This is NOT the West Highland Way...
4 minute read
Not the West Highland Way by Ronald Turnbull offers all the benefits of the West Highland Way trail with some additional tracks that are guaranteed to inspire the explorer within you
Ronald Turnbull’s guidebook describes alternative routes above and alongside the West Highland Way's 9 standard stages, with add-on day trips over Ben Lomond or Beinn Dorain for a great expedition of up to 11 days.
The West Highland Way
The West Highland Way is one of the finest, if not the finest, of Britain’s long distance paths. How could it not be when it passes through six separate mountain ranges, from the tall cone of Ben Lomond and the crag towers of grim Glen Coe to the seductive Mamores.
It runs from Scotland’s largest city, alongside her longest loch, by way of the biggest and bleakest patch of peaty moorland, to the foot of her highest mountain, yet it is (as it happens) paralleled in its path by the Highlands’ second busiest main road as well as the West Highland Railway.
Although you get to see the beautiful mountainous landscape, your view is looking upwards from underneath. The comfortable gravel path, the well-placed waymarks and cosy bunk-houses: do these really compensate for not going up any of those mountains? Not when above the old military trackway there rises the compelling cone of Beinn Dorain, sprinkled at its top with snow.
A convenient dream
For those new to the Highlands and the big hills, the West Highland Way is a dream – and a convenient dream. Its signposts and bridges, its hostels and its shops. Its well-made path, its centuries of history, its mountain surroundings all make the West Highland Way the best low-level path in Scotland.
But when it stops raining and the clouds rise off the mountaintops – this does happen from time to time, even in the West Highlands – you might feel the urge to be not just among, but on top of, those high slopes. Exploring the lowland ranges of the Campsie Fells and the Kilpatricks, or the high pass under the summit of Ben Lui.
Trying the remote upper reach of Glen Nevis or crossing the high and spiky Mamores. But as an exhilarating day fades into evening, coming down again to the bunkhouses, campsites and pubs of the regular West Highland Way.
And when high excitements have left the legs a little tired, or the low cloud is dampening not just the waterproofs and woolly hat but the enthusiasm as well, take a day down on the famous footpath as a ready-made alternative. Follow the well established trail (its 9 day-stages are described within the book) while including four or more of the high-line alternatives, and you have achieved an official 'Not the West Highland Way'.
But this is just the start. For the West Highland Way is not the only line northwards. Between Loch Lomond and Fort William turns out to be the perfect place for first steps into the slightly wilder wilderness.
The line of readymade stopping places along the Way itself is augmented by nearby settlements like Dalmally and the lonely, road-free hostel at Corrour.
The tiny path along the seaweed shores of Loch Etive; the trackways across the wet desert of Rannoch Moor; the grandeur of upper Glen Nevis – this is mountain ground of the serious sort.
But at the same time, here in the south-west Highlands, there's a handy bothy round the corner for when the storm comes in and you can't work out exactly where to poke the poles of your nice new backpacking tent.
And the riverside night when the stars twinkle between the twigs of the alder trees is followed a day later by the drying room and evening fireside at Bridge of Orchy…
So your first walk to Fort William came with one-day impulsive adventures above the well laid line of the West Highland Way. Your second one could involve a small tent, a slightly heavier backpack and a five-day adventure starting at Dalmally on the Oban railway.
Build up some basic backpacker wisdom. Some of it from this book, but mostly just by being there, under the rain and the stars, learning exactly where to poke the tent poles and whether filter coffee at breakfast is, or is not, worth the extra weight of carrying the filter papers. And then spend the rest of your life exploring the unique bit of backpacker landscape that forms the north of the UK island.
Ahead of you lie thousands of miles of howling peat bogs, flowery riverbanks, damp nights, dodgy stream crossings, finger-chilling sunrises and unique porridge breakfasts.
But to start with, it's the classic West Highland Way walk – plus a bit of added fun on the side.
Not the West Highland Way
Diversions over mountains, smaller hills or high passes for 8 of the WH Way's 9 stages
NOT The West Highland Way describes alternative routes over mountains, smaller hills or high passes to all but one of the West Highland Way's nine stages, providing alternatives away from the main roads. With add-on day trips over Ben Lomond or Beinn Dorain. Includes 2 two-day routes for warm-up trips.More information
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