Not Planning the West Highland Way

Part of the fun of a little adventure or an activity such as backpacking along the West Highland Way is the planning. mapping out your route, deciding where to stay and how you’ll get there, searching for things to take in along the way and making arrangements and schedules. Sometimes it’s also nice to just wing it and that on this occasion that is my plan! Although, with so little actually planned it can’t really be called a plan so, the idea is…

Day 1

Get to Glasgow relatively early on day one, have some breakfast and find a shop in which to buy a picnic lunch. I’ll then set off heading north following the West Highland Way with everything I need in my rucksack.

Where I’ll stop for lunch is, to be determined (TBD)’. It might be when I come across a café or honesty box at a suitable time along the way, if that’s the case then the picnic may not get eaten and will be saved for day 2. If there are no sutable food outlets then I’ll stop either when I find the perfect picnic spot or when I’m hungry. Who knows, I might stop for elevensies if the opportunity presents itself.

After lunch I’ll continue on my way, maybe with a stop for afternoon tea, maybe not. Dinner will be at a suitable café, restaurant, or fast food shop if there’s one available. If so I’ll probably pick up some supplies for breakfast and lunch the following day as well. Otherwise, dinner will be a dehydrated meal from my pack when I stop to camp. As yet, dinner is TBD.

My camp site will be wherever I choose it to be and will probably be when whichever of these happens first:

  • I come across the perfect spot at a suitable time.
  • My legs are aching.
  • My shoulders are sore.
  • I’m fed up with walking.
  • It’s beginning to get dark.

Once at camp I’ll either eat my dinner (if I haven’t already stopped at a restaurant) and then will settle down for a sleepless night of tossing and turning until it’s time to get up the follwoing morning

Day 2

Day 2 will be something of a repeat of day one. Breakfast might be in the tent or I might leave it until I get to a café, elevensies, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner are yet TBD. How far I’ll walk and where I’ll stop are also TBD. There’s nothing planned.

Day 3 Onwards

I’ll keep this up for a yet to be determined number of days. Some days I’ll walk further than others, I might take a day off of walking if I’m fed up with it or I think of something else to do. I might just sit out a rainstorm in the tent, who knows! I might stop at a campsite, I might wild camp I might even head to a B&B if any are available and I’m fed up with camping. It’s all to be determined on the trail.

The End – or is it the beginning?

I don’t even know what I’ll do when I get to the end in Fort William (if I get that far!). If I’ve made better progress than I’m expecting and get there on day 5 who knows what I’ll do. I could get the bus or train back to Glasgow and head home, that would be the sensible thing to do.

However, I could decide against public transport and simply turn around and walk back the way I came – all the way back to Glasgow over the next 5 days or so. Or, I could turn right and head off towards Inverness along the Great Glen Way. Maybe I’ll spend a day or three in Fort William and head up Ben Nevis. It all depends on how I feel when I get there and how much time I’ve got left. Who knows what I’ll do, I certainly don’t, not yet anyway!

A Spanner in the Works

All plans, even a non-plan such as this one comes with a few hurdles to overcome. These need some thinking about and possibly a ‘non-plan B’ or a ‘non-plan C’. In this case there’s really only one such spanner in the works, and that’s the Camping Management Zone (CMZ) around Loch Lomond. This is an area in which wild camping isn’t permitted and you can only camp in designated spots if you have a permit. The permit has to be booked in advance which would require some planning so isn’t part of my remit.

It does however mean that when I get to the CMZ, be that on day 1 or Day 2 then I’ll probably have to stop just before it rather than continue on into it. This will then allow me to walk all the way through it the following day. This does limit where I can stop on those nights.

Route Planning

As I’ll be following the West Highland Way, I don’t even need to plan a route, that’s already been done for me. I have however downloaded the GPX files of the route to my Garmin watch. I won’t need them for navigation as the trail is well marked but it’s just nice to have them. In doing so I have inadvertently created a 7 day itinerary, that wasn’t my intention and probably isn’t what I’ll do.

Possible 7 day Itinerary for the West Highland Way
Possible 7 day Itinerary for the West Highland Way

Maybe I’ll have to plan some others out for a 5 day, a 6 day, an 8 day and a 9 day itinerary as well – then I can just do whatever takes my fancy! Actually, maybe it would be better to just do one long GPX trail of the entire route, then I don’t have any sort of itinerary to follow and can make it up as I go along.

I’m not sure how easy it will be to find camping spots, nor if I’ll want to stay in campsite now and then for a shower. These factors may well determine where I can stop each day but part of the fun will be making that decision on the trail. Knowing me, I’ll find the perfect camping spot but it’ll be a little too early in the day to stop so I’ll decide to push on to the next one, only to still be walking hours later having not found anywhere suitable. I will of course have a head-torch with me just in case! I’m sure there’ll be plenty of places to amp though and all will be fine.

1 Response

  1. Avatar forComment Author Mum x says:

    Sounds a well thought out plan !

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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