West Highland Way

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  • West Highland Way
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    Alright! Me and my brother are doing the West Highland Way in may….we’ve got almost all of it planned but just thought i’d ask… has anyone here done it and any advice you could throw at us?

    marky-p
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    gettin trainin lol, hill training and losts of it.
    there a group of us doing it in june, think about 12 have signed up already.

    how many days are you doing it in?
    were doing it in 3days

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    3 for us too just going off what i’ve read in other mags and stuff. I’ve been puttin the miles in but pulled me calf muscle last tuesday so i’ve haven’t been on it since. My brother lives above inverness so we’ve riddin some rough stuff over the years but i get the feelin this has to be treated as something a bit different.

    poly
    Member

    I think there are really only 5 decisions you need to think about.

    (1) Which way Northbound or Southbound?
    (2) The official path at the top of Loch Lomond or the ferry and up the main road for a few miles to avoid 2+ hrs of hike-a-bike?
    (3) Carry your own gear or have one of the transport companies move it for you?
    (4) When to go to minimise the effect of midges, bad weather and high-walker density (e.g. bank holidays)
    (5) Where to stay each night hostels/bunkhouses, B&Bs or tent?

    There are no right and wrong choices on any of them. Once you’ve decided on those 5 points you just do it.

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    Alright poly we’re going glasgow to inverness and our old man is the support team with the campervan haha. It’s just the loch lomond hike or ferry that we haven’t decided on.

    markyboy
    Member

    did it last year..south to north
    missed out top part loch lomond took ferry across.
    used travelite for bags.
    first night drovers inn.second kings house hotel arrived fort bill day three.piss up and a night in fort bill train home next day….brilliant time.have fun youll love it.end of april is a good time to avoid walkers and midgies!

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    Markyboy… really lookin forward to it mate. havin to do it in the third week in may but thats because me bro is self employed and it’s the best time for him

    thegman67
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    Did it last August North to South over two days missed out hike a bike section cycled to Tarbet and got the ferry back to Inversnaid hotel very hard going averaged speed was 4 mph but still loved it

    poly
    Member

    Coup,

    You are going Glasgow – Inverness? Are you doing the Great Glen Way as well? Otherwise its probably important that “Dad” knows where to meet you on the last day!

    3rd Wk in May shouldn’t be too bad for Midges (although they were certainly around that time last year – just avoid stopping close to water – and try to keep in the breeze). And it shouldn’t be too bad for walkers, especially on midweek days.

    I’ve walked but not ridden the Inversnaid – Drovers Inn section. If you are only carrying “day” gear it would be manageable as hike a bike – but whether thats your idea of fun to say you’ve done it “properly” will depend on your own personalities versus the idea that the WHW is just a route and on a bike that section is pointless. It obviously also depends on your skill and fitness levels.

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    poly…sorry mate i meant glasgow to fort bill….just got mixed up cause me bro lives just outside inverness.

    flyingfox
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    I’m hoping to do this. I heard the Great Glen Way afterwards is pretty easy and you can cover a big distance every day, is this right?

    My mate did it and said to avoid the north Loch Lomond hike-a-bike. It’s supposed to be tragic.

    druidh
    Member

    Sorry to be completely pedantic, but if you don’t do the Lomondside section, you’re doing a ride to Fort William, but it’s not the West Highland Way. So – why bother? just get the train to Ardlui or Crianlarich and ride from there.

    jonb
    Member

    Anyone done it in a day? A mate and I were thinking about it for August this year. Looking for a long fun ride rather than an official tick in the box so happy to take detours to avoid massive hike a bike sections.

    ahsf
    Member

    i would do it fort william to glasgow as you get more descents an its alot better, i have rode it both ways in the past 2 days each way.

    go by road at inveraman an get ferry at inveruglas as the north east side whw path along side the loch is not very good for riding ENJOY 😆

    i would do it fort william to glasgow as you get more descents an its alot better

    HEATHEN!!!

    Just kidding, but I’m one of those purist/pedants who reckon A)It should ALWAYS be ridden south to north, just seems right and B)Take the pain and walk the north side of Loch Lomond, you’d actually miss out on some very nice (although short) sections of trail otherwise.

    Like Druidh says, if you’re coming to ride 150km of scottish trails, there’s better elsewhere. If you’re coming to ride the WHW then you should ride the whole thing 8)

    Neil F
    Member

    I’m doing it with a mate in May. We’re gettingthe train to Fort Bill on the Monday and travelling southwards. Arrive Milngavie on the thursday.
    A night in Fort Bill, Bridge of Orchy and one in Inversnaid. Cycling the whole way, I don’t fancy taking any shortcuts, roads or ferrys, but each to their own I suppose. 😀

    Riding or walking?
    Alot of carrying if on a bike especialy along the loch and up devils staircase, and if you are thinking of walking do it to see how quick you can do it because its soooo boring. We carried all our belongings and went super light when me and a friend walked it and we did it in 4 days.
    I wouldnt dream of riding it to be honest.
    We went the normal South to North way.

    Alot of carrying if on a bike especialy along the loch and up devils staircase

    That’s pretty much all of the carrying, and even the Devil’s Staircase is more rideable than you might think.

    I wouldnt dream of riding it to be honest.

    I’m exactly the opposite, having ridden it (or various sections) a few times, I would never dream of walking it! 😀

    Makes a good out and back if you take a couple of days over it. 😉

    Vader
    Member

    despite the usual reservations i did it with a mate south to north and it was one of the best bike trips ive done. Not the best riding but a great trip. We carried on up the gg way to get home in inverness but the whw took 2 and a half days steady riding.
    The loch lomond side is ok if you accept it as it is and trust me its infinitely better than toying with the tourist traffic on the a82 on the other side.

    Only tip would be to fit one of those tiny bells you get when you buy a bike – the ping was enough to warn any walkers we were coming and we never once got any aggro, just encouraging smiles and ‘thank yous’

    cbike
    Member

    Alternative to Loch lomond side which is best walked anyway especially if busy. http://www.threelochsway.co.uk 100% Rideable

    birky
    Member

    When in may? The 6 days trial is on the first week of may and uses bits of the WHW (Ft William to Kinlochleven and Glencoe chairlift to Bridge of Orchy). Routes should be published soon so worth checking out which days they’re using it cos there will be around 300 bikes – http://www.ssdt.org

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    3rd week in may birky

    I just dont understand all this carrying carry on. you see bike routes in MBR and pics of the route and you see people carrying bikes, i once did a ride up in the lakes and 20% of it must of been carrying up over massive loose rocks for miles, then the ride down is on a road or smooth track, and it makles you wonder… have i done it the wrong way round! that isnt a bike ride to me, a bike ride should be flowing and rideable.
    Saying that i dont know of 1 LEGAL ride that is any good, 95% of my riding is on footpaths, because thats were all the good techie singletrack is.

    Heather Bash
    Member

    It’s pretty simple really. Sometimes you need to put up with a bit of pain to get to that stonking descent on the other side. Wouldn’t generally do it for road or smooth track but depends on the overall context of the ride. In the context of the WHW taking the ferry / road would be a big no no for me. As they say in ski touring – you gotta earn your turns…

    😉

    The Hikeabike up LL is a mere bagatelle in the pantheon of Scottish mountain biking. It only becomes a big deal if you are a.) unfit and or inexperienced or b.)you are doing it in a day or c.) encumbered with panniers a mahoosive rucsac or heaven forbid – A TRAILER!

    😉

    or d) everyone told you it would be a lovely ride and you wouldn’t need to push any of it 😀

    bbb
    Member

    Bit of a long post – sorry – but these were my immediate recollections of a fine day out one May.

    Riding for Ages

    Riding my bike has become easier since the age of nine. Then again, maybe the trails are just better. This is certainly the case for the paths that I knew in childhood as ‘the Lochside’, which are now better known as part of the West Highland Way.
    In the latter half of last century, when many of us dreamed of owning Raleigh Grifters, I spent my time in the shed continually trying to coax a further trip out of my exhausted Raleigh Explorer (with rod brakes). Back then it was the freewheel on the ancient bike that caused me most problems. An engaging solution had been to remove three teeth from a comb, bend them in two, take apart the freewheel and use these teeth as replacement pawls. Looking back, it seems strange that replacing the whole part had not even been a considered option. It was a state of mind passed on by a dad that believed in sending his children to the school of hard knocks, and later the university of adversity.
    This brings us back to the lochside trail. During those early years the deer fences still had to be scaled, the rivers crossed without bridges and rock faces surmounted by passing bikes upwards from person to person. The Raleigh Explorer became a true instrument of exploration, for this trail was where solitude could be sought, and adventures could begin to form in my mind. With the folks, camping or biking through this section was a regular occurrence but I for one, couldn’t wait to throw off the constraints of the rest of the family and escape to repeat the traverse from Inversnaid to Rowardennan on my own.
    Twenty-five years have passed and the beloved trail has suffered from middle age spread. Additionally, by riding a bicycle that could chew up boulder fields and doesn’t rely on hair care products to keep it mechanically sound, meant that the challenge of linking Inversnaid and Rowardennan had lessened. That’s why I had to ride the West Highland way in a day.
    In life the first few minutes after birth are deemed to be touch and go, and the last few minutes before death can be fairly ropey too. And so it is nearly the same with a ride on a bike: the first mile and last mile are always the worst. To start in the dark and finish in the dark was always going to be on the cards, and whilst the former is a romantic ideal, once out of reach of a warm comfortable bed, the latter is to be avoided if at all possible.
    The clock showed 4.20am on leaving the pedestrian precinct in Milngavie, and the light was streaming in from the East. The clouds were streaming in from the West, and within the hour I was soaked to the skin. At five, I had had a text message wishing ‘good luck’ from a still adventuring dad who was just leaving on his own biking odyssey that would take him from Killearn to Dunoon and then back home again via the ferries – ongoing preparation for his own bike trip to Norway. On the short road section that our routes shared, I saw his tyre tracks wobbling up the hill at Gartness, but alas never caught sight of the old man.
    An atmospheric view of Loch Lomond was shared with sheep as I started the rocky descent down Conic Hill, dropping over 500m back to the lochside. From here the route meandered from side to side of the road, and up and down by the loch to the dead end at Rowardennan. Initially further progress was on a rideable fire road, but soon there is a bit of wheeling to be done, although the struggle that I remembered as a boy didn’t materialise. To describe it as a sporting section would be fair.
    The hotel ferryman at Inversnaid was a mountain biker in his teenage years, living near the Forest of Ae, and frequenting Rik’s Bike Shed of old at Mabie. He marvelled at the progress that had been made with bikes, and assured me that the next section wasn’t too bad,
    “A bit of a carry for a mile or two near Rob Roy’s cave, but nothing too tricky,” he said.
    I had walked this section a few years back and knew that this was way underestimating the difficulties that lay ahead for the next 5 miles.
    In a moment of weakness, I had asked if the ferry took bikes across to the West side of the loch, to avoid the passage through this unrideable section by taking the road. He said “No problem,” but I quickly remembered the nature of this trip, put this moment of weakness behind me and set off up the trail for what was to be 3 hours of carrying up and down rock steps and over trees. Long lost feelings came flooding back – I was nine again.
    The top of the loch provides a climb beyond Doune Byre Bothy followed by a technical descent where I met four blokes on bikes. They were on day two of their North to South traverse, and hinted at the gems that were to still come my way. I broke the news gently that they had a bit of a carry ahead. Just before heading our separate ways, they asked about my support vehicle and where I was stopping that night. They seemed surprised when I gave then the answers they least likely expected to hear.
    Up the Glen and over the hill to Tyndrum brought me into contact with lots of walkers, who fell into two distinct categories. Pairs of Germans, efficient in dress and walking style, or large marauding groups of middle aged swaggering Glaswegians. I’m from Glasgow myself, but I was still surprised to see how many tins of lager were being consumed. The encouragement received, however, was very welcome and along the lines of “Gooan yersel big man!”
    Time wore on, and it was alarming to see just how far into the afternoon it was. So far I’d hardly stopped for a minute. Sitting on the road at Victoria Bridge, I forced some food down, against the wishes of an overworked digestive system. I was dog tired. I awoke with a start as a car went by, perilously close. Another two minutes gone.
    The historical importance of the road that rises up and over the Black Mount was lost on me as yet another squall of heavy rain passed overhead, and yet again soaked me to the skin. For forty long minutes I struggled on until beginning to feel the welcome furnace glow from within that signified that the food eaten earlier was about to have its effect. The hollow feeling was gone, and once more the remoteness and exposure of the situation could be appreciated to its full extent. This high, that so often follows a deep low, allowed the blast across the bleak and barren plateau that is Rannoch Moor, and then made the rocky descent past the ski centre and the Kingshouse one to remember. The next obstacle in my way was the Devil’s Staircase, opposite the impressive profile of Buachille Etive Mor.
    Descending in the other direction, and skilfully riding down the final rock sections were a team from Devon, who were clearly rather excited by their day’s exploits. By this time it was six pm, and having started at Fort William, they had reached their goal for the day. They held out little hope of my success, but wished me luck just the same. A minibus was waiting to whisk them off to the comforts they deserved. A quick glance at the odometer on one of their bikes signalled that there was only twenty-two miles to go…
    “Seventy seven down, twenty two to go,” I said to myself over and over. It didn’t sound too bad. Actually the remaining miles turned out to be the icing on the cake of this long day in the saddle. The Devil’s Staircase was fine, as approaching from the South the start is already at one thousand feet. Walking up the hairpins took no more than thirty-five minutes; made easier in that the ridge at the top is fortunately not one of those that goes on and on, but drops away swiftly to reveal one of the finest descents on mainland Britain.
    On one hand dropping back down to sea level at Kinlochleven gives a feeling of having found a haven in a storm, whilst on the other it fills you with trepidation for the inevitable climb to scale the steep valley sides again. Kinlochleven is not normally noted for being a busy place, but you would be forgiven for thinking that you had entered a metropolis after the bleakness of the mountains and the moor. Perhaps it was just because I had been on my own too long. Yet again there was no time to stop. The gathering gloom in the glen lifted along with my spirits as I rose higher on the final major climb of the route. It may have been a seven-mile climb, but at least it was the last seven-mile climb of the day. As the long track turned the corner into the remote glen in the midst of the Mamores, the last rise came into view. Finally the end was within my grasp. I was going to do it. The song that I’d had in my head for the last eighteen hours stopped being annoying. I could sprint up the inclines and ‘pop’ off lips and bumps. Sods law would tell you that this is the moment that I came off in a spectacular crash injuring my collar bone and shin, so that I spent the night in the open waiting to be carried down that track in a makeshift stretcher by two incredibly organised Germans and a team of drunk Glaswegians, but no, the gods were sleeping and allowed a safe passage to this tired mountain biker over this last rough section of trail.
    In the distance were the lights of Fort William, and somewhere in amongst them was a bed in a bunkhouse that had my name written on it. Having no spare clothes made me think that the bed would be a little worse for wear in the morning, but later when I arrived the owner came to the rescue with some warm dry clothes to put on.
    It was quarter to ten when, after finally arriving at the bunkhouse, there was some time to sit down and have a break. It was a relief to have avoided darkness at both ends of the day. At last when it was time to go to bed, I climbed into the top bunk and was asleep before my head hit the pillow. You could say that after all the excitement and adventure that I slept like a child – a nine year old one to be precise.

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    cbike – Member
    Alternative to Loch lomond side which is best walked anyway especially if busy. http://www.threelochsway.co.uk 100% Rideable

    That looks like a pleasant ride.

    mountainman123 – Member
    …that isnt a bike ride to me, a bike ride should be flowing and rideable.

    That sounds like a cx ride to me. 🙂

    epo-aholic
    Member

    2 of us are planning on doing it in a day this July, we’ll see……….

    druidh
    Member

    bbb – Thank you – I enjoyed that. Especially this bit…

    It may have been a seven-mile climb, but at least it was the last seven-mile climb of the day.

    😆

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    bbb – that’s inspirational. Now I’ve got to give it a go.

    Kunstler
    Member

    bbb that is a fantastically inspirational account.

    steffybhoy
    Member

    Wonderful stuff bb, I,ve done it twice(south to north over 3 days) can’t wait/love to go again sometime.

    user-removed
    Member

    Aye it is, but blog copy and pastes don’t seem to think that paragraphs are important 😆

    I’ve done the WHW twice – in fact we’re doing it again this year. You absolutely do not need any special training – just a pair of well fitting trainers / boots.

    The Loch Lomond section is one of the best bits of the walk – never tried the ferry but it’s un-manly, so just don’t 🙂

    Do do Conic Hill – adds a lot to the experience if you get a decent day with good views.

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    BBB….That was a top read mate. Thankyou….i know which way i’m going now.

    Kunstler
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    A couple of friends did the WHW last May and got caught out by some exceptionally cold (well below freezing) nights with only summer camping gear. Uncomfortable nights but they enjoyed the trip.

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