West Highland Way, Day 2 (Balmaha to Inverness- 22 miles)

Slap, slap, slap….. running footsteps woke us up at 3:50am.   We heard someone yell- “go right”… and with that, we were both fully awake and standing at the window.  We had read that an ultra marathon of the entire West Highland Way (WHW) path would be going on.  We had originally hoped that the runners might be passing by on our 2nd day,  but then we realized that the race began at 1am and that we were only 19 miles into the course.  We decided to get up to watch, ONLY if we happened to be awake at 4am anyway.  Well, now we were awake.  Ken got dressed and went out to check things out… I tried to go back to sleep, but soon heard Ken cheering on the runners with “Well done, Mate” (in his newly acquired British accent).  I joined in, watched the leaders and top 3 women pass by, and THEN went back to sleep.  

The second time I woke up, it was nearly time for breakfast.  Litzy had laid out a feast of breads, cereals, fruit, yogurt, coffee and tea.  And that was in addition to the individual hot breakfasts that she prepared to order.  We sat with a Scottish couple who were hiking the WHW from North to South.  They were starting their last day, and they warned us that today would be our toughest.  22 miles, and mostly along the water, but relentless up and down climbs, lots of scrambling over rocks, ladders to ascend, and streams to cross.  They advised us to stop at a restaurant along the trail, 15.5 miles in.  We are glad we did- we were both tired by then, but a bowl of soup and a cup of tea helped plus the stop broke our day into two parts.  Now we had only 6.5 miles remaining- even if it was the toughest 6.5 miles of the entire trail.   
Our phrase for today was “Oh Boy”… it seemed like every time we turned a corner, we would face a steep rocky climb, sometimes with stone stair steps, sometimes with ladders, sometimes with lots of boulders to climb up and around.  It became a joke, that every time we were quickly moving along on a slight downhill or flat, there’d just as quickly be another “Oh Boy” view and our pace would slow.  The 22 miles took us approximately 7 hours today- when things were smooth and flat, we jogged (maybe 2 miles total of the entire day) and the rest of the time we climbed and walked as quickly as we were safely able to.  

Walking along the lock was very pretty, but dare I say, a tad bit monotonous.  We missed the beautiful views of yesterday, and were pleasantly surprised when we popped out of the woods at mile 19 and were back on a lovely green hillside with views of both the loch and the mountains beyond.  

Ken, back to his routes as a naturalist, found some interesting snakes and slugs to photograph and probably play with for awhile.

One of the best views of the day was the final descent right into our resting site for the night.  Benglais is a campsite with some private cabin type rooms and a rowdy pub/restaurant.  We checked into our room, picked up our luggage which had been dropped off earlier in the day, got cleaned up and ate a terrific dinner. 

Day 3– Invernan to Bridge of Orchy (19 miles) 

By the end of yesterday, I was feeling a little despondent and not sure that walking two more 20 mile days plus a 14 mile day was going to be much fun.  I said to Ken, “when do you think the turning point is?”  Guess what?  It was today!  19.5 miles in almost exactly 5 hours.  We were able to jog a good portion, along old military roads.  We stopped at the Green Welly for a big lunch (Cullen Skink soup which was possibly the best thing I’ve ever eaten, and jacket potatoes with chili and cheese… also delicious). But other than our lunch break, we were able to move quickly and arrived at our B and B a bit early.  

Bridge of Orchy sounds pretty populated, doesn’t it?  Well, it’s NOT.  There is a train station, although we’re not sure why.  There is a hotel/restaurant, and there is our 2 room B and B which was once a drover station.  It’s been remodeled and is somewhat comfortable, although very simple with 2 twin cots, a drying rack for our clothes, and a tiny bathroom.  There is internet, but it’s very spotty so who knows if this will actually get posted tonight.  We are feeling quite isolated here, and are looking forward to our stop tonight at Kinlochleven which although described as remote, appears to be in a more populated village (population 900), A pub and some other walkers to chat with will be fun.  

Every afternoon when we arrive, we are offered tea and cake.  Apparently the Scots love their cake, and there is a nation wide movement to reduce sugar because of an obesity problem.  But how do you reduce sugar and have cake 2 or 3 times per day?  There’s cake for breakfast, cake at tea, and cake for desert.  Speaking of breakfast- Ken has been enjoying the full Scottish breakfast of porridge, juice and coffee followed by bacon, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, potato scones (flat pancake like things made out of potatoes), toast, black pudding, and of course, cake.  Dinners have varied- there is lots of good seafood available, some salads although the salads tend to be anything that is cold… like tuna, or cheese and pickle, or mayo coleslaw.  My favorite was warm goat cheese salad-  2 medallions of goat cheese set on a little bed of greens and topped with a beet chutney.  Most places offer gluten free and vegetarian options which is incredible, considering that we really are in the middle of nowhere.  Last night, the waiter actually pointed out the 3 entrees (out of about 15) that did NOT have gluten, soups are all gluten free, and gluten free bread has been available at every meal.  

Today’s hike included lots of mud, lots of beautiful waterfalls, lots of sheep, gorgeous views, and some long steady climbs and descents.  

It’s amazing to think that after nearly 20 miles today, we are feeling rested and Ken even suggested that we extend our walking one extra day to include Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the UK (4,411 feet).  If the weather is good, I’m all for it!  


1 Comment »

  1. Emily T Huntington said

    So glad you got your internet connection back for an update! The photos are wonderful again. It looks like you are jogging up a set of those stone stairs, Kathy! Love the acorn footstools–and, that muddy path reminds me a bit of Sehgahunda. I’m really enjoying your narratives, too. What an adventure!

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