152 Lessons I Learned Walking 152km

The West Highland Way is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Europe- a gorgeous, 152km stretch of moors, sheep, forests, and fog.  Last year I survived my first ever hike: a 4-day excursion on the Laugavegur trail in Iceland. It’s an intense and challenging journey of 55km, with lots of huge elevation changes and dangerous cliffs and rivers, so I felt pretty confident I’d be able to complete the WHW without any trouble. And yeah, I finished the blighter, picking up some cool Scottish slang along the way that’s quickly begun to grate on the nerves of my friends.

That being said, there’s a HUGE difference between a 55km/4 day hike and a 152km/8 day one that I didn’t really appreciate until the skin started coming off of my heels around day 5. Bleh.

The hardships I encountered taught me a lot of things. Some things I find incredibly valuable as an entrepreneur. Some things that are just common sense. Some things I’ll take with me into my next adventure, and I hope can help you too. So without further ado, cuz this article has too many words in it already, here are the 152 things I learned walking 152km:

  1. Put your contact lenses on BEFORE you apply sunscreen.
  2. Always carry hand sanitizer.
  3. Hikers are called “Walkers” in Scotland.
  4. Sometimes folks will shout “Walkers coming!” and it’ll feel like you’re in The Walking Dead.
  5. It’s pretty damn cool.
  6. Whisky tastes best when shared with friends.
  7. But it’s also pretty friggin tasty on its own.
  8. Ben Nevis, near Fort William, is the tallest point in all of the UK.
  9. You can climb it.
  10. But why would you do that when you can visit the Ben Nevis Distillery and drink whisky MADE from that mountain’s water instead?
  11. “Scran” is Scottish for “food” or “meal.” Try using it in a sentence today!
  12. The Scottish call literally everything “wee.” It rarely ever actually means “small.”
  13. Put brown sauce on fucking everything.
  14. Willpower trumps physical endurance.
  15. Always bring a pair of back-up pants whilst hiking lest you rip yer keister.
  16. Midges are gnats that bite.
  17. Respect the Midge, for he is mighty and will devour you entire.
  18. “Smige Off” is the secret to defeating, or at least slowing down, the mighty midge. Find it in any local shop.
  19. Put yourself in places where there’s no signal on the reg.
  20. Listen to locals.
  21. Co-op’s cheese and onion sandwich is better than Tesco’s cheese and onion sandwich.
  22. Vegetarian haggis is delicious.
  23. Yes, you CAN walk 50+km with no skin on your heels!
  24. An eye pad makes a swell heel dressing when you’re in a pinch.
  25. There are magical pubs that price all their whisky’s the same, based on year.
  26. Singing by yourself in the forest is a must.
  27. If you need to complain, be sure to laugh about it.
  28. Always travel with a friend who’s more cautious than you.
  29. If you’re super cautious, bring along a renegade.
  30. Get lost.
  31. Accept you’re going to get soaking wet at some point.
  32. Wet boots are the absolute WORST.
  33. Always pack more socks than you think you’ll need.
  34. Be sure to have a pair of ‘tent socks’- socks you keep inside at least 2 waterproof bags that you ONLY wear in your tent.
  35. Don’t cheap out on your sleeping bag or pad.
  36. Get a sleep system that can keep you warm and toasty 10 degrees below what you expect to find.
  37. Download ALL the podcasts.
  38. Invest in a pair of really good wireless headphones.
  39. But also bring your wired headphones in case you run out of battery >.>
  40. Get an EXCELLENT battery pack.
  41. Wear a baseball cap.
  42. Bring sunglasses.
  43. Tie those sunglasses to your baseball cap with a lanyard so you don’t lose either of them.
  44. Book your campgrounds/bunks ahead of time- as far in advance as possible.
  45. Be mindful of refund policies for your travel and accommodation.
  46. Never say no to a local or fellow walker buying you a pint.
  47. Always return the favour and grab a round.
  48. You can choose to drink something non-alcoholic if you’d like, but never let a new friend drink alone.
  49. Scottish folk are super understanding about you butchering place names. Don’t sweat it.
  50. Sheeps are everywhere. They’re super cute, and you’ll want to cuddle them, but don’t try.
  51. That moment when your brain shuts up because you’re busy paying attention to the way your body is moving is the best feeling in the world.
  52. A “belter” is something that’s really, really funny.
  53. Milngavie is pronounced “Mull Guy.” Because… reasons.
  54. There are 26 pubs on the 152km of the West Highland Way.
  55. I should have been born in Scotland.
  56. Always order the “Hiker’s Lager.” Lower ABV keeps your wits about you without sacrificing the pleasure of enjoying a refreshing wee pint along the way.
  57. Not every Scottish person enjoys whisky.
  58. But like, most of them do.
  59. Tenants is a crap beer, but Scots love it anyway.
  60. There are a surprisingly large number of Poke Stops on the WHW.
  61. Some Scottish folks do the way wearing a kilt.
  62. Bring lots of good books.
  63. But nothing too heavy.
  64. Try to stay away from the news.
  65. DON’T check your email inbox. Just, don’t k?
  66. Don’t be shy to share your adventures with your friends online.
  67. Sometimes it’s okay to take a shortcut.
  1. Bring more snacks than you’ll need.
  2. Keep at least a litre of water with you at all times- preferably 2.
  3. Camel-back water bags with the little tubey things are great for encouraging you to drink frequently.
  4. A fanny-pack is a ride-or-die hiking must, IMO.
  5. Don’t call it a fanny-pack in the UK.
  6. “Tactical Belt Bag” is more appropriate, and sounds cool AF.
  7. Don’t hike in jeans ya wanker.
  8. Invest in an excellent pair of hiking boots.
  9. Don’t put your rain jacket in the washing machine. It will stop being water proof.
  10. Invest in a good mini first-aid kit.
  11. Buy LOADS of blister pads and moleskin. You will use it all.
  12. Go to bed no later than 10pm.
  13. Wake up no later than 7:30am.
  14. Something WILL go wrong, always.
  15. Keep your cool and learn to laugh at mishaps.
  16. Have a plan B, C, and D ready to go at all times.
  17. Listen to your camp rangers.
  18. Check the weather forecast EVERY DAY.
  19. The forecast will FREQUENTLY be wrong.
  20. Keep your rain-cover on your backpack at all times.
  21. You don’t need to carry a big heavy bag along the WHW- for just 10 pound a day you can have a transport service drop it off at your next campsite.
  22. Take too many pictures.
  23. Visit as many distilleries as you can along the way.
  24. Mini-bottles of whisky make awesome souvenirs.
  25. Always eat a hot breakfast, when available.
  26. Always eat a hot dinner, when available.
  27. Always eat a hot lunch, when available.
  28. Remember to ABE: Always Be Eating
  29. Chocolate tastes soooo much better in the UK
  30. Send “good morning!” video messages to your loved ones to surprise them when they get up (makes the time difference less of a pain).
  31. Look at your feet. Lots of cool critters down there- careful not to smoosh them!
  32. Be especially careful climbing along wet rocks.
  33. Anytime an opportunity to do laundry presents itself- use it.
  34. There’s a lot of Italian food in Scotland. Still dunno why.
  35. Mozzarella sticks don’t exist here: instead, treat yourself to delicious, deep fried Halloumi cheese sticks.
  36. Having tax embedded in the prices of everything is friggin amazing.
  37. Distance is calculated in miles, even though the UK is officially on the metric system.
  38. When you meet Scots who’re doing the WHW, they tend to act surprised when you admit you flew out specifically to do the way.
  39. If you ever need to bail, there are busses EVERYWHERE that can get you back to civilization.
  40. Pee often.
  41. Wear long sleeves and long pant legs to avoid sunburn and midge bites.
  42. Even if it’s cloudy AF outside, WEAR SUNSCREEN.
  43. Don’t forget to apply it to your ears.
  44. Contact lenses are the best friend of bespectacled hiking folk.
  45. Always bring your glasses in your daypack, just in case!
  46. “Cullen skink” sounds gross but is delicious. It’s a creamy smoked haddock soup.
  47. There’s a stone cairn that represents the victory of the MacDonald clan against the Campbells during the Battle of Inverlochy: sympathisers for the MacDonalds may choose to leave a stone, and those with allegiance to the Campbells are to take a stone away.
  48. I didn’t take nor leave a stone, though having since researched the battle, I’d totally take one. Lousy MacDonalds.
  49. The original endpoint of the West Highland Way was moved to the centre of town in 2010: specifically, so hikers would have to walk past a slew of gift shops.
  50. You may feel ye cannae finish the walk.
  51. But anno ye can do eet.
  52. An yell ave a pure barry of a time, yaldi.


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