West Highland Way: The Complete Guide

by:

Sam McCraw

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The West Highland Way (WHW): Scotland’s most famous and arguably best multi-day hike. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran of trails or a complete newbie, there’s something for everyone on Scotland’s oldest and most popular hiking route.

If you’re looking for some practical advice, guidance and a bit of inspiration for the WHW trail, you’re in luck. Based on a 7-day period (which is how long it takes most people to complete the walk) this guide has everything you need to know to get you on your way.

The Route in Numbers

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Days to complete
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Bothies
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Miles (154km)
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Lochs
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Total Ascent
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Towns
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Walkers P/Year
> 0
Mountain Goats?

What to Expect

Gear

Full 7 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 many 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".

7 Day Itinerary

Day 1: Milngavie to Drymen
  • Start: Milngavie
  • 12 miles / 19.5km
  • B&Bs, Hostels +
  • Campsites: 2
  • Shops: 3
  • Stations: 1
Day 1: Milngavie to Drymen
Day2: Drymen to Rowardennan
  • Start: Drymen
  • 14.5 miles / 23km
  • Lodges, Hostels +
  • Campsites: 4
  • Shops: 4
  • Stations: 0
Day2: Drymen to Rowardennan
Day 3: Rowerdennan to Inverarnan
  • Start: Rowerdennan
  • 14 miles / 22.5km
  • B&Bs, Hostels +
  • Campsites: 2
  • Shops: 4
  • Stations: 1
Day 3: Rowerdennan to Inverarnan
Day 4: Inverarnan to Tyndrum
  • Start: Inverarnan
  • 12 miles / 19km
  • B&Bs, Hostels +
  • Campsites: 3
  • Shops: 3
  • Stations: 2
Day 4: Inverarnan to Tyndrum
Day 5 Tyndrum to Kingshouse
  • Start: Tyndrum
  • 18.5 miles / 29.5km
  • Hotels, Hostels +
  • Campsites: 0
  • Shops: 2
  • Stations: 2
Day 5 Tyndrum to Kingshouse
Day 6: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven
  • Start: Kingshouse
  • 9 miles / 14km
  • B&B, Hostels +
  • Campsites: 3
  • Shops: 1
  • Stations: 0
Day 6: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven
Day 7: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven
  • Start: Kingshouse
  • 15 miles / 24.5km
  • Hostels, B&Bs +
  • Campsites: 1
  • Shops: 10+
  • Stations: 1
Day 7: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven

Route Lowdown

Route Map

Day 1: Milngavie to Drymen

Start:
Milngavie

End:
Drymen

Distance:
12 miles / 19.5km

Ascent:
210m

Country tracks & Forest trails

Day 1 is an easy introduction to the West Highland Way. You can stock up on supplies in Milngavie and head out into nature well prepared.

The trail is mostly flat throughout the day with no major climbs, passing various landscapes: woodland, fields, lochs, rivers, small villages, and more until leading you to the turn off point to Drymen. 

Officially the route passes by Drymen and on to Balmaha but many hikers choose to end their first days hike in Drymen.  

Shops

Tesco, Milngavie
M&S, Milngavie
SPAR, Drymen
Drymen Village Shop

Campsites

Gartness Campsite
Drumquhassle Farm
Drumquhassle Huts
Wild Camping

Eateries

Milngavie (10+)
Beach Tree, Dumgoyne
Clachan Inn, Drymen
Several in Drymen

Transport

Milngavie Station
Milngavie Bus
Milngavie Car Park
Drymen Bus

Highlights

Milngavie's Bakery
Photo next to obelisk
Mugdock Castle ruins
Hot meal in Drymen

Day 1 Images

Image credits: Hannah Grace

Day 2: Drymen to Rowardennan

Start:
Drymen

End:
Rowardennan

Distance:
14.5 miles / 23km

Ascent:
430m

Hill paths & Forest trails

The trail from Drymen picks up heading north through some rich woodland trails and after emerging from the trees you’ll glimpse your first site of Loch Lomond.  

From here it’s up Conic Hill which sits on the boundary between the lowlands and highlands of Scotland.  After taking in the stunning panoramic view (and probably a selfie) you descend down to eventually reach the quaint village of Balmaha. 

Leaving Balmaha you’ll pass Loch Lomond’s beautiful shore and traverse through some ancient oak forest until ending up in Rowardennan. 

Shops

SPAR, Drymen
Village Shop, Drymen
Village Shop, Balmaha
Rowardennan Shop

Campsites

Garadbahn Campsite
Millarochy Bay
Cashel Campsite
Sallochy Bay

Eateries

Oak Tree Inn, Balmaha
St Mocha Coffee Shop
The Clansman Bar
Rowardennan Hotel

Transport

Drymen Bus
Balmaha Bus
Balmaha Car Park
Rowardennan Car Park

Highlights

Conic Hill summit
Loch Lomond views
Hearty meal in Balmaha
Thick forest trails

Day 2 Images

Day 3: Rowardennan to Inverarnan

Start:
Rowardennan

End:
Inverarnan

Distance:
14 miles / 22.5km

Ascent:
475m

Rugged lochside & Forest trails

From Rowardennan, sitting in the shadow of Ben Lomond: Scotland’s most southerly Munro, the route heads into a stunning section of the walk which follows the shore of Loch Lomond on some craggy and bumpy trails. 

Eventually you’ll come across the bridge to Inversnaid and the incredible Arklet Falls waterfall beneath.  Another fantastic photo opportunity. 

Next up is what some describe as the “toughest”part of the West Highland Way. You’ll go through a rocky trail with a lot of ups and downs, no doubt passing some wild mountain goats which you will likely smell before you see. 

After this stretch you’ll leave Loch Lomond behind and continue on the much easier trek into Inverarnan where you’ll find Beinglas farm and the wonderful Drovers Inn. 

Shops

Rowardennan Shop
Inversnaid Hotel
Ardlui Shop
Beinglas Camp Store

Campsites

Bothies (x2)
Ardlui Campsite
Beinglas Campsite
Wild camping

Eateries

Inversnaid Hotel
TB Bistro, Inversnaid
Drovers Inn
Beinglas Farm Bar

Transport

Ardlui Bus
Ardlui Station
Inverarnan Bus
Drovers Inn Parking

Highlights

Arklet Falls, Invesnaid
Loch Lomond views
Craggy lochside path
Drovers Inn visit

Day 3 Images

Image credits: Hannah Grace, Peter Daniel

Day 4: Inverarnan to Tyndrum

Start:
Inverarnan

End:
Tyndrum

Distance:
12 miles / 19km

Ascent:
490m

Flat trails & paths through glens

Leaving Inverarnan you head north via an easy trail through Glen Falloch. Gently ascending you’ll head into open hillsides with some great views. 

Reaching the old drovers road, you’ll follow a bumpy and slightly rocky meandering trail through beautiful glens until you end up in Tyndrum, where you should definitely have a steak pie at the Tyndrum Inn. 

Shops

Crianlarich Store
Auchtertyre Shop
Brodies Mini Mart
Green Welly Stop

Campsites

Auchtertyre Farm
Pines Campsite
By The Way Campsite
Wild Camping

Eateries

Beinglas Farm
Tea Room, Crianlarich
Country Mumkins Cafe
The Tyndrum Inn

Transport

Crianlarich Station
Crianlarich Bus
Tyndrum Station
Tyndrum Bus

Highlights

Falls of Falloch
Mountain views
Varied terrain
Steak pie in Tyndrum

Day 4 Images

Image credits: Hannah Grace, Tom Parnell

Day 5: Tyndrum to Kingshouse

Start:
Tyndrum

End:
Kingshouse

Distance:
18.5 miles / 29.5km

Ascent:
644m

Open moorland & valley paths

Continuing north you’ll see more and more mountains as the lowlands of Scotland fade away into the distance and you find yourself surround by rugged mountain terrain and frost bitten peaks. 

Eventually you’ll cross the river Orchy and go through a small area of woodland before ascending into the open expanse of the stunning Rannoch Moor. 

The final of stage of this day’s trail takes you down into the equally beautiful and scenic area of Glencoe and the historically charming Kingshouse Hotel, which you should definitely check out. 

NOTE: The Kingshouse is the only accommodation in the area. Many people call in a taxi from here to go and stay in the nearby Glencoe village. Which we recommend if you don’t want to wild camp. 

Shops

Tyndrum (x2)
Glencoe Village Store

Campsites

Glencoe village (x3)
Wild camping

Eateries

Bridge of Orchy Hotel
Inveroran Hotel
Kingshouse Hotel
Glencoe Village (x4)

Transport

Tyndrum Station
Bridge of Orchy Bus
Bridge of Orchy Station
Kingshouse Bus

Highlights

Glen Orchy View
Rannoch Moor
Glencoe view
Deers of Kingshouse

Day 5 Images

Day 6: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven

Start:
Kingshouse

End:
Kinlochleven

Distance:
9 miles / 14km

Ascent:
430m

Hill & mountain trails, moorland

This days trek is all about spectacular landscapes.  Heading through Glencoe valley you’ll be surrounded by rugged mountain terrain which you’ll eventually head up into.

Next up is the infamous Devil’s staircase, which is much less daunting than the name suggests. Getting to the top gives you some stunning panoramic views of the surrounding highland landscape. 

You’ll then descend down to the picturesque village of Kinlochleven to finish up the day.

Campsites

Blackwater Campsite
MacDonald Campsite
Caolasnacon Campsite
Wild Camping

Eateries

Riverside Chippy
Harlequin
Bothy Bar
Kinlochleven (5+)

Transport

Kingshouse Bus
Kinlochleven Bus
Kinlochleven car park

Highlights

Hiking through Glencoe
Devil's Staircase views
View over Kinlochleven
Hot meal and a beer

Day 6 Images

Day 7: Kinlochleven to Fort William

Start:
Kinlochleven

End:
Fort William

Distance:
15 miles / 24.5km

Ascent:
475m

Hill paths & forest trails

The final stretch of the walk takes you the gorgeous landscape of Glen Nevis and past Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the United Kingdom. 

You’ll eventually descend through some lush woodland and forest trails ending up at your final destination: Fort William. This marks the end of your hike and signals the time for a well earned beer, or two.

Shops

Tesco, Fort William
Morrisons, Fort William
SPAR, Fort William
Several more

Campsites

Glen Nevis Campsite
Wild camping

Eateries

The Grog & Gruel
JD Wetherspoons
Crofter Bar
Many more

Transport

Fort William Station
Fort William Buses
Several car parks

Highlights

Glen Nevis view
Passing Ben Nevis
Reaching the end point
Well earned rest!

Day 7 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 West Highland Way route. 

However, one place where this is prohibited is the restricted zone along the east side of Loch Lomond.  Use the designated zones there. 

Apart from that you can wild camp for free all along the route.

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. We’ve used Ginger Routes several times and can’t recommend them enough!  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:

Milngavie
Ardlui (Inverarnan)
Crianlarich
Tyndrum
Bridge of Orchy
Fort William

Buses go to and from here:

Milngavie
Drymen
Balmaha
Kingshouse, Glencoe
Kinlochleven
Fort William

Route & Terrain

96 miles taking you from Glasgow right into the rugged wilderness of Rannoch Moor and up to Fort William.

Passing iconic and beautiful Scottish landscapes such as Loch Lomond and Glen Coe. Ending in Fort William, 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 open moorland and 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, especially on more exposed parts of the walk such as Rannoch Moor.

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 West Highland 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 WHW route?

Glengoyne Distillery
Ben Nevis
Ben Lomond
Great Glen Way
Inchcailloch Island

How fit do I have to be to do the West Highland 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 West Highland Way?

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

How can I prepare for the West Highland 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 West Highland 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 West Highland 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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