Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Jam Side Down
Traveling the West Highland Way by William Kerr
Chapter 9

The hippies are out first as we all toast each other, shaking hands. This is one of the few times in my life when I feel like a true champion, not as an individual but as a player in a team, the best walking team to come out of Lanarkshire. It’s a bit like being at the births of all your children all at once and all your mates being there to share in your joy. Aye, I have done it. It`s dreamlike, surreal, for just a moment, I am sure at this point we could take on the world and beat it, bring on the world.

Four guys who have completed the walk just before us ask me to take a photo of them all while handing me a camera each. Johnny seeing my predicament takes two of the cameras off me and we both take one picture each from two cameras. I see in the faces of the group the exact feelings and expression that I see in ourselves. These guys have done what we have done, its good to mingle with your equals, your peers. We briefly swap stories as they all take our cameras and take a team photo of “The Spikey Shoe Golf Society” walk for St Andrews Hospice crew. I now know what it feels like to be up on a podium although without the hoards of adoring fans, they await at home but the camera crew certainly makes it all feel a bit special.

We are hanging about here as if something is going to happen, but nothing will, nothing else can happen, not after the past seven days. All we have to look forward too now is the trip home on the train and our own beds tonight. I know tomorrow will be hard as will the days that follow that.

“What next John Boy?” I ask

“Ah think we should just carry on to Inverness, am no due back at work to Monday”

“Yir on your own then” Peter informs him, “Some of us are working the `morrow”

“Nae bother gies a shout and I`ll walk yie tae yir work, how far is it” Johnny asks

“Forty miles”

“Dawdle, just don’t phone to early”

“I’ll tell the Sherpa” Kenny adds” And he’ll have you all up nice and early”

“It`s a pity he’s no here to meet us and get in the team photo” Johnny shares with us all.


“Oh well, who fancies a nosebag and then a few beers before the train” Kenny suggests.

 “That sounds like a plan” I say, time to get on the road after all we cannot stand about here on the main thorough fair into town, slapping each other on the back all day drinking whisky or vodka or gin or beer.  

We all walk on heading for the town centre first stop is the train station to get our tickets home. At £19.50 one way it seems a bargain considering we walked it all this way in seven days and we will be home in less than seven hours. That statement does not do us any justice and should be ripped from this account of the last seven days but after all it is true.

Next stop is Safeway Fort William, or soon to be Morrison’s Fort William for some well earned grub plus money from the ATM, not forgetting we all owe Johnny dig money for our night of refuge at Ardlui. I was hopping not to go to work today but after all Morrison’s does give us great value for money and a hell of a good meal. My only concern here is being noticed, as I don’t want to start explaining to my colleagues why I am here and what I have been doing for the past week. Not that I am embarrassed in any way but I know walking into the store with this lot we will be shadowed during our stay. `Before the cock crows for the third time…` comes to mind, no I will never disown this lot. The grub was good as expected and I suppose you would say excellent after what we have lived on all week.

We head down in to the town centre as we still have a couple of hours to kill before we embark and start our journey south. I promised that I would be first on the bell, it’s got to be pints and doubles all round, the best whisky in the gantry and the best vodka and gin if there is such a thing. The time spent in the bar is very quiet, as quiet as I have experienced all week in the guys company.

The bar is busy and I cannot recollect its name, down the main street, again forgetting the streets name also. It`s one of the many bars on the right hand side, it’s Fort William, there’s plenty. As you would expect at this time on Friday in any town centre it is full of people heading home coming from work, we are just to early for the folk going out tonight. I wonder what have they done this week. There may be firemen, fishermen all hard working people here in front of me but I cannot see them, all I see is people having a beer and wondering if they have experienced anything as near as I have or has their only excitement come from Coronation Street or River City. Did they have barbequed sausage rolls, how many nights did they cook from a camping stove, where have they slept, have they seen Gods Jewels or the Monarch of The Glen, an eagle soaring, how many cows have they skelped on the arse, what piece of their countrys history did they learn, how many poems did they write, how many soakings did they get, how many blisters have they got, how many friends did they meet, how many tongues did they speak in, did they cry this week, did they laugh out loud, did they climb a mountain. I hope they have done something.

On the way back to the train station it’s into the wee Tesco for provisions. A carry out for five, crisps and sweeties. Johnny goes into a toyshop and buys his daughter a gift and following that it’s straight to the train.

The sign reads An Gearasdan (The Fort) on a pole above the line telling all arriving travelers that they are in Fort William. From An Gearasdan to Glaschu then An Ard Ruigh through Bruach Challdair and home to Talla an t-Seipeil. I keep this thought to myself, as these bastards would rip the piss if I came away with that patter. The cameras are out again a final photo under the Gaelic nameplate.

The train arrives and we embark failing to find a seat for four with a table. So we settle for two beside two and one in front. No one sits near us, as we must have that look about us. There doesn’t seem to be any more walkers on board, well no one that looks like walkers anyway. This is ideal as we can have our own company with no one to bother, as I am sure the President will want to sing at some time.

The trolley dolly arrives and offers us all a selection of snacks but we only buy a half of our preferred nip each as we forgot to bring paper cups and it will not do drinking good whisky straight from the bottle, no use acting as if we have just come down from the hills for a weekend, what would people think.

This journey is absolutely spectacular. The train travels north initially doing a giant u-turn before heading south towards the central belt. I suppose this was the easiest way at the time of building as the direct route would have been almost impossible or extremely expensive, some how I think it would be the latter.

The first stop is Spean Bridge. In days gone by it would have been the junction for the Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway and the station is now a restaurant. The scenery starts to get really special from here on in all the way down to the Clyde estuary. After here we pass Roy Bridge heading for Tulloch; here we are heading to the Braes of Lochaber. The glen narrows until Monessie Gorge, where the River Spean roars through the rocks fiercely on our right below the level of the railway. Tulloch was originally called Inverlair but why its name changed I don’t know.

 Through Eersit we arrive at Corrour. This was one of the stops I was looking forward too but the trains time-table never gave us time to do as Beagbie, Rents and Co. had done in the film `Trainspotting` Here we are 1350 feet above sea level - the highest point on the line. We quickly move on as no one is getting off and no one is getting on so onwards to Rannoch station.

To my right I can make out the Black Mount, Glencoe and the Mamores away in the distance. The train crosses the middle of the moor and the views are stunning. I see for the first time a herd of Deer and they are plentiful, too many to guess, I could get excited and say hundreds, but I don’t know, they are here in abundance not bothered by the train as it passes at speed. The guys all seem to see them before me and once again they all call out, this time I know they are telling the truth. I am happy now that I have seen this sight and I can only compare it to a scene from the Serengeti in Africa, something David Attenborough would appear in where you could see antelope in their hundreds grazing, undisturbed not aware that we are amongst them.

The moor is a bog land so hostile only the streams, Lochans and wild beasts can live here with the WHW running by its side from Blackmount up to Glencoe the only other crossing other than the rail line is the A82 trunk road. The road and railway were built by floating the line and roads on a bed of tree roots, brushwood and thousands of tons of earth and ashes, Scottish engineering at its finest.

Through Gorten we head for Bridge of Orchy. My thoughts here are about Essex man and the lonely climb I had to Mam Carraigh as I see Loch Tulla from another angle, just as spectacular. For the next few miles we follow the WHW so we all sit up taking extra notice pointing out all the bits we recognize but it want last for long as the light is fading. From Bridge of Orchy as we head down to Upper Tyndrum only yards from the way along the base of Ben Dorian and around the horseshoe viaduct at Auch and alongside Beinn Odhar. It looks so different already, every hour we travel represents a day, the train is the way to travel but I know what way I would prefer to travel to Fort William, time permitting of course.

From Upper Tyndrum it’s down to Crianlarich tearing through Strath Fillan only slowing as we enter the village over the Glenbraur viaduct. It reminds me of the scene when we where high above the village looking down over the rainbow. In Crianlarich we have a bit of a wait for the Oban train to arrive as they both join together for the final stage of the journey into Glasgow.

We are heading now to Ardlui, this will always be remembered as a sanctuary, a place that saved us from the way and the dismay of Loch Lomond where we found our sense of reason, that gave us the time, to re-group, rest and be thankful after our hardest days walk. We cross over the Dubh Eas Water (Black Water?) on a viaduct and are about the same height above the river here as the Forth Railway Bridge is over the sea after Derryvaroch and the Falls of Falloch where we lost George to the way.

We now lose daylight and the sun disappears for the last time on our great adventure and so does our enthusiasm. If we were walking tomorrow and staying out tonight I am sure someone would have called ditcher by now and we would all be off to bed. We carry on through Arrochar and Tarbet, Garelochhead, Faslane and Rhu, back in time. Nothing to see here but only talk of all the military installations in the area and hopefully we are not around when someone drops one of those nukes that can be found at Faslane.

As we approach Helensburgh it now looks more like home. The train is running to the lights, the city of lights and we are welcomed by the bright lights of Greenock and Port Glasgow across the Clyde and it all becomes a memory as we hit the city, nothing here to see, nothing new anyway. The train out to Airdrie is uneventful, no Friday night entertainment; we only want to get home. The ticket collector asks us for fares, we tell her we have tickets from Fort William but none of us have the tickets, where they went to no one knows, as we draw into Airdrie, she realises that its not worth the hassle or maybe she believes us, we thank her, we are home.

Walking down the slope at the train station in Airdrie we see Bernie and Gerry who have come to collect us.

“Gerry my feet are killing me” Johnny

“Get these drunken bastards home” Peter

“Is Raymond working” George

“I saw an Angel from Lourdes” Kenny

“Its great to be home” I now know this story is over.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus