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    Essential Guide:
    The West Highland Way

    West Highland Way Stats & Facts

    Welcome to everything you need to know about the West Highland Way, all in one place! The West Highland Way is Scotland’s most well-known long-distance trail. It is traditionally walked from Milngavie in the south to Fort William in the north. The route passes some of the best scenery in Scotland and has become a must-do activity for locals and visitors alike.

    Total Length of the Way

    154 km/95.6 miles

    Footfall

    Around 35,000 people walk the whole route annually.

    Highest Point

    550m / 1804 feet, the summit of the Devil’s Staircase

    How Many Days Does the West Highland Way Take?

    6-8 days

    How Many Steps is the West Highland Way?

    200,000 (Based on the average stride)

    Fastest Completion of the West Highland Way?

    To our knowledge, Ultrarunner Rob Sinclair did the whole route in 13 hours and 41 minutes in 2017.

    Guide Contents

    West Highland Way 101

    Is the West Highland Way signposted? Read More

    The West Highland Way is waymarked and on a clear path from start to finish, but the level of detail on the markers varies and the markers can be far apart. The enclosed thistle symbol is Scotland’s Great Trails signifier and the bare minimum route marker along the way. We recommend that any unguided individual and/or group come prepared with a map, compass, headtorch, and ideally a device with GPS functionality. This is precautionary, but useful in case you decide to go off-route along the way or the markers are not visible due to weather conditions.

    Can you camp along the West Highland Way? Read More

    You can wild camp along large sections of the West Highland Way. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code encourages responsible behaviour to the environment and to other users of the area, please see our page on Leave No Trace below for more guidance. However, wild camping is restricted between March and October along the eastern shores of Loch Lomond. There are multiple commercial campsites and also free campsites with no facilities along this section of the route which you will be able to use.

    How many days do you need to do the West Highland Way? Read More

    The West Highland Way is generally completed over 6-8 days: depending on fitness levels, time available, and accommodation vacancies.

    Best sections of the West Highland Way to do if you only have 1-2 days? Read More

    There are a couple of options open to you if you only have 1-2 days and want to do a part of the West Highland Way. General consensus agrees that with limited time, you should look to do the section from Inveroran to the Kinghouse, and/or the Kingshouse to Kinlochleven. These 2 stages are the real “classic” sections of the West Highland Way, with the most memorable scenery. Between Inveroran and the Kingshouse you get the benefit of crossing Rannoch Moor and witnessing the rugged splendour of Glen Coe. Travelling from the Kingshouse to Kinlochleven means that you get glimpses of the mountain ranges along Glen Coe and have to tackle the famed Devil’s Staircase. However, you also get to enjoy the long descent into Kinlochleven and the epic views that come with it, weather willing.

    The above two sections are known for their drama. The rugged scenery and the mountains. If you are after a more lush view, then take on the Drymen to Rowardennan section, and/or Rowardennan to Inverarnan. Between Drymen and Rowardennan you walk along the eastern shores of Loch Lomond. The highlight here is undeniably Conic Hill. Witness the change in scenery between the Lowlands and the Highlands as you walk across this ancient fault-line. The section between Rowardennan and Inverarnan is argued to be one of the most scenic but also the most difficult. The anticipated easy stroll along the loch makes way for a rugged, rocky path full of big tree roots crisscrossing the path. Therefore, it is sometimes overgrown and can be very boggy.

    Recommended Reading Read More

    Guides & History

    • West Highland Way, by Jacquetta Megarry
    • The West Highland Way: The Official Guide, by Bob Aitken and Roger Smith
    • Walking the West Highland Way, by Terry Marsh

    Adventurous Accounts

    • Three Men on the Way Way, by Hamish Brown
    • Walk Sleep Repeat, by Stephen Reynolds

    History of the Trail

    The West Highland Way is Scotland’s first official long-distance trail. Tom Hunter proposed the trail, driven to find a way to protect the Scottish countryside from overdevelopment. Hunter and his wife Margaret gained a lot of support from fellow walking lovers for the trail, who joined forces to put together a proposed route. His idea was also met with objections from landowners, local authorities, and the Countryside Commission. Despite the setbacks, the trail was approved in 1974.

    The popularity of the recently opened Pennine Way in 1965 in Northern England certainly helped to make a case for the opening of the West Highland Way. Building the route required anticipating the strains that large volumes of walkers would bring to the area. The route was to be provisioned with waymarkers, surfacing, bridges, stiles, and appropriate drainage. It passes and makes use of historical roads like old military roads and drove roads used for herding cattle between the Highlands and the Lowlands. Taking this all into consideration, the West Highland Way was completed in 1980.

    2010 marks two further historic milestones. In June 2010 the West Highland Way was welcomed to be part of the International Appalachian Trail. Later that year, the way was extended by a further mile, moving the official finishing point up to Fort William’s main square in the town centre. The new official end of the way is marked with seating, a stone map, and the Sore Feet statue for visitors to pose with.

    Get Fit Long Distance Hike-1-2

    whw history

    Fitness Level & Experience for the West Highland Way

    It’s important to be relatively fit for the West Highland Way. Consider that everyday in itself would be considered a good hike. And you’re doing 6-8 of them in a row. You will enjoy yourself more if you’re fitter. In short, get ready for the West Highland Way by going walking and doing a variety of cardiovascular exercise more often to build up your stamina. There are undulating sections on the West Highland Way, and so get yourself to a point where you can walk up a moderate hill whilst still holding a conversation. Remember to stretch when you stop for a break and at the end of the day to make your next day more enjoyable.

    The West Highland Way is a great long-distance walk, and also a great long-distance trail to do as your first, but it should not be underestimated. We recommend that you have experience of walking longer days, and ideally for multiple days in a row.

    How to Get Fit for a Long Distance Hike

    What to Bring on the West Highland Way

    The long-distance hiker’s eternal dilemma, what to pack for the trip? Whether you are making use of a luggage service and only hiking with a day pack, or if you are carrying all your camping equipment and the kitchen sink to boot, the quandary stays the same. Weight vs. comfort. There are extensive packing lists available online, and opinions differ. To summarise the common themes and must-haves. A good pair of walking boots, several pairs of high-quality woollen socks, non-cotton layers, waterproofs for your upper and lower body, and a backpack you can comfortably wear all day. You want to bring enough layers to be comfortable no matter what the weather.

    Also, ensure that you are loaded up with enough water and food to keep you going throughout the day as opportunities to fill up are far and few between.

    Have a read of What to Bring on the West Highland Way for further tips and advice from experienced hiking guide, Pete Long. If you are wondering specifically about what clothing to wear and bring with you, have a look at our extensive guide on What to Wear Hiking in Scotland.

    Walking the Way Responsibly

    Please be conscious of your environment and try to proceed with minimal disruption where possible. This notion applies to not just to our wild places, but also to the local animal life, fellow visitors, and to the people that live and work in the countryside.

    We are a proud partner of the Leave No Trace Centre for Outdoor Ethics, which enhances our commitment to responsible activity in Scotland’s wildlands, as enshrined in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC).

    Learn More About Leave No Trace

    West Highland Way Places to Eat

    Knowing that there is something yummy waiting for you at lunch and dinner time can be a pretty key motivator when trekking 9-15 miles/15-25 kilometres a day! We’re lucky that the West Highland Way is sprinkled with some great eateries en-route to tuck into some traditional and some less conventional Scottish fare.

    If you’re travelling with us rest assured that we ensure that you’re booked up in the restaurant of choice and that packed lunches are seen to, but if you’re going at it more independently a bit more logistics are required. Depending on the distances you are walking each day, there may not always be a place where you can buy lunch along the way so come prepared with a packed meal if that’s the case.

    We’ve put together an interactive map with the best places to eat or have a drink and the selection includes restaurants, pubs, distilleries, chippies, and farm shops.

    West Highland Way Food Guide & Map

    The Route in Sections


    West Highland Way Elevation Profile | Over night stops marked by green dots for 7 days

    Milngavie to Drymen is the first stage of the West Highland Way. This leg is a good introduction for what is to come in the following days. It starts off relatively flat with a variation of scenery. Although you are starting close to Glasgow, you are quickly leaving the urban scenery and walking up to Mugdock Country Park and through open countryside. You hike north along the West Highland Way, passing Craigallian and Carbeth Lochs. You skirt the western flanks of the Campsie Fells, where many a Glasgow mountaineer enjoyed their first outing. Your day’s walking ends when you reach the village of Drymen.

    Full Walking Description: Walkhighlands – Milngavie to Drymen

    WHW Section 1: Highlights Read More
    • Mugdock Country Park: The park covers an area of 260 hectares and contains the 14th-century Mugdock Castle and the water of Allander.
    • Drymen: A charming village and home to Scotland’s oldest licensed pub, the Clachan Inn.
    WHW Section 1: Places to Eat Read More
    • The Beech Tree Inn: The Beech Tree Inn is perfectly situated en-route between Milngavie and Drymen, and a great place to stop for lunch. It’s one of the few days on the West Highland Way where you will have the opportunity to buy lunch along the way.
    • The Clachan Inn: Celebrate completing the first section of the West Highland Way with dinner in Scotland’s oldest licensed pub.
    WHW Section 1: Nearby Culture & Activities Read More
    • Glengoyne Distillery: The distillery is only slightly off route and a worthy detour if you are keen to sample local whisky during your trip. This is good to combine with a lunch stop at the Beech Tree Inn, as they are only a 10-15 minute walk apart.

    The trail leaves Drymen and passes through Garadhban Forest. Leaving the forest you can choose to climb Conic Hill, 361m in height with great views over Loch Lomond. Alternatively, there is a low-level path that skirts below the hill. The views across the Loch and the islands are said to be some of the most beautiful along the trail. After reaching the eastern banks of Loch Lomond at Balmaha, follow the shore through the forest until you reach the tranquil setting of Rowardennan, nestled at the foot of Ben Lomond.

    Full Walking Description: Walkhighlands – Drymen to Rowardennan

    WHW Section 2: Highlights Read More
    • Conic Hill: It should be noted that climbing Conic Hill is actually an optional detour, but that the uphill slog is well worth the views. Conic Hill is a good vantage point from which to observe the Highland Boundary Fault Line and the change in landscape between the Highlands and the Lowlands.
    • Loch Lomond: Loch Lomond itself is undeniably the highlight and your first glimpse will be with your ascent of Conic Hill. After your descent into Balmaha, you will be walking largely lochside till Ardleish the following day. Loch Lomond is the largest freshwater body of water in Britain, it is over 23 miles/37 km long and 5 miles/8 km wide at its widest point.
    WHW Section 2: Places to Eat Read More
    • The Oak Tree Inn: Boasting its own ice cream parlour, coffee shop and restaurant & bar there is literally something for everybody at any time of day. The food and service are renowned to be excellent, but it can get very busy in summer so beware of that and manage expectations.
    WHW Section 2: Nearby Culture & Activities Read More
    • Tom Weir Statue & Picnic Area: A picnic area and bronze statue celebrating the life of countryside broadcaster Tom Weir. The statue is at a nice viewpoint over the loch and has a good area to rest your weary legs. 
    • Ben Lomond: One of Scotland’s most popular Munros, there is the option to climb this iconic mountain if you have a day to spare.  The ascent and descent takes between 4-6 hours depending on the routes that you take. The common route is a straight-forward and easy path that takes you all the way to the summit and makes the mountain more accessible. Ptarmigan Ridge offers a more challenging day, with a range of terrain and more steep sections that are rough and rocky.

    This is a challenging stage, said to be one of the toughest of the whole West Highland Way. However, the combination of differing terrain, scenery, and views make it very rewarding. Rougher terrain means that the going is slower but it’s wonderful to be in such wild country. The route follows the remote north-eastern shoreline of Loch Lomond. The path improves as you near your next destination, the tiny settlement of Inverarnan.

    Full Walking Description: Walkhighlands – Rowardennan to Inverarnan

    WHW Section 3: Highlights Read More
    • Drovers Inn: The most famous landmark at this stage is the ‘Drovers Inn’ one of the best-known pubs in Scotland. The Drovers Inn was originally used by Highland drovers who drove their cattle down the side of Loch Lomond to the markets. The pub is now famous for being one of the oldest pubs in Scotland and one of the most haunted in Britain.
    WHW Section 3: Places to Eat Read More
    • The Drovers Inn: Already mentioned as a highlight, the Drovers Inn is also one of the few options in Inverarnan for a meal. Traditional pub grub served in a unique and cosy setting.
    • Beinglas Farm: The campsites houses a restaurant and bar which welcomes nonguests. Meals are cooked fresh to order and have generous portion sizes.

    Well into the Highlands now, you are surrounded by rugged mountain peaks. You make your way along Glen Falloch before turning northwards into Strath Fillan. As you approach Tyndrum you are rewarded with wonderful views of Ben Lui rising up in the west.

    Full Walking Description: Walkhighlands – Inverarnan to Tyndrum

    WHW Section 4: Highlights Read More
    • General Wade’s Military Roads: These were part of the British efforts to bring order to Scotland after the Jacobite Rebellions of 1715. The first of these roads were built under the instruction of General George Wade. Although the roads ended up not being effective for military purposes, they did open up the Highlands and enabled easier travel.
    WHW Section 4: Places to Eat Read More
    • Real Food Cafe: Don’t be fooled by the picnic-style seating area, their fish and chips are famed across Scotland to be some of the best in the country.
    WHW Section 4: Culture & Activities Read More
    • The Green Welly Stop: Conveniently located, the Green Welly Stop is the ideal one-stop-shop for clothing, accessories and whisky. Anything the passing through traveller might need.

    This fantastic day begins with a climb out of Tyndrum, with the trail running next to the West Highland Railway line. At the top of the pass, the sweeping flanks of Ben Dorain dominate the view. A short detour takes you to a carved stone seat said to contain the sword of Robert the Bruce. Continuing north, you’ll reach the tiny settlement of Bridge of Orchy and then Inveroran. The shapely peaks of the Black Mount now lie to the west while the wilds of Rannoch Moor stretch into the distance in front of you. Follow the trail across this wild moor, one of the most remote and atmospheric sections of the whole route.

    *This section of the trail ends officially at the Kingshouse Hotel in Glen Coe. The day can get split into two shorter days, traditionally breaking the route up at Bridge of Orchy or Inveroran.

    Full Walking Descriptions:

    WHW Section 5: Highlights Read More
    • Bridge of Orchy: This is the point where the old military road crossed the river Orchy. The settlement and the bridge have sprung up here following the arrival of the road.
    • Rannoch Moor: Rannoch Moor is known as one of the last true “wildernesses” in Britain and even Europe. The moor, situated on a plateau, covers an area of 50 square miles. It stretches from Highland Perthshire and the west of Loch Rannoch all the way across to northern Lochaber. The moor is characterised by hundreds of lochans, islands, bog, peatland, and many small burns.
    • Glen Coe: Glen Cloe is an incredible valley. The landscape is stark, with tall and intimidating mountains rising steeply on either side only adding to the beauty and atmosphere. The glen has a rich and bloody history, most famously known for the massacre of the MacDonald clan that took place in 1692.
    WHW Section 5: Places to Eat Read More
    • The Bridge of Orchy Hotel: The Bridge of Orchy Hotel combines being a welcoming and comforting haven for West Highland Way walkers and also being a posh supper destination for highland tourists, and you know what? They pulled it off. One thing’s for sure, whether you opt for a more high brow meal or good old fashioned nosh you can count on the meal being beautifully presented and delicious.
    • The Kingshouse Hotel: Built in the 17th Century, the Kingshouse Hotel was used after the Battle of Culloden (16th April 1746) as a barracks for troops of George III, hence the name Kings House. In present-day, the hotel is the only accommodation between Inveroran and Kinlochleven, and thus a popular destination for West Highland Way walkers. People not staying at the hotel can celebrate their day’s walk with a fine meal in the restaurant or have a drink in the stylish bar.
    • The Clachaig Inn: A great alternative to the Kingshouse, the Clachaig Inn is only a short taxi journey away with more accommodation available onsite and nearby. Food is hearty, featuring pub favourites and the Boots Bar regularly has live music sessions on.

    This is a shorter day but with the steepest ascent of the route. From the Kingshouse climb the trail known as the ‘Devil’s Staircase’. It is steep, eroded and with some switchbacks. The ascent is steady and constant. At the top of the pass at 547m, you get incredible views of Glen Coe and down to Loch Leven. Descend on a good trail into the small village of Kinlochleven.

    Full Walking Description: Walkhighlands – Kingshouse to Kinlochleven

    WHW Section 6: Highlights Read More
    • The Devil’s Staircase: The Devil’s Staircase might be the most notorious part of the West Highland Way, known for the steepness of the ascent, but the reward makes it more than worth it. The views over Glen Coe and Kinlochleven are spectacular.
    • Kinlochleven: Kinlochleven has a population of just over 1000. It is located at the head of Loch Leven and developed in the 1900s when the North British Aluminium Company built a hydro scheme and smelter in the area. At its peak, the smelter employed over 800 people. The smelter closed in June 2000 but a sense of community continues. Now the growing popularity of the West Highland Way brings a steady stream of visitors to the village. Loch Leven is one of the most attractive lochs in Scotland and the village is frequented by climbers heading for the nearby Mamores.
    WHW Section 6: Places to Eat Read More
    • The Bothy Bar: Destinations for a hot meal are limited in Kinlochleven, but the Bothy Bar is a safe bet. It’s got one of the nicest views in Scotland and serves up the pub favourites like fish & chips and burgers. 
    • Loch Leven Sea Food Cafe: This one is a 10-minute taxi ride away, but well worth the additional time and money to get there if you are a seafood lover. Everything is freshly and locally caught, with daily specials.
    WHW Section 6: Culture & Activities Read More
    • The Ice Factor: The Ice Factor is a good side activity if you were wanting to take a break from walking for a day and exercise some different muscles. As well as an indoor climbing wall and aerial course, the Ice Factor houses Britain’s largest indoor ice wall, perfect for the budding or training ice climber.

    The final day sees the trail climb over a final pass – 274m this time. After crossing the pass, the hard work of the day is done and you walk past old sheilings (summer dwellings for shepherds) with views over Lochan Lunn Da-Bhra. With views across to Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Scotland, the trail descends into Glen Nevis and down to the end of the route in Fort William. You’ve made it!

    Full Walking Description: Walkhighlands – Kinlochleven to Fort William

    WHW Section 7: Highlights Read More
    • Ben Nevis: At 1,345 meters, Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain, presides over Fort William. This striking peak will be a constant companion once you’ve entered Glen Nevis. Known simply as “The Ben” to many walkers and climbers, it attracts an estimated 100,000 visitors a year, around three-quarters of whom use the well-constructed track from the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel.
    • Trail’s End: The West Highland Way officially ends at Gordon Square, by the aptly named Sore Feet statue. The end provides some nice picture opportunities, plus is in close vicinity to various pubs and cafes where you can get a celebratory drink or slice of cake.
    WHW Section 7: Places to Eat Read More
    • Grog & Gruel: A loud and dog-friendly alehouse with a varied menu. It’s popular with the locals and stocks a good selection of local Highland beers and whiskies.
    • Crannog Seafood Restaurant: This is the place to go for a stellar view and amazing seafood. The menu is kept short as it changes regularly but you can be assured of fresh, delicious and varied dishes. The restaurant itself is beautifully located on the water, with breathtaking views over Loch Linnhe. Be sure to make a reservation here, it’s always heaving!
    WHW Section 7: Culture & Activities Read More
    • Old Inverlochy Castle: If you are interested in a bit of history after your walking epic, pop over to Inverlochy castle. It’s a small ruined castle built in the 13th Century and site of a couple of battles.

    Spring

    Spring weather is mild, but the days are lengthening and consistently drier. The landscape is buzzing with life and colour, with flowers blooming and bustling wildlife.

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    Summer

    Summer promises long days, pleasant temperatures, and festivals galore. The countryside transitions from vibrant green to breath-taking purple as the heather blooms.

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    Autumn

    Autumn is a time of colourful landscapes and glowing skies. Witness some of Scotland’s most exciting wildlife spectacles and taste flavours unique to our autumn months.

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    Winter

    If the conditions are right, Scottish winters are the epitome of ‘winter wonderland’. Crunchy snow underneath your boots, sparkly fields, and the most beautiful night skies.

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    Tours of the West Highland Way

    West Highland Way FAQs

    What is the West Highland Way? Read More

    The West Highland Way is Scotland’s first official long-distance route, and also the most well known.

    Where is the West Highland Way? Read More

    The West Highland Way is a 154km/96 mile long walking route between Milngavie and Fort William. The West Highland Way route travels along the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, across the atmospheric Rannoch Moor, past dramatic Glencoe and onwards to finish at the foot of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain.

    Where does the West Highland Way start? Read More

    The route traditionally begins in the centre of Milngavie, a town found 6 miles outside of Glasgow. The start is marked with an obelisk on the pedestrianized Douglas Street. The route can also be walked from Fort William to Milngavie.

    Where does the West Highland Way end? Read More

    Traditionally the route ends in the centre of Fort William at Gordon Square. The end of the route was moved up from its original endpoint on the fringes of Fort William in 2010. The end is marked by a bench, statue and stone map. You can also walk the route starting in Fort William and finishing in Milngavie.

    Where to stay on the West Highland Way? Read More

    There are various accommodation options available along the route like B&Bs, hotels, and inns. Sometimes it may be difficult to get a room in the town where the section finishes that day, so walkers may have to walk, use public transport, or taxi to nearby towns and villages for accommodation. Many walkers also camp along the way, with campsites and wild camping options en-route.

    What shoes do you need for West Highland Way? Read More

    Worn-in walking boots. To avoid blisters and cramped up feet, they should be waterproof and give good ankle support. Have a read of Best Footwear for Hiking in Scotland.

    Are there midges on the West Highland Way? Read More

    We’re not going to lie. There can be. But to be honest, as you’re constantly on the move you’re not bothered much by midges. If it’s a real concern for you, consider going in April, early May, or September. Midges are less active in these months.

    More information on midges

    How long is the West Highland Way? Read More

    The West Highland Way is 154 km/96 miles long. The exact distance every walker ends up doing daily depends on where their accommodation is and how they’re getting to it.

    What is the best time of year to walk the West Highland Way? Read More

    The West Highland Way can be walked year-round, and every month has a different benefit to offer, but baggage transfer services are functioning between April and October. We recommend April as it’s less busy, there are no midges, and it’s generally quite mild which is pleasant for walking.

    Is the West Highland Way hilly? Read More

    Yes, the West Highland Way goes over the top of several large hills, and has steeply undulating sections. All days have a minimum of 250m of ascent.

    Which OS maps do I need for the West Highland Way? Read More

    You will need a range of OS Maps if you’re walking the West Highland Way by yourself and unguided. The OS explorer maps 392, 384, 377, OL39, OL38 and 348 would be a good investment, as well as landranger maps 41, 50, 56, 57, and 64.

    What wildlife will I see along the West Highland Way? Read More

    It’s all dependent on the time of year, weather, and other factors but you’re likely to encounter red deer along the way, as well as plenty of sheep, foxes, stoats, squirrels, wild goats, highland cattle, and even adders. All of these animals are found in the west highlands, some like the red squirrel and stoats, are more elusive than others. Adders are the only common snake found in Scotland and it’s unlikely that they’ll harm you unless provoked. If you’re lucky enough to see some of these creatures please keep a respectful distance and try not to disturb their activities. This is for their safety as much as your own. If you turn your eyes to the sky you can also see birds like kestrels, buzzards, grouse, golden eagles, bats, and more common inland birds like crested tits, willow warblers, and chiffchaffs.

    Pictures of the West Highland Way

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