La Rochelle Harbour

Making the most of your visit to La Rochelle

I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure that I had particularly heard of La Rochelle before I booked my recent trip there. Needless to say, it certainly wasn’t on my bucket list either. On our trip to the Enjoying a croissant by the Harbour in La Rochellelovely Pitou- Charantes region of France we could barely tear ourselves away from the countryside, but on this one occasion we did, and were very glad. La Rochelle has historical and military significance, and a plethora of beautiful buildings and structures to prove it. It is a sunny, welcoming city and one that is easily navigated on foot as most of the attractions are close to each other. It would be all too easy to pass time sitting next to the harbour, or in a little café, watching the world and it’s many inhabitants go by over a café au lait or a croissant, but with so much to see and do it would be a shame to miss out.

La Rochelle AquariumFirst off, the Aquarium. Being on the shore of the mighty Atlantic Ocean, it seems only fitting that La Rochelle should have an aquarium to house a selection of weird and wonderful sea creatures not only for the enjoyment of all who visit, but serving a greater purpose too. The aquarium showcases fish, shark, plankton, anenomes and turtles amongst many other fascinating flora and fauna in it’s array of tanks, tunnels and mini rainforest. Adults and children will not be disappointed as swarms of La Rochelle Aquariumjellyfish softly and elegantly bob in a dazzling display above their heads, and will stand in awe at the impressive 10ft high shark tank. The aquarium is also a centre for research, training and awareness in marine conservation including an observation and care programme for sea turtles. An adult ticket will set you back sixteen euro’s, slightly more if you opt for the English audio guide, but it’s worth paying the extra couple of euro’s if you don’t speak French as there is quite a bit of information in French only.

Once you’ve had your fill of fish (as interesting as the aquarium is, after a while they do all start to look the same), it’s only a short stroll towards the harbour adjoining to the old town. The road here is liMacaroons in La Rochellened with restaurants and cafés, all boasting a prominent position overlooking the marina and many of them offering seafood as you would expect – we caught sight of an oyster or two as we walked by. If you make it past the tempting gauntlet of fabulous looking restaurants you will soon find yourself walking on cobbled streets as you enter the older part of the city just beyond the prominent clock-tower. Here you will find many a boulangerie and patisserie, luring you in with the smell of freshly baked pain au chocolat and a colourful display of macaroons and meringue that look almost too good to eat. La Rochelle has it’s fair share of shops too, and whether you’re in the market for clothes, shoes, perfumes or comic books- you’ll find them all here.

We had lunch at Rawcoco, a 100% vegan and organic restaurant that is committed to providing healthy, natural meals and snacks. Joining a few other inspired places Vegan Crepe at RawCoco, La Rochelleacross the continent catering to extremely health-conscious individuals (ahem, this might include me), this great little place offers tasty, nutritious food that is as good for your body as it is for the planet. The containers the food is served in are all biodegradable and compostable- even the cutlery is made of birch wood; they really have thought of everything. As such, this isn’t the cheapest place to eat but it is refreshing to have a healthy take on some of the country’s finest foods. I enjoyed a baked banana/chocolate crepe which was soon washed down with a matcha latte, complete with home-made almond milk (freshly crushed on site!). Lush!

La Rochelle CathedralA stone’s throw from here is the cathedral. Built in the 1700’s it is as impressive a sight from the outside as it is stunningly beautiful on the inside. Savour the peace and quiet from a pew as you admire the intricate details of the stained glass windows, mosaic floors and statues all around. There is no charge to enter, and it only takes ten minutes to walk around.

If visiting the Cathedral, Old Port, and Le Grosse Horloge (town clock) wasn’t enough history for you, consider visiting ‘Le Bunker’. A remnant from World War Two, this interesting exhibit houses original artefacts from the war all within the confounds of an original bunker discovered accidentally during excavations by it’s owner.  La Rochelle played an important part in the war as an Atlantic base for the Germans and was also a major submarine base. Allow at least thirty minutes to walk around this small museum which only costs 7.50 euro each.  Unfortunately most of the information is in French only, but they do have an English guidebook that they will lend you that outlines the history of La Rochelle during the war.

Other things to do in La Rochelle

 We didn’t have time to do anything else, and decided to spend our last few minutes of the afternoon feasting on freshly bought croissants overlooking the harbour (one can’t be healthy Bike rental in La RochelleALL the time!), but rest assured there is plenty more to do in and around the city. La Rochelle actually pioneered the concept of public bicycles, and everywhere you go you can find yellow bikes to rent at quite a reasonable price (starting at three euro’s for two hours). This might tempt you to explore further to one of the regions sandy beaches (Les Minimes is only about two miles from the city centre) or even as far as the Ile de Re, a small island connected to the city by bridge. There are several boats operating from the harbour which offer visitors voyage to the Island along with ‘Fort Boyard’, which was made famous by it’s namesake television programme aired in the UK during the nineties.

Top Tip

 Being a small city, I would suggest that La Rochelle could easily be seen in a day, but if you want to make more of your visit by exploring the Ile de Re also, this could actually make a really lovely multi- day trip. The Island is popular with Parisians, and can be busy during high season.

See my post on Pitou-Charantes for more information what to do in the surrounding area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to spend a week in Pitou-Charantes

Whilst looking for a bit of late September sun, I snapped up a rural cottage in Pitou-Charantes which happened to be a bit of a bargain. I hadn’t been to France in years, and whilst there are plenty more exotic and exciting places to visit – it’s hard to see past it as a relaxing, warm break that doesn’t involve having to take a flight from the UK. Not to mention the wine, cheese, bread, crepes and croissants- France is home to some of the world’s most delicious cuisine (in my humble opinion). Pitou-Charantes is a region in the mid-west of the country, with an average high of 18 degrees as early as May and as late as October, although if you are looking for wall to wall sunshine to top up your tan, you’ll probably need to head further south. That said, we spent time sunbathing in over 25 degree heat at times during our week-long visit and even the cloudier days were still warm enough to sit outside.

We could have spent all week at our country cottage, nestled in a tiny hamlet of only ten houses. It is surrounded by aging stone farm buildings with beautiful shutters, it’s flaking blue paint somehow still clinging on – making them seem even more beautiful. The grassy banks lining the gravel roads and neighbouring gardens are full of fruit trees dripping with ripe prunes, apples and pears. If you want peace and tranquility, look no further than rural France. Endless rows of sunflowers greet you as you drive past field upon field, with prominent church spires appearing on the horizon in nearly every direction. Our arrival was observed only by a small tabby cat peering at us from on top of a wall- probably wondering what the commotion was all about in a place that receives virtually no traffic. Other than hearing the occasional plane or train in the distance, we heard nothing. Absolutely nothing.

If the solitude and quietness gets a bit monotonous, here is just a taste of some of the attractions in the area;

Sample food at a local market

No trip to France would be complete without taking in some local flavours, and what better way to experience them than at a market offering local produce. Rural France is full of small-holdings and the French are particularly proud of their cuisine, so expect to find many varieties of cheese, freshly baked breads, pastries and cured meats among many other delicious foods. We visited the Tuesday morning market in Lezay, about fifty minutes from Poitiers and said to be one of the best markets in the area. There was plenty of fresh food on offer from local sellers and quite an array of less conventional items such as lawnmowers, clothes and even tartan slippers! This particular market seemed to draw an older crowd and also quite a few English ex-pats, but this didn’t detract from the experience for us. There are several markets in the area to choose from, but if visiting Lezay be sure to get there early as things tend to wrap up fairly swiftly around midday. Even if you’re not buying, this is a lovely way to spend an hour or two and experience a little French culture. There is also a great little ‘Bric a Brac’ stall round the corner selling books, antiques and cakes- all in aid of animal rescue.

La Vallee des Singes (Valley of apes)

Open from February to November, the valley of apes makes for a wonderful afternoon out. At 19 euros per adult (13 euro for kids) you really get your money’s worth. The park is home to 34 species and houses over 450 monkeys across 16 acres, and the best bit- none of them are in cages. Watch the monkeys come and go, happily swinging through the trees in what is a very refreshing environment compared with your typical zoo. They are fed at certain times throughout the day, bringing much excitement to your visit- be prepared to be amazed at how close you will get to some of these magnificent creatures. Most impressively, the gorillas, which were only separated from us by a moat about three meters wide- I exaggerate not. There was gasps as the stocky silverback gorilla strutted over towards the bank to take his pick of fresh vegetables, delighting onlookers in the process. Don’t forget to bring your camera as you will have plenty of photo opportunities, particularly in the lemur enclosure where the residents are quite happy to pose for a photograph! There are a couple of café’s onsite and a few picnic benches too.

Nanteuil and Verteuil

 A visit to these two lovely old villages has got to be on the hit list for your stay in Pitou-Charantes. A very pretty twenty-minute drive separates the two villages which can easily be explored on foot in an afternoon. Take a walk through the arboretum in Nanteuil, a quiet wooded sanctuary perfect for a picnic on a sunny afternoon, or explore the lanes lined with quaint stone houses. Verteuil is not your typical village; the quiet streets and pretty stone houses are a familiar sight, but the magnificent 15th century castle which towers over the attractive neighbouring architecture perhaps less so. Being so small, it would be easy to walk round Verteuil in less than thirty minutes but why not linger over a cup of speciality tea or an ice cream by the mill overlooking the River Charante? A visit to this café was a real highlight of our week here, we sat and soaked it up for as long as we could – next to a classic fiat 500 and a resident cat who had fallen asleep on some cushions.

Take a day trip to a city

 La Rochelle and Bordeaux are interesting cities to visit if you have time and can bear to tear yourself away from the serenity of the countryside. I haven’t personally been to Bordeaux but I’m told that it is an amazing city to visit. I can however, vouch that La Rochelle is quite delightful and you can easily spend a day there soaking it all up.

Top tip

Most transactions at Lezay market are done in cash, but only carry what you think you’ll need as there are pick-pockets about, as we unfortunately discovered the hard way.  If you are likely to find viewing animals in small cages upsetting, I would probably avoid the indoor area as we saw many rabbits, geese and guinea pigs in very tiny cages.

We booked our cottage in France through cottages.com which has a wide selection of cottages throughout the UK, France, Italy and Ireland. Consider visiting outside of peak season for more competitive prices.

My gear list for the UK three peaks challenge

Climbing three mountains in 24 hours requires a lot of planning – physically and mentally, but without the right gear the experience can become a whole lot less enjoyable – even dangerous.  You wouldn’t climb one mountain without having access to some basic stuff, let alone three! In order for your challenge to be successful, you have to have thought everything through carefully. A few minutes here and there faffing around trying to find things in your car boot, or looking for Three peaks challengeloose change for the car park can be the difference between scraping through the 24 hour target or breezing through it. You need to aim to have things as slick as possible.

The gear I took had some basic requirements in mind, namely; warmth, protection from the elements, nutrition and hydration.

I basically had two packs, a small day pack for stuff I needed to take with me on the mountain and a pack for the car with things I needed quick access to between peaks.

My day pack: (for taking on the the mountain)

Long sleeved base layer
Warm fleece
Water proof jacket
Gloves (all the above in a waterproof bag)
Water – in a 1.5-2 L bladder for easy access (alternatively use a couple of narrow mouthed bottles that you can drink from on the move)
Sunscreen
Nutrition – I like to take a few sugary snacks with a healthy balance of protein such as Nakd bars, fruit and nuts. For the less health conscious – any sugary treats will do!
Head torch
Sunglasses
Map
Phone in zip locked plastic bag (mainly for taking photos but may also be needed in case of emergency- assuming that network coverage is available on the mountain, which it may not be in all places).

Side note: I used the Mountainsmith Day Pack to take my gear with me on the mountain (pictured above and below). More on that to come as I will be doing a gear review of this lumbar pack.

Between peak bag: (to be kept handy in the car)

Three pairs of spare socks
Three clean pairs of shorts/leggings                                                                                                               Three clean T-shirts
A Towel                                                                                                                                                                                5 litres of water to refill hydration bladder (and extra for when driving)
More snacks for the remaining two peaks
Something more substantial to eat between mountains  (I took sandwiches)
Spare shoes
Anti inflammatory relief such as ibuprofen tablets or gel                                                             Deodorant – not vital, but kinder for your companions
Protein shake for the end
Addresses/ directions for the car parks we were headed to
Coins for the car park (expect to pay £5 for   four hours or less at Snowdon, and £6 for Scaffel Pike)

Three peaks challenge day packThere aren’t a whole load of places to refill your water at each mountain to my knowledge, and to avoid any hydration related catastrophes I would highly recommend taking more water than you think you’ll need with you, at least in the car. Not only will your body require more water than normal due to intense physical effort it takes to climb three mountains, but there are a couple of fairly long drives in between peaks where you will want to replenish your fluid levels. Running out of water is a totally avoidable problem to have, and one that will cost you time.

Top tip:
Remember not to start with too many layers on, you will soon be sweating and wishing you hadn’t put everything you own on. Similarly If you think the weather is changing or as soon as you start to feel cold, put an extra layer on. It’s better to prevent yourself getting really cold and it’s easier to put the extra layers on before you near the top of the mountain where it will be a lot more exposed.

For more information on undertaking the challenge without an organised tour or guide, see my recent post on how to complete the UK three peaks challenge unsupported.

Statford Upon Avon

A visitors guide to Stratford upon Avon – birthplace of William Shakespeare

Stratford-Upon-Avon boasts of everything that you might expect from a medieval English market town. Easily explored on foot, a stroll around the town will take you past buildings dating back to the 1400’s which are a display of the area’s history and literary significance. Most famously, the homes, school and grave of the playwright and poet, William Shakespeare – and his family. Add to this charming streets, fascinating architecture, peaceful boat rides on the river (and shopping!) and you have yourself a perfect day out. If this is not enough to entice you to visit, rest assured that there are plenty of other things to see and do in Stratford- Upon- Avon.

Take a walking tour

Every day at 11 am (and on weekends at 11am and 2pm)  a 2 hour walking tour of the town Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford Upon Avonbegins near to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and is run by friendly, knowledgeable guides. No need to book, and at £6 per adult, it’s a bit of a bargain. We went past Shakespeare’s birthplace, school (opened to the public for the first time in 2016), later residence and grave among many other fascinating places and it gave us a great overview of the town and it’s general layout. Packed full of anecdotes and stories of old, the tour left us feeling as though we had lived through it all. It was also an insight into the morbid past of the town which has a long history of fires and was hit very severely by the dreaded plague. Shakespeare himself was a man of mystery as there is still a lot that we don’t know about him- adding to the atmosphere in this remarkable town. Also, learn about Marie Corelli – a largely unknown, eccentric literary figure and previous resident of Stratford-upon-Avon,  who sold more copies of her novels than the combined sales of her contemporaries Arthur Conan-Doyle, H G Wells and Rudyard Kipling.

Afternoon tea

A visit to Hathaway Tea Rooms is a great way to rest your weary legs after the tour. Claimed to be one of the oldest tea rooms in Stratford, this cosy little cafe is situated inside a grade two listed building thought to date back to 1610. Established in 1931, Hathaway Tea room has a long history of it’s own – originally built as one of the town’s many Inns, then later used as an apothecary and a shoe shop. A traditional English afternoon tea will set you back £15.50 per person which includes sandwiches, scones, cakes and tea- or for a mere £6.25 you can indulge in a more modest, but equally delicious cream tea. I’m a sucker for herbal tea and was particularly excited by the lavender tea on offer here- which was very refreshing. They even have a take-away picnic menu complete with table cloth, glasses and cutlery -for £20 two people can enjoy a slap-up feast in one of the town’s many grassy areas overlooking the river Avon.

Stratford upon Avon chain ferryTake the Original Old Chain Ferry

Said to be the last of it’s kind in Britain, the Original Old Chain Ferry built in 1937 is a fun way to get across the river. Costing only 50p each, you can sit comfortably whilst the operator winds the lever to get you from one side to the other. This convenient and quaint ride makes is easier to do a walking loop of the town to incorporate both sides of the river.

Shopping

Nutcracker Christmas shop, Stratford Upon AvonStratford has plenty to satisfy the retail enthusiast, with an array of boutique clothing, jewellery and gift shops on offer. You won’t leave empty handed if you’re in the market for some unique gifts. Look no further than the Shakespeare Gift Shop and the Nutcracker Christmas Shop – the cutest Christmas shop I’ve ever seen, just opposite Shakespeare’s birthplace.

Visit the oldest pub in Stratford-upon-Avon

The Garrick Inn, Stratford Upon AvonLocated along Stratford’s Historic Spine, The Garrick Inn thought to date back to the 1500’s has a checkered history – and is thought to be home to at least forty ghosts. Not daunted by this, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to eat in this beautiful, half timbered building which we booked shortly after our visit to the pub on our walking tour. Serving a variety of traditional English pub classics, I naturally opted for the steak pie and was not disappointed (I’m no pie connoisseur but to my mind a pie is not a pie without being enclosed in shortcrust pastry!).

Theatre

Many visitors to Stratford take advantage of the town’s plethora of theatres. In the summer months, the Royal Shakespeare Company put on free open air theatre in one of the town’s parks.   The Royal Shakespeare Company itself is based in Stratford, and it’s main theatre along with The Other Place and The Swan Theatre provide regular performances of popular plays- not just Shakespeare. Their stages have been frequented by some of the UK’s most loved actors including Judi Dench, who I’m told lives in the area- along with various other celebrities, as we found out on our walking tour.

Top tip

The Dirty Duck is another favourite pub in Stratford, both with theatre-goers and actors. Richard Attenborough and Kylie Minogue are amongst some of the celebrities that have been here, and it’s proximity to two of the town’s main theatres make it a popular choice with visitors. Book well in advance to avoid disappointment.

 

 

 

 

Making your first attempt a success without paying for the privilege

Having successfully completed the UK National three peaks challenge five times between us, my husband and I are certainly no authority on the subject but have learnt a few things along the way.

A lot of people undertake the challenge as an organised group tour with support from a guide and/or driver. This is largely down to individual preference but for the purpose of this post I will Three peaks challenge - Snowdon viewbe focussing on organising and completing it without any back up. A daunting prospect for some, but achievable with the right planning, training and determination.

The challenge involves climbing to the top of the highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales (and back!) in 24 hours or less. Not for the faint hearted, the hike takes in stunning vistas from the start – and whilst you won’t have much time to stop to admire the view, the sense of achievement is worth it. A good level of fitness is needed, however you will also need to carefully plan your route, gear and nutrition in order to be successful. Every minute counts!

Quick facts:

Mount Snowdon (Wales)- Elevation 1,085m ~8 miles

Scafell Pike (England)– Elevation 978m ~ 6 miles

Ben Nevis (Scotland)– Elevation 1,345m ~9 miles

Total distance to drive between mountains: 472 miles

Training
I can’t emphasise enough the importance of training for an event like this. Just going for a few Three peaks challenge - Ben Neviswalks won’t cut it, unless you are a seasoned hiker you will need to get yourself up some hills – the toughest part of the challenge is the sheer elevation gain  and you will be out of breath within the first ten minutes of starting if you haven’t prepared your body for it. I would suggest if you’re starting from scratch, taking a long, hilly walk with a day pack at least once a week for two to three months – gradually building up the distance.

When to go
July and August are popular months to complete the three peaks challenge, and for good reason. Temperatures are generally milder and conditions more favourable. Snow can be found at high elevation even as late in the year as June, making the climb more challenging.

Direction                                                                                                                                                                                 Most people go North to South rather than South to North. However there are merits to doing both. Whilst it may be mentally more challenging to finish on Ben Nevis, the toughest and longest climb, you can also get ahead of schedule pretty easily on Snowdon and Scafell Pike, which is a nice feeling.  The other advantage of going South to North is that you will typically be climbing on Ben Nevis in the dark, as opposed to the more difficult to navigate Scafell Pike.

Timing                                                                                                                                                                             The general aim is to spend as little time hiking in the dark as possible. Walking at night is slower Three peaks challenge - Snowdon viewand requires more concentration to avoid tripping or taking a wrong turn. Having got lost on Scafell Pike in the middle of the night, I can vouch for this – and it is about as fun as it sounds. Practically this means timing your climbs so that you drive between Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis overnight.  If going North to South, start climbing Saturday evening so that you come off Ben Nevis at dusk and begin climbing Scafell Pike at dawn.  If travelling North to South, start climbing Snowdon in the morning so that you finish climbing Scafell Pike just as it gets dark.

Choosing your route                                                                                                                                                        To my knowledge there are no rules about which route up the mountain you can take. With this in mind it makes sense to take the shortest maintained trail up each mountain. There is only one route up Ben Nevis unless you fancy a bit of rock-climbing.  Scafell Pike has several routes, but the shortest and simplest is the route up from Wasdale Head.  Snowdon should be climbed from Pen y Pas; from here you have a choice between the shorter, rockier Pyg track or the longer but easier Miner’s track.  We usually go up the Pyg track and down the Miner’s track, but there is some merit in going up and down the Miner’s track as 3/4 of it has a very gentle gradient and you can travel pretty quickly.

Getting there
Part of the challenge is to get to each mountain in a timely fashion, and by car is the only feasible way to do this. On our combined trips we have either had a designated driver who has not done the challenge or we have driven it ourselves. The latter is perfectly doable, particularly if you can take turns although a lot of it depends on how well you cope with sleep deprivation and driving at night.

Three peaks challengeTime efficiency
At the risk of sounding like a kill-joy, and as much as it would be lovely to stop at every peak for a picnic and a photo shoot – this is not the time to do it! Unless you are a super athlete who is running the entire thing, you definately won’t have time. Eat on the move or in the car, and certainly take a few quick photos on the way- but if you want a leisurely hike with lots of stops,  this is not for you.

Safety
It goes without saying that you must check the weather forecast before you set off (at any time of the year) as conditions on the mountains can change rapidly and may become dangerous if you are not adequately prepared. Make sure to take plenty of layers including a waterproof – just because the weather seems ok at the base of the mountain does not mean that it will be the same two or three hours later at the summit. Go careful underfoot, particularly at night, rocks can become slippery and you will have to negotiate a river crossing on Scafell Pike.

Be aware of the dangers of driving when tired – pull over and give someone else a turn. Don’t be tempted to power through, it’s dangerous and definately not worth it.

There is safety in numbers and whilst we did see the odd lone climber, who I can only assume were very confident in their ability and experience, I would suggest going as a group of four or more. This is for two reasons; more drivers to take a turn at the wheel, and in case of emergency one person to wait with the injured person and two to go for help.

Top tip
You will be shattered and probably sleep deprived by the end of the challenge. Aim to stay near to your finish point to avoid a long drive after your adventure.

Highland cow

100 miles on the West Highland Way

Scotland is a country known for it’s natural beauty, iconic landscapes and mountainous terrain. The West Highland Way offers the traveller a glimpse into what Scotland has to offer, and an opportunity to ‘get away from it all’, taking in great views, peaceful lochs and forests.
We hiked the ~100 mile trail that winds through some of Scotland’s most loved scenery in six days, averaging around fifteen miles a day.

The way begins in Milngavie (pronounced ‘mill-guy’), just outside Glasgow, and winds North finishing in Fort William near to the foot of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Scotland. The trail conveniently passes through several small towns/ villages making it possible to stay overnight in local hostels, camp grounds or alternative accommodation.

For those wishing to lighten their load, a baggage transfer service is available. This would be particularly useful if carrying camping gear, which fortunately we were not.

Our six day hike can be broken down into the following sections (we had longer and shorter days based on the availability of accommodation which we booked fairly last minute):

Scotland's West Highland WayDay one: Milngavie to Balmaha ~20 miles/32 km
The way begins in the town of Milngavie and the first few miles do not feel particularly remote. After this the hike is fairly flat, mostly on footpaths and quiet roads with a fairly steep ascent over Conic Hill towards the end. The climb is rewarded by views to Loch Lomond as the path winds down towards the shore. Even from day one the scenery is pretty astounding and provides a taste of things to come

Day two: Balmaha to Ardlui ~21 miles/34 km
This was in some ways the most difficult day of the hike given it’s length and difficult terrain along the latter sections on the shore of Loch Lomond. The final push is followed by a pleasant boat ride across the Loch to  Ardlui where you can find a decent pub and lodgings. Connecting the remote and largely uninhabited east side of Loch Lomond with the West, the boat can be summoned from across the Loch by raising a ball tied to a flagpole and waiting in anticipation on the dock – just make sure you don’t miss the last boat! Expect to pay a mere £4 per person each way (£6 for solo travellers).

Scotland's West Highland WayDay three: Ardlui to Crianlarich ~6 miles/10 km                                 With moderate ascents and descents, this short stretch of the trail proved to be in some ways the most beautiful and a section of the hike I remember particularly well for it’s pine forests. Be sure to check out the youth hostel at Crianlarich,  with beds from only £18 per night this is a great place to rest your weary legs.

Day four: Crianlarich to Tyndrum ~ 6 miles/10 km                             After only covering 6 miles the previous day, ideally we would have hiked a bit further, but due to limited availability of accommodation we had to stop only 6 miles up the road in Tyndrum.  As a result, the day felt more like a gentle stroll than a serious hike, but given that we had a very big day the next day we were glad for our second easy day in a row.

Day five: Tyndrum to Kinlochleven ~28 miles/ 45 km                                                                                    This section takes in the wilderness of Rannoch Moor as well as the Devil’s Staircase – the most challenging climb on the WHW. Rannoch Moor is basically an uninhabited peat-bog with few trails across it and limited cover.  Consequently it felt a lot more exposed and would be quite challenging in adverse weather.  We stopped off for a well deserved break at the Kingshouse Hotel before climbing out of Glencoe up the infamous Devil’s Staircase to the highest point on the whole trail.  Although a tough climb of several hundred metres, the views at the top are well worth it.  After the climb, the trail meanders gently down from the high pastures to the town of Kinlochleven where we stayed the night.

Scotland's West Highland WayDay six: Kinlochleven to Fort William ~16 miles/ 26 km.                                                           After our epic hike the day before, limbs were tired and feet were sore, so the immediate climb out of Kinlochleven was quite tough; a climb made even more demoralising by a couple of female German ultra-marathoners running past us as if out for a Saturday morning Park Run.  However, the reward for our hard work was our first sight of Ben Nevis – Scotland’s highest mountain and our companion for most of the remainder of the hike.  Even with the summit shrouded in cloud, Ben Nevis loomed large and provided an inspiring backdrop as we made our way slowly down into Glen Nevis.  After almost 100 miles of walking, the final 3 miles along tarmac roads felt strangely West Highland Way, Scotlandhard and the elusive Fort William always seemed just round the next bend, but eventually we arrived weary, elated and hungry.  The weariness would take a while to deal with, but the hunger was quickly resolved by steaks all round at the local Wetherspoons – although not before the obligatory photograph with the Weary Traveller!

Top tip: As a first hand witness of the dreaded ‘midges’ in Scotland, I can assure you that these critters really are as bad as their reputation would suggest. Your best chance of avoiding them is to go in May/ June and consider taking strong insect repellent as a precaution. We hiked the Way in May and didn’t see a single midge.

Be sure to book accommodation well in advance (or camp) to avoid disappointment. This way, you could space out your overnight stops more evenly, if you wish.

Feature photo courtesy of Nicolai Durbaum/ Unsplash