Scotland's best-known hillwalker Cameron McNeish taking us on a 96-mile walk from just north of Scotland's largest city (Glasgow) to its largest loch (Lomond) to its largest moor (Rannoch) to within clear viewing distance of the highest mountain in Britain (Ben Nevis): What more could one ask of a travel DVD? As McNeish points out, the West Highland Way is the "finest long distance trail in the country." Crossing the long geological fault line that separates the highlands from the lowlands, we pass through an astonishing succession of varied terrains--"lowland moors, lochsides, dense woodland, rolling hills, high mountains."
Drawing upon his deep knowledge of the area, McNeish tells us about local lore (including the story behind the famous song about the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond), the historical curiosities of the region (such as the illegal salt trade), and its recent industrial history. Much of the walk follows ancient and historic routes, along old drove roads, military routes, and disused railway tracks. And speaking of railway tracks, about halfway through, McNeish "nips off" the Highland Way to get some refreshment at the Station Tearoom at Crianlarich--"my favorite tearoom in the whole of Scotland." As he walks, he talks of of others who roamed the area: William and Dorothy Wordsworth (who turned up their noses at the food in their accomodations), Rob Roy, Gerald Manley Hopkins, and celebrated Scottish engineer Thomas Telford, who built roads near the West Highland Way, one of them superseded by the A82. McNeish stops to marvel at Rannoch Moor, a 50-square mile expanse of boggy moorland, into which, he points out, you could deposit the entire English Lake District and still have room left over. Toward the end of the route, McNeish passes through the village of Kinlochleven, once a hive of industrial activity, where aluminum was produced until--like many of the mines in Britain--the business was no longer profitable. The plants were finally shut down in 2000 and sold by British Alcan to the town, which is now a major site of tourist activity. The ghostly factories survive, historical relics of a bygone era, just like ancient stone circles and ruined medieval abbeys.
Though the program itself is wonderful, the DVD must be downgraded a notch because of one annoying--and unaccountable--aspect: it lacks a chapter menu and chapter stops. This is also the case with McNeish's other Scottish Walks offered by Mountain Media--"The Hebridean Trail," "The Skye Trail, "Scotland Coast to Coast," and "Sutherland-The Empty Lands." ("Wild Walks," on the other hand, does have a chapter menu.) You can't get from one section of the program to another by selecting a chapter on the root menu or even by hitting the "skip" button (skip gets you to the next program); you have to scan either on fast forward or fast reverse. What were they thinking?
Larry B | Ventura, California | October 2018