Walking the West Highland Way After Coronavirus
After a strange few months in lockdown, travel within the UK was finally given the green light in July which gave me the opportunity to get out and about again, get some fresh air and experience a change of scenery! Whilst many of our international travellers may not be able to venture on the UK trails right now, it is likely that distancing and safety measures will be in place for some time to come. I wanted to find out what changes are to be expected on our trips post-Covid, so I ventured to my favourite trail, The West Highland Way, for a few days away from the desk and see what this ‘new normal’ is at first hand.
Travel & Transport
Whilst in the past you could afford to "wing it" a little on your trip, it is very important to plan some things, especially travel/transport, in advance now. Most trains and buses are running on reduced timetables and limited capacity so you will need to book ahead to ensure travel. Face Masks are also mandatory on all public transport so unless these regulations are relaxed, please ensure you have a face mask to hand at all times.
Face masks were also essential for any transfers. I travelled from Fort William to Glasgow by bus and only every second seat was available, which helps to allow social distancing. If you would prefer to travel by car (which is a very common request recently) I suggest you investigate a secure long stay car park in advance.
All our accommodations are going to great lengths to ensure they can offer clean, safe and enjoyable stays and it was interesting to see the different measures they have each introduced.
The quirks of different accommodations are often part of the charm, and it is just another way each can express their personality!
On arrival to most accommodations I had to wait outside and ring the bell or call the hosts. This is necessary in the smaller accommodations as they need to check in only one party at a time, in larger accommodations they may have the space to allow you to queue inside. I never had to wait long, and upon entry most reception areas will have Perspex screens which is a noticeable change.
Hand sanitizers are readily available at doors and lifts throughout accommodations and I was encouraged to use these regularly. I found all staff to be wearing face masks, although it was not necessary for me to wear mine checking in/out.
Rooms remain mostly unchanged, the one thing I did notice was that complimentary extras such as toiletries and tea/coffee’s, biscuits were not always available. These small extras may have been removed from rooms to control the spread of infection but you can always request them at reception. I always found any signs/notices to be clear and friendly, and any changes were explained on check in which allowed me to be fully informed and enjoy my stay!
Breakfast is likely to be the biggest change to your trip. I would recommend to be prepared for a variety of different experiences and please check your own trip details to know what to expect in advance. For each night of my trip I had to order breakfast the night before and also choose a preferred time. This was always clearly explained to me on check in. In the larger accommodations, they can offer socially distanced breakfast in the dining rooms but in smaller accommodations your breakfast may be delivered to your room. I actually loved having a breakfast tray delivered to my room, with a fold out table provided and being able to enjoy this in a relaxed environment! It’s important to note that cooked breakfasts will generally not be available for in-room breakfasts but they will still be available at some point on your trip.
Options for dinner will vary, similar to breakfast arrangements, from night to night. Before travelling I called ahead and arranged dinner for each night, you may be able to dine at your Hotel or have to book a local restaurant – either way booking dinner reservations in advance is essential! For one night I also had to pre-order my dinner, if this is necessary we will send you a menu in advance. To allow social distancing you will find tables spread out in restaurants and I found all servers to be wearing face masks. I have to say that dining was relatively normal, apart from having to plan ahead, I still got to enjoy the same delicious food & drink at the end of each walking day!
On the Trail
Being outside and walking the West Highland Way again was very (dare I say it)…..normal! I had no worries about Covid with lots of fresh air to take in, and so much stunning scenery to admire. Of course, I would recommend to take your face mask (encase you stop at a shop/café) and hand sanitizer (use before/after gates or stiles) but these items are such a normal part of our lives now. I met plenty people on the trails and we all practiced social distancing whilst having a quick chat. I am still working on getting the ‘Social Distancing’ message to the midges!
I would have to say that the key to a successful trip in this new normal is planning ahead! In comparison to previous trips, this year I had to take extra time before travelling to read carefully through my arrangements and plan all my meals in advance. The biggest ask from our accommodations is simply to call in advance, this gave me to opportunity to talk through any check in times/procedures, book dinner (and pre-order if necessary), and discuss breakfast options. This allowed me to set off with realistic expectations of the week ahead and fully appreciate being outdoors with no worries about where I was going to have dinner each night.
I would also have to highlight what a fantastic effort our accommodations are putting in to make sure they can still welcome guests, they went above and beyond to ensure my stays were safe and comfortable!
Of course, things could change, but I hope this gives you some insight into the current situation, and what measures are being taken to ensure we can continue to enjoy the trails safely.
Watch My Facebook Live Discussion From The Trail!
Along with customer experience manager Erin, I took part in a facebook live discussion during my trip. Watch the recording here on Facebook.