Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bucket List: Hiking Part of the West Highland Way

Before my parent’s moved away from Scotland, I had hypothetically planned to visit them one last time in order to hike some (or all) of the West Highland Way. Europe, and especially the British Isles, is full of long distance walking trails that can span the length of a country. The West Highland Way is world famous for it’s incredible views and diverse scenery. 
When my parents moved from Scotland, I was bummed that I never got to make my final trip, and tucked the West Highland Way onto my travel bucket list. Then, when we were transferred to Aberdeen ourselves, we resolved to make this bucket list dream come true. 

We didn’t get to it last summer because Jonathan couldn’t travel in his first few months of his new position, and in the Fall we were super busy with trips to Poland, Austria, and the USA. Winter was out because…well, who wants to spend 7 days straight outdoors when the weather is freezing and miserable and the daylight only last 5-6 hours? And then February hit and BAM, I was pregnant. I’ve still kept up with my hiking, but something that involved so much endurance was out of the question. 

But when we were brainstorming ideas for locations to hit on our Scottish road trip, I resolved that we’d at least hike a part of one of the legs. Afterall, my bucket list reads “Hike part of the West Highland Way”, so even if that part is only 3-4 miles of the 96 mile journey, I’ve still technically accomplished my goal. 

Since the area around Loch Lomond covers the first two major portions of the trail, we decided to pick a snippet out of one of those legs while we were staying at Cameron House. 
This picture on WalkHighlands grabbed me with it’s stunning views of the lake and it’s possibility of a highland coo sighting, so we bookmarked ‘Conic Hill’ which is a snapshot of leg 2 of the 7-day pace West Highland Way Trek. 

We parked at the HUGE Balmaha visitor center car park (that’s the word 'Walk Highlands' used to describe the car park, ‘HUGE’), we forked over 20 p to use the restroom facilities, and then followed the thistle signs that are used throughout the country to mark The West Highland Way route. I. Was. So. Excited! 
The climb to Conic Hill is quite intense. Or maybe it isn’t. Maybe it just felt that way in my delicate condition. Jonathan kept trying to snap photos of me along the path and I would breathlessly explain that I couldn’t smile if I couldn’t breathe. 
Jon’s foot was still bothering him, but he had his brace on and since most of the path consisted of steps, it was actually easier than just walking up and down a normal incline. Either way, we both could have used a set of walking sticks.
It was a gorgeous Scottish morning with crisp and cool temperatures, perfect for hill walking. The sun was out to our left but to our right the skies looked stormy and dark. It was the perfect panoramic to capture to fickleness of Scottish weather. 
Along the route we met a nice Virginian man who offered to take a picture of the two of us together. We hardly ever get pictures of the both of us on vacation, so we were very grateful. 
Thank the Lord for thoughtful and friendly Americans! As he was leaving, he cautioned us to be careful in the final ascent as it could get a bit rocky. Because of this, we decided to stop our hike at the pseudo-summit a bit down from the actual top, just because it wasn’t worth risking a fall. 
Plus, the views from where we were standing were pretty spectacular. I doubt the extra 100 yards were going to do much to enhance the perspective. 

We hung out at the (kind of) top for a good 15 minutes just soaking it in and taking a break after our 1.5 mile climb. We were slightly disappointed that we didn’t see any highland coos (especially since evidence of their droppings were all along the trail), but were still happy that we got to mark this adventure off of our bucket list. 
We are hopeful that our little boy will be a champion in our Ergo carrier and enjoy coming on hiking excursions with us. He’s already been climbing all over this country in-utero so I’m crossing my fingers that he’ll be just as cooperative once he’s out of the womb. We’d love to get our hands on a bit more of this trail and are optimistic that we’ll have an opportunity before our time in Scotland comes to an end. What else must we see in Scotland while we have the chance?

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