West Highland Way, Scotland

A quintessential Scottish walk - 164 km, 8 days

Walking up towards the Devil's Staircase on the West Highland WaySCOTLAND'S WEST HIGHLAND WAY WALK is one of the best known walks in Scotand. This walk takes you along the shoreline of Loch Lomond, over Rannoch Moor, along Glencoe Valley and over the ranges to Loch Linnhe and Fort William.

TERRY MARSH has written a Cicerone guidebook ‘The West Highland Way From Milngavie to Fort William’, a useful illustrated booklet, with detailed maps and route directions.

THE WEST HIGHLAND WAY ROUTE is 154 km long and for those contemplating this trail for their walking holiday in Scotland, some planning is required. Although the path is well marked, the Scottish weather is more than unpredictable and needs to be respected. The Way begins in Milngavie, reaches Loch Lomond and passes the villages and towns of Drymen, Rowardennan, Inverarnan, Crianlarich, Bridge of Orchy, Kings House and Kinlochleven before arriving at Fort William.

Ba Cottage on Rannoch Moor The trail was approved for development in 1974 and was completed and opened in 1980 by Lord Mansfield so becoming the first officially designated long distance footpath in Scotland. In June 2010, the West Highland Way was co-designated as part of the International Appalachian Trail.

GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE WALK: West Highland Way Route: Starting from Milngavie, the 154 km trail wends its way northwards and ends at Fort William, the largest town in the highlands. It passes from the lowlands, across the Highland Boundary Fault and into the Scottish Highlands. Much of the Way follows ancient and historic routes of the drove roads along which highlanders herded their cattle and sheep to market in the lowlands, Military roads built by troops to help control the Jacobite Clans and Old coaching roads and disused railway lines. The walk crosses a variety of terrains, including lakeside tracks, moors and mountain passes. Wet weather gear is a necessary as is warm clothing.

Walking Route of the West Highland Way in ScotlandSOME HIGHLIGHTS: Loch Lomond, Glen Falloch and a series of dramatic cascades to the village of Crianlarich and to the Bridge of Orchy. Loch Tulla, the bleak expanses of Rannoch Moor to the Kingshouse Hotel. Then past mighty Buachaille Etive Mor, which guards the entrance to Glencoe. Then the ‘Devil's Staircase', the village of Kinlochleven at the head of Loch Leven. The final stage of this spectacular trail crosses the Lairigmor pass to Glen Nevis and the busy little town of Fort William, with the vast bulk of Ben Nevis waiting to be climbed.

WALKING ROUTE PLANNER: The number of days required depends on how fit and how quickly or leisurely you want your walking holiday to be. Work out the average number of kilometres you are prepared to do in a day, taking into account the landscape and the town or village in which you will end your day. It's also nice to plan on arriving a little earlier in a village if there are interesting attractions you may like to visit, such as in Bridge of Orchy or Fort William. We did the walk in 8 days, however it's also possible to do it in about 7 days.

LUGGAGE TRANSFER: This efficient service is readily available and can be organized through a number of tour operators on the ‘self-guided’ itineraries.

YOUR WEST HIGHLAND WAY ACCOMMODATION: This is usually in B&Bs or inns and should be booked in advance.

FOOD: Mostly good quality traditional English food is served up at B&Bs and village inns and there are wide choices in their menu. Cider and ale are common. Most B&B owners can cater for vegetarians or people with other food preferences if given sufficient notice.

WHEN TO GO: The northern Spring or Autumn seasons are recommended as accommodation is easier to obtain and the tourist numbers are lower.

WALKING GEAR: Good walking boots and socks are critical. Your shoes should have been broken in. Also important is what rain gear to take. Make sure it’s made from a breathable material.

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ITINERARY for the West Highland Way - 164 km

The following is an outline of the 8-day walk itinerary that we chose. We decided on this itinerary because of the reasonable distances and the available accommodation.

  • Where to Start: Milngavnie, Scotland.
  • How to get there: To Milngavnie: Train from London’s Euston Station to Glasgow Central Railway Station (5 - 5 ½ hours), short walk (10 minutes) or bus to Glasgow Queen Street Railway Station, then train to Milngavie (20 minutes).
Walking itinerary: 8 days
  • Day 1. Milngavnie - Drymen (19 km). An easy day, just don’t spend too long at the Glengoyne Distillery as you have another 8 km to walk before reaching Drymen.
  • Day 2. Rowardennan (22.5 km). Along the shore of bonny Loch Lomond. See if you can spot the various highland creatures about.
  • Day 3. Inverarnan (22.5 km). A further walk along Loch Lomond, with occasional traffic noise from the motorway on the opposite shore. Have dinner at the Drover’s Inn (from 1705).
  • Day 4. Crianlarich (10.5 km). Loch Lomond, Glen Falloch and a series of dramatic cascades to the village of Crianlarich.
  • Day 5. Bridge of Orchy (21.5 km). A fairly tiring day, but great views and variable weather.
  • Day 6. Kings House (21.5 km). This is a super day’s walk in the middle of the bleak expanses of Rannoch Moor to the Kingshouse Hotel.
  • Day 7. Day 7 - Kinlochleven (14.5 km). Then past mighty Buachaille Etive Mor, which guards the entrance to Glencoe. Then the ‘Devil's Staircase', the village of Kinlochleven at the head of Loch Leven.
  • Day 8. Fort William (22.5 km) - your destination! The final stage of this spectacular trail crosses the Lairigmor pass to Glen Nevis and the busy little town of Fort William, with the vast bulk of Ben Nevis waiting to be climbed.
  • How to get back from Fort William: A train from Fort William Railway Station to Glasgow Queen Street (3 ½ hrs), then taxi or bus to Glasgow Airport, or to continue to London; short walk (10 minutes) or bus to Glasgow Central Railway Station for a train to London’s Euston (5 – 5 ½ hours).
Our Take:
Make sure your wet weather gear is up to scratch. Walking lochside can be a little noisy from the traffic on the opposite shore. The moors and the highland walking are great. There is a lot to see on this 164 km journey through Scotland, so don't forget to bring your camera. Be prepared for rain and the wonderful walking. The Way is usually walked from south to north.
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