Down Traveling the West Highland
Way by William Kerr
hippies are out first as we all toast each other, shaking hands. This is
one of the few times in my life when I feel like a true champion, not as
an individual but as a player in a team, the best walking team to come out
of Lanarkshire. Its a bit like being at the births of all your children
all at once and all your mates being there to share in your joy. Aye, I
have done it. It`s dreamlike, surreal, for just a moment, I am sure at
this point we could take on the world and beat it, bring on the world.
guys who have completed the walk just before us ask me to take a photo of
them all while handing me a camera each. Johnny seeing my predicament
takes two of the cameras off me and we both take one picture each from two
cameras. I see in the faces of the group the exact feelings and expression
that I see in ourselves. These guys have done what we have done, its good
to mingle with your equals, your peers. We briefly swap stories as they
all take our cameras and take a team photo of The Spikey Shoe Golf
Society walk for St Andrews Hospice crew. I now know what it feels like
to be up on a podium although without the hoards of adoring fans, they
await at home but the camera crew certainly makes it all feel a bit
are hanging about here as if something is going to happen, but nothing
will, nothing else can happen, not after the past seven days. All we have
to look forward too now is the trip home on the train and our own beds
tonight. I know tomorrow will be hard as will the days that follow that.
What next John Boy? I ask
think we should just carry on to Inverness, am no due back at work to
on your own then Peter informs him, Some of us are working the `morrow
bother gies a shout and I`ll walk yie tae yir work, how far is it Johnny
Dawdle, just dont phone to early
Ill tell the Sherpa Kenny adds And hell have you all up nice and
It`s a pity hes no here to meet us and get in the team photo Johnny
shares with us all.
well, who fancies a nosebag and then a few beers before the train Kenny
That sounds like a plan I say, time to get on the road after all we
cannot stand about here on the main thorough fair into town, slapping each
other on the back all day drinking whisky or vodka or gin or beer.
all walk on heading for the town centre first stop is the train station to
get our tickets home. At £19.50 one way it seems a bargain considering we
walked it all this way in seven days and we will be home in less than
seven hours. That statement does not do us any justice and should be
ripped from this account of the last seven days but after all it is true.
stop is Safeway Fort William, or soon to be Morrisons Fort William for
some well earned grub plus money from the ATM, not forgetting we all owe
Johnny dig money for our night of refuge at Ardlui. I was hopping not to
go to work today but after all Morrisons does give us great value for
money and a hell of a good meal. My only concern here is being noticed, as
I dont want to start explaining to my colleagues why I am here and what I
have been doing for the past week. Not that I am embarrassed in any way
but I know walking into the store with this lot we will be shadowed during
our stay. `Before the cock crows for the third time ` comes to mind, no I
will never disown this lot. The grub was good as expected and I suppose
you would say excellent after what we have lived on all week.
head down in to the town centre as we still have a couple of hours to kill
before we embark and start our journey south. I promised that I would be
first on the bell, its got to be pints and doubles all round, the best
whisky in the gantry and the best vodka and gin if there is such a thing.
The time spent in the bar is very quiet, as quiet as I have experienced
all week in the guys company.
bar is busy and I cannot recollect its name, down the main street, again
forgetting the streets name also. It`s one of the many bars on the right
hand side, its Fort William, theres plenty. As you would expect at this
time on Friday in any town centre it is full of people heading home coming
from work, we are just to early for the folk going out tonight. I wonder
what have they done this week. There may be firemen, fishermen all hard
working people here in front of me but I cannot see them, all I see is
people having a beer and wondering if they have experienced anything as
near as I have or has their only excitement come from Coronation Street or
River City. Did they have barbequed sausage rolls, how many nights did
they cook from a camping stove, where have they slept, have they seen Gods
Jewels or the Monarch of The Glen, an eagle soaring, how many cows have
they skelped on the arse, what piece of their countrys history did they
learn, how many poems did they write, how many soakings did they get, how
many blisters have they got, how many friends did they meet, how many
tongues did they speak in, did they cry this week, did they laugh out
loud, did they climb a mountain. I hope they have done something.
the way back to the train station its into the wee Tesco for provisions.
A carry out for five, crisps and sweeties. Johnny goes into a toyshop and
buys his daughter a gift and following that its straight to the train.
sign reads An Gearasdan (The Fort) on a pole above the line telling all
arriving travelers that they are in Fort William. From An Gearasdan to
Glaschu then An Ard Ruigh through Bruach Challdair and home to Talla an
t-Seipeil. I keep this thought to myself, as these bastards would rip the
piss if I came away with that patter. The cameras are out again a final
photo under the Gaelic nameplate.
train arrives and we embark failing to find a seat for four with a table.
So we settle for two beside two and one in front. No one sits near us, as
we must have that look about us. There doesnt seem to be any more walkers
on board, well no one that looks like walkers anyway. This is ideal as we
can have our own company with no one to bother, as I am sure the President
will want to sing at some time.
trolley dolly arrives and offers us all a selection of snacks but we only
buy a half of our preferred nip each as we forgot to bring paper cups and
it will not do drinking good whisky straight from the bottle, no use
acting as if we have just come down from the hills for a weekend, what
would people think.
journey is absolutely spectacular. The train travels north initially doing
a giant u-turn before heading south towards the central belt. I suppose
this was the easiest way at the time of building as the direct route would
have been almost impossible or extremely expensive, some how I think it
would be the latter.
first stop is Spean Bridge. In days gone by it would have been the
junction for the Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway and the station is
now a restaurant. The scenery starts to get really special from here on in
all the way down to the Clyde estuary. After here we pass Roy Bridgeheading for
Tulloch; here we are heading to the Braes of Lochaber. The glen narrows
until Monessie Gorge, where the River Spean roars through the rocks
fiercely on our right below the level of the railway. Tulloch was originally called
Inverlair but why its name changed I dont know.
Through Eersit we arrive at
Corrour. This was one of the stops I was looking forward too but the
trains time-table never gave us time to do as Beagbie, Rents and Co. had
done in the film `Trainspotting` Here we are 1350 feet above sea level - the highest
point on the line. We quickly move on as no
one is getting off and no one is getting on so onwards to Rannoch station.
my right I can make out the Black Mount, Glencoe and the Mamores away in
the distance. The train crosses the middle of the moor and the views are
stunning. I see for the first time a herd of Deer and they are plentiful,
too many to guess, I could get excited and say hundreds, but I dont know,
they are here in abundance not bothered by the train as it passes at
speed. The guys all seem to see them before me and once again they all
call out, this time I know they are telling the truth. I am happy now that
I have seen this sight and I can only compare it to a scene from the
Serengeti in Africa, something David Attenborough would appear in where
you could see antelope in their hundreds grazing, undisturbed not aware
that we are amongst them.
moor is a bog land so hostile only the streams, Lochans and wild beasts
can live here with the WHW running by its side from Blackmount up to
Glencoe the only other crossing other than the rail line is the A82 trunk
road. The road and railway were built by floating the line and roads on a
bed of tree roots, brushwood and thousands of tons of earth and ashes,
Scottish engineering at its finest.
Through Gorten we head for Bridge of Orchy. My thoughts here are about
Essex man and the lonely climb I had to Mam Carraigh as I see Loch Tulla
from another angle, just as spectacular. For the next few miles we follow
the WHW so we all sit up taking extra notice pointing out all the bits we
recognize but it want last for long as the light is fading. From Bridge of
Orchy as we head down to Upper Tyndrum only yards from the way along the
base of Ben Dorian and around the horseshoe viaduct at Auch and alongside
Beinn Odhar. It looks so different already, every hour we travel
represents a day, the train is the way to travel but I know what way I
would prefer to travel to Fort William, time permitting of course.
Upper Tyndrum its down to Crianlarich tearing through Strath Fillan only
slowing as we enter the village over the Glenbraur
viaduct. It reminds me of the scene when we where high above the village
looking down over the rainbow. In Crianlarich we have a bit of a wait for
the Oban train to arrive as they both join together for the final stage of
the journey into Glasgow.
are heading now to Ardlui, this will always be remembered as a sanctuary,
a place that saved us from the way and the dismay of Loch Lomond where we
found our sense of reason, that gave us the time, to re-group, rest and be
thankful after our hardest days walk. We cross over the Dubh Eas Water
(Black Water?) on a viaduct and are about the same height above the river
here as the Forth Railway Bridge is over the sea after Derryvaroch and the
Falls of Falloch where we lost George to the way.
now lose daylight and the sun disappears for the last time on our great
adventure and so does our enthusiasm. If we were walking tomorrow and
staying out tonight I am sure someone would have called ditcher by now and
we would all be off to bed. We carry on through Arrochar and Tarbet,
Garelochhead, Faslane and Rhu, back in time. Nothing to see here but only
talk of all the military installations in the area and hopefully we are
not around when someone drops one of those nukes that can be found at
we approach Helensburgh it now looks more like home. The train is running
to the lights, the city of lights and we are welcomed by the bright lights
of Greenock and Port Glasgow across the Clyde and it all becomes a memory
as we hit the city, nothing here to see, nothing new anyway. The train out
to Airdrie is uneventful, no Friday night entertainment; we only want to
get home. The ticket collector asks us for fares, we tell her we have
tickets from Fort William but none of us have the tickets, where they went
to no one knows, as we draw into Airdrie, she realises that its not worth
the hassle or maybe she believes us, we thank her, we are home.
Walking down the slope at the train station in Airdrie we see Bernie and
Gerry who have come to collect us.
Gerry my feet are killing me Johnny
these drunken bastards home Peter
Raymond working George
saw an Angel from Lourdes Kenny
great to be home I now know this story is over.
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