• English
  • Español
  • Deutsch
  • Nederlands
  • € Euro
  • £ British Pound
  • USD $
  • CAD $
  • SEK
  • NOK
  • DKK
  • AUD $
  • CHF
  • NZD $
  • ZAR
  • HK $
  • SGD $

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!

Looking for a trekking adventure in Scotland? Here you will find all our trekking options, including the West Highland Way.

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.

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.

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.

Do you need help planning your West Highland Way trek? Here you will find all our suggestions for this trek.

West Highland Way Map

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:

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.

Walking the West Highland Way: route and stages

The West Highland Way is divided into 8 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 8 stages of the WHW:

Stage 1: Milngavie to Drymen

The trek from Milngavie to Drymen is a good warm-up for the rest of the West Highland Way route. The trail is relatively flat and is a nice introduction to the diverse landscapes you will encounter during the coming 96 miles. Along the way, you will encounter some smaller lochs and rivers as views open up to reveal the highland landscape beyond Drymen. The official route takes you around the village of Drymen and then Balmaha. Many walkers prefer to end this first day in Drymen or to at least stop for supplies and refreshments.

Distance: 12 miles/19 km
Walking time: 5.5 hours

Stage 2: Drymen to Rowardennan

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.

Distance: 15 miles/24 km
Walking time: 6 hours

Stage 3: Rowardennan to Inverarnan

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.

Distance: 14 miles/22.5 km
Walking time: 6.5 hours

Stage 4: Inverarnan to Tyndrum

This stage takes you to a new and different landscape, one of soaring mountains and gentle glen walking. You will first follow the River Falloch, where you will catch glimpses of the cascades of the Falls of Falloch, up to the half-way point of this stage, Crianlarich. You can either skirt past the town, or you can walk into Crianlarich for refreshments. You will then continue your journey to Tyndrum, following the River Fillan across the valley floor. Once you reach Kirkton Farm, you’ll find the ruins of St Fillan’s Priory and its graveyard. Afterwards, follow the River Cononish into Tyndrum.

Distance: 12 miles/19.5 km
Walking time: 5.5 hours

Stage 5: Tyndrum to Inveroran

Important: make sure you have everything you need before leaving Tyndrum since there are no more shops until Kinlochleven, 28 miles away! This section of the West Highland Way offers unique views of the surrounding mountains. Soon after leaving Tyndrum, you will skirt the steep sides of Beinn Odhar and you will walk across the floor of the glen until you reach Bridge of Orchy. To the right you will discover the famous railway and you’ll see another viaduct showcasing the engineering skills of the West Highland Railway Line. From here the glen widens and flattens and the trail guides you with a gentle descent down to the railway station. After leaving Bridge of Orchy, the WHW joins the Old Military Road. After a short climb up the hill you will be able to enjoy the dramatic views from the viewpoint across Loch Tulla and the Black Mount. Beyond Inveroran, the remote Rannoch Moor beckons.

Distance: 9 miles/14.5 km
Walking time: 4 hours

Stage 6: Inveroran to Kingshouse

This stage is a wild and remote section of the West Highland Way. From Forest Lodge follows an ascent to the edges of Rannoch Moor. Make sure you are prepared for unfavorable weather since the terrain on this section is exposed and getting across can be tough with bad climate. Ba Bridge is halfway across the moor and is a good spot for a break, surrounded by good views. A short walk to the left of the bridge takes you to the ruins of Ba cottage, a lovely spot for lunch. While following the undulating old military road you will walk past the Glencoe Ski Centre, Black Rock Cottage, and one of Scotland’s most famous mountains, Buachaille Etive Mor.

Distance: 10 miles/16 km
Walking time: 4.5 hours

Stage 7: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven

Today you will make your way towards Altnafeadh close to the foot of Buachaille Etive Mor, before turning sharply right for the Devil’s Staircase. A zig-zag trail will take you to the highest point of the West Highland Way, located at 550m. The top is marked with a cairn and showcases breathtaking views back to ‘The Buachaille’ and northwards towards the Mamores mountain range. After conquering the Devil’s Staircase, the WHW takes you through moorland down to Kinlochleven.

Distance: 9 miles/ 14.5 km
Walking time: 5 hours

Stage 8: Kinlochleven to Fort William

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 finally descending to Fort William, you can visit the remains of Dun Deardail, an Iron Age fort 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.

Distance: 15 miles/24 km
Walking time: 8 hours

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: Milngavie to Balmaha

The West Highland Way starts in Milngavie and on this first day it 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.

Distance: 20 miles / 32 km
Walking time: 9 hours

Day 2: Balmaha to Inverarnan

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.

Distance: 21 miles / 34 km
Walking time: 9.5 hours

Day 3: Inverarnan to Bridge of Orchy

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.

Distance: 19 miles / 30.5 km
Walking time: 8.5 hours

Day 4: Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven

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.

Distance: 21 miles / 34 km
Walking time: 10.5 hours

Day 5: Kinlochleven to Fort William

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.

Distance: 15 miles/24 km
Walking time: 8 hours

Are you looking for the perfect itinerary for the West Highland Way? Find this and other itineraries here.

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. Here are some of our suggestions for your WHW:

Drymen: The Drymen Inn
The Drymen Inn is run by husband and wife Stuart and Jennifer along with their little baby boss George. This hotel has the perfect combination of down to earth yet professional hospitality.

Rowardennan: Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel
Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel sits in an idyllic location on the banks of Loch Lomond. The lodge offers a wide range of private rooms and comfortable shared accommodation with separate washroom facilities.

Kingshouse: Glencoe Mountain Resort
Glencoe Mountain Resort is set in an area of astounding natural beauty within a site of special scientific interest for Golden Eagles. With stunning views towards the Buchaille Etive Mor and Rannoch Moor, you are guaranteed a spectacular view to wake up to. On site, they have 16 microlodges and space for 20 tents.

Kinlochleven: Black Water Hostel
This hostel is ideally located for all the West Highland Way walkers. With their varying types of accommodation, they cater to a wide range of budgets, including camping, glamping, shared room accommodation, and B&B.

Do you need help arranging your West Highland Way accommodation? Here you can find all our trekking options including the accommodation.

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.

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?

The baggage transfer is included on our West Highland Way treks. Find the perfect fit for you here!

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.

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!

Packing List for the West Highland Way

On the West Highland 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 West Highland 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
- Map
- 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

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.

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:

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

Where can I book the West Highland Way Walk?

The West Highland 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 WHW, we can give you a hand. Our trekking specialists can book accommodation for you, so you can prepare for your West Highland 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 West Highland 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

About us

At you'll find the treks that will make your life unforgettable. Whether you want to discover the Inca Trail or climb the Kilimanjaro, offers a wide and varied range of services. Here, no false promises are made, prices are transparent and every booking is confirmed immediately. Find, compare, book and trek.

© 2022 Bookatrekking BV

Filter Book now Contact us