Great Glen Way: The Complete Guide

by:

Sam McCraw

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The Great Glen is the result of a tectonic collision that raised the Scottish Highlands and created a giant crack across the entire country from coast to coast. The Great Glen Way is the trail travels the entire length of the Great Glen stretching for 117.5km (73 miles).

Starting at Fort William the route passes Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, Loch Ness and follows much of the Caledonian Canal, before finishing in Inverness.

Surrounded by some of the UK’s highest mountains the route offers some incredible vantage points, as well as majestic woodland, other unique wilderness and throws in some Highland heritage and history for good measure.

The Route in Numbers

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Days to complete
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Miles (117.5km)
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Total Ascent
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Walkers P/Year

What to Expect

Gear

Full 6 days? You'll have to pack trekking and camping gear, clothing, and other essentials.

Transport

With several train stations and buses along the route, getting to and from the walk is fairly easy.

Lodging & Camping

The route has plentiful options for lodgings, and there are some campsites too.

Route & Terrain

Stunning glens, lochs, and rocky paths. The route varies from forest trails to mountain terrain.

Baggage Transfer

There's a few bag transfer services that can take your extra gear to pre-arranged locations every day.

Climate & Weather

Between Apr - Oct is the ideal time for the walk. But always prepare for "4 seasons in one day".

6 Day Itinerary

Day 1: Fort William to Gairlochy
  • Start: Fort William
  • 10.5 miles / 17km
  • B&Bs, Hostels +
  • Campsites: 4
  • Shops: 5+
  • Stations: 2
Day 1: Fort William to Gairlochy
Day2: Gairlochy to Laggan
  • Start: Gairlochy
  • 11.75 miles / 19km
  • Lodges, Hostels +
  • Campsites: 2
  • Shops: 1
  • Stations: 0
Day2: Gairlochy to Laggan
Day 3: Laggan to Fort Augustus
  • Start: Laggan
  • 10.5 miles / 17km
  • B&Bs, Hostels +
  • Campsites: 4
  • Shops: 5+
  • Stations: 0
Day 3: Laggan to Fort Augustus
Day 4: Fort Augustus Invermoriston
  • Start: Fort Augustus
  • 7.5 miles / 12km
  • B&Bs, Hostels +
  • Campsites: 1
  • Shops: 1
  • Stations: 0
Day 4: Fort Augustus Invermoriston
Day 5 Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit
  • Start: Invermoriston
  • 13.75 miles / 22km
  • Hotels, Hostels +
  • Campsites: 4
  • Shops: 1
  • Stations: 0
Day 5 Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit
Day 6: Drumnadrochit to Inverness
  • Start: Drumnadrochit
  • 19 miles / 30.5km
  • B&B, Hostels +
  • Campsites: 3
  • Shops: 5+
  • Stations: 1
Day 6: Drumnadrochit to Inverness

Route Lowdown

Route Map

Day 1: Fort William to Gairlochy

Start:
Fort William

End:
Gairlochy

Distance:
10.5 miles / 17km

Ascent:
40m

Suburban route & Canal path

The Great Glen Way kicks off in unspectacular fashion, starting at the roundabout at the end of Fort William High Street. However, things thankfully pick up from here.

The route goes through suburban paths sitting in the shadow of the awe-inspiring Ben Nevis and continues along the Caledonian Canal for a mostly flat walk that offers fantastic views of the surrounding mountains as well as passing several interesting landmarks such as the ruins of Inverlochy Castle, Loch Linnhe, and Neptunes Staircase.

View the starting point from Fort William here.

Shops

Many in Fort William
Some in Spean Bridge

Campsites

Gairlochy Holiday Park
Insh Scout Campsite
Moy Bridge
Wild Camping

Eateries

Many in Fort William
Some in Spean Bridge

Transport

Fort William Station
Fort William Bus
Spean Bridge Station
Spean Bridge Bus

Highlights

Views of Ben Nevis
Loch Linnhe
Inverlochy Castle
Neptunes Staircase

Day 1 Images

Day 2: Gairlochy to Laggan

Start:
Gairlochy

End:
Laggan

Distance:
11.75 miles / 19km

Ascent:
110m

Good footpaths & Forest trails

The majority of the route on day 2 passes alongside the great expanse of Loch Lochy. Leaving Gairlochy the trail meanders alongside the Loch in stunning woodland surroundings close to the water’s edge.

After a short stretch of road walking it passes the entrance of Achnacarry, the ancestral home (and now museum) of Clan Cameron, until it crosses a bridge over the River Arkaig and reaches a forestry car park. From here there is the option to go 2km (each way) to see Eas Chia-aig a small but picturesque waterfall, and a very worthwhile detour.

The route continues through more lush woodland where, if you’re very lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the Pine Martens who inhabit the area. Finally reaching the head of Loch Lochy and passing in the shadow of two munros (Meall na Teanga and Sron a’ Choire Ghairbh) as it leads into Laggan.

View the starting pointing in Gairlochy here.

Campsites

Glas Dhoire (wild)
Loch Lochy (wild)
Wild camping

Eateries

Eagle Barge Inn
Lochside Larder

Transport

Laggan Bus

Highlights

Views of Loch Lochy
Lush woodland trails
Views of nearby Munros
Eas Chia-aig

Day 2 Images

Image credits: Adrian-Read

Day 3: Laggan to Fort Augustus

Start:
Laggan

End:
Fort Augustus

Distance:
10.5 miles / 17km

Ascent:
20m

Lochside trails & Flat paths

The trail on day 3 includes two stretches along the Caledonian Canal which sandwich a trail through the wild (and magnificent) woodland on the banks of Loch Oich, and finally arrives at Fort Augustus – a picturesque village on the banks of Loch Ness with shops, facilities and plenty of accommodation options.

The day is full of stunning nature and scenery and offers up plenty of highlights such as the impressive Loch Lochy Munros, lovely vantage points down the Caledonian Canal, the Letterfeirn Nature Reserve, and views of Invergarry Castle ruins.

During day 3 we also recommend you visit The Eagle Barge Inn, a floating pub on a Dutch barge for some delicious nourishment, and taking a small detour after Loch Oich to go see Oich Bridge, a beautiful old bridge which is maintained by Historic Scotland.

View the starting pointing in Laggan here.

Shops

Invergarry Post Office
Many in Fort Augustus

Campsites

Cumberland's Campsite
Kytra Lock (wild)
Leiterferan (wild)
Aberhalder Bridge (wild)

Eateries

Bridge House Tea Garden
Many in Fort Augustus

Transport

Fort Augustus Bus

Highlights

Caledonian Canal views
Letterfeirn Nature Reserve
Oich Bridge
Views of Loch Ness

Day 3 Images

Image credits: John Collins

Day 4: Fort Augustus to Invermoriston

Start:
Fort Augustus

End:
Invermoriston

Distance:
7.5 miles / 12km

Ascent:
479m

Good trails with ascents & descents

Day 4 is a short day but offers plenty. There are two options – the low route and the high route. We recommend the high route as it provides amazing scenery and since it’s a short day there’s plenty of rest time.

The route begins in forest trails and leads up to open moorland beyond the tree line and high above Loch Ness with some stunning views over the giant body of water, as well as of Fort Augustus and the Caledonian Canal back down the Great Glen.

Along the way there are also views of Cherry Island, a small island with a few spruce trees which is in fact a crannog – a man made fortified dwelling dating back 2,500 years.

Finally the trails descends quite steeply to Invermoriston – which has a hotel, shops, toilets and B&B accommodation.

View the starting pointing in Fort Augustus here.

Campsites

Knockie (wild)
Wild Camping

Eateries

Redburn Cafe
Glen Rowan Cafe

Transport

Invermoriston Bus

Highlights

View over Loch Ness
Carn an Doire Mhoir

Day 4 Images

Day 5: Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit

Start:
Invermoriston

End:
Drumnadrochit

Distance:
13.75 miles / 22km

Ascent:
740m

Good trails with ascents & descents

Day 5 also offers the option of a high and low route. We recommend the high route again, purely for the stunning vantage points it offers.

There are some steep climbs and paths through stunning woodland, including the forested Glen of the Allt Saigh, and it leads around the south flank of Creag Dhearg before heading down to meet up with the low route once again.

Finally the trail crosses moorland (which can be a great place to spot birds of prey) before a steep descent down to Drumnadrochit.

View the starting pointing in Invermoristion here.

Campsites

Loch Ness Shores Camp
Foyers (Wild)
Aberhalder Bridge (Wild)
Borlum Farm Campsite

Eateries

The Pottery Cafe
Several in Drumnadrochit

Transport

Drumnadrochit Bus

Highlights

Views of Loch Ness
Glen of the Alltsigh

Day 5 Images

Day 6: Drumnadrochit to Inverness

Start:
Drumnadrochit

End:
Inverness

Distance:
19 miles / 30.5km

Ascent:
519m

Good tracks & Forest trails

Day 6 of the Great Glen Way is fairly easy walking through a mix of farmland and forestry. However, it does offer some great views over Loch Ness and the Cairngorms.

Leaving Drumnadrochit the trail leads alongside the shore of Loch Ness with some good views of Urquhart Castle and leads up to the highest point of the Great Glen Way which is marked by a post.

When the trail comes to a signpost for Abriachan Forest walkers have the choice to make a scenic detour to pass a reconstructed iron age fort which is worth the extra 0.5km.

Finally the trail heads down to Inverness, past Great Glen House (HQ of Scottish National Heritage), crosses the lovely Ness Islands and the route leads on the centre of Inverness and Inverness Castle on the banks of the River Ness which is the official end of the Great Glen Way.

View the starting pointing in Drumnadrochit here.

Campsites

Bught Park Campsite
Dochgarroch Lock (wild)
Seaport Marina (wild)
Wild Camping

Eateries

Dores Inn
Oakwood Restaurant
Many in Inverness

Transport

Inverness Bus
Inverness Station

Highlights

Views of Urquhart Castle
Views of Cairngorms
Iron Age Fort
Inverness Castle

Day 6 Images

What Gear to Bring (Essentials)

Backpacking

Backpack
Hiking boots
Hiking socks
Daypack
Map / Guide

Camping

Tent
Torch
Sleeping bag
Sleeping pad
Inflatable pillow

Clothing

Rain jacket
Hiking trousers
Wicking t-shirts
Underwear
Beanie hat

Other

First aid kit
Camera
Food / Water
Mobile phone
Toiletries

Full Packing Checklist

We’ve gone and made it easy for you and with a free downloadable multi-day hiking packing checklist. To get it, chuck your email address into the form below.

Lodging & Camping

Plan your route properly so you know where you’ll be stopping each night. Book well in advance, especially for high season, as beds get booked up fast. You can book lodgings using the websites below: 

Wild camping is permitted in Scotland, including along much of the Great Glen Way route.

Always be sure that you’re not camping on private property.  Get permission from the landowner first.

Also, please always stick to the leave no trace policy to ensure nature is preserved. See Outdoor Access Scotland for more details.

Baggage Transfer

If you want to ease the strain on your back and body you can utilise one of the baggage transfer services. The way it works is someone will drive your extra gear to pre-arranged stop off points every day.  Leaving you with a small backpack to carry everything you need for that day.

Trust us, walking without a big pack full of plenty of kgs makes the whole experience a lot more enjoyable. Plus it’s very affordable.  Below are all the services you can use:

Transport Options

There’s plenty of transport options going to and from Milngavie and various other points on the route. So whether you’re doing the walk from the start or from one the later points you shouldn’t have too many problems getting to that location.

Train stations on route:

Fort William
Spean Bridge
Inverness

Buses go to and from here:

Fort William
Spean Bridge
Laggan
Fort Augustus
Invermoriston
Drumnadrochit
Inverness

Route & Terrain

73 miles taking you from Fort William cutting right through the heart of Scotland up to Inverness.

Passing iconic and beautiful Scottish landscapes and landmarks such as Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle. Ending in Inverness, you’ll pass nearby Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the United Kingdom. 

This remarkable trail offers everything from stunning glens, lochs, and forests to mountain top views.

Climate & Weather

Obviously the weather will be different depending on what time of year you do the walk.  However, since it’s Scotland, it’s safe to assume it will rain at some point so definitely bring your waterproofs. 

Between April to October you’ll likely fin a mix of sunny, overcast, rainy and windy days. Sometimes all of that in one day.  It can get quite windy in Scotland so be prepared for that, especially on more exposed parts of the walk.

Be prepared: The weather in Scotland can change really quickly.  That’s all part of the challenge and fun though. 

Wildlife

There are plenty of amazing and interesting creatures that you might happen to come across in the Scottish Highlands. Some much harder to find than others:

Commonly Seen

Highland Cow
Mountain Goat
Fallow Deer
Red Deer

Sometimes Seen

Red Squirrel
Otter
Buzzard
Adder

Rarely Seen

Capercaillie
Golden Eagle
Wildcat
Pine Marten

Special mentions for a couple of little blighters here: Midges and Ticks.

Midges are a tiny flying insects that typically form swarms near water or marshy areas. They are plentiful from late spring to late summer and can be a bit of a nuisance. If you do the hike during that time you will very likely meet them. Wear full coverage clothing and use insect spray to repel them.

Ticks are little bugs that feed on human and animal blood. When you’re hiking through foliage they will try and latch on to you. They’re bites are usually harmless but left untreated can cause Lyme’s disease. Always check yourself for them at some point during the day.

FAQs

How easy is it to navigate the Great Glen Way?

The route is easy to follow and is very well signposted throughout. You'll have no trouble finding your way.

Are there extra activities on or nearby the GGW route?

West Highland Way
Ben Nevis

How fit do I have to be to do the Great Glen Way?

In healthy condition? Can walk a distance without getting out of breathe? Can carry a small backpack? You'll be fine. Just have some practice walks with a pack to see how you feel.

What should I budget for the trip?

Hostels: £14 - £30 p/night
Hotels: £30 - £65 p/night
Pub meal: Around £15
Supplies: £10 - £15 p/day
Bag Transfer: Around £45
Clothes wash: Around £5
Train journey: £20 - £55
Bus journey: £3 - £15

When is the busiest time for the Great Glen Way?

Between May and September it's busy but especially in June, July and August.

How can I prepare for the Great Glen Way?

Plan your daily route out before, book accommodation in advance to ensure good nights sleep. Have some practice walks. Most importantly, break in your footwear well in advance!

Best backpack for the Great Glen Way?

Using a bag transfer service? Use a daypack: around 20l to 30l. Carrying all your gear with you? Get a backpack in the 50l to 80l range.

When is the best time to do the Great Glen Way?

We always recommend May or September. Trail is a bit quieter, weather is good (but mixed), and the midges are yet to come out in full force (May) or they're dying out (Sept).

Is it safe to drink from the rivers and streams?

You can but it's not always safe e.g. animals like goats and sheep do their business near the rivers and streams. We recommend carrying the water you need each day. Or use a good water filter!

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Sam McCraw

Sam McCraw

I was raised in Edinburgh, Scotland with plenty of green spaces around me, and for as long as I can remember I've always had a passion for the outdoors.

Whether it's going for a long hike, playing football, rafting or simply discovering a cool new place you'll likely find me outside somewhere.

Discover Outside is a space for me to create guides and hopefully help others enjoy the outdoors too!

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