When an Ex-Army Sergeant took on the West Highland Way

Alright there, troops? I’m not long back from doing the West Highland Way and a pal suggested it would a good idea to write up a wee blog about the adventure so that folks could learn about how an ex-serviceman tackled it…

West High Way

Denny tackles the west highland way

Like the vast majority of people who take on the 96 miles, I walked from South to North. I went with three keen walkers who’d done it before.

Day 1
We started off in Milngavie headed for Drymen. The section was around 12 miles and I enjoyed every bit of it, scenery, banter and all. I wore my Altberg boots and had layers to prepare me for the typical four seasons in one day Scottish weather:

– army issued Goretex waterproof trousers and jacket (these are similar)
– a Norweigan shirt, also known as a ‘Norgy’ or a thermal undershirt if we’re being posh
– army issued self-wicking t-shirt
small army issued rucksack with my thermos cup, water bottle, a torch and a first aid kit, with that all-important zinc tape

By the time we got to Balmaha, I was pretty tired and my feet had started to hurt. Nothing a couple of pints wouldn’t sort…

Day 2
We started off keen as mustard and I was enjoying the sightseeing. My three pals wanted to power on as they’d done the walk before but I was enjoying (and needing) a slower pace because at five miles in as my feet felt like they were on fire! I was starting to fall behind around this point but was determined to continue, so I stopped to assess the damage and consider my options, after finishing this leg we all met in the Drovers Inn bar for a feed and a couple of beers.

Day 3
SO MUCH RAIN – what a day. I swapped to trainers, hoping that would help my poor feet! I soldiered on and reached the Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum, really needing some new footwear, as my trainers were soaked and I could not stand the thought of putting those Altbergs back on. I was seriously considering a bus to Bridge of Orchy by this point. My feet were hotter than Satan’s radiators and I had 15 miles to go! I bought myself some Sealskinz socks (I was to find out that this would be the best £40 I have EVER spent). I took myself off to the pub for a consolation pint, dried my feet, put on my Sealskinz and back on went the wet trainers. The horizontal rain was off-putting but I had my pint and went on my way.

When I arrived and caught up with my mates, they were amazed to see that I was bone dry beneath my army issued Goretex AND my feet were also bone dry underneath the magic socks!

Day 4
The best way to describe this day is wall to wall rain and a Devil’s Staircase to climb – which I was amazed to see mountain bikers descending it. It was miserable! It was a trudge and managed to keep up with my mates for a good bit but despite my miracle socks and trainers combo, my feet were hotter than hell. I was feeling quite scunnered, with surely the world’s sorest feet, so when someone stopped to offer me a lift at the end of the longest, windiest, steepest downhill road ever, I asked them how far away my hotel was – and when they said it was only half a mile to Kinlochleven, I gladly got in the car. Best lift ever!

Day 5
Kinlochleven to Fort William – the end was in sight and this was a good day, despite really changeable weather. This stage faces Ben Nevis – which never seems to be any closer despite how far you walk! In reaching Fort William – the end – I had an immediate bottle of Baltika in Wetherspoons, where I was informed that my eagerness for a beer meant that I was short of the official finish line by about four metres! I then went straight out and crossed it!