Whoa! The final day!!! We've had such a great time, and met so many wonderful people along the way, that in some ways it's a bit sad that it has come to an end!!
This morning we were up by 7.00 a.m., had our bags packed and were down at breakfast by 8.00 a.m. We slept well last night, not surprising considering the latter part of yesterday's walk. For those of you reading this, who actually did the walk from Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven, you will know what we mean ~ and we don't mean "Devils Staircase"!! Photocall this morning was at 8.45 a.m., slightly earlier than normal but we were eager to get started. Quite a few of us, who were doing the West Highland Way, had stayed the night at the Tigh Na Cheo Guest House. There was our Dutch friend and also David and Dorothee from Hamburg, and Vicky, who hails from Bo'ness (Michelle's home town) and her friend. Vicky recognised Michelle and I from an article on Steph and the West Highland Way, which featured in the Bo'ness Journal two weeks ago. She also knew Colin, Michelle's dad. Small world meeting up with her in the Tailrace Inn in Kinlochleven.
After our 'official photograph' we set off from the Guest House with David and Dorothee for the half mile walk to our starting point. The final stretch ahead of us today was 14 miles. A relatively short day in comparison to previous days. The sun was out and a warm day was forecast! We knew when there was a downhill into Kinlochleven the day before, there most likely would be a climb out of Kinlochleven to begin today ~ guess what, there was!!! And it was quite a climb, right at the start, which certainly got us 'warmed up'! The climb, through the trees, offered shade from the sun though. However, once out into the open hills the sun was fairly hot for so early in the day. The walk over the hills was undulating and walking was pleasurable. I don't think you could ever tire of the views, they are fantastic. We met so many people enroute today. Along the way we met John & Christopher from Glasgow. They were doing the West Highland Way for the Cot Death Charity in memory of John's brother. We also met Gary and David from Airdrie who had stopped for a break. As we passed they said they would be checking out our blog when they got home. Thank you guys! We also met our Dutch friend too who had stopped for a 'coffee break'. We took his photograph and left him to have his coffee in peace. Susan and Dawn were the next ones we met and we walked with them until we reached the final stage of the walk which takes you through heavy woodland. They stopped briefly and so we continued on through the trees enjoying the respite from the sun. The views, as we approached Fort William and Ben Nevis, with the clear blue sky, can only be described as "spectacular". The last mile and a half was along the main road into Fort William where you come to the official "West Highland Way Finish" sign. Colin and Marian were there sporting their "Steph T-Shirts" along with Arthur. Arthur presented Michelle and I with medals in recognition of our achievement in walking the 96 miles! We completed the West Highland Way at 1.45 p.m. today (Thursday 10/06/10) and what a wonderful feeling it was! Blister free and injury free too which was a massive bonus!! A surprise for me were my friends Danny and Susan Duncan from Nairn (my hometown) who had come along to congratulate us on completion of the walk. An unexpected and truly lovely gesture. After taking lots of photographs, proof that we'd achieved our goal, we set off into Fort William to get our W.H.W. Passport stamped officially for the last time. We headed to the Grog and Gruel Pub in the High Street where our passport was stamped and we received our certificates! A brilliant feeling.
Michelle and I had decided beforehand that we would head back home after the walk and unfortunately weren't therefore going to be able to meet up with our fellow W.H.W. friends for drinks later in the day. If any of you are reading this, we hope you all made it to the finish and enjoyed your celebratory drink at the end. Well deserved all of you!!
Although the reason for Michelle and I undertaking this venture was a sad reason I'm sure Steph will be delighted with the awareness and money that has been raised for "Aspergillus". Thank you to everyone for making the West Highland Way the amazing experience it was for us in memory of Steph ~ A beautiful young girl in every sense of the word, inside and out!
P.S. Please keep watching the 'Steph Smith Appeal' page as we hope to have all the photographs taken on our 'journey' from Milngavie to Fort William on the blog over the next couple of weeks!!