When I heard my sister was about to do the West Highland Way with her boyfriend and some friends, I asked if I could join them and she said yes! The West Highland Way or WHW is a 96 miles (154 km) trail that goes from Milngalvie, follows the shores of Loch Lomond, goes through Glencoe and pass Glen Nevis before finishing in Fort William.
The goal was first to hike the entire trail but some of my sister’s friends wanted to check out the Isle of Skye so it was decided to hitchhike or take public transport at some point to make our way to Skye.
I arrived to Glasgow a couple of days before the rest of the team and stayed at a local hostel called Blue Skye Hostel which is ten minutes walking distance from the center. The place itself is fine, there is a hot tub that I did not get to try. There are a lot of students staying at this hostel for a few weeks in order to look for an apartment – some doing work-for-stay. They all know each other which gives a nice atmosphere to the place. A few were able to give me some tips about the Highlands and Skye. I walked around Glasgow, checking out the necropolis, the Cathedral and way too many outdoors shops. I gave in and bought a Patagonia jacket which turned out to be a very useful purchase during this trip. I had decided to keep the same gear I brought along the GR10 except for more trashbags and a merino base layer.
On the last day, a couple of Irish guys stayed at the hostel but spent the night drinking and sniffing coke on the table before the owner kicked them out. That same morning, T who was in charge of finding a place to sleep the night of their arrival, sent us a message saying the AirBnB host cancelled our stay because of a fire. There was a soccer game in town and all the hostels were fully booked and hotels were out of our price range. A young French girl in the hostel that just had found an apartment said she would try to see if she could host us but ended up not being able to.
We decided to all meet up, do our resupply for those next 4 days of walking and then get to Milngalvie where O would meet us in the morning. It’s legal to camp wherever you want in Scotland (It is apparently not uncommon to see someone pitch a tent in the middle of a roundabout) so we were confident we would find some place to sleep. We all had tents after all.
After a couple of pints at a Hard Rock Café, we had a grocery list in hand and we headed towards Tesco. I insisted on getting oatmeal which was not known among the others except for my sister. It was some adjustment for most but they realized that it keeps the body moving in the morning after a couple of days (a spoonfull of Nutella helped!)!
First Scotland reality for many: a French grocery list needs to be adapted to a Scottish supermarket 🙂 We decided to share our food which I think is not ideal when we are so many with different appetites and tastes (I don’t like cheese for example – others are not big fans of oatmeal). During my Vercors trip with only 3 people, I had seen appetites change especially when hiking. I was the minority so we all shared our food for the following week. It was a bit tight at times but we made it work. I dont think I would do it again on a trip with so many people as it can lead to conflicts. We had checked the times for the buses and decided we had enough time to get a nice dinner before surviving on oatmeal and rice for the next few days. We took advantage of a restaurant next to Buchanan bus station and finally got onboard a bus around 9 pm.
Time to ask for directions, however I am more familiar with US slang and our driver had the strongest accent I had ever heard – even as a big fan of the show Outlander with mostly Scottish characters. He explained that there was no official camping in Milngalvie and that arriving so late, we would not find a place to pitch our tents easily. He suggested (or at least that’s what I got from our discussion) to drop us off at a local campsite not too far from our destination. We hopped in, and our driver woke us up when it was time to hop off.
We stood outside in pitch black obscurity with a little sign pointing towards an even more black forest saying “camping”. At least it was not raining! We headed for the sign, checking if there were spots to pitch our tents but the ground was soggy and completely saturated with water not mentioning cow patties. Finally the campground! There was nobody at the little cabin, just a sign that said how much to pay per person. We tried knocking at the house nearby as the light was on but nobody answered. We started to look for a place to put our tents and found a spot near some RVs. We all got settled and went to sleep, happy to have found a solution to our sleeping arrangements.
I think this is the camping we stayed at but we did not think of writing down the name.
Disclaimer: I did this trip in September