Tell me about hiking the West Highland Way and the rest of your Scottish vacation?

It won’t be soon, but my husband and I have been talking about picking a nice vacation a few years out, estimating it, and taking a bit out of every pay check, so we’ve been mulling over what to do.

Personally, I’ve wanted to do the West Highland Way for years. Both of us have been to England but nowhere else in the British Isles. I’m not sure I can really sell him on a 96 mile walk, though. (We would definitely be going the baggage transfer/B&B route, maybe 8 days. Not camping.)

Anybody who’s done it? Did you like it, or did you like another walk better? What else should we do while we’re there? It’s kind of liberating to think of vacationing somewhere where you can just go all around the country in a matter of hours - the last time we took an international trip a lot of time was taken up in transit between Bucharest and Budapest and Prague. Should we do Hadrian’s Wall instead? Spend some time in Edinburgh? What shouldn’t we miss?

We’re considering this in, say, September or October, maybe of 2017.

A couple of pointers to start with.

First of all, do not be fooled by looking at a map of little Scotland and thinking you can “go all around the country in a matter of hours”. Some of the roads in the Highlands are not great, and journey times are much, much longer than you would think. Tripadvisor is full of people asking the best way to visit Loch Ness in a day trip from Edinburgh, and the answer is always “don’t”.

Secondly, you say “September or October”. I would definitely be looking at early September - you could be getting into iffy weather leaving it into October. Late August would give you the option of a couple of days in Edinburgh for the Festival (and/or Tattoo) before heading into the Highlands.

The West Highland Way is just one of Scotland’s Great Trails. It is stunning, but is also very, very popular. Last year I did the Great Glen Way, using Caledonian Discovery. Because the Great Glen follows (more or less) the Caledonian Canal, this option means you (and your luggage) stay on board a barge which travels during the day to your next overnight destination. This means at any point you have the option to stay on board (or bike, or kayak) if you’ve gone off the idea of walking. I cannot recommend this option highly enough.

As you may well already have researched, there are loads of companies offering more or less the same sort of baggage transfer walking holiday on most of these trails. Certainly I’ve done one 4-nighter covering the scenic central section of Hadrian’s Wall (couldn’t quite see the completist point of trying to do the whole length). If your other half isn’t keen on committing to the whole 96 miles, Contours (the company I booked Hadrian’s Wall through) do a 4-night/3-day section of the West Highland Way, as do Macs, Mickledore, and I’d imagine a whole load of others.

Then you could combine it with something he’d prefer to do.

Be prepared for midges.

Should be OK from mid-September onwards I reckon.

You should certainly spend a day or two in Edinburgh, it’s a ridiculously picturesque city.

Just to second an earlier post: don’t underestimate journey times, particularly on the West Coast - the roads are quite narroiw and bendy!

I’d really like to avoid the big events - I’d rather see things as they normally are and not fight crowds and pay a premium. So the Edinburgh Festival is not for me (although my nephew’s going to be there this year performing, which is so cool!)

I was looking at some temps and damn, it’s COLD in the fall!

The Festival is in August, so you’ll be fine.

Ya big jessie! :smiley: September is pretty unpredictable, could be a glorious late summer or, well, not. You need to dress for various types of weather in Scotland at any time, to be honest.

I kind of get the impression that to what you people is a “glorious late summer” to we South Carolinians is the bleak midwinter.

ETA - that said, the aforementioned Bucharest - Budapest - Prague trip was in late October, early November.

Edinburgh is at roughly 56 degrees north so the weather isn’t that bad, considering. Late September is a good time to visit though, the tourist season is winding down, but everything is still open, the trees are turning etc. You’ll miss the long late sunsets though - it’ll be dark by 9.

So, anybody else done a comparable long distance route they want to recommend? I want something beautiful but accessible to the amateur, with a sense of accomplishment at the end and always a place to have a beer when you’re done for the day. (Actual bathrooms along the way a plus. Do they have poison ivy over there?)

I have no actual experience, but it’s something I’ve long wanted to do, so I am excited for you! I recently took an adult ed class on walking in Britain and the instructor and her husband have done a 5-10 day walk every summer for the past 10 years. Her favorite of all is the Fife Coastal Path.

Some recommended reading from the class: Rucksack Readersand British Footpaths Guides. Both series supposedly written by and for “middle aged” American walkers (though I don’t believe you’re middle aged yet). Our instructor said both are upfront about what you’ll encounter along the way so you can make an informed decision about which walks or parts of walks you think you can accomplish.

I’m on a lunch break so don’t have a lot of time, but have done the Coast-to-Coast in northern England. It had exactly what you’re looking for. How ever, the Great Highland also sounds good. I’ve considered doing it in a few years time when the Cub is older.

We had an excellent experience with Contours and would recommend them highly.

My Trip To Scotland - Late September & Early October 2013

Weather: similar to Boston, maybe a smidge cooler. Variable like Boston fall weather. Not genuinely cold except a couple of days on Islay when it was raining and windy. Mostly low 60s and high 50s during the day, high 40s at night. Great for sightseeing because it was neither cold nor hot.

We 4 days on Islay and 3 days in Edinburgh. We plan to return to Islay in Fall 2016 and do some day walking. And more whisky drinking.

If you’ll be in Edinburgh I advise you not to miss visiting the castle. I also loved Holyrood palace & abbey. I really looked forward to climbing Arthur’s Seat but we chose the wrong path up and I was terrified and had to give up.

I am not middle aged, but, you know, let’s go for the guidebooks assuming I am. I’m feeling more and more middle aged every day.

When I was a kid I never understood why, when my mom got up from the floor, she made that grunty noise. I caught myself making that grunty noise not that long ago and realized I must do it all the time.

I’ve not walked the WHW, but have cycled a lot of it (in pieces, not in a oner), it’s lovely country, and has the appeal of being a thing to focus on and complete (train line to hand for part of it if you need to bail, as well).

Personally I’d prefer to base myself somewhere in the highlands and go hill-walking for a week, but it depends on what you like. Aviemore (Cairngorms) and Fort Bill (Nevis range) are two of the principal towns up there - great for the practical side of the outdoors, big mountain country on the doorstep, but neither are ‘nice’ trouristy towns.
Torridon is another place to look at - glorious, remote mountain country with just villages. Bit further away from the central belt.

Did you see my recommendation above for The Great Glen Way?

Any company that does baggage transfer packages along any of the recognised paths* will give detailed guidance on how demanding it is, and on facilities along the way, such as pubs and cafés (complete with loos). Though I suppose it’s not impossible that you might have to look for a convenient bunch of trees from time to time.

No poison ivy. Depending on the terrain, you might have to watch out for nettles (especially if it’s a spot favoured by previous walkers who have been caught short).

*I’ve collected bookmarks for the best part of 20 companies covering different parts of the UK, and I should think most of them are much of a muchness.

Seconding this. DO NOT miss Edinburgh - it’s one of the treasure cities of the world. In fact, fly into somewhere else and take the train into the city, arriving after dark. Step out of Waverly Station, look around, and gasp. Stunning.

Yes, I’ve been looking through some packages for that one since you mentioned it. Not sure if the whole canal thing really gives you the same feeling of accomplishment, though, although the convenience sure would be nice (and if necessary I could leave my husband happily on the boat for a day, too.)

Meant to say earlier, but the West Highland Way has a bit of a drawback I’ve heard a few times. (I’ve only walked some parts of it, long ago, so this is second hand). If you do it the usual way, from south to north, the most strenuous, and scenic, parts are the last two or three days walking. At the stage where it isn’t as much fun anymore, what with aching muscles and blisters etc. It might be worth looking at taking the train up to Crianlarich or Tyndrum and starting the walk north from there. That gives you extra time in your holiday to maybe think about going south to Mull, or further north to Skye, both of which are highly recommended.