If your preparation for this final section had been a quick glance at the summary elevation profile in the Tyndrum tourist information centre*, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it went uuuuuuup, down, up, dooooooown.
Trust me. There are a lot more ups than that. There are also a gazillion midges. Never ending clouds of the things. Swarms of them. I’ve been really lucky up to now and barely been bothered by them. The odd flurry during my runs and a few stops where I’ve been glad to be indoors, but in the main, they haven’t been much of an issue and I’ve been looking at the walkers in their bee-keeping head nets and thinking “overkill much”. Today, I would gladly have mugged one of them, had they not all been travelling in groups. Hair, face, nostrils, ears, eyes, mouth, neck, arms, legs – for the first eight miles every exposed bit of flesh was pelted by tiny pests and every time I wiped my forehead or neck, it came away black.
Add to the midge-assault terrain which was largely uphill, sharp and rocky underfoot, and largely unleavened by stunning views (though there was a tree growing out of a house), and the word which springs to mind is “wearing”.
At the half way point I was wilting. Walking flats and thinking the day would never end. But a couple of miles later, track gave way to path, deforested hillsides gave way to heather and then forest, and rocks gave way to slightly more forgiving dirt and woodland path.
The final run down into Fort William was a cinch, and though the final couple of miles along the road and through the town centre lacked a certain picturesqueness, they were easily runnable and correspondingly swift. I crossed the line that marks the end of the West Highland Way, collapsed on a bench to regroup and then installed myself in one of Fort William’s numerous pubs for four hours while I waited for the train to Glasgow.
* My preparation and research was far more extensive than this. Obviously.