Chapter 1: Plenty of Walkies!
I need to introduce myself. My name is Joe. Just Joe. I am a Cocker Spaniel. My human dad thought that it would be funny to call me Joe the Cocker after some old school singer that nobody under the age of 55 has heard of. He says that he chose the name with a little help from his friends! It’s beyond me why he thinks that is humourous. He also calls me his hairy son. I know that he is not my biological father because we don’t seem to have any physical similarities. Anyway, I am about two and a half years old. That’s about 18 in doggy years, I believe. So, my dad says that this is my coming of age journey. My transition out of puppyhood. I just go along with his crazy ideas. All I know is that we are supposed to be going on a long walkies.
Sometime in the spring of 2019 my daily walks seemed to either pick up pace or increase in distance. I have always insisted on going for walkies twice a day. You want to hear me howl and bark when I know that it’s time to go out. I don’t care what the weather is doing. When I want to go for walkies I make sure that my collar and lead comes out. My dad sometimes says that he doesn’t feel like taking me but I know that if I kick off he will give in to me. Mug! Where was I? Oh yes, the walks seem to have more significance than just ordinary dog walks. They weren’t just about me getting my exercise and doing my business. They were about my dad trying different footwear. Boots, hiking shoes and different types of socks. Ok, he bought me some Ruffwear boots and socks. They felt weird. I tried them in the house first. Of course, he had to video me shaking my legs and walking like I was treading on hot coals. He thought that I looked so funny. Small things amuse small minds. He was buying and trying all sorts of outdoor gear. He bought clothes, a GPS and a new tent to try out.
So, twice per day we would go out for a walk for at least an hour. Sometimes we would just go to the park and I would chase a ball and bring it back to him when I felt like. I would get bored with this and get distracted by birds or squirrels. I would chase them instead of the ball with my human chasing after me and screaming my name. I knew that he would forgive me. I can get away with murder if I go back to him eventually and give him the innocent look. Once a week we started to go for longer walkies in the countryside. He would take a rucksack with way too much stuff in it. Most of the time I was on an 8 metre lead. This is because I am prone to do a runner if I get distracted. What does he expect? It’s like taking a small child into an sweet shop and letting them go where they want to. Birds, squirrels, sheep and my favourite – water! I love any kind of water. Puddles, streams, ponds and especially mud. We hiked up mountains in Snowdonia and the Lake District. Snowdon, Moel Siabod and Skiddaw amongst others. We did longer and longer walks. 10 to 16 miles. I think that he thought that I wouldn’t cope. How wrong he was. I must admit that I slept all the way home in the car after our mountain walks. Well, you would if you had a chauffeur. He was listening to some really annoying music anyway.
We did a few overnight camping trips so that we could try out the sleeping arrangements. We had a Vango Banshee Pro 300 tent, so he tells me. Not the lightest backpacking tent but he was carrying it. The sleeping arrangements consisted of my dad lying on his sleeping mat pushed up to one side of the tent and me on my sleeping mat taking up about two thirds of the tent. It’s supposed to be a three person tent but it’s really only big enough for two people. Or one person and a Cocker Spaniel (with loads of space). Ha!
The first overnighter that we did we stayed on a local campsite and walked each day either side of our night in the tent. It was quiet on the campsite but I did get spooked at any outside noises. It was ok though. The second time we hiked the Ullswater Way. I enjoyed this one a lot more. It was varied and felt a bit wilder than our previous overnighter. I was carrying a doggy backpack with a few bits and pieces in. It wasn’t heavy and seemed to fit me ok. The first day was long. We walked about 16 miles and it was a bit up and down over rough terrain for my dad. I think that he was a bit annoyed that the campsite was up a rather steep road at the end of the day. I knew that he was tired because of the cursing he was doing going up that hill. I couldn’t see the problem myself. When we arrived at the campsite we had great views and lots of open space. I just sat down like a good boy while he set the tent up. When it was pegged out I jumped inside and had a bit of a sleep while he made some food and a drink. I ate some of my food but I wasn’t really hungry as I had eaten a few small meals and had snacks during the walk. Then it was time to sleep for the night. We both slept well, snuggled up to each other. He was in his sleeping bag and I was covered up with his down jacket. The next morning was a bit of a struggle to get going but I soon livened up. It was another long day. Up and down hills, by waterfalls and over farmland. We arrived back to the car in the late afternoon. My dad said it was a good try out for our big trip. I thought that was the big trip. Little did I know what was to come. The backpack wasn’t a great success. It rubbed under my ‘armpits’ and made me a bit sore so we decided not to use it for the trip later in the year. We did another 2 day walk soon after but that was more like the first one with 2 walks either side of an overnight camp. It was still good practice though.
We continued our training for a few weeks more. Lots of walks and some long ones with him carrying a huge pack that he continually moaned about being uncomfortable and too heavy at 17 kg. He decided that it was time for a new pack. An Osprey rucksack that he said was heaven to carry compared with his Karrimor. For the next few weeks he would pack and repack his rucksack in front of me. I kept thinking that we were finally going on our adventure. But, we weren’t yet. He spent every waking hour watching hiking and backpacking videos on YouTube. In between he would be making chillies, pasta bolognese and cottage pies and dehydrating them in his new toy. He assembled porridge recipes in Ziploc bags. He said that freezer bag cooking was the way to go. He made snacks and puddings too. He actually made a breakfast, snack, lunch, evening meal and pudding for every day. My food weighed in at 2.5 kg. His must have weighed 7 kg with all his shop bought snacks included. I thought that we must be going to somewhere really remote for a long period of time if he was prepared to carry all this food. Surely there must be somewhere to eat out there? He said that he wanted the true wilderness experience. He wanted to wild camp for most of the trip and be self sufficient. I thought that it was fine providing he didn’t expect me to carry loads of weight.
My dad made sure that I would be protected from ticks. The scourge of walkers in Scotland this year. I had my flea and tick injection 2 weeks before we set off. I didn’t feel a thing. He sprayed my harness and coat with permethrin to stop the nasty little creatures from biting me. He watched a tick removal video that someone kindly sent to him. I turned my head away. I didn’t like the look of them. They are the size of a tv screen!
He finally said that we were as ready as we could be and that very soon we would be setting off for the West Highland Way in the West of Scotland. The plan was to walk for 7 days to complete the 96 miles from Milngavie to Fort William. It sounded good to me. We would be doing long walkies every day. Just before we left for Scotland I had a bit of a haircut so that I would be able to get dry easier and not soak up so much mud into my coat. I was ready to go. My paws were in good condition. I was as fit as I could be. Let’s do it!
Chapter 2: It begins!
I suppose that we should start at day zero. The day that we drove to Scotland. It was Monday 30th September 2019 and we left just after the rush hour traffic. I had a new cover for the back seat of the car. It was a sort of lime green and wasn’t my choice. It looked a bit bright but then again it was practical I suppose. My dad had put my bed on the back seat and that made it so comfy. He said that it would take over 5 hours to get there because we were going to camp in Drymen which is north of the start of the WHW. The reason for this was that we were camping in Drymen Campsite for the first night then driving back to Milngavie the next morning to start the walk. Then to walk back to Drymen for the first stage of the WHW. It made sense to him anyway. So, off we drove. From Runcorn in Cheshire to Drymen north of Glasgow. It was an uneventful drive with no traffic jams at all. I slept for most of the journey except for a couple of stops at the services on the motorways. I was treated to a short walk at each and managed to do my business. I got praised for this. I think that it’s a bit strange getting praised for doing that but I never turn down a ‘good boy’ or a ‘well done lad’. I managed to get a few treats on the way too along with a few drinks of water. I was thinking that this might be the calm before the storm.
We arrived in Drymen late in the afternoon and easily found the campsite. It was a basic site but it’s what we prefer. When we arrived there was no other tents on the small field so we found a nice flat pitch at the far end of the site next to a fence. We had arranged to leave the tent there for 2 nights. My dad had contacted the owners beforehand to arrange this. When the tent was set up we jumped back into the car to drive down the road to Milngavie to find the Police Station. It was only a short drive. My dad went inside to organize where we would leave the car parked while we did the walk. The policeman took our details and said that we should park in the layby directly opposite the front door of the police station the following morning. I waited in the car while he organized things. It was a busy main road but the car was in view of a CCTV camera. So back he came to me and off we went in the car again back towards Drymen. He said that there was a lovely old dog friendly pub in Drymen that he could get a meal in. We found the pub on the village green. It is called the Clachan Inn and is supposedly the oldest licensed pub in Scotland. The first licensee in 1734 was Mistress Gow, Rob Roy MacGregor’s sister. It was a friendly place. The bar staff fussed over me and brought me treats and a bowl of water. My dad had a stonebaked pizza which he said was absolutely delicious.
After he had stuffed his face it was back into the car. Only a mile or two down the narrow lanes and we were back at the campsite. By now a few more people had arrived and pitched their tents. None of them were too close fortunately. It was getting a bit chilly by now and the sun was just about to set. It was a peaceful and pleasant autumn evening. We went for a short walk down the lane for my benefit then back to the tent as it was getting dark. We both slept really well. I was warm enough and comfortable with a fleece and a down jacket over me. He seemed to be comfortable in his 25 year old Ajungilak sleeping bag squashed against the side of the tent. Apparently, tomorrow was going to be a big day. I thought that we were just going for a walk!
Chapter 3: Walkies!
We both woke up early. I think it was about 7 am. It was chilly but dry with no wind. The sky was pretty much clear of clouds. It looked like the weather forecast was living up to it’s promise. We left the tent set up with everything that we did not need for the day’s walk. Everything else went into the rucksack. I wore my harness rather than my lead because it allows me to pull without choking myself. I don’t think that it is the number one reason. I don’t think that I am supposed to pull on the lead anyway but I do. It’s more comfortable than a collar so I quite like it. So, into the car we jumped and drove into Milngavie to the parking spot outside of the police station. It was a short fifteen minute walk into the centre of the town where the WHW starts. The first person that walked towards us said ‘Good luck on your walk’. I thought that was really nice as the amount of people who pass through Milngavie on their way to walk the WHW must be in the thousands. We passed two other people who wished us well. The people of this town seemed very nice and friendly. We found the obelisk that marks the start of the walk. I was told to pose for photographs as usual in front of the obelisk. And by the benches. And under the WHW sign. There was only a handful of people starting the walk at the time. I suppose it was because it was October 1st and a Tuesday morning. An American tourist offered to take photographs of us together.
So, after the photo shoot we paid a visit to Greggs for a takeaway breakfast. We grabbed the food and finally set off on our adventure. That is we walked 20 yards and sat on a bench to eat our food. My dad had a bacon barm and I had a sausage barm. Three sausages and a roll. I loved it. He decided to start walking and managed to burn his mouth on his boiling hot coffee. I would have laughed if I had been physically able to!
The first day was to be about a 12 mile easy walk. There wasn’t any real hills to be climbed on that day. The weather was good to us so off we set towards Drymen Campsite. We were to follow the sign of the Scottish Thistle all the way to Fort William. The WHW starts by the side of Allander Water and passes through Mugdock Country Park. I met plenty of other dogs on this section. They were all locals being taken for their morning walkies. We could hear some machinery sounds from the nearby industrial area. It was like being in a park back home. It was a great area to go sniffing in the undergrowth though. We went up and down a few gentle inclines which seemed to cause my dad to puff and pant a bit. Soon we came to more open countryside after being in woods since we left Milngavie. There was nobody else around and the sounds of the town had died. We could see the Campsie hills around and Craigallian Loch to our right.
We soon came to a quirky colourful house on the left of the track that reminded us that we had only come 4 miles and there was 92 more to walk. If the track was this easy and the weather was like this all the way it was going to be easy peasy! Little did we know. Although my dad did say that the weather was going to change and the terrain would be tougher. I thought to myself bring it on!
Just ahead we came to a road and had to walk along it for a short way. I had to walk to heel and we had to keep stepping off the road as the cars were coming towards us so fast. We got our first glimpses of the hills and mountains ahead. We could see Ben Lomond far into the distance. We crossed some boggy open farmland after we left the road section. It was not a problem for me as I just walk through it. I don’t mind getting muddy but my dad stepped in the squelchy mud ankle deep. He cursed and I had to hold in a snigger. The way soon levelled out onto a flat path that was once a railway line. Dumgoyne hill dominates the skyline to the east and at the foot of it we saw the Glengoyne Distillery. He would have loved to visit it but I would have had to be tied up outside while he did the tour. I felt a bit sorry for him but I come first. Soon we were at the 7 mile point where the Beech Tree pub is situated. It was about noon so Mr. Self Sufficiency decided that we should stop for a lunch break.
Dad had a huge burger, chips and coleslaw washed down with a pint of diet coke. Diet coke, ha! I had my usual food and a bowl of water. I must admit that he did share some of the burger with me. I just swallowed it. There is no point in chewing it when I could be getting another piece any second. I get told off for this but I simply pretend that I don’t understand him.
After the short rest we set off again. We crossed the A81 and followed the path along side of it through the trees for a while. After about an hour we crossed the bridge over Eldrick Water to reach the small hamlet of Gartness. This is where we came across an honesty box selling refreshments for weary hikers. There was nothing in there for me so I wanted to carry on walking. My dad decided that it was a perfect place to have a short rest and a diet Irn Bru from the honest box. So we sat on the wall opposite the row of houses in the autumn sunshine ‘while he swigged his drink. It must have been gassy as he let out a big burp. Now if I had done that he would have called me Piggy.
It was only a short undulating road walk to our campsite at Drymen for the night. We arrived there at mid afternoon. My dad said that this was a great start to the walk because the rucksack was light, the weather was lovely, the path was fairly flat, the scenery was nice and we only hiked 12 miles. We had a short rest in the tent as a few other backpackers arrived and pitched their tents. I spent some time watching horses in the next field wishing that I could go in there and play with them. It was soon time for an evening meal. He had one of his homemade dehydrated chilli con carne’s. He went on and on about how delicious it was. Just like freshly made at home. Well that is how it should be so I wasn’t surprised. I had a short bask in the sun just before it dipped behind the trees over the field. It was nice to relax without my harness on. Obviously I was going to be wearing my collar when we were in camp. It felt good to be in this place at this time. It was peaceful and restful. I do enjoy a snooze in the sun.
My dad decided to have a shower and I sat outside waiting for him. I am getting good at this. I don’t cry or bark because I know that he won’t be long. I suppose that I am a typical Cocker Spaniel though and I do suffer from separation anxiety. So, when he comes out I always give him a lot of fuss. He smells better anyway. When it was dusk I decided that I needed to go for a short walk so I gave him the look every time he moved. So off we went for a short walk down the lane. It was getting pretty chilly by then so we didn’t hang around. We quickly jumped back into the tent and zipped up the doors. It was only about 8:30 pm but we decided to try to sleep. I think that both of us dozed off quickly. My dad said that tomorrow would be a different kettle of fish. I hadn’t got a clue what fish had to do with hiking but he seemed to be telling me that tomorrow would be harder than today. Why he didn’t just say that I don’t know.
Chapter 4: A different kettle of fish!
After a good night’s sleep we woke early to discover that it had been a really cold night. The tent was covered in ice. It was sunny and cloud free but the tent was still in the shade of the trees. We took our time emerging from our comfort. My dad had a big portion of cinnamon porridge with dried fruit in it followed by hot chocolate. I didn’t eat as I am not a big eater first thing in the morning. I was sure that I would be fed later while we were on the trail.
Before the tent was even opened my dad packed away everything into the rucksack. I got outside and had a good shake while he knocked the ice off the tent and then wiped it with a cloth. He rammed it into the compression sack and stuffed it into the rucksack. I found the next few minutes hilarious as he put the filled rucksack onto a picnic bench and attempted to put it on his back. Oh, how he struggled. Adjusting straps and putting it on and off until it was just right. Eventually he got it on his back. I stayed out of his way because I could see that he was getting himself wound up. It weighed around 23 kg. Even for a 98 kg human this was daft. Finally, we left the campsite and set off down the lane in the direction of Drymen. After a short while we left the road and crossed a field to join the A811. Then it was up a 500 metre incline to a forestry track in High Wood and onto Garadhban Forest. He did some puffing and panting going up there. It wasn’t really steep but I think that the weight of his pack was starting to become an issue. A lot of the trees in the forest have been felled making it look less like a forest and more like destruction of the landscape. Also, there is a lack of trees to pee up. It was here that we got our first open views of Loch Lomond. We were going to travel 20 miles along the eastern shores of this loch over the next few days.
We dropped down the trail to cross the footbridge over the Burn of Mar where the climb up Conic Hill begins. This was to be the first big climb of the trip. It’s not huge or particularly steep but with the sun on our backs and the weight of the rucksack it was tough. I found it quite easy but my dad struggled and stopped for plenty of rests. There was nobody else in sight until we reached the highest point. Then, coming from the opposite direction was a stream of daytrippers climbing up from Balmaha. It turns out that this is a popular day outing for sightseers to look over Loch Lomond.
It was quite steep in sections and the rocky path caused people to slip and slide. It was easy for me but my dad kept telling me to wait because the lead was attached to his belt and I nearly pulled him over a few times. I soon learned that when he said ‘wait!’ I needed to stop immediately. This I did every time after that. I do learn quickly and understand that pulling on my lead when we are descending is dangerous. Funny how he never complains when we are going uphill when I pull on the lead. It was a long drop into Balmaha and my dad said that today was so much slower than he had expected it to be. When we arrived in Balmaha on the banks of Loch Lomond there was quite a few people there. We found a picnic bench by the Tom Weir statue. My dad made himself a cup of coffee and as usual I had to be involved in a photo shoot by the statue.
It was around this time that he started humming and quietly singing. He sang small snippets of The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond. He would mumble ‘O ye’ll tak’ the high road and I’ll tak’ the low road and I’ll be in Scotland afore ye’ followed by ‘On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond’ over and over and over again. These seemed to be the only words he knew. If he wasn’t singing it he was humming it. Really, really annoying. Then he would burst into Flower of Scotland. Again his knowledge of the lyrics was incredibly limited. This didn’t stop him from singing or humming incessantly. His lack of knowledge of this song was worse than his previous efforts. He sang ‘O Flower of Scotland, when will we see your like again’ followed by ‘And send him homeward, Tae think again’. All day this went on. Worse still he tried, incredibly badly, to sing in a Scottish accent. No wonder there is a rivalry between the two nations. Idiot!
Although we didn’t stay there long it was late afternoon and we couldn’t decide how much further we would hike today. We had a few options depending on the terrain and how long we wanted to walk for. We could walk for 1.5 miles and camp at Millarochy. We could carry on for another 1.5 miles and pitch at Cashel. We could go a further 2 miles and camp at Sallochy. The option was also there to wild camp slightly off trail. As it happens the next few miles were tough going with the heavy pack. We climbed up and down the path along the side of the loch. We passed through Millarochy as it wasn’t as far as we would like to have gone in the day. The next campsite was at Cashel where we decided enough was enough for the day. This meant that we had only hiked about 11 miles for the day. It was past 6 pm so we checked in and found a nice flat pitch. The tent was set up. I was fed and he had a rehydrated Pasta Bolognese. Dad was blowing his own trumpet again about his cooking. Shortly after it was off to the shower block while he got cleaned up and washed his smell off. I waited outside again and when he came out we went straight back to the tent to get ready to sleep. It was only about 8 pm but we were both tired today. Not long after we were both asleep. That was a long hard day considering the short mileage. But, we were not in a hurry even though we had accommodation and transport booked for the end of the trip. These could both be rearranged so the pressure was off us.
Chapter 5: Hurricane Lorenzo
The weather was still being kind to us. We didn’t rush to get up. It was going to be a bit tougher today the further we hiked. My dad said that if we could do 10 or 12 miles he would be happy. The weather was due to change later that day. The tail of Hurricane Lorenzo was due to hit the area in the late afternoon bringing high winds and rain. So, we decided that we would wild camp in the forest as soon as the rough weather arrived. After a quick breakfast he packed up our kit and off we set. We were heading for Rowardennan where he said there is a dog friendly bar where we could get some lunch. This section is quite varied. There is a length of road walking followed by some beach walking and then some undulating loch side hiking.
Up to now I had taken every opportunity to indulge in one of my favourite pastimes. Getting wet and muddy that is! Bliss! I had been in every puddle, stream and bog that I could find. Loch Lomond was my next target. Unfortunately, I was only allowed a very quick paddle because earlier this year blue-green algae had been found in parts of the lake. That spoilt my plans. Anyway, it was fun to run along the beach finding sticks.
Some of this section was hard going for my dad. The trail climbed hundreds of manmade steps and over rocks and tree roots. I think that his rucksack was way too heavy.
We carried on slowly with plenty of short rests. I waited for him on the downhill sections and received a lot of praise for doing that. It took us about 3 hours to get to Rowardennan. This is the starting point for most walkers who tackle Ben Lomond. The bar is called the Clansman. It is a walker’s bar and definitely dog friendly. We decided to sit outside overlooking the loch. The wind was starting to pick up pace but the temperature was ok for sitting outside. He got himself a triple decker sandwich which due to my sad eyed expression he shared with me. A robin tried to butt in on our lunch and I saw him off pretty damn quickly. The cheek of it!
After our short lunch break overlooking Loch Lomond we set off again towards Ptarmigan Lodge. I was supposed to pose in front of the Loch Lomond National Park Memorial Sculpture but I couldn’t keep still. I was full of energy after my lunch time snack and rest. My dad kept trying to get a photograph of me in front of it but he had to settle for shots of me walking back and to. I get a bit sick of being told to keep still for photographs. How many does he need of me?
On past Ptarmigan Lodge and Rowchoish Bothy along the loch side we trudged. It was slow going because it was up and down, up and down along some precarious rocky and tree root lined paths. The sky was starting to look very grey and menacing and we wanted to get to a good sheltered wild camping spot before the rough weather arrived. We left the path at a small track near Cailness Cottage just as the first huge drops of rain started to hit us. Dad filtered water from a waterfall and filled both of our containers for the night and the next morning. We found a good spot in a small clearing in the trees. The trees all around looked healthy and strong with no sign of any fallen or damaged by the wind. It looked like a safe spot considering that there was a hurricane on the way. He pitched the tent in record time and we jumped inside while he unpacked and sorted the gear out. There was a short lull in the rain and the wind was gusting gently making the tent flap a wee bit. We had our meals and our drinks and as it became darker outside we discussed the plans for tomorrows walk. Well, he told me what we would hopefully be doing. I had no say in it!
We soon went to sleep. Well, I know that I did. He was watching a series about a serial killer on his mobile. It was probably not the best choice of viewing for a lonely night in the dead of the forest. It wasn’t long before the rain started with a vengeance. The wind started to pick up speed. The gusts became stronger and stronger. Neither of us could sleep. In the early hours of the morning the wind was horrendous. The tent was almost blowing flat on our faces. It would die down for a minute or so and then blow harder and harder. At about 3 am my dad decided that it was time to prepare for the worst. He put my waterproof coat on me and his waterproofs and boots on himself. We snuggled up to each other. I have to admit it that I was terrified. The rain battered the tent and the wind just got stronger. I expected the tent to collapse and rip apart. Then, suddenly around 4 am the wind seemed to ease off slightly and the rain stopped. We lay there wrapped up next to each other waiting for the first signs of daylight. I think that we both got an hour or two sleep. I remember licking my dad’s face and he woke up. He decided to pack up and set off immediately. There was no time for breakfast that morning. What an eventful sleepless night that was.
Chapter 6: The day after the night before!
The plan for the day ahead was to get to a comfortable campsite where we could have a good sleep to recover from the horrific night before. We needed to find somewhere to have a relaxing stop for a break on the way. I didn’t eat my breakfast again. My dad said that I was a pain in the backside. He gave me some treats as we were walking and that seemed to be enough for me for now. So, the aim was initially to hike the short distance to Inversnaid Hotel and to grab some breakfast and a hot drink for him. The path was undulating again and the burns and waterfalls were so much fuller than the day before after the torrential rain overnight. I think that it took us about an hour to get to Inversnaid. The waterfall looked amazing as it roared under the bridge.
Outside of the hotel was a coach load of tourists waiting for an overdue ferry in the wind and rain. The rather unwelcoming sign saying ‘No Dogs Allowed’ greeted us. The previous year they had allowed dogs in the Walkers’ Bar. My dad went inside to see if any hot food was available. The answer he received was that there wasn’t any breakfast available but he might get a snack at the bar. The bar was full of more tourists. He decided to just get a coffee to take out. There was a big platter of biscuits on the bar and the barmaid told him to take a couple with his coffee. She then asked if he wanted any more. To this he said yes because me and him hadn’t eaten breakfast. So, she put about 20 or so in a box and said good luck on our journey. She seemed like a nice lady. So, we sat outside dunking biscuits in the coffee and sharing them. We weren’t impressed with this hotel but the barmaid cheered us up.
The next section of the trail from Inversnaid until just after Doune Bothy was the roughest of the whole length of Loch Lomond. A few short scrambles had to be negotiated so for the first time on this trip I was allowed to be off lead. I stayed close by to my dad and kept a close eye on him. On one particularly tricky section he did slip onto his backside. Then as he got up quickly, trying to hide his embarrassment, he bashed his head on a low branch. Absolutely hilarious! I had the opportunity to climb up rocks and go at my own pace while he struggled. We soon reached the diversion in the path to Rob Roy’s Cave. We didn’t investigate it. It would have been too dangerous over the large boulders overlooking the loch. The path continued to be rough and a bit of a challenge for my human but he loved it. He said that the views through the trees made it worth the struggle. The path became quite varied with sections being overgrown with ferns. During the summer this area would have been a nightmare infested with midges and ticks. We didn’t come across any thankfully. After a few miles we came across a treeless section dipping down to Doune Bothy. We had a quick peep inside but we did not linger. The stories of mice crawling over people in the night and nibbling at their packs. I think that I would have had the time of my life chasing them but my dad is a bit of a wimp when it comes to rodents.
We soon left Loch Lomond behind us as we passed Ardleish where the ferry to Ardlui on the western shore of the loch can be summoned. From Ardleish the trail climbs gently but steadily past a small body of water called Dubh Lochan. Fantastic views can be had when you turn back to look at Loch Lomond. It is certainly a turning point in more ways than one. We said goodbye to Loch Lomond.
It was only a couple of miles to Beinglas Campsite where we had decided to spend the night. We caught a glimpse of the Drovers Inn where my dad really wanted to visit. Unfortunately, due to recent flooding the bridge to the pub had been washed away and there was a detour to get there which we didn’t fancy taking. Another time maybe. I thought that my dad looked tired so I walked closely to him as we passed through the wooded area leading to the campsite. Or was it me that was tired? I forget now. The entrance to the site was a welcome sight. I think that the lack of sleep the previous night was taking its toll on him.
I loved this campsite. We were the only ones on the field when we arrived so we pitched where we wanted to. The bar was dog friendly. There was a laundry where he could wash some of his disgusting smelly clothes. There was a shop selling treats for me. Well, biscuits anyway. My dad could have a shower and maybe smell a bit better. He set us up for the night and put his washing in the machine. Then we went into the bar. Wow! It was lovely and cosy with the heating on. He had a homemade Chicken Bhuna and rice which he said was gorgeous. I was well behaved and sat by his feet. Only a few more people came in and they all fussed over me. They all said that they had dogs and had left them at home and were missing them. I loved the attention as usual. He nipped to the laundry room to take his washing out of the machine and transfer it to the dryer. When he had finished his drink we went to pick up all the fresh smelling clothes. Then off to the tent we went. It wasn’t long before we both went to sleep. It wasn’t raining or blowing a gale so it looked like we were in for a good rest. We had only walked 41 miles in total. It felt like we had been walking forever.
Chapter 7: An easier journey
This day was planned to be an easier day. Only ten miles or possibly thirteen to Tyndrum if he had the energy. The map seemed to indicate that it would be easier going than the last few days. The weather was overcast with some slight drizzle but not pouring down with rain or particularly windy. It was wet enough for me to wear my waterproof coat though. My dad packed up the tent and our belongings into the rucksack before we ventured back to the campsite bar for breakfast. He had porridge followed by a Scottish breakfast with toast and jam. This he managed to wash down with a couple of cups of coffee and orange juice. I managed to scrounge a fair amount from him. It was delicious and he said that it was superb value.
We set off around the back of the campsite onto a rough track. This was an easy start to the day into Glen Falloch. We soon turned right off the track along a path next to the river. The river was full but obviously not as raging as recently when bridges had been taken out by the force and height of the gushing water. We passed through the oaks and birches overlooking the rapids below. I had a great time climbing over boulders until I was getting too close to the water and my dad shortened my lead. Spoil sport!
After about 45 minutes we came to a diversion in the path due to another bridge being destroyed in the recent floods. I decided to ignore the sign. Well, I am supposed to not be able to read. I dropped down the embankment and waded through the water. It wasn’t too deep and I was soon across and up the opposite embankment. It was an easy crossing although I was wet up to my stomach. My d followed and said that we had been naughty but insisted that it was safe what we had done because of the shallow water. We joined a track that led past Derrydaroch Farm. This area had been hit hard in the floods. There was tree branches and debris washed up all around the area. Carmyle Cottage a bit further on had also been hit. The next obstacle for him, not for me was a sheep creep under the A82.
This is a low roofed tunnel under the railway line. It was fine for me. I had a sniff around while he tried to manoeuvre his way through it with his rucksack on his back. He crouched down as well as he could and shuffled his way along. It was a disadvantage to him being 6 ft 3. Towards the far end he got stuck. It looked like he was going to have to either kneel down or fall on his hands. It was hilarious. He shuffled inch by inch forward almost falling at every movement. Eventually he made it through without the embarrassment of ending up on the ground. Soon we passed under the A82 by using a more modern ugly tunnel. My dad had to do some yodeling to check out the echo in here. Weirdo!
We joined an old military road for a mile climbing up towards the Ewich forest. This soon became an obvious path leading to the Crianlarich crossroads. This is a junction in the path that can be followed down to Crianlarich or straight on along the WHW into the pine forest. At this point there is a marker indicating the halfway point of the WHW. It was raining and as we walked away from the road we discovered another honesty box refreshment container. It was a welcome surprise for my dad. He bought 2 sports drinks and 2 packets of crisps for £3. I managed to get my lead tangled around a folding camping seat that had been left for weary hikers. It frightened the life out of me as I dragged it behind me. It was his turn to laugh at me. Funny, I suppose.
The wind was picking up again and it was raining. We carried on along the undulating forestry path. After a while we found a dry sheltered spot under the pine trees to have a sit down and a rest for a while. I think that my dad was suffering with the weight of his pack. He looked tired and in need of a good rest and a good night’s sleep. We finally descended to the A82 again and passed under a large arched railway bridge. We crossed a rather fast main road to a gate passing into an incredibly boggy field. Then along a lane towards the remains of St. Fillan’s Priory and an ancient spooky graveyard. Not far along this lane we could see the campsite that we had decided to stay on for the night. It was raining heavily by now. There wasn’t any other tents pitched in the field so my dad went into the reception area to enquire if it was closed. When he returned he had a big beaming smile on his face. The place was called Strathfillan Wigwams and he had only gone and treated us to one for the night. It was basic but there was plenty of room. Best of all there was a heater. I jumped in and made myself comfortable on my sleeping pad. He proceeded to spread wet clothes on anything he could find to hang them on. He started to charge all his electricals. The mobile, the power bank, the head torch, his watch and his earphones. It was lovely and cosy. You are not allowed to cook in there so he went to the communal kitchen and boiled water for his Bolognese and coffee. He had a nice hot shower as he described it. Then he went for some supplies to the campsite shop. He surprised me with a sausage sandwich. It was delicious and it didn’t touch the sides. We listened to some music on the phone and had a bit of a snooze. Later we had some biscuits and carrot cake that he had bought earlier. It was warm and dry and comfortable in our little pod. It was raining continuously now so it was even nicer to be indoors. We both had a really restful and warm night’s sleep.
Chapter 8: Heading towards the Kingshouse
So, after we had eaten breakfast in the pod my dad cleared up the mess he had created the previous night. Everything was dried that had been wet and everything fully charged that was previously flat. I ate some breakfast this morning and some cake left over from last night. He had his nutmeg porridge with blueberries. He then had a good sort out of the excess food that he was carrying and threw it away. He appeared to be relieved at the slight reduction in weight that he had to carry. Everything was packed into the rucksack and off we went in the drizzle and wind. We went down the track that led to the tunnel under the main road which was starting to flood as the river bank and the footpath became one. We walked through the Tyndrum Community Woodland and along the banks of the Crom Allt. Soon we came upon a small lochan where Robert the Bruce allegedly threw his sword in. I was going to take a leak on the stone memorial until my dad dragged me away saying that it was inappropriate. It’s a stone standing in pouring rain. Killjoy!
There was a fair amount of erosion of the river banks in this area and some of the footpath had been lost to the river. I was made to stay on a short lead in case I fell in the raging water or the banks collapsed. Just before Tyndrum there are some bare patches of land poisoned by the lead industry in days gone by. Previous passers by had placed stones on top of stones to create hundreds of mini cairns.
We continued on to Tyndrum as the rain came down more persistently. We stopped at the By the Way campsite while my dad bought himself a coffee to takeaway. The next stop was in the nearby village of Tyndrum. We were going to go into the Green Welly shop and café but they are not dog friendly so we went into Brodies, a small Spar type shop. This shop is supposed to be the last place to buy supplies until Kinlochleven 44 km away. So, we bought a few treats. Cooked chicken for me. Biscuits for me. Chocolate for Mr. Sweet-tooth. Onwards we hiked with the wind on our backs and the rain battering us. We climbed a short road that led to a forestry track. We passed through a tunnel under the railway and then walked along the side of the tracks for a couple of miles. Dad had a chat with a railway worker who was having a break from digging out the culverts in the middle of nowhere in the wind and rain. The nice man made a fuss of me and told me that I was a brave dog. I couldn’t understand why. I was only going for a walk. The walk now was easy as we headed towards the Bridge of Orchy. Five miles of valley walking in the shadow of two giants, Beinn Odhar and Beinn Dorain. The clouds were draped over them but every so often we were treated to a clear view. We were definitely in the Scottish Highlands now. As we approached Bridge of Orchy we witnessed a magnificent rainbow that seemed to be arching into the small village.
Bridge of Orchy was a bit of a disappointment for us. We were soaked and muddy and the hotel looked a bit up market for a wet hiker and his bedraggled pooch. We passed the hotel and crossed the bridge to the wild camping spot by the River Orchy. The sun briefly appeared and we had a short rest while he had a coffee sat on a picnic table. We watched as canoeists rode the rapids in front of us. One capsized as we watched and for a worrying few seconds didn’t resurface. He soon popped up and signaled that he was fine. My dad thought that he might have photographed someone’s last moments.
We packed up and left to cover the 2.5 miles to Inveroran Hotel where there is a riverside wild camping spot nearby. The path headed uphill and has recently been resurfaced. This was short lived and a fairly hard climb on a rocky surface had to be negotiated. It was easy for me as usual but my dad had to keep stopping. The rain was holding off and we were rewarded with some fantastic views when we crested the hill. Loch Tulla dominated the bottom of the valley with the skyline being swathed in low clouds. We could see the hills at the commencement of Rannoch Moor. Also, we could see our destination a mile below us from the summit of Mam Carraigh. Here we stopped at the much photographed lonely tree. I thought that it was an ideal place for a pee. My nose told me that I wasn’t the first to choose this spot to relieve themselves.
From the summit cairn it was a gentle drop down the hillside to Inveroran Hotel. We decided to stop here for a while for some food and drink while we chose what to do next. We were both wet and probably a bit smelly. Being the first customers in the bar that day we were made more than welcome. The owners had a lady cocker spaniel called Zoe who was supposed to be a little terror. She seemed very quiet to me and not the mischief maker she was made out to be. I was immediately made to feel at home. I was given biscuits and water along with a clean towel to lie on. My dad had a homemade lasagna and I was given cooked chicken, a boiled egg and parma ham. We were told about a wild camping spot not too far along the WHW. The plan now was to pitch the tent on the wild camping area at the side of the bridge over the Allt Tolaghan and then to return later to the bar for a drink.
The spot that we chose was perfect, or so we thought, next to the river on a slight rise. After the tent was pitched and water filtered from the river we both had a rest in the tent. I think that we both dozed off for a while. We could hear and see in the distance a stag calling for a mate. There were a couple of does not far from where we were pitched. We loved this place. It was all ours. Until later two more hikers pitched 50 yards or so from us. The plan to return to the hotel didn’t happen. I think that we were both simply happy to relax in the peace of the tent. It was good to do nothing. We had an early night again as the rain started to pound the tent. The wind picked up somewhat. Our peaceful night turned into another wild and windy affair. It was probably worse than the Hurricane Lorenzo night. We were in the open and on a slight rise. The weather forecast was for rain and there was no mention of strong winds otherwise we could have walked on a while to the relative shelter of the forest ahead. The night was long and horrendous. The wind did not let up all night. It battered the tent and almost flattened it at times. I was terrified. My dad wrapped me up in his sleeping bag that was now a quilt because the slider on the zip had broken. He covered my head over and we both snuggled closely trying to grab some sleep. I didn’t think that we got very much sleep that night. It was an awful experience.
Chapter 8: Heading towards Loch Tulla
After an awful night we opened the tent door to find that our neighbours that arrived after us last night had already left. The river was higher and it looked like they may have been flooded out. My dad ate his porridge and drank a coffee and I had a few biscuits that we brought from Strathfillan Wigwams. It wasn’t raining or quite as windy but as soon as we set off down the minor road the rain started again. We crossed Victoria Bridge with Loch Tulla looking magnificent to our right. A dense coniferous wood was on our right as we climbed the gentle rise on the original vehicle road to the north. Upwards we trudged passing through a gate onto the Drove Road to Glencoe.
The wind and the rain was now battering us and the track became a continuous stream. The way was becoming difficult. It was now just about getting across Rannoch Moor in awful conditions. At times we were battered by hailstones. The rain and wind rarely eased off. The distant mountain views were not there for us today as the clouds were so low. Every now and again we were treated to fleeting glances of the world around us. As we marched through Black Mount and on to Ba Bridge the track gently ascended and descended. We rested for 5 minutes at Ba Bridge to admire the power of the raging river beneath.
As we left Ba Bridge we should have seen Ba Cottage, a ruin that is often used as a wild camping spot or a place for tired hikers to rest, but we didn’t. We missed it completely. Probably due to our heads being pointed towards our feet because of the driving rain and wind. At this point I was trying to chase birds that were teasing me by flying low through the long grasses on the moor. I also was inches away from bagging myself a grouse that I sniffed out a few yards from the track. I don’t know what I would do if I caught a bird because I have chased so many but never caught one. It was uphill now until we reached the highest point on the moor. Just at this point we came across a JCB digger that was being used to dig out channels at the side of the track to form a route for the rain to drain from the track. There was nobody using it at the time but we did pass a man in a van who was checking out the trail for damage. What a job in this remote spot in this horrendous weather. He was a cheerful man and patted me on the head and told me that I am a star. The path turned left at this point and our first views of Glencoe appeared to us. There was plenty of cloud cover but the vastness of the valley and the huge mountains filled the vista. We saw Buachaille Etive Mor, the Great Herdsman, standing proud ahead of us. We battled on against the weather and dropped into the valley. Glencoe Ski Resort was skirted by as we knew that the restaurant was not dog friendly. The famous Blackrock Cottage stood lonely in the rain and wind. So, we carried on down a rough road towards the crossing of the very busy A82. The path then became a tarmacked surface leading past a couple of cottages with deer in their gardens towards the Kingshouse. It was nice to see wild deer but I didn’t bark or try to approach them. My dad said that he was so pleased with me.
Since its multi-million pound facelift the Kingshouse has received some criticism from WHW hikers. It has been said that the bar is not dog friendly. So, my dad tethered me to a picnic table outside where I could see him while he went inside. He asked if there was anywhere that we could shelter from the awful weather for a while. He was told that I was welcome in the bar so he came out to get me. The barman brought me a bed to lie on and a bowl of water and a few treats. It was perfect. A lovely room and we were the first in there that day. It was only about 1230 pm. My dad treated himself to fish and chips and I ate my food and drank the water. After a short while other hikers came in and half filled the room. Everyone was soaking wet. They all said that they were staying in the hotel that night so there walk for the day was over. Everyone started to make a fuss of me. I was becoming a bit of a celebrity. They all seemed to know about me. They asked if I was the spaniel that was doing the WHW. I enjoyed the attention but as I have said before I was only going for walkies.
While we were in there my dad studied his map trying to decide where to camp later that afternoon. He said that he would prefer to put a few more miles in and get nearer to the Devil’s Staircase, the last big climb of the WHW. There is a small pine plantation just off the road at the bottom of the climb so we decided to head for there in order to get some shelter from the weather. It was only three more miles at a spot called Altnafaedh. On the way there was a few short breaks in the weather enabling yet another photo shoot. The Buachaille was standing proud with no cloud cover. It seemed to make my dad’s day. I think that even I would struggle to summit that huge triangular beast of a mountain.
The tarmac path was soon turned off and we headed uphill into the wind and rain over a rough path. The views, when they appeared from out of the clouds, were stunning. After battling against the weather for 1.5 miles the path skirted the main road for a short way to the car park that serves the Devil’s Staircase. My dad looked in horror as he saw the deer fences standing 7 or 8 foot high all around the woods that we hoped to camp in or near. There was nowhere suitable to wild camp. The only option was to plod on and try to find somewhere just below the Devil’s Staircase. No chance. Everywhere was sodden. Too boggy or too steep or too exposed. It was certain now that we would have to climb the hill. It was steep and zigzagged causing my dad to stop several times. I was fine. It gave me time to have a good sniff around. As we reached the summit my dad said that we were at the highest point of the WHW. He said ‘The Devil’s Staircase, bagged, yes!’
The path widened into a military road with a very stony surface. Just as we crested the hill there was a huge boom of thunder. It frightened the life out of me. We sped off in the direction of Kinlochleven. The rain came down heavier and the wind battered us but we hiked at quite a speed. It wasn’t all downhill but there were no steep climbs just rolling hills. We were treated to some views of the Mamores, the Blackwater Reservoir and Glen Leven. The squalls of rain kept hitting us and we could see them approaching across the barren landscape. We were both soaked to the skin. My dad’s boots had been full of water since Rannoch Moor. As we neared Kinlochleven the descent became steeper but the track was less rough. The pipelines to the hydro electricity plant from Blackwater Reservoir ran along side the final stage of the day’s walk. Then suddenly there it was on the right of the track. The Blackwater Campsite. We went into the reception but as it was around 6:30 pm there was nobody manning the desk. My dad phoned the out of hours number and booked us a pod for the night. We were absolutely drenched and were glad of the prospect of a dry night. The pod door was open and the owner said that she would call later for payment. This pod had a great heater. It had a kettle, a microwave, a fridge and a tv. He put all our wet items in the drying room and had a shower while I had a short nap in the pod. It was so, so comfortable. He fed me again and made himself a chilli and a coffee. We were both exhausted. It had been our longest day. The total distance covered for the day was roughly 20 miles over some rough terrain and in lousy weather. It was the longest walk that we had ever done in one day. We had a relaxing, warm evening as the rain pounded down. We were so glad that we were not in the tent. Anyway, the sleeping bag was wet in places. The rain cover on the rucksack had not protected the full pack. It gave us the chance to charge all the electricals for the next two days. The plan was to split the last section into two days with a wild camp around 7 miles in giving us 7 miles to do on the last day. The arrangements for the end of the journey and the transport back to Milngavie had to be changed. He rearranged the transport for the following day and cancelled the accommodation for the last night. It was time to relax for a while with a warm and dry night indoors. It was followed by a fantastic sleep until daybreak.
Chapter 10: Where would we end up?
We awoke to another wet and windy day. But, it had been a really comfortable and warm night and we both had slept well. My dad packed everything away and made breakfast and coffee. I had some of my breakfast because I did have an appetite for a change in the morning. He grabbed everything from the drying room and it was all bone dry considering everything was soaked through yesterday. It was another day to wear waterproofs. The weather forecast was for another wet and windy day. We set off with a plan to find a wild camping spot along the trail to make it an easy two days. The walk through the village of Kinlochleven was pleasant as it was still early in the morning and not many people were out and about. Until a group of fifteen walkers started to pass us all on the way to Fort William. A steep path along the Lairigmor through the forest was soon joined. It was like walking along a stream as the path was flooded from all the rain. The beech woodland sheltered us from the worst of the weather but we had to keep stopping as my dad found it hard going. At the summit of the pass the views were stunning with the triangular Pap of Glencoe ahead and the pretty village of Kinlochleven behind us.
The path became a track again. An old military road. Fast flowing streams regularly crossed it and it was completely flooded. I just walked straight through the water but my dad tried to avoid as much as possible to keep his feet dry. It wasn’t long before he gave up on that idea and walked through even the ankle deep water. His boots were full of water so he decided that it was more effort than it was worth trying to stay dry. At one point we did have to walk off the track upstream and jump over the gushing water. It was a bit of an adventure. I enjoyed it and it made the walking more exciting. As we came up to the ruined house of Tigh na sleubhaich my dad said that I needed to wear my fleece insert in my waterproof. So, we stopped there for a few minutes sheltering from the wind and driving rain while he sorted me out. We skirted the flanks of Meall a’Chaorainn a huge granite mountain on our right. We couldn’t see the summit because of the cloud cover but it’s presence was obvious.
It was time to start looking for a wild camping spot. At the 88 mile point there is a road that branches off to the left which gives an easier route to Fort William if the weather is against you. The weather was against us but my dad wanted to complete the WHW by the traditional route. There was nowhere suitable to wild camp anywhere in this section in these conditions. Everywhere was flooded, boggy and too exposed. We made the decision to complete the WHW today rather than suffer another night and day in those conditions. The way continued onwards through plantations, most of which had been felled. It was a desolate place. My dad decided to sit on a tree stump while there was a short break in the weather. As he sat down he missed the edge of the stump and fell to the ground. Because of the weight of his pack he couldn’t get up. I went to him and licked his hand because I was worried about him. He had to take off his rucksack before he could get up. He was like a turtle tipped upside down on its shell. To be honest it was hilarious watching him struggle. I could see that he wasn’t injured and even he was laughing. He gave me some snacks and he had some trail mix until the rain started to pound down on us again.
At the halfway point of this section from Kinlochleven to Fort William the path undulates until there is a fork in the trail. To the right is Dun Deardail an iron age fort. We chose not to visit it as the weather was still battering us. We instead carried on to the forestry track through the Nevis Forest. The forest has almost completely been felled and is a blot on the landscape. As we crested the final rise we were gifted with views of the lower slopes of the immense mass of rock, Ben Nevis. The summit of ‘The Ben’ was shrouded in cloud and waterfalls could be seen raging down it’s slopes. We also saw Fort William, our target destination, for the first time in the distance.
From this point it was all gently down hill on a wide forestry track. It zigzagged at first and then steadily descended into Glen Nevis. Near the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre and Braveheart car park we turned towards the final road walk. It was a shock walking along the pavement with cars and lorries zooming past. I had to go on a short lead and I hated the noise. It had been so peaceful for so long and now we were heading back to civilization. We plodded on in the rain and wind until finally there it was. The old end of the WHW. The fifteen hikers that had passed us in Kinlochleven earlier were all having their photographs taken at the sign that indicates the old end. For some reason they all started to clap me as we approached. They were all congratulating me and telling me how amazing I was. I didn’t mind that one bit. I felt like a celebrity. So, it was time again for another photo shoot. We had to stand in a puddle but we didn’t mind. We had done it!
I was then informed that we still had another mile to walk to the new end at the other side of town. So, off we set again. It was raining heavily as we passed through the small park to a Tesco supermarket. My dad went in and bought some ‘essential’ supplies. He bought a big pack of cooked chicken for me and for himself he bought drinks, sweets and biscuits. It wasn’t far to the official end of the WHW through the main shopping street. We came to a line on the pavement that signifies the end of the way. We both crossed it together and my dad made a real fuss of me and told me how proud of me he was. He said that I had been such a good boy and he was amazed at how I had started to react to commands. It was time again for yet another photo shoot at the ‘sore foot’ statue. All I wanted to do was go indoors but I had to humour him. He took plenty of photo’s of me and then he asked a passerby to take photographs of us while we posed. It was done he said. No walkies tomorrow. I was a bit disappointed as I was getting used to walking all day. Ah well!
So, that was it. The West Highland Way bagged. All we had to do now today was find somewhere to stay. We chose to try the Travelodge that was right next to the statue. If that was full we were going to walk back to Glen Nevis campsite. Luckily, we managed to get a room in the Travelodge. It was very clean. The exact opposite of us. We were drenched and filthy. First thing that I did was have a shower. It was amazing having warm rain shower me. I love to have a shower. He dried me off with a towel and then with the hairdryer. I was then fed and given water before I was allowed to jump on the bed. It was the first time in over a week that I had been clean. Dad proceeded to empty the rucksack and spread everything around the room to dry out.
I had a snooze while he was doing what he needed to do. He showered himself and put clean clothes on. He didn’t smell anymore but his boots were absolutely disgusting. He ordered himself a pizza and garlic bread from a takeaway across the road to be delivered to the room and we lay on the bed with the tv and heater on while he waited. He wasn’t disappointed. The food quickly arrived and he gobbled it all down like he hadn’t eaten for a week.
We shared the biscuits and I drank plenty of water. It was nice to relax and be clean and dry. Time to do nothing. We had done it! The bed was so comfortable. I don’t know whether I am really allowed on the bed but my dad said that I deserved it for being so good. I only went on walkies! He spent the next few hours watching tv and stuffing his face! He had lucozade sport drinks, diet coke, a full sharing pack of minstrels, starburst and biscuits. He said that he felt sick. No surprise there! We both slept like logs all night.
Chapter 11: Fort William then home
We woke up early but lay in bed for another hour. Because we could! My dad had arranged for us to be picked up outside the hotel at 5 pm to drive us back to Milngavie. A lazy day was in front of us. He received a phone call from Baggage Freedom saying that he could pick us up earlier if we wanted because we were the only passengers that day. So, we agreed to that. Firstly though it was time for a walk along the main street in Fort William to find somewhere dog friendly for breakfast. Weatherspoons, next door, didn’t allow dogs so we walked on until we found a pub called The Crofter that did welcome dogs. It was a nice place and he had a Scottish Breakfast which he shared with me. The nice man in there gave me a certificate for completing the WHW.
Later, we went for a short walk through the main street. It was mainly outdoor shops and cafés. We found a gift shop that sold WHW souvenirs. I ended up with a medal to commemorate the walk.
We went back to the hotel and packed the rucksack ready to get the phone call from the coach company. My dad had another shower and then we rested on the bed for a couple of hours while he watched rugby on the tv. The call came and the driver said that he was downstairs waiting for us. Off we went and jumped into the minibus. There was no big walkies for me today. Instead it was a three hour drive back to Milngavie and a five hour drive in our car back home.
The adventure was over. I slept for nearly all of both journeys. I was in my bed on the back seat of the car. It was so comfortable. I dreamt about our trip on the WHW. My dad said that he had walked approximately 200,000 steps. I reckoned that because I have four legs instead of 2 and a shorter stride length and I wandered off trail so much that I had walked over 1,000,000 steps. And I did it barefoot! Perhaps I should ask Santa for a FitBark to track my activity levels. I had loved the trip and can’t wait for the next one. My dad obviously needs to reduce his pack weight in future. It would also be nice to plan around the weather a bit better. Some of the conditions we were in were absolutely awful. Other than that the trip was a great success. My dad was proud of me and hardly ever had to shout me. I looked after him and he looked after me. To the next time. Walkies!