|The West Highland Way in pictures|
Day 1 - Swathed in Gore-tex from head to toe, we headed for the precinct and the official start of the walk. It was an inauspicious beginning for such a wild and scenic route, a great example of not judging a book by its cover.
Day 1 - After a short hop along Broadmeadow road, we climbed a stone stile into the pretty Glengoyne valley, a place of rough grassland flanked by low hills with curiously knobbly profiles. And silly selfies.
Day 1 - Behind us the impressive flanks of the Campsie Fells marched away to the south west and ahead of us to the north east reared the knobbly-crested bulk of Conic Hill. It looked a long way off, and indeed it was - about thirteen miles give or take.
Day 1 - We struck out again after lunch, across a rural landscape that might have belonged to many a county in England were it not for the plateau of the Campsie Fells that appeared suddenly above the green fields, providing a scenic backdrop for much of the afternoon with their uneven contours framed against the sky.
Day 1 - We passed a large pile of abandoned logs by the wayside; a great example of absent-mindedness. It was as if years before some lumberjack had felled them, stacked them neatly, and then forgot all about them and although they were probably of no great age they looked as if they had lain there for centuries.
Day 1 - Conic Hill now dominated the skyline and demanded our attention. It sat there defiantly, right on the Highland Boundary Fault – the geological divide between lowland Scotland and the Highlands.
Day 1 - Near the summit of Conic Hill the trail sprouted its very own babbling brook and we were obliged to slosh through it in order to gain the top, thereby soaking our feet for the last few miles of the days hike.
Day 1 - From our vantage point atop Conic Hill, at the end of a full days walking, we were treated to the first of the many Highland scenes that would beguile and bedazzle us over the next week. Looking down on the southern end of Loch Lomond from a height of a thousand feet or more, with tree clad islands floating on its plain of bright water, a rainbow arching gracefully across the sky and the setting sun falling slowly behind the distant mountains was a real picture postcard moment.
Day 2 - We loitered for a while amongst the yachts and the ducks scattered along Balmaha's water front, breathing in the wholesome morning air. I waved the camcorder at some pretty scenery and gave a brief description of what we had accomplished so far and what we would be doing today.
Day 2 - After several switchback tracks we stopped for a few minutes on a tiny and secluded beach, an inlet where miniature waves lapped against the shingle and trees crept to the very edge of the shoreline, their roots reaching into the coldness of the lake like hesitant bathers dipping their toes in the water.
Day 2 - It was a time of easy walking and fresh air, with the cobalt blue Loch Lomond providing a constant backdrop.
Day 2 - As the sun began to set we had a tea-break on a high and lonely bench set on a rocky outcrop overlooking the loch far below.
Day 3 - Wet Tuesday - a day of torrential rain. We reached a point where the path had been washed clean away. It was just a rushing torrent of foaming water which had bitten out a large chunk of the footpath on its way down to the boiling Falloch. As advised, we toiled up the wooded hillside, over a barbed wire fence, and slithered inelegantly down the opposite side.
Day 3 - Some way along this long, soggy, grey trail we encountered a kissing gate. This was in fact the halfway point of the West Highland Way and was, as such, a landmark moment.
Day 4 - We reached the remains of an old lead smelting kiln, a desolate place as nothing was growing on the poisoned soil even though the kiln had been abandoned for a century or more.
Day 4 - We wandered out into a valley. It was a beautiful place, great hulks of mountain on either side, a gentle river winding through the valley floor like a silver ribbon, a railway line keeping abreast of us to the west.
Day 4 - The locals were indifferent to our passing but did, at least, allow us to take a few pictures.
Day 4 - It was late afternoon when we saw the tiny collection of buildings that made up the hamlet of the Bridge of Orchy, including the first public house we had seen since Crianlarich. It looked very inviting, nestled there amongst the hills, white washed walls conjuring up images of good beer and comfortable seating.
Day 4 - It was during a beer at the Bridge Of Orchy that we became aware that we had another climb in store; up and over Mamm Carraigh before we descended into the Loch Tulla valley and the Inveroran Inn. It wasn't one we had prepared ourselves for and we felt a little affronted that this unnecessary hill had been plonked across our path.
Day 4 - But the climb was all worth it. At the summit we we turned about 360 degrees: In every direction the peaks marched away stained russet and gold by the setting sun ...
Day 4 - ... Beinn Charn, Beinn Dorain, Beinn an Dothaidh, Beiin Suidhe, their glens gathering purple twilit shadows.
Day 4 - To the north, the waters of Loch Tulla sparkled; amethyst blue.
Day 5 - Rannoch Moor: The trail, an eighteenth century military road built by General Wade to help tame the naughty Jacobites wound its way for several miles through this huge empty piece of Scotland, flanked by the slopes of Creag an Fhirich and Leacann nam Braonanon to the east and rolling moorland to the west,
Day 5 - How grim the crossing of Rannoch Moor might have been if Wet Tuesday had persisted further into the week. Instead, to our fortune, the sun shone brightly and there was time for taking it easy, for lunch and laughter.
Day 5 - And pointless diversions.
Day 5 - We swung up and over yet another hill and were treated to a spectacular view along the Pass of Glencoe with Buachaille Etive Mor looming massively to the west.
Day 5 - The cluster of white buildings that formed the Kings House Hotel were dwarfed by the mountains beyond them. They scattered across the middle distance, like pocket-lint caught on the rough grassy knap of the valley.
Day 5 - Lonely and starkly picturesque, haunted by Buachaille Etive Mor, Black Rock farm demanded attention. And selfies.
Day 5 - After beers, soup, and recharging of legs at the King House Hotel we made our way along the great green bowl of the valley, searching for the Devil's Staircase.
Day 5 - It's entirely possible to traverse the zigzag trail that winds its way up Stob Mhic in one go. The Devil's Staircase is less of an evil climb than its name might suggest. However, you'd be a fool not to pause for breath and then have it taken away by the views back along the pass of Glen Coe.
Day 5 - As you climb it's two thousand feet, the Devil's Staircase rewards every step with the finest views imaginable.
Day 5 - From the summit, at the top of the Devil's Staircase, the wind whips around your face and Ben Nevis appears before you, hulking over its neighbours.
Day 5 - And so begins the long climb down to Kinlochleven. A descent which should never be underestimated in terms of its length.
Day 5 - The path bumped and stumbled along the hem of the hills and didn't seem to be in a hurry to do anything adventurous such as going downwards. It was a broken rocky path which played merry tunes on our sore feet.
Day 6 - If anything, leaving the town of Kinlochleven the next morning offers a far stiffer climb than the Devil's Staircase. But when, at last, you make the final crest there's the beautiful Nevis valley waiting to enchant you.
Day 6 - The military road carved out by General Wade and his troops, so often trodden on this route, leads you along the valley floor, mountain crags on either side doing their very best to make you feel small and insignificant.
Day 6 - The day was unusually clear and cloudless, which we were assured was rare enough to be celebrated, so we did; by posing in front of Ben Nevis.
Day 6 - If these were the only photographs we had taken all week we would still have felt entirely justified in walking the long miles in order to take them.
Day 6 - Ben Nevis stood out in fine relief against the sharp blue heavens. Seldom does its summit present itself with such clarity. We were very fortunate.
Day 6 - Fort William slowly approached, and with a quiet sense of achievement we found ourselves at the (frankly disappointing) way-mark proclaiming the end of our journey. Almost 120 miles of highland walking was at an end, but the memories would be everlasting.
Day 6 - It's fair to say that we celebrated rather a lot in Fort William that evening