West Highland Way: map, route in 5 days, baggage transfer, and more!

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West Highland Way: map, route in 5 days, baggage transfer, and more!
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The West Highland Way is Scotland's most popular long-distance walking trail, quite possibly because it runs through some of the most iconic landscapes of the Scottish Highlands. The route is 96 miles long, which is equivalent to 154 kilometers, and guides you from Milngavie to Fort William through moorland, mountain passes, glens, and some of the most breathtaking landscapes in Scotland. In this article, we have included all you need to know to walk the West Highland Way, including the route, the map, distance, baggage transfer services, accommodation, wild camping, and more!

The West Highland Way is a great trekking adventure. The route is divided into 8 stages, from Milngavie to Fort William, but you can arrange it depending on your fitness level and experience. The West Highland way is for everybody. You can choose to walk shorter sections and complete the trek in 10 days, or you can choose to combine some stages and complete the whole trek in just 5 days, it is up to you. Are you ready for this Scottish adventure? Let's go!

Origin of the West Highland Way, Scotland

The West Highland Way is the official first long-distance route of Scotland. This route runs on the layout of an old military track built by English troops to quell the ongoing rebellions of the Scottish Jacobite clans. The Jacobites were those who supported James VII after his deposition from the English throne because of being a catholic. The most famous Jacobite rebellion took place in 1745 when Charles Edward Stewart, James VII's grandson, led his Jacobite army to the Battle of Culloden, near Inverness in 1746, where they were finally defeated by the English troops. The tracing of the West Highland Way route began in 1974 and was officially opened in 1980 by Lord Mansfield and so it became the first officially designated long-distance footpath in Scotland.

Origin of the West Highland Way, Scotland

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Distance - How long is the West Highland Way?

The West Highland Way runs from Milngavie to Fort William. The trail is 96 miles long, that is to say, 154 kilometers, and is divided into 8 stages. On the way, the route guides you through one of the wildest and most beautiful natural landscapes, including mountains, lakes, valleys, and moorland.

Distance - How long is the West Highland Way?

West Highland Way: Weather and Best Season

When it comes to the best season to walk the West Highland Way, or 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.

West Highland Way Map - Moderate route

The Komoot app is a very useful tool when it comes to planning your trekking adventures. You can download our Komoot map for the West Highland Way on GPX format here. Below you will find a map detailing the 8 stages of the West Highland Way, starting from Milngavie, in the outskirts of Glasgow, and ending in Fort William:

Walking the West Highland Way: route and stages

The West Highland Way is divided into 7 stages, starting from Milngavie and ending in Fort William. You can choose to walk one stage per day or to combine some of the stages into one. The level of difficulty of the trek will depend on the number of days you choose to complete the whole trek. Here are the 7 stages of the Medium WHW:

Day
1

Arrival in Milngavie

Today you will travel to Milngavie. You will have an overnight stay here so that you can start the trip well rested.

West Highland Way Rooms (Milngavie)

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West Highland Way Rooms (Milngavie)
Day
2

Milngavie to Drymen

Duration: 05:10 h
Distance: 19.7 km
Ascent: 170 m
Descent: 170 m
The trip from Milngavie to Drymen is a good warm-up for the rest of the West Highland Way route. The route is relatively flat and is a nice introduction to the diverse landscapes you will encounter over the next 96 miles. Along the way you will encounter some smaller lochs and rivers, revealing the Highland landscape beyond Drymen. The official route takes you around the village of Drymen and then to Balmaha. Many hikers prefer to end this first day in Drymen or at least stop there for shopping and a drink.

Drymen Inn (Drymen)

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Drymen Inn (Drymen)
Day
3

Drymen to Rowardennan

Duration: 06:55 h
Distance: 24.1 km
Ascent: 530 m
Descent: 560 m
After leaving Drymen, rejoin the West Highland Way as it veers away from the A811 and towards Conic Hill. The view from Conic Hill is breathtaking. Below, stretching across the famous Loch Lomond, there are a series of islands that mark the highland boundary fault, between the lowlands and the highlands of Scotland. You will then descend into the village of Balmaha. Here you can enjoy a hearty meal and refreshments, and also learn about the region in the National Park Visitor Centre. If you want to explore a wider area along the route, you can also visit the island of Inchcailloch. This stage then continues along the shores of Loch Lomond. The trail takes you through an ancient oak woodland and, on the way, you will pass three campsites: Cashel, Milarrochy, and Sallochy. You will finally reach Rowardennan, the ending point of this stage.

Rowardennan Hotel (Rowardennan)

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Rowardennan Hotel (Rowardennan)
Day
4

Rowardennan to Inverarnan

Duration: 06:37 h
Distance: 23.2 km
Ascent: 310 m
Descent: 310 m
This section guides you through the northern, more remote section of Loch Lomond. The terrain is challenging, but the wildness and soaring mountains are worth the effort. One of the highlights of today's stage is the breathtaking waterfall at Inversnaid. The West Highland Way route guides you over a footbridge over the waterfall as it cascades down into Loch Lomond. Along this stage, you may well encounter some wild goats and catch a glimpse of magnificent birds of prey, like the Golden Eagle and the Osprey. Once in Inverarnan, you can visit the famous Drovers Inn and share a beer with fellow West Highland Way walkers.

The Drovers Inn (Inverarnan)

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The Drovers Inn (Inverarnan)
Day
5

Inverarnan to Tyndrum

Duration: 05:35 h
Distance: 20 km
Ascent: 420 m
Descent: 210 m
This stage takes you into a new and different landscape, a landscape of high mountains. You'll first follow the Falloch River, where you'll catch a glimpse of the Falloch Falls, to the halfway point of the stage, Crianlarich. You can walk past the town, or walk into Crianlarich for refreshments. You then continue your journey to Tyndrum, following the Fillan River. When you reach Kirkton Farm, you will find the ruins of St Fillan's Priory and its cemetery. You then follow the River Cononish until you reach Tyndrum.

The Tyndrum Inn (Tyndrum)

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The Tyndrum Inn (Tyndrum)
Day
6

Tyndrum to Kingshouse

Duration: 08:05 h
Distance: 28.8 km
Ascent: 610 m
Descent: 480 m
Important: Make sure you have everything you need before leaving Tyndrum, as there are no more stores until Kinlochleven, 45 km away! This section of the West Highland Way offers unique views of the surrounding mountains. Shortly after you leave Tyndrum, you will pass the steep walls of Beinn Odhar and walk through the valley floor until you reach Bridge of Orchy. On the right you will find the famous railroad and viaduct of the West Highland Railway Line. From here the valley widens and flattens and the trail leads you with a gentle descent to the train station. After leaving Bridge of Orchy, the WHW comes to the Old Military Road. After a short climb up the hill, enjoy the impressive views from the vantage point over Loch Tulla and Black Mount. Beyond Inveroran, the remote Rannoch Moor beckons. From Forest Lodge follows a climb to the edges of Rannoch Moor. Be prepared for unfavorable weather, as the terrain on this section is exposed and crossing can be difficult in bad weather. Ba Bridge is halfway across the moor and is surrounded by beautiful views. A short walk on the left side of the bridge brings you to the ruins of Ba cottage, a lovely place to have lunch. As you follow the rolling Old Military Road, you'll walk past the Glencoe Ski Centre, Black Rock Cottage and one of Scotland's most famous mountains, Buachaille Etive Mor.

Glencoe Mountain Resort (Kingshouse)

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Glencoe Mountain Resort (Kingshouse)
Day
7

Kingshouse to Kinlochleven

Duration: 06:15 h
Distance: 17.9 km
Ascent: 340 m
Descent: 1040 m
Today you head toward Altnafeadh, near the foot of Buachaille Etive Mor, before turning sharply right to the Devil's Staircase. A zigzag path takes you to the highest point of the West Highland Way, located at 550 meters. The summit is marked with a stone mound and offers breathtaking views back to "The Buachaille" and north toward the Mamores Mountains. After overcoming the Devil's Staircase, the WHW takes you through moorlands to Kinlochleven.

Macdonald Hotel & Cabin (Kinlochleven)

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Macdonald Hotel & Cabin (Kinlochleven)
Day
8

Kinlochleven to Fort William

Duration: 07:05 h
Distance: 24.9 km
Ascent: 510 m
Descent: 510 m
This final section begins with a steep climb from Kinlochleven. Ahead of you is Lairigmor, also known as The Great Pass. The trail follows the valley as it curves north, leads you through forests and then takes you to Glen Nevis. The HRA then continues through forest plantations. Before finally descending to Fort William, you can visit the remains of Dun Deardail, an Iron Age fort in Glen Nevis. Then follow the trail to Fort William and make your way to the center of town. The end point of the WHW is the bronze statue of a fellow hiker in Gordon Square.

Bank Street Lodge (Fort William)

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Bank Street Lodge (Fort William)
Day
9

Departure

After breakfast, our package and your West Highland Way adventure is over. Have a good trip back!
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West Highland Way Map - Fast route

The Komoot app is a very useful tool when it comes to planning your trekking adventures. Below you can find a map detailing the 5 stages of the West Highland Way - Intensive, starting from Milngavie, in the outskirts of Glasgow, and ending in Fort William:

West Highland Way in 5 days - Itinerary

One of the most popular itineraries for the WHW is the 5-day trek. This trek, however, is one of the most demanding ones. We recommend this trek only to those trekkers who have trekking experience and are used to walking long distances for several days.

Day
1

Arrival in Milngavie

Today you will have to make your way to Milngavie. Here, you will spend the night preparing for your West Highland Way adventure.

Premier Inn Glasgow (Milngavie) Hotel

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Premier Inn Glasgow (Milngavie) Hotel
Day
2

Milngavie to Balmaha

Duration: 07:43 h
Distance: 29 km
Ascent: 300 m
Descent: 340 m
On this first day, the trail passes through the ancient earldom of Lennox, located between the Campsie Fells and Blane Water. Today you will follow a series of paths through beautiful rural scenery that will lead you to the outskirts of the small village of Drymen. After Drymen, the route begins to climb towards Conic Hill, which sits astride the Great Divide, which separates the highlands and lowlands of Scotland. The climb is fairly steep but from the top, you can enjoy great views over Loch Lomond. You will then descend through a steep path towards Balmaha, a small village on the shores of bonnie Loch Lomond.

Oak Tree Inn (Balmaha)

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Oak Tree Inn (Balmaha)
Day
3

Balmaha to Inverarnan

Duration: 09:05 h
Distance: 32.4 km
Ascent: 420 m
Descent: 420 m
Today's trail takes you through the Loch Lomond shore, natural forest, and headlands. On the way, you will face numerous short steep climbs surrounded by the outstanding scenery between Balmaha and Rowardennan. After Rowardennan, the WHW follows a series of forestry roads and climbs high up above Loch Lomond, from where you can enjoy fantastic views over the lake and towards the peaks of the Arrochar Alps. The path towards Inversnaid turns narrower and more undulating. After Doune Bothy the path from Ardleish to Inverarnan improves. Beinglas Farm marks the end of your day. Leave the way and follow the signs for Inverarnan.

The Ardlui Hotel - Loch Lomond (inverarnan)

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The Ardlui Hotel - Loch Lomond (inverarnan)
Day
4

Inverarnan to Bridge of Orchy

Duration: 09:33 h
Distance: 34.7 km
Ascent: 630 m
Descent: 470 m
Today you will climb out of Inverarnan following the River Falloch towards Crianlarich. After Crianlarich, you will walk through secluded woodland. You will then join the valley and you will walk through farmland surrounded by the towering highland scenery. You will follow the valley to Bridge of Orchy with the magnificent Beinn Dorain standing right in front of you and the railway on your right.

Bridge of Orchy Hotel (Bridge of Orchy)

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Bridge of Orchy Hotel (Bridge of Orchy)
Day
5

Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven

Duration: 10:28 h
Distance: 33.6 km
Ascent: 800 m
Descent: 930 m
There is a steep climb as you leave Bridge of Orchy after which you will be rewarded with some of the best views in Scotland. A short descent then takes you to the isolated Inveroran Hotel. From here, leave Inveroran and skirt Loch Tulla before joining the track across Rannoch Moor. After reaching Kingshouse, follow a track to Altnafeadh and then climb up the Devil’s Staircase to the highest point of the West Highland Way. From here follow the trail down to the small town of Kinlochleven.

West Highland Lodge (Kinlochleven)

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West Highland Lodge (Kinlochleven)
Day
6

Kinlochleven to Fort William

Duration: 07:09 h
Distance: 25.2 km
Ascent: 520 m
Descent: 530 m
This last section begins with a steep climb out of Kinlochleven. Ahead of you is Lairigmor, also known as The Great Pass. The path follows the glen as it bends to the north, guides you through woodland, and then takes you towards Glen Nevis. The WHW then continues through forestry plantations. Before the last section and descent to Fort William, you can make a small detour and visit the remains of Dun Deardail, an Iron Age fort located in Glen Nevis. Then follow the trail into Fort William and make your way into the center of the town. The finishing point of the WHW is the bronze statue of a fellow walker at Gordon Square.

The Garrison (Fort William)

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The Garrison (Fort William)
Day
7

Departure

After breakfast, our services and your West Highland Way adventure will be over. Have a safe trip back home!
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West Highland Way accommodation

On the WHW 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 West Highland Way is that the stages start and end mostly in very small towns, where there usually are only 1, 2, or maybe 3 accommodation options. The WHW 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.

West Highland Way accommodation

Not sure yet or want to discuss your plans for the West Highland Way with one of our trekking experts? Get in touch today and turn your dreams into memories!

West Highland Way wild camping

Contrary to other trekking tours in Europe, camping is very common on the West Highland Way. On the Alta Via 1, in Italy, for example, wild camping is strictly forbidden. On the WHW, however, at the end of each stage, you will find cozy hotels and also camping sites where you can spend the night. Wild camping is also allowed on the West Highland Way, except from 1st March to 30th September. During this time, camping is only permitted in campsites and designated areas. If you want to go wild camping, there are a series of rules that you should follow:

  • Take away all your litter
  • Remove all traces of your tent pitch and of any open fire
  • Do not cause any pollution
  • No fires during the dry season
  • Avoid causing problems for local people and land managers by not camping in enclosed fields of crops or farm animals and by keeping well away from buildings
  • No motor vehicles allowed

If you are planning on wild camping, visit the Scottish Outdoor Access Code website. There you will find all the information you need about camping rules.

West Highland Way wild camping

Baggage Transfer on the West Highland Way

The West Highland 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. This service is very popular in other treks in Europe, like the Camino de Santiago in Spain. There are several agencies that offer baggage transfers during the West Highland Way and most of them offer their service for the full trek for about GBP 45,-. 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?

Packing List for the West Highland Way

No matter where you go hiking or for how long, bringing the right equipment is of utmost importance. For your hike, the first thing you need is a good backpack. The size of it will depend on the number of days you will be trekking, the season and the clothes you take with you. If you have luggage transport, the comfort level of your daypack is most important. We have compiled a packing list with a few essential items of clothing you should bring and some extras you might find useful:
  • Essentials

  • Extras

Walk the West Highland Way: Start and End Points

The West Highland Way starts in Milngavie and ends in Fort William. The trail is traditionally walked from south to north, although it can be done in the opposite direction. A good reason for starting the trek from the south and making your way northwards is that Milngavie is located on the outskirts of Glasgow, Scotland's biggest city.

Starting point

In order to get to Milngavie, the easiest option is taking a plane, train, or bus to Glasgow. Once in Glasgow, you can take a 20-minute train to Milngavie. You can also take the 60A bus line, which takes about 30 minutes. There are also several transfer services that take you from Glasgow straight to the starting point of the WHW.

Ending point

The WHW ends in Fort William. The way back to Glasgow is quite simple since there are direct trains and buses (lines 915 and 916) from Fort William to Glasgow's city center. The bus ride takes about 3 hours, while the train is a bit slower and takes almost 4 hours. If you prefer a faster option, car transfers to Glasgow take about 2 hours and cost GBP 35,- per person. Most luggage transfer agencies also offer these transfers.

Walk the West Highland Way: Start and End Points

West Highland Way and Great Glen Way combined

The Great Glen Way and theWest Highland Wayare 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!

West Highland Way Devil's Staircase

The Devil’s Staircase is the highest point along the way, at 1850 ft / 564 meters, and is located between Kingshouse and Kinlochleven. The Devil’s Staircase was initially given its name by the soldiers who were part of the road-building program. Apparently, the carrying of building materials up that stretch of the road wasn't very popular!

The path to the top of the pass is very clear and soon rises above the plain of Rannoch Moor. The trail zigzags as it climbs to the top marked by a cairn, with breathtaking views back to ‘The Buachaille’ and northwards towards the Mamores mountain range. After the pass, the path continues down towards Kinlochleven.

West Highland Way Devil's Staircase

Training for the West Highland Way

The West Highland Way is a simple trek and can be completed by anyone with an average fitness level. The difficulty level relies on the number of days in which you choose to complete the trek. If you want to get the most out of your walking holiday, it is always advisable to prepare yourself physically. Here are some tips for you:

Cardio

It is best to start moving as soon as you make up your mind about your West Highland Way walk. With the right aerobic fitness, you will have a better heart rate, healthy muscles, and a large lung capacity. Running, walking, more hiking, and cycling or swimming are excellent training options. One hour, three to four times a week is sufficient.

Endurance training

Building up an endurance condition is also important. The best thing you can do is to cover long distances on foot, at least once a week. If you can walk comfortably for a long time, you are ready.

Train with equipment

Use the backpack and shoes you plan to use for your WHW trek while training. By doing that, your body will be prepared for the extra weight and you will avoid blisters.

Know your body

This is perhaps the most important part. If you are questioning your physical abilities, it is advisable to have your doctor examine you. There is no fixed method for preparing for your hike. The preparation may depend on the duration, the environment, and what you want to achieve. Not everyone is a mountain goat. Do not think too much about your preparation. Take it easy and enjoy your time in the mountains.

Is the West Highland Way Hike safe?

Yes, the West Highland Way is totally safe. The trails are quite straight forward and there is very little difference in altitude. The biggest challenge during the WHW 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 WHW 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 Fort Williams. The signs, however, point in both directions so you can also do it from north to south. The signs on the West Highland Way are clearly marked with the WHW logo.

The path is perfectly laid out and very well signposted, there is no possibility of getting lost. Depending on the section, the trail runs along wide dirt tracks where even a tractor could fit or along narrower pedestrian paths. Regardless of the width of the path, the trail is very clear and easy to follow.

Scottish Emergency Number: 999

112 connects to the same services as 999 and works in exactly the same way. Neither number has priority over the other, so you may use either number to reach the emergency services.

Is the West Highland Way Hike safe?

Safety tips for the West Highland Way

Although this is far from being a trek in the Himalayas, unexpected things can always happen and you might also find obstacles on the hiking trails along the way. The West Highland Way is safe, the trails are quite straight forward and there is not an extreme difference in altitude. However, for your safety, every hike deserves a level of respect; respect for the terrain, the trails, wildlife and vegetation, local rules and regulations, and above all, your physical capabilities and safety. Therefore, for an unforgettable and safe hiking memory, please keep the following safety recommendations in mind:

  • Know your limits

    Always prepare each stage carefully to use your energy wisely, respect your physical and mental limitations, and avoid taking unnecessary risks. When ascending or descending, if applicable, always use the aids provided, such as handrails and ropes. Is this trek suitable for you? Well, familiarize yourself with the grading system and figure out if this trek matches your capabilities. If you still need professional advice you can always contact Bookatrekking.com experts.

  • Stay on marked trails

    The most important thing is to never leave the marked paths. For easy navigation we work with our trusted partner Komoot, whose interactive maps, also available offline, provide you with the necessary digital means to get from A to B in the West Highland Way. As a backup, make sure to bring a hiking guide or a paper map with you.

  • Fully equipped

    Make sure you have the necessary gear for the conditions you'll be facing, including appropriate clothing, footwear, and any necessary equipment for the terrain you'll be hiking on. Always wear clothing adapted to the weather of West Highland Way and protect yourself from cold and wetness or heat and sun. Besides, make sure you carry enough food and water for the duration of your trek. On the way, you might (or might not) be able to buy snacks.

  • Stay reachable

    If you are hiking solo or in small groups it is advisable to inform people back home about your plans, what route you are taking and when you plan to return. Even small incidents can lead to unpleasant emergencies so make sure you are available at all times. Bring a charged phone containing at least the phone numbers of immediate family members, your accommodations en route and the emergency phone numbers operating in the West Highland Way.

  • Respect for nature

    Do not litter, prevent noise, stay on the marked trails, do not disturb wildlife or grazing animals, and respect protected areas.

Where Can I Book the West Highland Way?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book the self-guided West Highland Way and many other treks. We take care of all the details for you, including arranging accommodations, organizing luggage transportation and providing you with relevant information well in advance of your trek. Find our offers here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of trekking experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is the West Highland Way not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our following blog posts:

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