West Highland Way 50 times
The West Highland Way is Scotland’s original and most popular long-distance walking trail and every year more than 50,000 people hike the 96-mile route between Milngavie and Fort William. At Macs Adventure, the West Highland Way was the first guided walking holiday that we offered customers and still today remains one of the most keenly booked tours. Yet while most people will walk this fantastically scenic route once, or perhaps a few times in a lifetime, one Scottish walker, Charlie Kavanagh, has recently ticked off his 50th West Highland Way completion. Indeed, the 53-year-old is believed to be the first to reach this 50th milestone and he has walked the route every year, between one and three times, since 1991. In honour of his achievement, the West Highland Way Management Group awarded Charlie a special silver medal engraved with: “Well done Charlie – 50 walks.”
Charlie on the WHWCharlie reveals that it was folk singer Jimmie Macgregor’s TV programmes about walking across Scotland in the early 1990s that first inspired his annual WHW hikes. In the Footsteps of Bonnie Prince Charlie and Macgregor’s Gathering saw Jimmie follow the route of the West Highland Way. Charlie says: “I really enjoyed the programmes and I decided I would walk the West Highland Way in the June of 1991. I walked with two friends but I really underestimated what it would entail.” A keen footballer and cyclist, Charlie imagined he could rely on his general fitness to complete the WHW and did only one training walk from his home in Greenock to Largs. He says: ‘It turns out that walking the West Highland Way requires a particular type of training and although I was fit I did suffer with sore feet and leg muscles. One of my friends ended up injured and had to turn back.” But the first walk had Charlie hooked and for many years he would try to squeeze in three WHW completions annually. He averages around 4.5 days but it depends on whether he is walking solo or with friends and family. While Charlie has walked the route 50 times, a friend Les Gillespie, 68, has completed some 18 West Highland Ways. Charlie’s wife, Catherine has covered the route 12 times, while one of his sons, Shaun has completed 10 journeys.
The joys of the WHWCharlie says he never tires of the route that heads from the northern suburbs of Scotland’s largest city of Glasgow to the Highlands town of Fort William. He always walks the full route from south to north although he has walked most sections of the route at different times heading north to south. He adds: “It’s such a beautiful route and is different every time I do it. If I am walking it three times in one year I like to go early season, mid-season and in the autumn. I think I like autumn the best because of the stunning colours of the leaves and heather.” Charlie reports that it’s a very sociable walk, whether he goes solo or with others. He says: “Some times I go on my own but I always meet interesting people who are also doing the route. I have met people from all over the world and made friends doing the West Highland Way.” [caption id="attachment_18287" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Charlie at the end of his 50th West Highland Way walk.[/caption] Charlie stays in B&B accommodation so that he doesn’t need to carry a tent and in the last decade he has organised a luggage transfer company to take his overnight gear between accommodation. He says: “As I’ve got older I have been kinder to myself and these days I like to walk as fast and as free as I can. I even wear a kilt if the weather is fine. I don’t want to be weighed down by a big rucksack and I just like to be able to walk unhampered.” Charlie has no plans to stop. He says: “I’ll walk the West Highland Way for as long as I can and without injury. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of this route through some of Scotland’s best landscapes.”
- Find out more about walking the West Highland Way on a self-guided tour.
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