The West Highland Way

96 miles across Scotland, adjacent to an endless loch, up a steep Devil’s Staircase, near or in water camping. Everything you own is wet…and yet you are never cold.

However it wouldn’t be Scotland if there weren’t any sheep. There are black, white, blue, pink, yellow, orange colored sheep, little jelly beans spray painted by people. On the stoops of houses, these furry jelly bellies curl up on welcome mats like cats.

After 2 full days of soggy socks on stoney steps, one of the many German trailblazers invented the cocktail of the trail: a Guinness and two advils. The next day, we encountered an ultra marathon taking place on the trail where we constantly got passed by white haired, beer-bellied Scotts. To get over the embarrassment, a shot of whiskey was added to the cocktail.

In my backpack, I had my 1000 page Lincoln book for strength of body and of character. Each day people tried to get me to rip out the read pages for fire kindle and lessen my weighty load but like dismembering a dead pet dog, it just felt wrong.

The most spectacular part of my journey were the humans. Loads and loads of Germans in addition to the hills of Scotts. It’s a bit of a cliche to say traveling is one of the best ways of learning but this trips did reshape the way I thought about some things. For example, on my trip, I had the pleasure of meeting a Canadian bus driver. He was one of the smartest people I came across on the trail. He knew how to pronounce all the Gaelic words and what the history was behind each place. He additionally had a great sense of direction and a understanding of how cities were laid out in Scotland, and we quickly found out, across the world. He also happened to be the most fit among us (having in the last year lost 150 pounds so as to be a good role model for his new born son and not your “classic fat lazy truck driver” as he put it). He ended up only fitting two stereotypes I had for him (1) super polite and nice like a Canadian and (2) a hilarious, lewd joke teller.

Ascending the “devil’s staircase”
Stan imploring me to throw a slobbery stick
My very first campsite: boggy to beautiful ratio was nearly 1

I loved every moment of my trip and can’t recommend it more highly. Here are some resources I used for planning:

  1. If you’re more of a print person, I’d recommend West Highland Way. It has useful information like maps of some of the bigger cities, fun trail extension recommendations, hostel phone numbers useful for calling ahead for a reservation or because you are lost, and these amazing hand drawn maps with caricatured illustrations of buildings, fences, and other point of reference items to help you figure out where you are on the route.
  2. This article is how I found the trail and gives you a couple sentences of more context. The pictured photo in the linked article is from the very first day if you are going northbound (which is the most popular direction to do the trail).
  3. I really like this website to get an overview of what accommodation looks like at each town on the way.
  4. Lastly, if you want to understand what the trail will be like each day, this site goes into excruciating detail. I found it useful for understanding the terrain and potential difficulties.