The trip dossier and equipment list are spot on, and tailored really well for a first-time long-distance hiker and for the West Highland Way.
Alastair and Lotte were wonderful guides, knowledgeable and helpful throughout the trip. And I can't say enough about the terrific group spirit which made hiking the WHW such a treat!
Accommodation & Food
The accommodations vary somewhat in quality, though all are clean and comfortable. There aren't many choices for a group of 16 along the Way, and so it would probably be difficult to improve upon this experience.
From making sure everyone was enjoying the experience, to keeping us moving (and balancing with stops, usually at scenic points along the way) and simply being friendly companions, it would be difficult to top Alastair and Lotte. As a bonus, they gave me great feedback and food for thought about possibly leading hiking groups myself back in the U.S., when I asked them about it.
The Bottom Line
The value of a guided WHW hike:
You could do WHW as a self-guided hike. The trail is pretty well marked, although when it goes into villages like Balmaha and Tyndrum it might take some time to figure out where you're going. But there are plenty of other hikers out there so it's hard to get lost, not to mention guidebooks and baggage transfer services that will move your bigger stuff for you from place to place. You'd have to book accommodations in advance as there aren't a lot of options at natural stopping points.
If you went on your own, however, you'd be missing out completely on the rich color and subtext that Wilderness Scotland's guides provide. They make every mile worth it with their knowledge and friendliness. Their expertise makes it seem almost effortless for them to enrich the experience. I can't say enough about them!
Mine was 16 in all, from different nations (U.S., Australia, UK). Ages ranged from early 20s to over 70, with an average of probably 55-60. It quickly became a tightly knit group and there was tremendous spirit. There are relatively few steep climbs on the WHW and so it was easy to keep conversation up most of the time! Most if not all of my fellow hikers had just as much fitness and stamina as I did, and the group stayed mostly together most of the time.
I had never been on a long-distance multi-day hike before. I belong to two groups in the U.S. that hike regularly in the Shenandoah National Park, and could comfortably do day hikes of 10-12 miles rated "Strenuous" on the group's scale at a pace of 2.5 mph +/-. But I had no idea how that translated to the West Highland Way - Wilderness Scotland's rating of "6" left me roughly analogizing. In the end, 2 days were about as tough as a day hike back home, and the others were a little less so.
One of the best vacations of my life, richly rewarding and fun. Thanks to Wilderness Scotland for the journey and memories!