The Great Glen Way is a long-distance route that starts in Fort William and ends in Inverness, and follows the major natural faultline of the Great Glen which divides Scotland from coast to coast. This extraordinary trail is 79 mile/127 km long and offers its visitors breathtaking landscapes including lochs, hills, and forests. If you are looking for a gentle walk in Scotland, the Great Glen Way is an excellent option. In this blog post, we will provide you with all the information that you need to complete the Great Glen Way, including a map, the route and stages, accommodation, baggage transfer, camping, and more!
The Great Glen Way starts at the foot of the impressive Ben Nevis and takes you along the coasts of Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, and the forests above Loch Ness. This route will also guide you through some historical milestones of this turbulent region, past castles, forts, and scenes of some of Scotland’s bloodiest battles. Despite running at lower levels, you can also choose to follow the higher level option of the Great Glen Way between Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit. This higher section offers more dramatic views for a little more effort.
Are you looking for an adventure on the Scottish Highlands? Here you will find our options for the Great Glen Way and more!
Distance - How long is the Great Glen Way?
The Great Glen Way runs from south to north, from Fort William to Inverness. The route is 79 miles/127 kilometers long and is traditionally divided into 6 stages:
Stage 1, Fort William to Gairlochy: 10.5 miles/17 km
Stage 2, Gairlochy to Laggan Locks: 12.8 miles/20.7 km
Stage 3, Laggan Locks to Fort Augustus: 12.1 miles/19.5 km
Stage 4, Fort Augustus to Invermoriston: 9.2 miles/14.8 km (High Route: 10.5 miles/16.9 km)
Stage 5, Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit: 14.3 miles/23 km (High Route: 13.6 miles/21.9 km)
Stage 6, Drumnadrochit to Inverness: 19.88 miles/ 32 km
Best season to walk the Great Glen Way
Contrary to other treks in Europe, like the Alta via 2 in the Dolomites and the Salzburger Almenweg in Austria, where you can only trek during the summer months, you can walk the Great Glen Way all year round. When it comes to the best season to walk the Great Glen Way, the truth is that the weather is pretty much the same, no matter when you go. You can see this as an advantage or a disadvantage. In the Highlands, the weather is always bad. You may even experience all four seasons in one day... and it will certainly rain.
Officially, the best time is during the Summer months, during July and August. During Summer the average temperature rises a little and days are longer. However, during those two months is mosquito season and it can be quite annoying. A more appropriate time would be during Spring, that is from May to June when temperatures are pretty much the same as during Summer, it rains a bit less, and most importantly: there are no mosquitoes.
Do you need help planning your Great Glen Way trek? Here you will find all our suggestions for this trek.
Great Glen Way Map
Below you will find a map detailing the 6 stages of the Great Glen Way, starting from Fort William and ending in Inverness:
The Komoot app is a very useful tool when it comes to planning your trekking adventures. You can download our Komoot map for the Great Glen Way on GPX format here.
Great Glen Fay from Fort William to Inverness - Route and Stages
The Great Glen Way is divided into 6 stages and is 79 mile/127 km long. The traditional way of walking this route is starting in Fort William and making your way northeast to Inverness. You can do the trek in 6 days or, if you want a more challenging trek, you can combine some of the stages to make a shorter itinerary. Here is the classic 6-day itinerary for the Great Glen Way:
Stage 1, Fort William to Gairlochy:
Today you will start your Great Glen Way adventure at the Old Fort in Fort William. This first section of the trek is level and smooth. From Fort William you will first skirt the shores of Loch Linnhe and you will then join the Caledonian Canal at Corpach. While trekking along the canal you will come across Neptune's Staircase, the longest flight of locks on the canal. You will also see remnants of the original construction of the canal, like viaducts, original buildings and the hand-operated swing bridge. Follow the Canal towpath to Gairlochy.
It is important to note that Gairlochy has limited accommodation options and no shops. If you cannot find a place to spend the night, you can stay in Spean Bridge, 4.5 miles away.
Distance: 10.5 miles/17 km
Walking time: 4,5 hours
Stage 2, Gairlochy to Laggan Locks:
Today you will walk along Loch Lochy, one of the 3 major Lochs in the Great Glen. The trail today guides you through small roads and forest tracks. At first, from the Pepperpot Lighthouse, the road follows the southwestern end of the loch. You will walk by the shore for a couple of miles and then you will join the trail near the settlement of Achnacarry. In Clunes, the path leaves the road and follows forest tracks up until the end of the loch. One last short trek takes you to the canal lock gates at South Laggan, where this stage of the Great Glen Way ends.
Distance: 12.8 miles/20.7 km
Walking time: 5 hours
Stage 3, Laggan Locks to Fort Augustus:
Today you will walk along the smallest of the Great Glen's lochs, Loch Oich. Today's stage begins on Laggan Avenue, from which you will follow the Caledonian Canal for a short stretch. You will then trek the length of Loch Oich on a section of NCN 78, which is the national cycle route between Oban and Inverness. During your trek, look out for the remains of Invergarry Castle on the opposite shore. Cross the A82 trunk road at Aberchalder Swing Bridge and continue trekking along the canal towpath to Fort Augustus.
Distance: 12.1 miles/19.5 km
Walking time: 4,5 hours
Stage 4, Fort Augustus to Invermoriston:
After Fort Augustus, the Great Glen Way trail starts to ascend and you have to make a choice: you can either follow the low route through the forest or make a steep climb to reach the high route, which climbs above the tree line and offers great views of the Great Glen.
Leave Fort Augustus and follow the forest trail to the information panel about the high route. On the high route, you will first have to make a steep ascent to get above the tree line. This ascent is about 1 kilometer long. The high route follows a series of ups and downs until the last, steep descent to Invermoriston. The low route, on the contrary, is more level and also offers nice views of Loch Ness. Both routes take you to Invermoriston, where you can find a small village shop, accommodation, cafes, and restaurants.
Distance: 9.2 miles/14.8 km (10.5 miles/16.9 km via High Route)
Walking time: 4 hours (5 hours via High Route)
Stage 5, Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit:
Today you will also have to make a choice regarding the route you will follow. After leaving Invermoriston you will come to another information panel explaining the 2 options. The high route will take you to the highest point of the GGW, at 420m, where you will enjoy breathtaking views of Glen Moriston and Loch Ness. If you change your mind or if you want to experience both options, halfway along the high route there is a shortcut to the low route.
The low route follows an undulating path along the forest. Look out for the Stone Cave, built in the 19th Century as a shelter for a local washerwomen who used to walk this route to the Invermoriston Arms. After a significant climb out of Altsigh the route joins a smaller footpath that takes you to the road at Grotaig. Follow the road down towards Drumnadrochit.
Distance:14.3 miles/23 km (13.6 miles/21.9 km via high route)
Walking time: 6 hours (6,5 hours via high route)
Stage 6, Drumnadrochit to Inverness:
This is the longest stretch of the Great Glen Way. If you want, you can split it in two and spend the night at Abriachan. Today you will first walk for one mile along the busy A 82 road. You will then follow a winding path through the forest up to Craig Nay and then you will follow the trail to Abriachan. Continue trekking along the road and then onto a forest track. Beyond the forest, you will enjoy a great view of the city of Inverness. Follow the trail downhill through the Ness Islands and along the River Ness to Inverness Castle, the ending point of the Great Glen Way.
Distance: 19.88 miles/ 32 km
Walking time: 9 hours
Find this and other itineraries for the Great Glen Way here!
Great Glen Way Accommodation
On the Great Glen Way you can either spend the night at a cozy hotel in a small town or camping in one of the several camping sites along the way. The accommodation options, however, can be a bit limited at times. The thing with the Great Glen Way is that the stages guide you through small towns, where sometimes there are only 1, 2, or maybe 3 accommodation options. The Great Glen Way is one of the most popular treks in Scotland and it welcomes thousands of trekkers every year. Arranging the stages and booking the accommodation should not be taken lightly, since the hotels get fully booked months in advance. Here are some of our suggestions for your Great Glen Way:
Fort William: Alexandra Hotel
Part of the very fabric of Fort William since 1876, the Alexandra Hotel provides traditional Scottish Hospitality at its best. The hotel is located in a centric area and everything is close by. Whether it’s shopping in the High Street, catching a bus or taking a train to explore the local area, you’ll find the Alexandra Hotel is the perfect choice.
Gairlochy (Spean Bridge): Old Pines Hotel and Restaurant
The Old Pines Hotel and Restaurant is a small hotel and restaurant set in seven acres of ancient Scots pine trees just north of Spean Bridge, near Fort William, in the Highlands of Scotland with an excellent view of the Ben Nevis Range.
Laggan Locks: Great Glen Hostel
The Great Glen Hostel is a hostel in South Laggan, a little hamlet at the heart of Scotland's Great Glen, 20 miles north of Fort William and 10 miles south of Loch Ness. The hostel provides comfortable budget self-catering accommodation with all the facilities you need for your adventures in the Highlands.
Fort Augustus: Loch Ness Guest House
This beautiful granite stone-built Victorian residence, located in Fort Augustus in the stunning Scottish Highlands, dates back to the mid 1800s and reflects the character and splendor of that era. It is reputedly one of the oldest buildings in the village after the Abbey.
Invermoriston: Craik Na Dav B&B
Sisters Lindsey and Manda welcome you to their home overlooking the village of Invermoriston and just a short walk from Loch Ness. Their family-run Guest House is the perfect home away from home when exploring the historic and spectacular Scottish Highlands.
Drumnadrochit: 1 Loch Ness Hostel
The hostel is in the busy little village of Drumnadrochit, situated on the shores of Loch Ness a few minutes from Urquart Castle where Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster is occasionally sighted.
Inverness: Columba Hotel
The Columba Hotel combines a variety of lovely rooms with a terrific restaurant and bar in a beautifully traditional setting. With natural and historical highlights in every direction, Columba’s soothing atmosphere and delightful views help make it one of the finest choices available among Inverness hotels.
Do you need help finding the right accommodation for you? Here you can find all our trekking options for the Great Glen Way with accommodation included!
Great Glen Way: Camping
Unlike other treks in Europe, like the Alta Via 1 in Italy, where wild camping is not allowed, it is possible to go wild camping during the Great Glen Way, but only if practiced responsibly under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. If you want to find out about the code and the rules that you should follow while wild camping, you can do so here. When it comes to camping, there are also plenty of camping sites along the Great Glen Way where you can find a good place to place your tent and you will also have some basic facilities at your disposal.
How do I get to the trailhead?
The Great Glen Way starts in Fort William and ends in Inverness. The trail is traditionally walked from south to north, although it can be done in the opposite direction.
Starting point: The WHW starts in Fort William. There are direct trains and buses from Glasgow to Fort William. The bus ride takes about 3 hours, while the train is a bit slower and takes almost 4 hours. You can also take a trian or bus from Edinburgh. The ride from Edinburgh to Fort William takes about 5 hours
Ending point: The trek ends in Inverness. From Inverness you can either take a 2-hour bus drive back to Fort William or travel directly to Glasgow or Edinburgh. The bus and train rides to Glasgow and Edinburgh are direct and take about 4 hours.
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Baggage Transfer on the Great Glen Way
The Great Glen Way is a very popular trek and attracts thousands of tourists every year. Thanks to its popularity, a big touristic industry has grown around it and there are plenty of services which will make your walk easier and lighter. One of these services is that of baggage transfer. There are several agencies that offer baggage transfers during the Great Glen Way and most of them offer their service for the full trek for about GBP 50,-. The Baggage transfer companies pick up your bags every morning from your hotel and make sure that they are waiting for you at your next stop when you arrive. That way, you can enjoy the trek without any extra weight on your shoulders. Quite convenient, isn't it?
Our treks in Scotland include baggage transfer. Find the perfect trek for your Great Glen Adventure here!
Great Glen Way Cycle
The Great Glen Way is a great route for those who prefer riding a bike to walking. The trails on this route are wide and suitable for bikes. Just as for trekkers, you can choose to do the higher or the lower trail, but of course, the higher route has more difference in altitude, which should be taken into account when planning your trip.
If you are cycling the Great Glen Way, the itinerary will be shorter and it is usually done in 3 days, with overnights stops in the villages of Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit. A 3-day itinerary gives you enough time to stop along the way and visit the different highlights on the route. If you want to take it easier and explore a bit more, you can also choose a 4-day itinerary with overnight stops in Laggan Locks, Invermoriston, and Drumnadrochit.
Once you finish your cycling tour on the Great Glen Way, you will probably have to make your way back from Inverness to Fort William. In that case, you can take a train back to Fort William. ScotRail allows bikes in their wagons and it removes the stress of finding a way to carry your bike back to the starting point of the trek.
West Highland Way and Great Glen Way combined
The Great Glen Way and the West Highland Way are two of the most famous long-distance walking trails in Scotland. If one is not enough, you can very easily combine the two. The West Highland Way happens to end in Fort William, the starting point of the Great Glen Way, which makes them the perfect match for a longer adventure!
Walking the Great Glen Way: Recommended Packing List
On the Great Glen Way, being prepared for the changing weather is paramount. Scotland has a very diverse climate and you may experience all four seasons in one day! With this in mind, it’s essential to pack clothing, footwear, and accessories suitable for changing weather conditions.
Try to base your clothing on the "three-layer" principle. This consists of a base layer, which will absorb the moisture from your skin; a middle layer, which should provide some warmth; and a waterproof outer layer to protect you from the rain and the wind. Here are our recommendations for your Great Glen Way walk:
- Trousers, waterproof, lightweight, and quick-drying
- Shirts for base layer
- Warm jacket or pullover for middle layer
- Waterproof jacket
- Warm hat and gloves
- Trekking boots, worn in
- Good quality socks
- Extra footwear for the night
- Waste bags
- Whistle to summon assistance in case of accidents
- Water bottle containing enough water to take you to your next stop
- Torch (preferably a head-torch) with spare bulb and batteries
- Emergency food and snacks (high energy snacks such as chocolate, dried fruit, energy bars etc.)
- Hiking poles
- First aid kit
Is the Great Glen Way in Scotland safe?
Yes, the Great Glen Way is totally safe. The trails are quite straight forward and there is very little difference in altitude. The biggest challenge during the Great Glen Way is the weather. It is well known that the climate in Scotland isn't the best and chances are that it will rain during your Great Glen Way trek. The key is knowing that it will happen and being prepared for when it does, so make sure to carry a waterproof jacket and an extra pair of socks with you.
When it comes to the direction, the most popular option is walking the route from south to north and ending at Inverness. The signs, however, point in both directions so you can also do it from north to south. The signs are clearly marked with the Great Glen Way logo. The path is perfectly laid out and very well signposted. The Great Glen Way trail is very clear, there is no possibility of getting lost.
Scottish Emergency Number: 999
Where can I book my Great Glen Way Walking Holidays?
The Great Glen Way offers the opportunity to embark on a completely self-guided, Scottish adventure. The biggest challenge on this trek is not so much following the route, but booking accommodation along the way. If you need help booking accommodation for the Great Glen Way, we can give you a hand. Our trekking specialists can book accommodation for you, so you can prepare for your Great Glen Way adventure without stress. Contact our trekking experts today and start planning your trekking adventure in Scotland!
If you are looking for the right itinerary for you, here you can find all our Great Glen Way itineraries.
If you are looking for the right itinerary for you, here you can find all our Dingle Way itineraries.
Are you looking for a different route or hiking area in the British Isles? Then read one of our other informative blog posts:
- Hiking in Scotland
- Hiking in Northern Ireland
- Hiking in Wales
- Walking the Dingle Way
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