Walking Warriors v. Glamping Ramblers…
Spending time in nature ‘unplugged’ as it were, is one of the great things we love about long distance hiking. No urgent emails to attend to, no time wasted literally being nosey on Facebook (although we do love to post a good ‘selfie’ on a mountain now and again!) But although we love the great outdoors and can now quite comfortably ‘wash’ in a river (without soap of course) and squat over a hole in the ground (packing out our toilet paper), we do enjoy some little luxuries now and again – getting drinking water from a tap, having a proper toilet and a hot shower to name a few!
‘Glamping’ as an emerging trend therefore does suit us now and again, particularly if we want access to amenities such as heating and electricity to charge our camera batteries. (Our solar panel does rely on there being sunshine and us packing it in the first place!) So it didn’t take us long to talk ourselves out of a wild camp and into a wigwam whilst hiking the West Highland Way!
There are several perfectly placed glamping pods or ‘hobbit houses’ as we like to call them all along the West Highland Way if you prefer a few more home comforts. After all, camping doesn’t have to mean ‘roughing it’. So for Day 4, we shirked off our ‘walking warrior’ attitude, taking the view that this long distance hike was after all a ‘holiday’, and we did not feel guilty about staying in a wigwam one little bit! Find out more in our latest trail report…
Our wonderful ‘wigwam’ at Strathfillan – an impromptu decision to enjoy a little luxury on the trail!
Monday 6th April 2015 – Easter Monday – 9.6 miles – ‘Old Habits Die Hard’
In spite of our grievances whilst getting back into the swing of things, Day 4 was soon here! We’ve already got into the habit of waking naturally around 7am. Beinglas Farm Campsite was already a hive of activity as eager walkers dismantled tents, queued for showers and lined up the bar ready for a hearty breakfast, before setting foot on the West Highland Way once more.
It was a little different for us however! As check out time wasn’t until 10:30am, we were in no immediate rush to get going, preferring to linger a while longer and avoid joining the caravan of walkers that were soon to be on their way. We had planned a shorter walking day (still a respectable 12 miles), so we took full advantage of the facilities whilst we could, opting to stay snuggled in our sleeping bags and enjoy the brief early morning sunshine, waiting for the queues to die down and the mass exodus of people to be forthcoming.
Despite there being zero rain during the night, our tent was soaking wet due to condensation, so leaving it up that extra bit of time we hoped would allow it to dry out somewhat too. (Another advantage of staying put!)
There was a brief half hour of sunshine before the valley became shrouded in mist – honest! The campsite was full the night previous, but most people had left by the time we got up for breakfast…
Having splurged on steak and chips for dinner last night, we went back to our budget conscious traveller ways and headed to the camp kitchen for breakfast where Wayne rustled up bowls of porridge and cups of tea from the rations we had brought with us. No matter how much we love a cooked breakfast, we’re still somewhat conscious of the calories and the fact that we like to lose a little weight whilst hiking. If we succumbed to the temptation of sausage and black pudding every day, this was certainly not going to happen!
(We did manage to procure 6 fresh eggs from a mysterious benefactor who had kindly left on the table a box containing a dozen eggs. After no one claiming them, we swiftly put 6 away for the following day’s breakfast! Any food donations are always gratefully received!)
In the camp kitchen, Wayne rustles up a standard camp breakfast of porridge and tea.
It was just after 10am when we finally set off – our intended destination Tyndrum. I say ‘intended’ as we never actually got there, but I’ll get to that later.
Finally ready to set off… And by the looks of this picture not fully awake yet!
Today’s walk, although muddy in places, with a few ascents here and there, was on much more even ground and so far less taxing on the feet. This was a welcome relief as we were still suffering the aches and pains of yesterday’s mammoth slog up the east side of Loch Lomond. I’m never really one to suffer in silence, so Wayne well and truly knew how much my feet were still aching! However, we felt lucky that we didn’t have any blisters after seeing several other hikers hobbling around camp. Our aches and pains were primarily due to carrying such heavy loads, which really tells in the muscles and tendons of your feet.
I was more than ready for a sit down by mile 3, whereas Wayne felt like we’d only just got going. So I off-loaded the pack, took off my trail shoes, and settled myself on a grassy knoll by the river to let my feet breathe!
Compared with the ups and downs of Loch Lomond yesterday, the trail today was positively flat!
That’s more like it! We are finally heading for the mountains!
Following the river. No rock hop needed!
We couldn’t complain about not being able to avoid the electricity pylons in the picture having enjoyed some luxuries at Beinglas Farm Campsite courtesy of having electricity in the middle of nowhere!
A minor detour due to construction work taking place.
Taking a well needed rest after walking 3 miles, a quarter of our intended daily mileage.
A flask of mulligatawny soup was also perfect for recharging the batteries, and then we were off again… Bracing ourselves through a field of cows standing protectors of their calves, then under the railway line and finally under and away from the busy A82, Scotland’s main artery that runs all the way from Glasgow to Inverness in the north of Scotland.
You don’t realise how noisy hiking close to a road is until you’re actually hiking close to one. It certainly doesn’t make for a peaceful and tranquil walk. That’s one thing we didn’t envisage about the West Highland Way – for a large part of the journey (approximately 50 miles or so), it runs parallel to a road, (mainly the A82), so your solitude is constantly blighted by traffic noise. In particular, the serenity of Loch Lomond was yesterday shattered by motorbikes zooming through the valley.
We were thankful for lovely spring weather today as the mist cleared and the skies brightened!
The trail was much kinder on our feet today…
Facing a stand-off with some fierce looking cows!
The West Highland Way takes you under the railway line via a tunnel.
Happy to be heading into the hills, with the road running parallel to us finally out of view!
I was really pleased when Wayne decided he’d found the perfect spot for a time lapse so we could take the packs off again and have a half hour sit down, just before our halfway marker for the day – the turn-off to Crianlarich. It was great to rest in the sunshine again overlooking several snow covered peaks to the east. However if we’d just have waited until after the turn-off there is a much better spot, which we then discovered! As you go uphill just before you enter the woodland, there’s a perfectly placed picnic bench at the top of the hill with a fabulous view overlooking the River Fillan. We were not surprised that it was already in use by two hikers eating lunch!
Another dice with death! We are always nervous walking through fields with cows.
Away from the road and into the hills.
The lure of a pub at Crianlarich did not take us off course.
Heading for the forest as we turned off for Tyndrum.
It felt more like an autumnal day because of the colours.
The scenery was very different to our experiences on the John Muir Trail in the USA.
Stopping to enjoy the view.
The next section of the walk sees you weaving through bright green, mossy woodland on a gravelly track. If you get a peek through the tall trees, the surrounding mountain views are stunning. Again, there are several ups and downs, but after seeing a noticeboard for ‘Strathfillan Wigwams Camping & Shop’ just 1.5 km ahead of us, we were in high spirits having talked ourselves into trying out a wigwam for the night. (After all, this was a week’s holiday from work!)
Reaching this decision meant today’s section of the trail was cut short by 2ish miles – but we’d make that up tomorrow having agreed that a bit of rest and recuperation in a heated wigwam would do us the world of good. Like we said, this was our holiday after all! Having electricity also meant we could charge our electrical items having not brought the solar panel with us on this trip, falsely thinking we’d endure nothing but cloud and rain. (Judging by Wayne’s reddening face we had definitely seen some sun, the Scottish weather having been far better than what we had anticipated – and us not bringing any sun cream either! (Both major faux pars considering how ‘experienced’ we now consider ourselves!) Lesson learnt there on both counts.
We now just had to hope there was a wigwam available. On a popular trail such as this that has over 50,000 visitors annually, and it being Easter Bank Holiday Monday, one of the most popular times of the year – it would be fortunate to say the least if there was a wigwam ready and waiting for us to rest our weary legs. It would certainly save us pushing on to Tyndrum where we knew from the previous night at Beinglas Farm, every man and his dog would be camped.
“And I will walk 500 miles…” Well, maybe not today!
The West Highland Way continues…
Signage throughout the West Highland Way is very good. The information boards are particularly good if you want to find out more about the history of each area that you pass through.
Following the footsteps of Robert the Bruce who had been here.
The ruins of the priory as it now stands.
The sign that turned us from ‘walking warriors’ into ‘glamping ramblers’ for the day, so strong was the lure of a wigwam and a farm shop!
Almost hopping, skipping and jumping all the way to Strathfillan!
Enjoying the sights of a working farm.
Locating the various ‘Tyndrum Hills’ we had been looking at for most of the day’s walk.
After finally reaching Strathfillan Wigwams, we found ourselves in luck! We took charge of key number 6 and ‘Jo & Do’s Wigwam’ for £46 (which we had already justified in terms of cost by reminding ourselves that we’d be ‘wild camping’ the following 2 nights – and hey, we’re both working and no longer restricted by a backpacker budget).
‘Glamping v Camping’ – We were happy that we were not putting up the tent tonight!
The wigwams are deceptively spacious and light and airy inside.
As usual it doesn’t take us long to unpack and make ourselves at home! The wigwam comes complete with a fridge as well as heating and of course electricity.
Needless to say, ‘old habits die hard’ and on first inspection of the camp kitchen we bagged ourselves some extra teabags, a tin of baked beans, 2 bread rolls and a chocolate bar from the ‘Hiker Box’ of surplus food rations. We also spied a bottle of cooking oil and Heinz tomato ketchup that we’d most certainly make use of later for dinner!
In the ‘Wigwam Shop’ we were like bees round a honey pot, swarming around all the goodies and eagerly deciding what meat to choose for dinner, seeing as they had two freezers stocked to the brim with exotic meats including (but not limited to) crocodile, ostrich, camel and springbok. We settled on two basil and tomato buffalo burgers that we thought would be really tasty with the addition of our freebie eggs, inside our freebie rolls, with a dollop of our freebie tomato sauce on top!
The Trading Post Store, which we called the ‘wigwam shop’, which had a vast range of delightful delicacies.
We settled on these tasty burgers for dinner!
The kitchenette that glampers can use, complete with dining/ seating area is very well equipped with everything you could possibly need for cooking on the go (including cupboards with crockery and cooking utensils, which we found very handy as a tin opener does not form part of our hiking list). It also has a washer and tumble dryer that is coin operated, should you need it. (£1 for 50 minutes drying time.)
The only gripe we had is that showers are not included in the cost of the wigwam price. They too are coin operated and cost £1 for 8 minutes. but on the plus side, they are hot!
So after hot showers, dinner and laundry chores, we settled comfortably into our wigwam and turned the heating on full, making use of the lights instead of a head torch and foam mattresses instead of our blow up pads. The mattresses actually sleep 3, so we had plenty of room to spread out. What luxury! We also had a fistful of tourist leaflets to peruse as we began planning our next Scottish adventure, which we have already decided will be to the Isle of Skye!
Beats super noodles any day!
As wigwam virgins, we both agree it was a decision well made and money well spent for a night of relative luxury on the trail. (We don’t want to lose our kudos as ‘hardcore hikers’ now do we?)
Having completed around 50 miles, we are already halfway through our itinerary and have walked just over half of the West Highland Way. So far, the weather has been kind to us… Let’s see what the next 4 days will bring!