WHW Day 6: from the hills, to the valley, to final goodbyes

Wow. The last day of the West Highland Way. It seems strange, but in 6 days this identity that we all took on as ‘West Highland Way walkers’ gave me a lot of pride – yes I’m walking the Way, and yes I’m punching out big miles each day I’m doing it.

And as I write this, it’s now over. Those friendships we were all forming and interactions as we passed and were passed by one another, no longer exist on this trail. It exists for other walkers, but not the same faces I’ve come to see, particularly over the last three days.

This is a hard day to put on paper, because it was a great ending to a really fantastic adventure.

So it begins…

Even though Robin and I decided there wasn’t a rush in the morning since we only had 15 miles to the end terminus, I woke up and got ready early as I was accustomed to it. He messaged early as well to see if I was up and wanted crumpets he got from the store because he had a wild idea to leave early and additionally do Ben Nevis today….. the highest peak in the UK. I thought this was crazy but would happily eat crumpets earlier to let him get on his way. We sat on his cabin’s “porch” and ate granola bars and Scottish crumpets.

Scottish crumpets are basically just American pancakes, or at least these were.

After breakfast we both got our stuff together and ended up being ready to leave at the same time. We walked together for the first mile until he totally smoked me on the big ascent out of Kinlochleven. I stopped a lot to take in the views of Kinlochleven from a distance.

The view as we ascended out of Kinlochleven.

This section of trail is very remote again like yesterday’s walking, and I only saw a couple of people the whole ~10 miles through this section. It was pretty flat with some minor rolling elevation change, so I thought I’d trail run a bit because I felt such a pull forward the end, but my legs wouldn’t budge. Maybe they had just had enough, or maybe it was a sign to take it all in and enjoy the scenery a tiny bit more.

Eventually Robin and I met up again. He’d slowed his “man on a mission” pace, realizing that his feet once again hurt and wouldn’t want to do Ben Nevis with the feet pain we’ve come to know well.

After this section we could begin to see Glen Nevis, the village just before Fort William, where the northern terminus is located. The long descent down was on a gravel road that just murdered my feet and ankles. We are both staying at the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel, and took a side trail to see about checking in early, or at least getting more water. I had neglected to fill my bottle that morning, partly because of ignorance, and partly because that place was gross and I didn’t want to drink bathroom tap water.

In town, Glen Nevis and Fort William

We only had to wait about a half hour to get checked in, and I was able to get my last two passport stamps!

The walk into town is 2.4 miles from the hostel. Robin was meeting a friend in town later so decided to get his chores down now, whereas my bag with my clean clothes and laundry hadn’t arrived yet, so I went to wrap up the trail.

As soon as I got out of the hostel I was suddenly crying. Like it had all hit me this was about to be over. That and my feet were so painfully swollen that my trail runners being tied really hurt.

I began making the long walk into town, and could immediately tell I was no longer in the “walker” culture anymore… I would say ‘hiya’ to people I passed and they’d barely acknowledge me. Ending a trail in town is hard because you’re immediately feeling whatever weird culture shock this is, and it’s incredibly apparent the adventure is over.

The northern terminus for the WHW is a statue of a man on a bench rubbing his feet… I don’t know the significance of this but I gladly took a seat on that bench next to him. Well, once I made it there because this section dragged on and on, and then I passed a park with LOTS of benches, none of them being THE bench.

Here comes the endings…

After a walker took my picture on the bench, I immediately thanked her and walked away from it, looking out on the water, trying to keep all my emotions in. I set off back the way I came into town, and found my way into a pub to get food – The Tavern. I ordered a celebratory whiskey and could not keep myself from literally just welling up and letting tears pour out of my eyeballs.

Just as my penne carbonara arrived and I had my mouth open, food on its way in, I see someone staring at me, so I turn my eyes and there’s Jana! Sitting at a table with another walker!? We’d run into her when she was taking a break over mid way through the day, and she gave me a quick cup of black tea, but never saw her again. After I’d cashed out, I ran over and gave Jana a hug on the way out and congratulated her on her walk, which was a really nice ending.

Also at lunch, I had to untie my trail runners because my feet and ankles were so swollen that it was becoming unbearable. I walked all the way back to the hostel with untied shoes.

Continuing my walk back through town, I passed a bookstore and picked up two books: one on adventurous women and one on the history of the Scottish clearances, a topic  Rosemary had told me about yesterday.

Final stop was the Tesco Express (a small grocery shop) where I wandered around, also nearly crying, trying to figure out what I may want for dinner tonight or lunch tomorrow if I didn’t want to leave the hostel. I ended up leaving with three things: grapes, the cheapest disposable razors they had, and a Garnier moisturizing sheet mask…. Huge success.

On my way back to the hostel, I passed the ‘original end of the WHW’ sign where Robin was getting his picture at that moment (the coincidences on this trail astound me). We took a selfie, and since he’ll be out early in the morning, we said our goodbyes and how nice it was to walk together these past few days.

Later, Robin sent confirmation that the father son Dutch duo also finished the trail – the son’s wooden walking stick was at the terminus when he went to finish.

Getting to walk and talk with all of the people I’ve mentioned the past few days has made this experience what it was for me, and without it, it would’ve been really hard to overcome the solitude of trail life, however brief.

The end of the West Highland Way was a big crescendo in a way – we all descended from the hills into the valley of Glen Nevis and Fort William and many of us got really lovely goodbyes and to see each other finish a great adventure.

So now, I’ll spend two nights in Glen Nevis, potentially try for the summit of Ben Nevis tomorrow, and then continue on with the last week of my vacation.

As a reader (hello is anyone out there?) you can expect one more post from me in a few weeks. Once I’ve had time to reflect, I’ll provide gear, accommodation, and any other recommendations and tips that I would think are helpful for future WHW walkers.

Otherwise, you can find me on my hiking Instagram where I’ll be sharing more adventures, and happy to connect with walkers!

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Comments 4

  • Elizabeth : May 4th

    Would love to see gear and accom. info! Thanks for the info.

  • Steve : May 4th

    Congrats on finishing an Epic walk. Thanks for taking us on your journey.

  • Kenny : May 5th

    As someone who lives in Milngavie at the southern end /start point of the WHW it has been on my bucket list to walk it for many years. You have been inspiring me as I eagerly awaited each daily instalment. I shared your elation and tears on completion.Well done! I hope the rest of your stay in Scotland is filled with happy memories.

  • Emma : May 6th

    Congratulations on finishing! Currently walking 2 days behind you and have loved reading your updates as little spoilers on what is to come 🙂


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