuses to the plus figures, the meadow blossoms are out and the locals are coming out of their Netflix hibernation.
It’s that time of year where hundreds flock to Scotland to walk the renowned West Highland Way, a 150Km route that marks one of the most beautiful long-distance walks in the world. It’s a path that leads you into the majestic highlands, passing Loch Lomond, Glen Coe, the Rannoch Moor and the foot of Ben Nevis. The trail has been marked by footsteps of Rob Roy and Robert the Bruce, one that crossed the paths of the MacDonald and Campbell Clans, where William Wallace once roamed, where myths and legends date back to the beginning of mankind.
It’s been just over a year since I staggered across that finishing line. 8 days of solo-walking, filled with peace, intensity and adventure. It was this walk that convinced me to move to Edinburgh, where I could be closer to the outdoors. As I enviously watch the fresh-faced walkers arrive to Edinburgh, it seems only fitting to blog about my experiences, mapping out the challenges I faced each day.
I’ll be honest here. I read the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed and it sparked something in me. I wanted to be that girl (without the hectic backstory), who managed a solo hike in order to find herself. Of course, my office job only gave me 20 days holidays, and I was a broke graduate living in London, so I had to find a long-distance walk that was not only affordable but could fit into the time-frame. Not to mention that the Scottish Highlands are famous for their wilderness, dramatic landscapes and history, and I longed to loose myself in the wild for some time.
The other book The West Highland Way by Anthony Burton was very helpful for the planning stages, and also as a backup map on route.
My biggest walk each day was from Fulham Broadway to my flat, a 12 minute walk (7 if you were running late), and a brisk walk in The City at lunchtime. I read about people who were training every day – even running half-marathons. So after my first and last attempt to walk from The City to Fulham (Yes. I tried it. After work. Almost died), I decided to pull a Cheryl Strayed and just do it. No training. It was only 150Km after all, with a section called The Devil’s Staircase. Slow & steady would win the race, right?
As far as my hiking kit went, I only owned a couple of things I used for running, which wasn’t going to get me far. With few pennies in my pocket, and also unconvinced that I would actually carry this out, I got cheap stuff off eBay and second-hand. I did purchase two brand new items, which I still have and use 1 year later – a 40L backpack and . Both from Mountain Warehouse, and they’ve worked a charm.
Aside from the occasional sleepover in a friend’s backyard, I’ve never camped in my life. It was with trembling hands that I tried setting up my one-man tent on my balcony only to realise you actually need earth to pin the metal things down. So instead of panicking and practicing it properly, I quickly stashed it away and tied it to my bag, hoping for the best.
After reading so many opinions and advice about backpacks, I just knew there was no way I was going to make this walk if I was lugging around tonnes of things, so I simplified my life by taking the essentials, and tossing things out when I was done using them. The beauty of buying things so cheap, is that it doesn’t seem a waste when you toss them out (good riddance, £0.50 waterproofs!).
And so, the journey began
I bought a one-way ticket from London King’s Cross to Milgavnie, a tiny town, just outside Glasgow. Dressed head to toe in hiking gear, with my red backpack, I sat back on the train, knowing that this 6 hour train journey would be the last easy bit, reflecting on what it would be like. I had 8 days to find out.
Kick off! The first section from Milgavnie to Drymen begins. I meet fellow walkers from around the globe and find my first honesty box. Stay tuned.