News from the road – West Highland Way and Outer Hebrides (Scotland) – August 2023

Our Scottish adventure starts in Glasgow where we took in a city walking tour with a local guide who had a subversive sense of humour and wonderful stories of local legends such as Billy Connolly. The World Pipe Band champs were on, and we found the Canterbury Caledonian Pipe Band playing in Buchanan Street. Then on to the West Highland Way, a 150 km walk over eight days through dramatic Scottish scenery. On our second and third days, we walk over Conic Hill and down to Balmaha on the side of Loch Lomond enjoying magnificent views of the lake and heather-covered hills.

A stunning walk above Rannoch Moor, we walk from Inveroran to the Kingshouse Hotel soaking up the surrounded by purple heather, blue hills and bright lime green grass. Then it’s up the Devil’s Staircase on our way to Kinlochleven.

On our last day on the West Highland Way, we walk 25 kms in the Scotch mist (better known in New Zealand as rain) to arrive at the end of the walk in Fort William. This was a big and sometimes challenging walk, but the group had a real sense of achievement at the end.

On to the Hebridean Islands, we stay at Stornoway on the island of Lewis and visit the memorial for the local men lost in a tragic shipwreck. On the 31st of December 1918, the people of the Outer Hebrides were looking forward to Hogmanay and their first year of peace following the huge losses of WW1. However, it was a stormy night, and in the early hours of 1 January, the ship, Iolaire, carrying the men returning from the war, foundered on the rocks just outside the entrance to Stornoway Harbour.

The vessel was carrying Royal Naval Reserve men. Of the 280 men on board, only 79 survived. This accident had a profound impact on the Islands which had already lost 1100 people in the war, and some say, they never really recovered. In the early 1920’s many left the islands and emigrated to Canada and other parts of the world.

In the Hebrides, we had excellent guides, Mick and Alayne. Mick had expertise in the flora and fauna of the Islands having worked in conservation before starting his tour business. One of his projects was trying to eradicate hedgehogs from South Uist. Not a popular project with Beatrix Potter fans! Alayne is a historian and involved in publishing books telling stories of the Western Isles. They were a great combination. Our last look at the Islands was from a flight from the beach at Barra. It’s the only scheduled flight from a beach that we know of. A perfect flight and landing at Glasgow Airport and a farewell dinner with our convivial group finishes our rewarding time in Scotland.