Exploring The Scottish Highlands: Loch Lomond, Glencoe & Ben Nevis
This weeks early journal update will hopefully make up for the last couple of blog posts I’ve missed. I’ve been so crazy busy, and I’ve been away the last week. Doing what, I hear you ask? S and I decided to get away from technology and go wild camping in the Highlands.
If you follow my blog, you’ve probably seen my summer bucket list blog post. I already knew I wanted to climb Ben Nevis, and to go wild camping, so we decided to combine the two.
Day 1: Living in Cornwall means that travelling anywhere takes FOREVER! It’s an absolute nightmare, but I guess that’s the price you pay for spending your life in a beautiful part of the country.
We weighed up the options of how we’d get to the Highlands and the Megabus Gold sleeper came out on top. Flights and the rail sleeper were extortionate – ranging up to £400 each for a return. The other option was driving, but I didn’t want to sit in front of the wheel for that long or put my Polo through the extra miles.
Choosing the Megabus Gold sleeper meant we had the option to have a double bed (with divider) when travelling as a couple. For us, this was a no-brainer because it looked more spacious that the hammock style beds above.
We hopped on the coach (complete with electric and Wifi) at Victoria, London and woke up in Glasgow, for just £16 each. It was relatively comfortable and dead cheap – not to mention, you get a free croissant and juice box in the morning upon arrival.
Day 2: Arrive in Glasgow in the morning Starbucks in one hand, GPS in the other, we headed to collect our hire car from Easirent. We headed to Fort William and spent the day browsing the outdoor shops – it took all our willpower not to buy half the Ellis Brigham and Cotswold.
Stocking up on plenty of more fuel, and no new crampons or jackets, we headed towards Ben Nevis. We parked up nearby the trial in a parking lay-by and prepared ourself for a trek up the mountain. The heavens had opened, it was getting back so we knew we had to find somewhere to pitch soon.
Exhausted and soaked through, we realised that the lake we planned to set up our tent was further than we anticipated. Shocked hikers coming back down the mountain, warned us not to continue to the summit – supposedly there was 80mph winds on the peak. We continued on until we finally found the lake, where we planned to spend the night.
Last fortnight we purchased a Vango Banshee 300 from Penrose Outdoors. We recently went to Dartmoor to trial our kit, and it was apparent that we desperately needed a new tent. We chose the 3 man tent over the 2 man because despite the extra weight, so we’d have a bit more room for our bags.
Battling the wind, trying to set up a brand new tent that we didn’t even test before we headed off (we were rushed, and I have astro turf in the garden!) was pretty tough. It felt near impossible at the time, and at one point I wondered what the HECK we were doing.
Vango Banshee 300 tent, Helly Hansen rain jacket and trouser set, and Komperdell hiking pole.
Once the tent was up though, and I dried my hair, put on my base layers and climbed in my sleeping bag, we soon forgot how horrible it was outside.
Day 3: In the morning, we opened the door to find majestic looking cloud rolling into the valley. It was such an incredible view to wake up to, snuggled in a sleeping bag listening to the rain on the tent. Out of signal, we were unsure how the weather was going to progress. The forecast was constantly changing even when we did have internet, so we had no chance of knowing now.
After breakfast, we made the decision to continue our trip up the mountain despite the rain. Abandoning our camp and gigantic bags, we made our way back to the trial. Amazingly, the horizon cleared! When we turned around, we realised we’d actually been camping in a cloud. Ridiculous, huh? I never considered when finding a place to pitch a tent.
Lots of people were also on the trial, and we knew straight away that we made the right decision to summit that day. That said, we purposely booked our trip to avoid the school holidays – so thankfully it wasn’t overcrowded. The weather cleared up, but visibility went to shit when we gained elevation.
We met some lovely people along the way from all walks of life. Continuing on our trek, we met Daniel and his dog, Cara. The three of us stuck together on the last quarter of the hike, swapping holiday stories and eating jelly babies. Unfortunately, Cara got too cold and they turned around just as we reached the snow, metres from the summit.
Reaching the summit was such a great achievement. After getting a couple of pictures, we starting to head back down Ben Nevis. The feeling of walking down hill rather than up was bizarre at first, but soon so satisfying! Once we made it half way down the mountain, it cleared up completely and we could see for miles.
We crawled into our tent, zipped our sleeping bags together (cool, huh?) and celebrated our victory with some camp food. I’m so glad that we took our self-inflating mattresses and invested in sleeping bags suitable for freezing temperatures! I was so comfortable the entire evening, and slept like a baby!
Day 4: In the morning, the clouds cleared and the sun finally came out. We packed up our tent and continued our descend down the mountain, taking in the glorious views. The trek down the mountains was considerably easier than battling the winds on our way up but it was still a challenge manoeuvring the trials with giant backpacks. Our Komperdell hiking poles took a lot of pressure off though – I’d never do another long hike without them!
Once we made it to the bottom, we grabbed some food at the Ben Nevis Inn. Finally eating something that wasn’t cooked on a camping stove, drinking something other than water and sitting on something dry was bliss. I highly recommend popping in if you’re heading to the Nevis mountain range. The food is incredible, the staff were super friendly and I loved the decor.
Before we knew it, the day was almost over and we needed to find somewhere to camp, fast! We drove towards Glencoe and found somewhere to pitch. Little did we know that we’d be lucky enough to find a spot that offered more amazing views.
Day 5: On our last full day in Scotland, we decided to do a bit more exploring. We headed to Falls of Falloch, a waterfall situated in the north part of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. To avoid being eaten alive by midges, we kept our trip brief. Jumping back in the car, we drove towards Glasgow, stopping off for sightseeing along the way.
Rab microlight alpine jacket navy blue jacket from Snow+Rock
As you probably know (and if you didn’t, you do now!) wild camping is completely legal in Scotland. There is, of course, rules and regulations to adhere to but there are quite a few spots in the Highlands. One of the stipulations is, your camp must not be visible from the road. You can find more information here: https://www.visitscotland.com/accommodation/caravan-camping/wild-camping/
As it was coming towards the end of our trip, we needed to find somewhere to stay the night before returning the car Glasgow following morning. We headed tried to find somewhere to pitch nearby so we wouldn’t be rushed returning the car in the morning, but alas! we couldn’t find anywhere.
Turns out, there isn’t many rural spots near the city centre. We bit the bullet and decided to opt for Red Deer Village Holiday Park on the last night of our trip in Scotland. It was refreshing to finally have a shower and put up a tent in a sheltered, even ground campsite.
That said, I wish our last night was spent somewhere near Loch Lomond (above).
Day 6: In the morning, we packed our bags and dropped the keys off at the car rental. We grabbed some breakfast before going toGlasgow Hilton Hotel to relax before our journey home. I even squeezed in 15 length in their swimming pool before unwinding in the soothing sauna, steam room and whirlpool.
With clean hair, a face full of make up and fresh clothes, we headed to Slug and Lettuce looking half human. 3 cocktails, plenty of food and an incredible chocolate cake later, we moved on to the cinema. Hiding behind my hands mostly, we watched the Conjuring 2, then proceeded to plan our next holiday while having a drink in Walk About.
Ready to crash, we caught the sleeper from Glasgow to Victoria, London.
Day 7: Upon arriving to Victoria, we grabbed a coffee in London before heading back down south to Cornwall.