The West Highland Way and The Great Glen Way a Scottish Odessy.
Today marks the end of my two week hiking adventure through the Scottish Highlands which has taken me through beautiful towns, villages and ancient forests, across moors and bogs, over mountains, hills, rivers and valleys. I have made new friends from all over the world along the way and had a great time, and I also had some great time hiking by myself in this beautiful country side and playing my fiddle after the walking. As if that wasn’t enough there was plenty of delicious food and whisky to enjoy while relaxing between walks. I feel healthy physically, emotionally and mentally and more connected with nature then I have in a long time.
I started the hike just north of Glasgow on the 29th of June. From there I hiked 153 Kilometers to Fort William. This stretch is known as the West Highland Way and according to the tourist information office, where they keep track of walkers and where they come each year, as many as seventy thousand walkers hike the way each year. They come from all over the world, but according to the tourist office Germans are the most common followed closely behind by Canadians and North Americans.
A few Highlights of the West Highland Way include some of the most magnificent oak forests I’ve ever seen, hiking across the Mòinteach Raineach, Rannoch Moor, a nigh in one of Scotland’s oldest pubs, and the remnants of an old aluminum producing town in the highlands. Scottish hospitality was as good as it could possibly be. While hiking I had plenty of time to keep up on my language studying thanks to my good friend the I-pod. There was also plenty to learn thanks to the informative signs along the route loaded with historical and ecological information, and even a few Scots Gaelic words.
I covered the 153 Kilometers in seven days without any complaints, although I have to admit I took advantage of the luggage shuttle service, as I was overloaded my shoulders were starting to blister. At the end of the walk, I stayed two nights in Fort William where I made a great friend with a nice woman from Germany. I now have an open invitation to stay in an East German village. We spent a day together hiking in Glen Nevis, talking about world literature and growing up in our own countries. It was a very interesting time with a very intelligent nice person.
On Thursday July 7th, I set off along the Great Glen Way on the second leg of my journey. Though much shorter (88 kilometers), less remote and less dramatic, the Great Glen Way has been a pleasant stroll along the lochs of the Scottish highlands including one of its most famous Loch Ness, where I am today writing this blog. Along most of the Great Glen Way I have seen for the first time the ancestors of some of Scotland’s ancient and magnificent Scots Pine tree forests.
Along both hikes what stands out to me is the importance of these forests ecosystems and natural habitats both for the animals living in them and the people themselves. I would, of course, say the same thing about the environment around the world. Many of the forests in Scotland are now extinct and those that remain, beautiful as they are, are only remnants which have been pushed to the brink themselves, and are only hanging on today thanks to the protection and restoration efforts happening in recent times. Yet, it is apparent to me that people living close to these protected areas are healthier and happier than those living in the cities.
Well it has been an amazing two weeks hiking, and I feel like I could go on forever like this, but unfortunately this kind of thing is only temporary. Fortunately there are more great things ahead for me as I head out to Scottish Language and fiddle courses at Sabhal Mor Ostaig on An t-Eilean Sgitheanach, one of Scotland’s Western Isles. So far this summer has been one of the best I’ve ever had, and promises to stay great if everything goes as planned. Stay tuned for more…