The heart swells with pride, the muscles regain their power, the spring returns to your step. You’re almost finished: 95 miles under the belt and the end’s in sight.
Except… Some bugger’s moved the finish. It’s the prospect facing the brave souls who tackle the West Highland Way (WHW) if the good citizens of Fort William have their way.
Plans are afoot to add an extra 1.5km to the route (a mile in old money) to encourage successful walkers to spend more money in the town (surely, to enjoy a more enlightening vista at the culmination of their trek – Ed).
At present, the 153km (95 mile) route ends rather anticlimactically at a roundabout at Nevis Bridge, though grough has to say that the office map shows it ending coincidentally with the Great Glen Way at the next roundabout, near the hospital, railway station and the Nevisport café, which is a better bet. So it’s fair to say there’s already some confusion. Originally, when it was opened as Scotland’s first national trail route 26 years ago, it dropped down into the western end of town direct from the Lochan Lùnn Dà-Bhrà. This was changed in 1991 to bring walkers into Fort William through Glen Nevis.
Highland Council meets this week, presumably to the sound of ringing tills, to consider the proposal to lure walkers from what is admittedly a ‘disappointing visual feature’ into a more commercially attractive one.
Senior planning officer Geoff Robson said: “The existing endpoint is detached from the town and has a poor setting on the margins of a car park on the edge of a busy trunk road.
“It needs to clearly be of a status and quality equal to the northern end of 95 miles of superb walking on Scotland’s premier long-distance footpath.”
Suggestions for the new finish point include Cameron Square, where the tourist information office is, and Gordon Square, along with The Parade. Or just leaving it where it is. Moving to Fort William’s retail heart would make sense, as the route begins in a 60s-style shopping precinct in Milngavie next to an occasional hot-dog stand.
grough’s favourite proposal is the Drew Purdon’s idea. Drew runs the Scottish Crafts and Whisky Centre in the town’s west end. He said: “In the interests of fairness, they should have the end on wheels and have it at one end of the High Street one year and at the other the next.”
There’s plenty at stake for the businesses of Charles Kennedy’s home town: 15,000 people are said to walk the full length each year and the WHW benefits those along its route to the tune of an estimated £3.5m a year.
So those thinking about undertaking the may just have to walk that extra mile in future to get the tee shirt. And badge. And mug. And hat. And car sticker…