The Great Glen Way: Travellers' Tales
Becky Witt from Colorado walked Scotland's Great Glen Way
and had an amazing time. She shared the story of her walk with us, including a rather surprising method of permanently marking her achievement!
What is your walking history?
I am from Colorado and love hiking in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. I also enjoy walking in my suburban neighborhood. I have done one long-distance hike several years ago on the Colorado Trail. The hike was a guided hike which consisted of ascending and descending mountain passes for six days which was about 90 miles. We camped at the end of each day and I had to carry a day-pack. Our tent/luggage was transported for us.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
My hairstylist walked The Great Glen Way a couple of years ago and loved the walk. She told me about how beautiful the highlands are, the flavourful food and the friendly Scots. Also, she said if I didn’t find anyone to walk it with me, then she would. This didn’t make sense to me because there are so many countries to explore. But now, I get it. I, too, would walk it again!
How did you prepare?
I started physically preparing for the hike five months in advance. I started walking about four miles a day, five days a week. I did one long walk on the weekend. I started at four miles and worked up to 14 miles, which was about two weeks before the walk. I started upper body weights five months in advance, once a week. On occasion I missed daily walks, the long weekly walk and lifting weights. I also started carrying my backpack on my last four long walks. I felt physically prepared for the walk and I was able to complete each day, feeling tired, but not exhausted. I did not have any blisters or injuries during the walk. At the end of each day, I did stretch. Mentally, I prepared by reading literature on The Great Glen Way, listening to podcasts about travel in Scotland and watching a couple of documentaries on Scotland.
What was your favorite destination?
Truly, I had several favourite destinations. I loved walking in the big northern woods. The elms, oaks, maples and pines were majestic. I loved walking through the meadows seeing sheep and so many wildflowers blooming: foxgloves, thistles, bluebells, broom, gorse and poppies were a feast for the eyes. Also, there are so many unbelievable waterfalls and all different types of bridges. Of course, coming into Inverness and seeing the end trail marker was bittersweet, but a favourite.
Best food & drink?
I had a variety of fish twice a day and sometimes three times a day. Whether it was salmon, haddock, or herring, and whether it was smoked, poached, fried or fresh, it was delicious. The salmon was so flavourful, creamy and rich tasting. I never tired of eating fish. Cullen Skink chowder was phenomenal. Also, I had the sticky toffee pudding close to every night, which was amazingly rich and sweet.
I was not a Scotch drinker before I went, and actually did not like it at all. We went to the Ben Nevis Distillery in Fort William, where The Great Glen Way begins, and I learned how to drink it with one to two drops of water in the Scotch. I can now say, I like Scotch.
Also, every morning we asked our hosts to fill our thermos with hot tea and then we added Ben Nevis whisky honey, and that tasted wonderful during our mid-morning break!
I had a couple of surprises. First, I had no idea how much self-care long distance walking gave me. I did not have headphones in for the walk and I was not on my phone at night. I truly was present in each and every moment. I read Brene Brown’s book The Gift of Imperfections every night which gave me food for thought the next day. I had time to self-reflect about my career, family, friends and future travel for my wanderlust! I definitely had some insights which led to personal intentions.
The second surprise was that you can walk in Scottish rain. It did rain most days, but a gentle rain and not for long. We were able to do whatever that day’s walk held in the rain and we did not get one midgie bite!
Another surprise was that I tried haggis, kippers with eggs, bircher muesli and Scotch and that I loved them all. I wasn’t brave enough to try blood pudding - perhaps next time!
The last surprise was getting The Great Glen Way trail marker tattoo on my forearm!
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
The day we were walking into Spean Bridge during a heavy downpour, we missed the path and ended up walking on the paved road, which was a challenge. We did not read our route notes carefully the night before and took a wrong turn. We looked at the route notes later that night and yes, there it was very clearly spelled out, how to take the path and not the road. So, definitely read the route notes every night!