Guest Post: The Unexpected Charms of B&Bs on the West Highland Way
Posted on Jul 28, 2017 by Wilderness
The Unexpected Charms of Scottish B&Bs: An American Perspective
A guest article from American hiker and writer, Brandi Willis Schreiber
On a narrow rail line about 60 miles from Glasgow, I pressed my nose against the glass and watched the silvery River Clyde open into the wide waters of Gare Loch.
Somewhere down the line was Crianlarich, and I was excited because it was the destination of my first night’s stay in a true Scottish bed and breakfast (B&B), arranged by Wilderness Scotland as part of our self guided hike along the West Highland Way.
I have stayed in several B&Bs stateside before, but the Scottish B&B experience is unique and quintessentially different. For one, B&Bs in Scotland are plentiful. It seemed everywhere I looked, quaint signs hung from eaves or roadside posts advertising available rooms in family homes. The summer is a popular time to visit the austere and breathtaking beauty of the Scottish Highlands, and large hotels are mostly only available in the larger towns. B&Bs, therefore, are a convenient and affordable way to experience Scotland and meet the heart of its people.
It was raining when my husband and I stepped onto the vacant platform in Crianlarich. Following the excellent instructions provided by Wilderness Scotland, we walked the short distance to Glenardran House where Rod and Andrea Salt greeted us with warm smiles and showed us our room for the night. Like all the B&Bs we stayed in along the West Highland Way, this room was thoughtfully furnished and represented the personalities of the owners: quirky animal figurines stood guard over comfortable wicker furniture and thick red quilts and pillows on a soft bed.
Scottish B&B owners, I learned, have perfected the balance of making you feel comfortable in their homes while also giving you everything you need to make the most of your short stay. We loved all the unexpected charms awaiting us at each location: fluffy towels warming on racks, tea service with real porcelain cups, a thoughtful bottle of wine to celebrate our 10-year anniversary, and in the case of Danca B&B in Kinlochleven, a shelf full of books about local Scottish history, which we devoured one warm night in bed with the windows open to a light breeze.
- Watch this video about self-guided walks in Scotland
Fuel for the Day
I also learned that breakfast is an experience all its own. Every place we stayed offered a full Scottish breakfast cooked by the hosts that rivaled what we’d later taste in restaurants in the cities. Often the hosts would ask for our preferences the night before so that our breakfast was hot and ready when we walked downstairs. And let me tell you, I ate all the food: porridge (a homely descriptor for thick, creamy oatmeal I’d often mix with homemade preserves), “tattie scones” (a type of hash brown), fried bacon that came in large, meaty slices and resembled our Canadian bacon, and of course, generous portions of toasted bread that never ran out. To my surprise, I found that I also really liked black pudding, a type of blood sausage, and made a point to try it at every B&B. All this food was often supplemented with cereals, fruit, yogurt, and of course, piping hot pots of tea and coffee. One thing was certain: the breakfasts were more than enough to fuel the miles of hiking we’d complete each day!
Find the best eateries around in our West Highland Way Food Guide
Making New Friends
Scottish B&B breakfasts were also a time to meet other guests. Almost everyone was also hiking the West Highland Way. In fact, the very first morning, we connected with two longtime British friends on their annual holiday. We saw them along the Way and had a good laugh when we met them again the next morning … and the next … at breakfast at the same B&Bs where we were staying. (I’m happy to report we’re Facebook friends, now, too.)
Of all the unexpected charms of these B&Bs, however, getting to know the hosts was my favorite. Although our time together was brief, we were very aware that being invited into their homes also meant being invited into the sacred space of their lives, and we honored that as guests. In Kinlochleven at Danca B&B, our sweet hostess told us stories of her late husband, showed us the art he collected, and let us love on her sequestered cats. Our hostess at Green Bank Cottage in Ballachulish brought out memorabilia of all the famous people she and her husband had met over the years when we commented on a family photo. And the Salts at Glenardran House in Crianlarich told us about their lives in the tiny village and how they first opened their B&B.
Although each morning we stepped outside knowing that we were waving goodbye for a final time, staying in these charming B&Bs has forever linked us to people and formed memories we’ve carried in our hearts all the way back to Texas.
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