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Belfry Meeting 1st March - Talk On The West Highland Way With Morag Burton

by Joy Baxter

I first met Morag and Jean about two years ago in Culcheth, when they gave a talk on the West Highland Way. I was keen to walk the Way then and I still am.

Morag, Jean and their respective husbands were in their sixties when they took on the WHW and walked it's 93 miles in 8 days. Since then they have completed a long distance path every year. Due to foot and mouth last year they walked for a week in France.

Morag told us some of the history of the Way whilst Jean operated the projector and added comments. The slides and photographs were taken as holiday pictures and were never intended as a show. The talk sort of evolved, because of general interest, some time after their walk in 1997.

The WHW was the first official long distance path to be established under the Countryside Act of 1967 and was officially opened in 1980. It was based on far older routes: drove roads, military roads, old coach roads and more recently abandoned railways.

Morag and Jean took us from the outskirts of Glasgow, alongside Loch Lomond, through lowlands, across the bleak wilderness of Rannoch Moor, to the beautiful Glencoe, up the Devil's staircase and finally past Ben Nevis to Fort William. All this was illustrated with excellent pictures and anecdotes. Interesting characters were to be met on the Way, especially some friendly Irish girls, two ladies who were raising money for Cancer Research and yet were often found producing clouds of smoke. There was a "Scottish" soldier who had a different girl each time they saw him. He met up with them on three occasions as he travelled the Way in both directions. They stayed in places visited by Rob Roy and passed through fields where Robert the Bruce had fought.

There was advice for anyone wishing to walk the WHW: never stay at the Drover's Arms at Inverarnan, unless you like leaky wash basins, lumpy beds and windows that fall out; avoid July and August - midge season; book well in advance booking Kingshouse (only one place to stay) and Rowardenen first; consider using one of the companies that move your luggage on so that you can travel light; and May or June is a good time to go. Also there is lots of info on the Net.

Morag went on to recommend St. Cuthbert's Way, the Dales Way and the fairly new Furness Way.

Many questions were asked and discussions ensued about paths already trodden by members and their friends.

Thank you to Morag and Jean for a very interesting and informative evening. Anyone interested in walking the WHW?