The final day of the West Highland Way combined the hill climbing of the Devil’s Staircase with the mileage of Loch Lomond and the rainy weather and wet trail that had become commonplace in the Highlands. In other words, it was 15 miles up and down a hill in lots of rain. Oh, and with some gorgeous views. Don’t forget about those.

hey, that's where we're going!

Kinlochleven is situated on the floor of a small valley nestled between steep hills, and we started the day climbing back out of the valley (after tumbling our way down into it the day before). The trail was steep, but well-constructed, making it a very manageable climb despite the rain that started on us within 5 minutes of leaving our B&B.

the sun shines on Kinlochleven

Once out of the valley, we spent most of day along the sides of the Mamores, the mountain range along Loch Leven. The sun broke through over Kinlochleven just before it passed out of view. A pretty town, despite its industrial bent. The rain soon resumed, though, and the trail became more stream than path as water drained off the hillsides above us. Within the first 5 miles, we had encountered puddles too large and too deep to keep our feet out of and were soaked through. In fact, some of the puddles are now on local maps as small ponds! (Ok, maybe not, but they were big enough to…)

more lake than trail

We spent a bit less time stopping to look at the scenery because of the rain and the distance still to cover, but the moors and the mountains were beautiful, wreathed in mist, dotted in sheep, and carpeted in heather. Our photos don’t do it justice.

about ready to be done

This last stretch of trail was pretty remote with nowhere to stop for lunch, so we brought a pack lunch with us from our B&B. As luck would have it, we even managed to find a few minutes break in the rain to eat our lunch along the trail at the top of a small hill. Gotta say, they know how to do a good cheese sandwich in Scotland – they’ll keep you going over all sorts of moors and hillocks.

a relatively dry lunch stop

The trail continued to be wet and more puddle than dirt the rest of the day, until we eventually made it up to the top of a long valley and came out on the dirt road around the base of Ben Nevis. The tallest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis clocks in at a whole 4,411 feet. We never saw the top of it, though. It was covered in mist the entire time we were in the area.

Ben Nevis

After Ben Nevis, the West Highland Way sort of peters out as if it lost interest in the whole endeavor just outside of Fort William. The last X miles are just walking along the sidewalk into town. A few years back, Fort William had the bright idea to move the official end of the trail into the center of town (the trail had previously ended at a roundabout right on the edge of town).

we just might make it to the end

They moved the end of the trail to the far end of the pedestrian shopping street. The cobblestoned pedestrian shopping street. That was full of people who had not just hiked 15 miles in the rain. So it was jarring both for the feet and for the senses, being pushed back into civilization and unforgiving road surfaces before we’d had our hot showers. But we made it all the way to the official end. Which was marked, very appropriately, by a statue to sore feet.

do your feet hurt?