West Highland Way


Highlights:

  • Scotland’s largest lake, Loch Lomond

  • The wilderness of Rannoch Moor

  • Stunning views of Glen Coe

  • Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis

Brief:

⏱  Duration:  6-9 Days          
🗺  Distance: 153 km
⛰  Grade: Moderate to Hard
🗓  Best Time: March - October
🛏  Accomm: Bed & Breakfast; hotels

 
 

Walk Overview

The West Highland Way is Scotland’s most famous and arguably best loved long distance trail. Since opening in 1980, it has attracted many walkers from around the world. Following ancient drovers’ paths and historic military roads, the trail offers a wonderful mix of Scottish lowlands and highlands terrain.

The path starts at Milngavie which is just 12 kilometres north of central Glasgow. The early sections of the walk are essentially low level - following valley floors and traversing woodland and farmland. A particular highlight is walking along the wooded banks of the majestic Loch Lomond in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. The famous loch is flanked by towering mountains including the mighty Ben Lomond. In fact, no other path in the UK spends so much time beside a lake.

North of Tyndrum, the terrain becomes a bit more challenging but is still quite manageable for most walkers. The traverse of the wild Rannoch Moor is always a memorable experience - in fine weather this wilderness region is awesome and provides tremendous views with the chance to spot the resident red deer. In other conditions, it can be a character-building slog. The final sections of the moorland crossing are dominated by the brooding and distinctive Highland mountain called Buachaille Etive Mor.

The highest point on the trail is reached towards the end of the trail by way of a stony zigzag track that climbs to a rugged mountain gap called the Devil’s Staircase (550metres/1800ft). From there, a long and winding descent through a wooded valley leads walkers to the busy town of Kinlochleven. 

The final day involves a steep climb and forest walking leading to a spectacular lookout over Glen Nevis and Ben Nevis. The West Highland Way finishes at Gordon Square in Fort William which is the outdoor activities centre of Scotland.

From Fort William, those with enough time and energy can spend an additional day climbing Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain which looms dramatically over Fort William. For those seeking an ultra long walk, the West Highland Way connects directly with the Great Glen Way which runs from Fort William to Inverness on the Moray Firth (a North Sea inlet).

The complete West Highland Way covers 153 kilometres (95 miles) and generally takes about six to nine days of walking. Your total trip duration then depends on whether you incorporate rest days and, if so, how many.

A seven walking day itinerary is shown below. The itinerary shown below involves an average daily distance of 22 kilometres (13.5 miles). Shortened versions of the walk are available.

 
 

Itinerary

The walk takes about 6-9 days to complete. A typical 7 day itinerary completing the entire trail is shown below.

 
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Day 1

Milngavie to Drymen

Distance: 19 km

Time: 5 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast

 
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Day 2

Drymen to Rowardennan

Distance: 23 km

Time: 6 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast

 
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Day 3

Rowardennan to Inverarnan

Distance: 22 km

Time: 6 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast

 
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Day 4

Inverarnan to Tyndrum

Distance: 19 km

Time: 5 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast

 
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Day 5

Tyndrum to Kingshouse 

Distance: 31 km

Time: 8 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast

 
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Day 6

Kingshouse to Kinlochleven

Distance: 14 km

Time: 4 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast

 
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Day 7

Kinlochleven to Fort William

Distance: 24 km

Time: 6 Hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast

 

Walk Options



Guided

There are several tour operators offering part or all of the West Highland Way as a guided trip. You can choose to do the entire 153 kilometres (95 miles) walk or opt for shorter versions. The tour operators that offer the full walk generally follow the seven day walking itinerary described above.

Tour operators that offer guided trips generally operate on the basis of scheduled departure dates during the walking season.

Some guided tour operators offer accommodation at one central base (usually spacious and comfortable) and walkers are transferred to a section of the walk each day. Others utilise the available accommodation along the route, meaning the accommodation is more variable.

Typically, the package offered by the guided tour operators includes:

  • 8 day tour with professional guides, 7 days of walking

  • 8 nights accommodation

  • All meals

  • Transfers between the track and the accommodation (where applicable)

Click here for assistance in relation to this option.

Assisted self-guided

A substantial number of tour operators offer the West Highland Way as a self-guided trip.

Typically, the service includes:

  • Track notes, maps and information pack

  • Accommodation, usually with ensuites (the range and quantity of accommodation available in some villages is limited; also, the basic package offered by some tour operators might not always extend to ensuites)

  • Luggage transport between accommodation (and sometimes, where necessary, vehicle transfers between track and accommodation)

  • Breakfasts and optional packed lunches

  • 24/7 support

The duration of the self-guided options varies depending upon how far you wish to walk each day. Accommodation options range from comfortable through to luxury, again depending upon the size of the village or town and the purchased package.

Click here for assistance in relation to this option.

Independent

There are camping options along the route that make camping on all or most nights a possibility. It’s also quite feasible to book accommodation along the route yourself and, if you require luggage transfers, to arrange that independently.

For those considering this option, it’s worth noting that the self-guided tour operators often have preferred rates with accommodation providers and luggage transfer companies. They also often have reserved allocations at the best-located/most suitable accommodation for the particular walk, so sometimes when accommodation shows no availability to an independent inquiry there’s still availability through a self-guided operator.

Click here for assistance in relation to this option.

 

Essential Information

Access

The starting point for the West Highland Way is Milngavie. There are regular Scot Rail trains from Glasgow which is a major transport hub. The finishing point is Fort William. There are regular Scot Rail trains and Scottish Citylink buses from Fort William to Glasgow.

best time

The best time to do the walk is between March and October.

It is important to note that the summer months are the most popular time to do this walk and consequently there is a high demand for the various accommodation options during this period.

Difficulty

This walk is rated at a difficulty level of moderate to hard. While the walk is a “highland” walk, it generally avoids ascending mountains. The path is well waymarked, well maintained and easy to follow.

AccomModation

In most areas there are plenty of bed and breakfasts, guesthouses and hotels. However, there are stretches where there are limited or no services, so careful planning is required.

Some self-guided tour operators offer an upgrade option which involves more comfortable country hotels or luxury B&Bs.

Many of the accommodation providers, particularly those near to the route, are attuned to walkers’ needs or offer amenities suited to walkers.

We can assist walkers in choosing the accommodation options which best suit their needs. Click here to contact us.

Dining

We can assist you in choosing some special dining options along the route.

Other activities

As a popular tourist destination, the West Highlands region offers many attractions in addition to the West Highlands Way.

Many walkers choose to add extra days to their trip so that they can explore these other attractions. Some will do that through rest days along the trail; others prefer ‘add-ons’ at the end of the walk. Some do both!

Rowardennan is a good place to spend an extra night, particularly if you are interested in climbing Ben Lomond which affords amazing views of the surrounding Lowlands and the Highlands. Similarly, an additional day at Kingshouse allows time to climb one of the Glencoe Mountains such as the iconic Buachaille Etive Mor.

Walkers often stay an extra night at Fort William at the end of the walk to allow time to climb the mighty Ben Nevis. Other Fort William attractions include the Jacobite Steam Train (the inspiration for the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter novels) and the historic Ben Nevis Distillery.

We can assist walkers to explore the many attractions of the West Highlands region.

Assistance

We can assist walkers with various aspects of their walking holidays. Click here to contact us.