23 April 2014

There's a welcome in THESE hills

Thank you Scotland - or more specifically thank you to all the fantastic people who made our West Highland Way walk so special.

It almost goes without saying that the walk itself was wonderful - 95 miles in 7 days through the spectacular West Highlands of Scotland.

After a lowland start from just north of Glasgow to the banks of Loch Lomond, the Way follows the loch for a day and a half before heading over Rannoch Moor into the mountains, ending in Fort William under the watchful eye of Ben Nevis.

It was a great introduction to walking in Scotland and everything I'd hoped for, and more, because in all the years I've been walking I don't think I've ever felt so welcome. No tight lips as we dripped on the carpet, no dirty looks as we lugged rucksacks and walking poles into bedrooms. 

Just a warm welcome, a big fire and a chat about where we'd walked that day. 

The West Highland Way attracts 1,000's of walkers a year from all over the world and for many businesses it's their main source of income so understanding the needs of walkers makes sense but just because something makes sense it doesn't mean it always happens. Over the years I've stayed in B&B's that told me to leave my rucksack outside and in pubs that stopped serving coffee after 8 o'clock even though the dozen or so walkers who'd just finished eating were the only customers in the place. I've stripped off at the door to avoid the wrath of receptionists and dripped guiltily up the stairs after disapproving landladies. 

Walking a long distance trail boils down to the very basics of life - get up, eat, walk, shower, eat, drink, sleep - then do it all again tomorrow so the quality of the accommodation makes a massive difference to the experience. It doesn't matter if that accommodation is a 5 star hotel or a shared room in a bunk barn so long as the welcome is warm, there's somewhere to dry and store mucky wet gear and above all you're not made to feel like a hobo who's wandered in from the hills even though that's exactly how you look. 

So well done West Highland Way - you got it spot on and the welcome in those hills will stay with me for as long as the memories of the walk itself.

No comments: