Day 5: Porridge Foot and Foxes


First of all, thank you to Louise, who helped us with lists of doctors’ surgeries and hospitals within walking distance.

Thank you also to the lady at reception of Red Squirrel Campsite in Glencoe. She kindly gave us a lift to the local GP. It was strange being in a vehicle, and under the circumstances cannot be considered cheating, not least because she was taking us in the opposite direction to the one we were meant to be walking in.

Along the journey she commented on the uses of oatmeal inside shoes to prevent blisters. Apparently oatmeal is very soft underfoot. Of course, in Heley’s case, she concluded that damp feet would only leave her with a severe case of Porridge Foot. A thought that continues to cheer us up even now.

Regarding Heley’s inability to sleep while inside a sleeping bag, she advised us to consider sleeping bags as cosy not confining. We were also told to remember to make sure our arms were easy to move and that we could make a hasty exit from our sleeping bags… just in case we awoke to find a fox licking our face. Camping was clearly a very different affair when she was a young lassie.

We got to the doctor, who looked at us incredulously when Heley said she was there for a blister. He seemed strangely impressed when he saw the gaping open wound that Heley had been quietly carrying around Glencoe the previous day.


This is Heley's definition of a blister.

The advice is to rest up and let it heal, but that’s not really feasible until Fort William, so instead the nurse patched us up. She was clearly experienced at dealing with the walking wounded. They probably have a lot of broken walkers appearing over in Ballachulish.

The nurse was lovely, and even gave us a few supplies for re-dressing the wound. She commented on Heley’s bravery as she cleaned the wound; others have commented on how mad she is. She ingeniously used what was meant to be wound dressing to create a buffer zone between Heley’s “blister” and her shoe. Only time will tell if it works.

All patched up, we picked up some fudge (from a shop not the doctors’ surgery!) to give to the campsite lady, and off we trudged. As we approached the campsite the lady drove past and said hello, asking how it went and what the outcome was. We gave her the fudge and in return she recommended that we take the day slowly and enjoy the views. Well, at least we enjoyed the views.

We never got to go up and around the hills in Glencoe. We’re just relieved to be moving though. We turned today from a 16-mile day with plenty of scenery and climbing hills to 20 miles of stumbling around Scotland and hobbling the hills.

Other than road, we really only had the Devil’s staircase to content with. Given our wandering around Glencose the previous day, and the madness we went through in Wales, we made short work of the climb. We overtook the only two walkers we saw on the hillside, and, despite her injuries, Heley still made it to the top before me.

Onwards we limped to Kinlochleven. Given the circumstances we chose another campsite.  Hopefully I can be forgiven for writing yet another blog post from a bar. Still, it’s another 14 miles to Fort William, and from there we’ll see how it goes.

One day at a time.

Day 4: Glencoe

It was a cold night. The first night I’ve felt the cold… only to find Heley had already stolen my fleece.

We awoke to the sound of other walkers admiring our chosen camp site. A sore, tired start soon picked up. The landscape was barren, a wee desert, but beautiful nonetheless.

Four days into the wilderness and Heley tells me I am going for the sexy caveman look.Well, OK, maybe she just said that I look like a caveman. I need a shower. I’m not the only one though, but I’m far too polite to comment on that.

The muscle pains that were plaguing the previous day seemed to have lightened. Particularly Heley’s calf which, at times, had looked to threaten our ability to complete the trip. Bouncing along we even ran a couple of hundred meters, rucksacks and all. We only really ran to overtake another walker (taking the day’s count up to 11), before dashing into the Kingshouse pub for lunch.

We shared a chips and watched our overtaken walkers begin to accumulate in the pub after us. As we were leaving our two old men entered the pub, and we bid them farewell as we diverted off the West Highland Way and down into Glencoe.

We wandered down the Glen and made our way partly up Buachaille Etive Mor. Time was short so we never made it to the top, yet with the promise of more spectacular views around Glencoe tomorrow we quite happily took in the scenery from three-quarters of the way up.

We mostly followed the road down to the Red Squirrel Campsite, and arrived by 7.10. It was earlier than expected, but probably for the best. It had been a beautiful day, cold and windy at times, but definitely a high point of the trip so far. The previous day’s aches and pains seem all but gone, or perhaps we were just noticing them less.

Tent’s up and we relax only to discover yet another problem. We’ve got another possible journey threatening injury.

Will we cope? Will we need to postpone the trip? Heley is determined to at least finish the West Highland Way, but how much further can we make it?

Stay tuned for another exciting episode of Hitting The Hills.

Day 3: Grind

Our tent shook all night long, and not in a metaphorical sense. The wind and rain hammered the tent, which we now know to be very waterproof.

Tired, we arose to a cold, damp, cloudy day. I packed my kit inside the tent; Heley attempted to take down the tent while I was doing so.

Tent pegs usually hold a tent to the ground. A blustery morning left me sat in a tent which had decided that it was better suited to being a kite. It’s quite an experience sitting in a tent which wants to take you on a journey off the side of a hill.

I was sitting in the tent waiting for Heley to bring me the first aid kit; I already have blisters in need of nursing. I was, of course, unable to move in case of lift off. Heley had not heard the call for the first aid kit and had decided that I was taking too long and so had wandered off. Her impasse was eventually solved and off we grumpily trudged.

The weather was cold and windy but otherwise fine. The scenery was every bit as beautiful as we expected, but today was turning into grind.

Two days pushing ahead of schedule at pace was punishing us. The third at a dawdle felt slow. We still managed to overtake fourteen other walkers, including our new friends, the two old men, but some of our journey became heads down and grind the miles out. I can only say that Heley’s dawdling is faster than I’d like to travel when fully fit. Only mountain cyclists overtook us.

We’re still a couple of miles ahead of schedule. Sixty miles into the journey and with a sixth of the ascent already completed.

We were lucky enough to have a “wow” moment right at the end of the day, which lifted our spirits, if not our aches and pains.

A beautiful wild spot (I’ll try to get a photo this time), food and tent sorted by 6.30 pm, so off we went to warm up in a bar in Inveroran.

It may have been a long day, but I’m feeling a litle more confident about tomorrow.

According to our two old guys, the cloud and wind will make way for glorious sunshine tomorrow… Heley will love it, but I’m going to burn!

Day 2: Not so easy

Don’t let anyone tell you walking twenty miles per day, carrying over twenty percent of your own bodyweight is easy.

It’s the little niggles that started appearing through the day which slowed us down. It had rained overnight, but the weather held throughout the day, to the extent that I needed to reach for the suntan lotion.

Loch Lomond was beautiful, we saw Rob Roy’s Cave, Rob Roy’s Tree and Rob Roy’s Car Park. They like Rob Roy here. We also saw mountain goats.

We passed twelve people over the course of the day. Two of those people were what have sort of affectionately become known as ‘the two old men’. They were among the people we passed on day one, but had started out from the same campsite as us an hour or two earlier in the morning.

The two old guys told us that the next camp site was 10 km further down the West Highland Way. That was the longest 10 km I’ve ever walked. We eventually passed that campsite 10 miles later. We found a small but sheltered spot for wild camping, only to find a long and sleepless night awaited us.

Day 3

A text update from the touring twosome:

“We’re over 42 miles in. Pushed a little harder than we should have and can feel it a bit… Still, over 10% of the way there.”

42 miles became 50 miles, and they should be at 60 by tonight.

The feared knee is holding up just fine, but the shoulders appear to be feeling the weight of the 14-17kg each of them is lugging around. Spirits remain high :)