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April 19, 2022

The end of the West Highland Way

At least a dozen locals had gathered at the bus stop, waiting for the 8:30 to Fort William. One elderly gentleman, with a runny nose, repeatedly pulled a worn, stained slip of paper from his pocket, checking his grocery list.

It was a lovely ride to Fort William, through dark forests and ever-increasing hills. Ben Nevis, the U.K.’s highest point (4406 ft.) sits right outside the town. With 100,000 hikers on the West Highland Way each year, and 75,000 more attempting to climb Ben Nevis, Fort William is a major destination spot.

I found my bed and breakfast, the Stobach Inn, easily, although it was a tough climb up a steep street. The elderly proprietor, a true gentleman with and eastern European accent was still clearing breakfast tables. It was just about 10:00 a.m.

Fearing the same situation as yesterday, I asked if I could leave my bag somewhere out of way in his B and B. What a relief and joy to learn my room was ready; no one had been there last night. We took my bag up, then he invited me back to the breakfast room for a fresh cup of coffee and a croissant.

My room was tiny with no sea view. But it was delightful to me. I unpacked and hung up a sweater, did a little laundry in the sink. Then headed out to see the town.

Fort William is a gorgeous place. Built on a very steep hill, every house has an unparalleled view over the rooftop of the house across the street. The streets are vertical, most sidewalks are uneven staircases, making it difficult to lug oneself up and down. But the endless views across Loch Linnhe are worth it.

Spring in Fort William

Completely geared for tourists, Fort William carries excellent quality merchandise in every store. Many stores are kitted out for hikers, as High Street is both the end of the West Highland Way and the beginning of the Great Glen Way, plus the jumping off spot for the trek up Ben Nevis. Lots and lots of hiking-related items.

At the far south end of High Street is the official end of the West Highland Way. Here is a cute statue of a man rubbing his tired feet, sitting on a bench. Every tourist and hiker need to have a picture taken with him.

Most photographed man in Scotland

High St. is the main tourist area in town. It is pedestrian only with appealing shops on both sides of the street. I walked up and down it throughout the day. In one of the volunteer shops, I discarded my hiking boots, and found the one souvenir I was most interested in. A lovely hand cut on-the-rocks glass from a Scottish crystal company. Bought several souvenirs.

Mostly I was interested in getting a ferry ride out to the one of the islands; I did not care which one. Sadly, they were all booked for the day. As this was the Easter break for Scottish schools, all ferries were booked. The ticket taker at the ferry terminal suggested I take a bus trip to the base of Ben Nevis, but I was done with buses.

Loch Linnhe at Fort William

Around 3:00 o’clock. I began to see my co-hikers on High Street. It was a joy to congratulate them. The German and Yorkshire couples and I had a drink and appetizers. Hugs all around.

My faithful hiking stick which I purchased back in Drymen was too long, even folded, to fit in my case. I thought of taking it back to the volunteer shop for resale. But the bed and breakfast owner said he could use it. And he was so kind, so he got it.

Quiet night in the bed-and-breakfast, just what I was looking for. I decided when I run away from the world, I will come here.

April 19, 2022