West Highland Way

About a year after I actually went, I’m finally posting some photos from the West Highland Way, which I walked with Merel last summer. In fact, I’m going to Scotland again today! This time to Inverness and its surrounding region. The West Highland Way in its entirety runs from Glasgow to Fort William, a whopping 96 miles (or 154km)! We didn’t hike the entire path, however, we started from Loch Lomond, the largest lake in Great Britain. On our first day, we had to take a ferry across Loch Lomond to our starting point, offering some atmospheric foggy views of the Loch!

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Loch Lomond

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First day on the West Highland Way

Along the way we passed by the remains of St. Fillan’s Priory. St. Fillan is believed to have been an Irish Christian missionary in the 8th century, travelling on foot between Tyndrum and Killin. The priory that was named after him was built in the 13th century and endowed by Robert the Bruce, King of Scots from 1306-1329. The remains may look somewhat pathetic in the picture below, but the building is estimated to have been over 50m long! It is said Robert the Bruce carried the arm-bone of St. Fillan with him as a relic, and attributed his victory over the English King Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn to it.

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Remains of St. Fillan’s Priory

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We also passed the site of the Battle of Dalrigh, a battle that took place between Robert the Bruce, and Clan MacDougall in 1306. During the Wars of Scottish Independence in 1296, Clan MacDougall had been an ally of Robert. But in 1306, Robert the Bruce murdered the Clan Chief’s nephew John Comyn (who was in line to the Scottish Throne), after which they became sworn enemies and Clan MacDougall switched allegiance to the English King, Edward II. When Robert the Bruce and his army were retreating from a lost battle near Perth, he was attacked by Clan MacDougall at Dalrigh (Dalrigh means ‘King’s Field’ in Scottish Gaelic). Robert had not expected this attack at all, so the battle was brief and killed the last of his horsemen and some important allies. After this, Robert was in hiding for two years, but finally defeated Clan MacDougall at the Battle of the Pass of Brander.

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Site of the Battle of Dalrigh

Our hike also took us to Glen Coe, a glen (valley) shaped by ancient volcanoes. You may recognise this landscape, as it has been featured in many films, such as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Skyfall and Braveheart. The area is truly astonishing, as it is surrounded by bare rocks a thousand metres high. The highest mountains of Glen Coe have been formed by magma flows that came up from deep inside the earth through faults, deep fractures created by the movement of the Earth’s crust. Glencoe was the first site where cauldron subsidence was studied, a phenomenon where rocks collapse under their own weight to form big oval-shaped fractures named ring-faults, causing rocks inside this ring to drop even further. All of this happened approximately 400 million years ago. In the last two million years, the mountains were further shaped by glaciers and ice sheets during the Ice Age.

In reference to the story about Robert the Bruce above: this area used to belong to the MacDougalls. However, after Robert defeated them in 1309, he gave the MacDougall lands to the clan leaders that supported him. Glencoe was given to Angus Og, the chief of Clan Donald. Angus Og’s son Iain Fraoch founded the MacDonald clan which held the lands for centuries.

Glencoe was also the site of a dramatic historic event, the Massacre of Glencoe. In 1692, after the revolution of 1688 in which King James II was overthrown in favour of William III, Prince of Orange, and the subsequent Jacobite rising of 1689, 38 clan members of Clan MacDonald were brutally murdered by the Earl of Argyll’s Regiment of Foot, who had been received by the Clan as guests, after missing the deadline by which they were meant to declare their allegiance to William III.

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Glen Coe

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When we were near Fort William, the end of our hike, we hiked up the site of Dun Deardail, a fort built 2,000 years ago and occupied many times throughout history by Celts and Picts. The fort was on top of a very steep hill, making it a strategic location with easy views in all directions (and very windy!).

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Me illustrating that it was indeed very windy on Dun Deardail (with excellent views of Fort William)

We spent an additional day at our end point Fort William to see a very special local attraction: The Jacobite Steam Train – which you may know as the Hogwarts Express from those epic panoramic shots in the Harry Potter movies (in particular from that viaduct shot below).

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The train runs from Fort William to Mallaig, a lovely seaside town where we had some spectacular seafood.

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My sad attempt at photographing Glenfinnan viaduct between all the other Potterheads.

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Tonight I am taking the bus from London to Inverness and I couldn’t be more excited to visit Scotland again! I’m particularly excited to finally see Culloden battlefield, the site where the Jacobite uprising dramatically ended in 1745. In my next post I will finally share some photos of my trip to Australia that I took last november.

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