If You Want to Learn You Have to Walk

OK, so I didn’t post every day during the West Highland Way. Can’t blame the wifi – it was pretty good in most places. It’s all me. By the end of each day, I was totally exhausted, ready to eat, drink (a pint or two) then sleep.

It is totally exhausting to trek over 20 km a day over rough, and very beautiful territory. Colleen and I did this for over 100 km in all sorts of weather.

The walk really tested our limits and this is an exhilarating experience! At the end of the day, we could hardly move and I got used to padding around the hotels and B&Bs in my sock feet – it was too painful to wear my shoes!

There is an immense amount of learning that has gone on here. When you walk through a country for eight hours a day over pathways that are easily 200 years old the character of the land begins to seep in.

For both of us, we had more and more questions as the days lengthened. Where do the feral goats come from? Why are there so many abandoned stone houses everywhere? Who really was Rob Roy? What is the legacy behind Scottish giants like William Wallace and Robert Bruce? Why did the Glen Coe massacre happen?

It is thought that these wild goats are all that remain from the Highland Clearances

Each night after we poured over our trip notes (excellent!) for the next day we turned to our history books to answer some of these questions. Walking the country calls you to learn more about this beautiful rich land.

This was my constant companion – along with Colleen – throughout the trek

I know as we take a much-needed break today in Fort William (why is it called Fort William?) we will both be reading up and sharing information on what we are learning

hey dad, do you know what Celtic priests were called?

This is why a love of history is so important. It informs your travels and enriches the walking. The walking, in turn, brings out a curiosity to learn about the land.

What a wonderful way to travel!

Slow travel in Scotland

Slow travel is not so much a particular mode of transportation as it is a mindset. Rather than attempting to squeeze as many sights or cities as possible into each trip, the slow traveler takes the time to explore each destination thoroughly and to experience the local culture.

The Art of Slow Travel

I didn’t know this was a term, but slow travel is a thing and we are doing this now. We are spending our second day in the little town of Drymen, Scotland, 30 miles north of Glasgow. Tomorrow we start on the West Highland Way, a trail that was developed 30 years ago as the hiking craze took off in the British Isles.

I am traveling with my daughter Colleen who is just starting a journey that will take her all over Europe. We actually bumped into each other yesterday in the town square. No need for cell phones here.

I like the term slow travel for what we are doing. We have settled into our second B&B in Drymen and we will start hiking around 22 kilometers a day on the way to Fort William and Ben Nevis eight days away.

This is not a tour that will take in all of the Highlands of Scotland, this is a moderate 135-kilometer trek through the highlands ending with a climb up the highest mountain in the United Kingdom. A wonderful way to see beautiful countryside.

After climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro last year, I am most interested in travel that allows me to walk from place to place. Any form of motorized travel blurs the experience and takes me away from learning more about my surroundings.

What I have learned so far. Drymen was settled first (at least that is what we know) because it is located close to the Endrick River and a shallow fording of the river. There are supposed to be ancient fortifications guarding this ford, but I couldn’t see them.

 

Endrick Water

The town hosts the oldest licensed pub in Scotland the Clachan Inn. Established in 1734, it was once owned by a sister of Rob Roy. The pub is wonderful and offers at least 30 different types of scotches.

Right outside the pub is a road that stretches straight to Stirling and was built during the 1745 Highland Rebellion to link up key defensive positions for the British.

Not bad for 24 hours. Tomorrow will be more of a challenge, but as we travel into the Highlands, we will learn even more and meet more people who are out to discover a bit of Scotland. Lots to experience, but we will continue to do it slowly.

The beginning of our trail starting tomorrow.