***A Guest Post from Warren Talbot of Married with Luggage. Warren and his wife Betsy are two of the world’s most fabulous people. They inspire others to live on their own terms. Check out their new book!***
One of the most romantic walks you can take with your partner is to head off to the west coast of Scotland and traverse the West Highland Way. Imagine enjoying beautiful sunrises, stunning vistas, strolls along the lake, sharing stories together, and ending each night under the stars. This 96 mile trek from Milngavie (just outside of Glasgow) to Fort William is one of the most beautiful hikes you can take in the world. If you are looking to reconnect with a lover or seeking an escape to enjoy time in nature together, this is the hike for you.
Over the last 3.5 years my wife, Betsy, and I have traveled around the world discovering new foods, cultures, and experiences. Along the way we’ve had some crazy experiences (witnessing an erupting volcano in Ecuador, milking goats in Mongolia, enjoying vodka with the locals in Siberia). What I treasure most, though, are those times when we’re completely disconnected from computers, the Internet, and phones and out in nature hiking together. Through these walks we’ve learned more about our relationship and each other than anything we’ve done before and grown closer as we share sights which take our breaths away. And, the West Highland Way was where it all started.
Choosing a Route
Last summer we decided to embrace long-distance trekking. We’ve always loved to walk and are keen to get out for a day’s exploring whether we are in the center of Beijing or high in the Gobi Desert. We’d only done one multi-day trek while in northern Peru and had never camped together. However, we were ready to take the leap and needed to identify a hike that would present us with beautiful scenery, a good physical challenge, and a change to reconnect. We never dreamed we’d find one that fit so perfectly.
While researching trekking routes, we considered a wide variety of alternatives. What clinched it for us was Scotland’s legendary beauty and the mystique that the words evoked. We started planning immediately, mapping out the route, where to stop and camp, and talking about all we wanted to see on this adventure. We were aware of the hike, but the guidebooks did not prepare us for the beauty we’d be walking through.
Embarking on the Adventure
When the time came to embark, we were ready. We loaded up everything we owned and headed to Glasgow to begin our adventure. Over the next 7 days we enjoyed the tranquility of nature which served as a perfect backdrop to numerous conversations. We mapped out new writing projects together. We sat quietly by a stream and read together as the light faded. We took off our shoes and dipped our feet in the cool waters of Loch Lomond while chatting about all we’d seen. We lay in the tent beneath mountains and talked about our future. We probed subjects about our relationship, discovering more about each other even after 10 years together. This walk opened our eyes to the value of stepping away, just the two of us, and spending time exchanging ideas in the mist of nature.
The West Highland Way is for Lovers
The West Highland Way provides couples the perfect environment to reconnect in the midst of hectic lives. Take advantage of the following 5 aspects of the walk to enjoy a richer relationship and forge new memories together:
1. Watch beautiful sunrises – start your morning off by unzipping your tent to reveal the amber light peeking above the hills. The sky filled with orange and pink as you begin a new day on the trail. Take time to sit together and watch as the colors emerge and remember why you love each other. This is a chance to talk about the day ahead and give each other encouragement as you embark on a good day of hiking in Scotland.
2. Enjoy stunning vistas – it seems that around every corner there is another view that takes your breath away. Looking out at Loch Lomond for the first time, walking up over the hills from Drymen to see all of the lake and mountains spread out beneath you for as far as you can see, or watching the spring flow through the woods above Crianlarich – these are just a sliver of what you enjoy during your hike. Each day seems to bring an entirely new environment which will spur many conversations as you share the sights together. Share together what you each love about the sights and take plenty of photos to recall the sights for years to come.
3. Stroll along the lake – Loch Lomond is simply stunning. You will walk along her shores for 2-3 days, depending on your speed. It is easy to feel transported back to a simpler time before cars, computers, and the hectic way of life which surrounds us. As you stroll along the eastern shore, take time out to stop and relax. Stare out across the water and reflect on how close you feel with the person next to you. Remember the great times you had together and let go of the petty emotions and fights you may have had in the past. As the path reaches the water take off your packs, strip off your shoes and socks, and splash into the water together to share a laugh and cool your tired feet. Have fun with the one you love.
4. Share stories together – Depending on how fast you walk, you will be spending between 5-8 days together. This is the perfect time to open up and share your hopes, your dreams, and your desires for the future. Use your time on the trail to talk about where you see yourselves in the next 5 years. Talk about what is working well in your relationship and how to have more of it. Share what’s not working and use the time to explore how to eliminate or repair those areas that are not ideal. Think of the West Highland Way as nature therapy to bring you closer together with the person you love most in the world.
5. End each night under the stars – there is something deeply romantic about sleeping under the stars. Ignore the established campgrounds wherever possible (wild camping is allowed in Scotland) and head off on your own. Sit outside your tent and look up at the blanket of stars painted on the sky above you. The sight is sure to spark reflections from your days of hiking. Sit in silence together, marveling at your fortune for finding each other and taking on a big adventure as a couple. As you lay next to each other and drift off to the sounds of silence (and a complete absence of modern life) kiss each other goodnight and hold fast to the moment.
Betsy and I have found that by hiking together we are able to stay better connected than at any previous time in our relationship. We use the time to reflect on our partnership and explore new ideas that would not have been broached without the peace and quiet of a long walk. Now, after walks through different countries in the world we still reflect back on the magic that started it all on the West Highland Way. It has opened up a new path for us explore and we’re glad to on it together each step of the way.
BIO: Warren Talbot and his wife Betsy just published their fourth book, Married with Luggage: What We Learned About Love by Traveling the World. They’ve been traveling since 2010, when they sold everything they owned after a big wake-up call, and this year they further tested their relationship by buying a fixer-upper house in a remote Spanish village. Follow their adventures and insights through their website and weekly podcast at Married with Luggage