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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.