Misty Scotland

08/25/2017 - 09/10/2017
kuba10
by kuba10

Itinerary:

DAY 1 - Glasgow

DAY 2 - Glasgow

DAY 3 - West Highland Way - from Milngavie to Conic Hill

DAY 4 - West Highland Way - from Conic Hill to Rowchoish Bothy

DAY 5 - West Highland Way - from Rowchoish Bothy to farm Derrydarroch

DAY 6 - West Highland Way - from farm Derrydarroch to Bridge of Orchy

DAY 7 - West Highland Way - from Bridge of Orchy to Devil's Staircase

DAY 8 - West Highland Way - from Devil's Staircase to Glen Nevis camp

DAY 9 - end of West Highland Way - Fort William

DAY 10 - Fort William - Mallaig - Armadale - Sligachan

DAY 11 - Sligachan - Portree - Old Man of Storr

DAY 12 - Old Man of Storr - Kilt Rock - Mealt Falls - Flodigarry hotel - Quiraing

DAY 13 - Quiraing - Portree - Dornie - Eilean Donan Castle

DAY 14 - Eilean Donan Castle - Glen Shiel - Loch Ness - Urquhart Castle - Drumnadrochit - Urquhart Wood Bay

DAY 15 - Drumnadrochit - Inverness - Edinburgh

DAY 16 - Edinburgh

DAY 17 - fly from Edinburgh back home

DAY 1-2 - Glasgow

We woke up into typical Scottish weather - raining with raining. After royal English breakfast we put on our raincoats and go exploring the city. First we go to George Square and then to The Cathedral of Saint Mungo. The local kind of dark and crude architecture catches us very quickly. After visiting the cathedral we continue to The Necropolis - Victorian cemetery with nice view of Glasgow.

We go back to the city centre and wander through streets. There are back pipers or whole bands on almost every corner making the atmosphere very unique. We ran into band Clanadonia playing on the street, you can listen to their music at the beginning of this story.

To sum up I would say Glasgow is cruder than Edinburgh, but for me it was more true or local experience. Edinburgh has more historical sites, but it is swamped with tourists, making the whole city kind of artificial.

After exploring Glasgow we had to take the train to the beginning of our trek West Highland Way that lies in Milngavie. Our first Scottish night in tent...

 

DAY 3 - West Highland Way - from Milngavie to Conic Hill

Mugdock Wood the place of our first night outside in Scotland was a popular place for locals and their Sunday walks. This is the real start of our West Highland Way mission. WHW is long distance route from Milngavie to Fort William, so it takes you through the heart of Scottish Highlands. It is 154.5 km long and you can experience various types of scenery from ancient forest around Loch Lomond, through green hills to moors.

We leave the forest behind until we reach our first stop - Scottish guy with stand selling coffee and tea. We can observe Highland Cattle with their dangerous look while drinking our coffee. We go on through Scottish countryside with lonely farms every now and then until we finally have first glimpse on Loch Lomond. Today's portion of kilometres is over when we reach Conic Hill.

DAY 4 - West Highland Way - from Conic Hill to Rowchoish Bothy

We had not almost finished packing next morning when strong wind and rain came. We had to climb up Conic Hill. It wasn't only strong wind and rain, but also Highland Cattle was standing in our way. We didn't want to mess with them because their big horns looked very dangerously, so we had to evade them. While descending to the lake we met couple of locals smiling at us. They didn't wear any raincoats. What a contrast between them and us. We were shaking under our raincoats and they looked like they don't mind at all. Well, different culture.

First part around Loch Lomond leads us through amazing ancient forest. It looks like Treebeard should come up from some corner. After demanding but beautiful walk we arrived to Rowchoish Bothy. Bothies are old buildings or shelters available for anyone to sleep in. When we came couple of people were inside and fireplace was lighting up the bothy.

DAY 5 - West Highland Way - from Rowchoish Bothy to farm Derrydarroch

This part of WHW is supposed to be the most demanding one. We had to climb all the ups and downs around the lake through rough terrain until we arrived to hotel Inversnaid. Time to get some burned calories back and burgers will do it. It was good idea to recharge a little bit, because terrain was getting more and more rough.

After couple of kilometres we reached beautiful island at the end of Loch Lomond, we had to cross little stream to get there, but it was amazing quiet place. After this nice break we continue to Benglas Farm where we can refill our supplies. 

To find a place to build our tent was hard this time. Everything around was very wet. We managed to find one small dry place beside Folloch River. It was our first encounter with midges, the curse of WHW. It is small blood-sucking insect that can almost eat you alive. They are attracted by your breathing out, so it is very hard to get rid of them. In Scotland they even measure midges-level and you can also find forecast for next days. 

DAY 6 - West Highland Way - from farm Derrydarroch to Bridge of Orchy

Today's morning was one of the worst on our trip. Combination of omnipresent midges and heavy rain is not a good start of day. First part lead us to small town Tyndrum, where we refill our supplies and our stomachs. Then we march on old military way that is a little monotonous, but green hills everywhere around us are gorgeous. Old military way goes along with railway, where we were lucky to see even steam train.

Military path brought us to small town Bridge of Orchy, that is known for its beautiful stone bridge over river Orchy.

 

DAY 7 - West Highland Way - from Bridge of Orchy to Devil's Staircase

Right from beginning we have to climb up the hill in deep mist and then again descend to hotel Inveroran. That is 100 km of WHW. Hard to believe what we have already walked. We had to overcome Rannoch Moor then. It is vast boggy moorland that is paradise for midges. It is very stressful, because you cannot even stop for a while and have a lunch, because midges would eat you alive.

However we were very lucky with the weather, sun was shining all day making the surrounding scenery awesome. But I can imagine how gloomy this place can be in typical Scottish weather with mist and rain. One can easily imagine the Hound of the Baskervilles hiding somewhere around.

When you overcome Rannoch Moor view of famous Glen Coe will pop up. You can refresh yourself in King House hotel as we did and continue into Glen Coe valley towards Devil's Staircase. Devil's Staircase was not as bad as the name would suggest and perfect view from top of it was worth the ascending. We found very nice place for sleeping on the other side of Devil's Staircase.

DAY 8 - West Highland Way - from Devil's Staircase to Glen Nevis camp

This is supposed to be the last day of our WHW adventure. At least we hope it will be. We would like to make it to Glen Nevis camp under Ben Nevis - the highest mountain of United Kingdom. It is perfect weather that enables us to see hills and lakes far away. At first around 7 km long descend is on the schedule. Legs hurt more and more. After long descend we reach small town Kinlochleven.

We met couple of fellow Scots that gave us advices considering midges and they showed us insect repellent that should work. I have to stop here and say that all Scots we met in Highlands were very nice and helpful. If you say you walk WHW, their eyes just light up and they start talking about details, because it is the matter of national pride to walk WHW and they were very glad that foreigners came because of walking WHW.

It was a long way until we reached camp in Glen Nevis. The official end of WHW lies in the middle of Fort William, but it is only 4-5 kilometres walk on tar road, so for us real end was in Glen Nevis. We walked 28 kilometres last day. As a celebration of our achievement we ordered fish and chips and local beer in camp. It was over, we were destroyed, but we made it to finish line - 150 kilometres...

DAY 9 - end of West Highland Way - Fort William

As we woke up, our legs hurt as hell. We were planning to climb the highest mountain of United Kingdom Ben Nevis, but it was not doable. We also found out that traditional race from Fort William to the top of Ben Nevis was happening that day, so the path up there would have probably been very crowded.

Instead we were slowly walking to the official end of WHW that disappointed us. We were expecting more than just one tiny billboard. We managed to find nice accommodation and spent one relaxing day in Fort William. We even tried haggis in local restaurant. The description doesn't sound appealing. Savoury pudding containing sheep's pluck minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal's stomach. But it was surprisingly very good and it wasn't the last time we ordered it in Scotland.

DAY 10 - Fort William - Mallaig - Armadale - Sligachan

We took the train to port Mallaig next day. This railway was supposed to be one of the most beautiful in Scotland, it goes via Glenfinnan viaduct famous from Harry Potter's movies. It is true, views from the train are breath-taking.

When we arrived to Mallaig, it started to rain, so we went to the nearest restaurant. We ordered smoked fish Kipper. After that we took a ferry to Armadale on Isle of Skye and continued by bus to Sligachan. We knew that Skye is very wild and we saw that for ourselves. When we got off bus, strong wind hit us immediately. We had big troubles to build our tent under Sligachan Bridge, but we were able to take amazing pictures with the bridge and misty mountains behind.

DAY 11 - Sligachan - Portree - Old Man of Storr

Morning under Sligachan Bridge was not pleasant at all. Wind got stronger overnight and river level rose significantly. We wanted to make a trek to Cuillin mountains, but we had to cancel it because of bad weather. We went to capital city of Isle of Skye Portree instead.

Luckily weather was slowly improving and we could have a walk around city to see colourful houses at port and Portree Bay.

After that we moved to Old Man of Storr that is large group of rocks unusually shaped. This place is very popular for tourists and number of cars parking in front of it was clear evidence. Nevertheless the scenery around was definitely worth it.

 

DAY 12 - Old Man of Storr - Kilt Rock - Mealt Falls - Flodigarry hotel - Quiraing

The way from Old Man of Storr to Kilt Rock is not long. The view from Kilt Rock with panorama of Mealt Falls is amazing, but there is nowhere you can go for a walk, so we had to wait couple of hours until next bus. The wind was really strong and we were freezing a lot.

Bus took us to lovely Flodigarry hotel where we warmed ourselves with tea and scone - typical Scottish dessert. View from Flodigarry hotel is also nice with green coloured small hills everywhere around.

Quiraing is perhaps the most beautiful place we saw on Isle of Skye. It is rock formation and it looks very charming with blooming purple heather.

DAY 13 - Quiraing - Portree - Dornie - Eilean Donan Castle

We were camping by small lake in Quiraing, but it was rough night. Wind was blowing a lot and we were just praying not to take our tent away. Isle of Skye is lively island and you should be prepared for wild weather.

Morning bus took us around the island until we arrived back to Portree. We were planning to stop in Uig for whale watching, but it was not possible because of bad weather. The bus we took was just ordinary local bus, kids were taking it to get to school. We were wondering how difficult life could be on this unpredictable island.

We just quickly switched the bus in Portree and went to Eilean Donan Castle - one of the most beautiful castles in Scotland. Castle looks kind of terrifying and mysterious as most of places in Scotland do. It lies on the lake and with its surrounding looks very imposing.

DAY 14 - Eilean Donan Castle - Glen Shiel - Loch Ness - Urquhart Castle - Drumnadrochit - Urquhart Wood Bay

After visiting Eilean Donan Castle we headed to Loch Ness. Bus took us through amazing valley Glen Shiel. We saw it only from bus, but we were looking at it with open mouth. We agreed that we have to come back to Glen Shiel and explore it with our backpacks. After seeing Loch Lomond and all other beautifully situated lakes it doesn't look that special. It is just ordinary lake, only legend about monster Nessie makes it special.

We visited Urquhart Castle. It was nice place, but with too many tourists around. Lake itself lies on main way from Highlands to Inverness - capital of north Scotland, so many tourist buses stop there.

We decided to find some calm place and Urquhart Wood Bay in village Drumnadrochit was perfect for that purpose. It is very nice wood between two small streams and you can have a rest there.

DAY 15 - Drumnadrochit - Inverness - Edinburgh

Travelling day ahead of us. We needed to move from Drumnadrochit to Inverness first. We had only around hour to explore Inverness until train departure to Edinburgh. Inverness looked very nice, it was shame we couldn't spend more time there.

It took around 3.5 hours by train from Inverness to Edinburgh. We spent some time talking to Scottish couple about our visit in Scotland.

We booked accommodation in Victorian villa from 19th century. After short rest it is time to go to city centre. As I was saying in part of my story about Glasgow, Edinburgh is city with lot of historical buildings, but atmosphere is not that real as in Edinburgh. As many tourists go to Edinburgh the city lost its Scottish charm. At least in my opinion.

Firstly we took shopping avenue Princess Street to get to Calton Hill that offers splendid view of Edinburgh. We were hungry, so we found good-looking restaurant and ordered huge fish and chips. We moved to pub afterwards to taste our first Scotch. I ordered one form the highest situated and the coldest place of Highlands. It was very, very sharp..

DAY 16 - Edinburgh

Arthur's Seat is the group of hills offering nice view of Edinburgh. It is easy walk, you can even buy ice cream before you go up the hill. If weather is good, it could be quite crowded, but view from the top totally worth it.

From Arthur's Seat we go straight to the start of Royal Mile that is the main historical street. We admire especially colourful wood-carved shop windows. Royal Mile will lead you to Edinburgh Castle that dominates the whole city.

This is how it ends our trip to Scotland. I can say that we really fell in love with this severe but beautiful country and we would like to return one day. If you love nature that is still unspoiled by people, this is the place to go.

To finish the story, let's eat something..

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