West Highland Way – Basics

West Highland Way – Long distance walk, Scotland

The West Highland Way is a long-distance walking route that stretches for 96 miles along the west coast of Scotland. This popular trail takes walkers through some of Scotland’s most breath-taking scenery, from rolling hills and forests to rugged mountains and glistening lochs.

If you’re planning to tackle the West Highland Way, it’s important to be prepared. This means packing the right gear and knowing what to expect along the way. Here’s a quick guide to help you plan your West Highland Way adventure.

How many days does it take to walk the west highland way?

The West Highland Way is one of Scotland’s most iconic long-distance walking routes. The route runs from Milngavie (pronounced like Mull-Guy), just north of Glasgow, to Fort William in the Highlands, a total distance of 154 km (96 miles). It typically takes experienced walkers between four and nine days to complete the entire route. For those who are less experienced or looking for a more leisurely pace, it can take up to two weeks. The trail is well signed and maintained, making it easy for anyone to follow even without a guidebook or map, however, we always recommend taking a map and compass and knowing how to use them! The path passes through some of Scotland’s most stunning landscapes including lochs, mountains, glens and moorland – providing plenty of opportunities for stunning photographs. There are several places along the way where you can rest up before continuing on your journey. All in all, walking the West Highland Way is an unforgettable experience that will stay with you forever. It did for me. 

West highland Way Walking Options.

The three main options for walking the west highland way are below, each requires slightly different kit and logistics. For example if you are wild camping you logistics are getting to Glasgow and where to wild camp each night. You will also need camping kit, larger rucksack, a stove, sleeping bag etc. By comparison staying at set B&Bs you know your set destination each day and you can walk with only a day back with your camera, waterproofs, water and food.

1: Carry everything and wild camp

This is the option I went for in my youth. Wild camping spots where plenty and finding water was easy enough. Advantages are you can set your own pace, there is no restrictions of what you can achieve each day. Negatives, the luxury of a warm shower and comfortable seat at the end of each day. Just remember when wild camping to leave no trace! Pooing outside read our Poop kit article

2: Carry everything and use camp sites

Same as above however you are restricted to planning set destinations and therefore set routes. Positives, are warm showers at the end of each day.

3: Carry a day sack and stay at B&Bs (Hotels, accommodation in general)

Negatives, set routes, less challenging. Positives, light backpack, warm showers and hot cooked meals each night. Best for those looking to enjoy the adventure, capture great images and video. The West highland way should be fun, if I were to do it again, this is the option I would go for.

West Highland Way Essential kit

First and foremost, you’ll need to pack the right gear. The West Highland Way is not the most challenging trail, however you’ll need to be prepared for all types of weather, from sunny skies to driving rain and possibly snow. This is classed as a long distance walk, so be prepared! Some essential items to pack for your hike are below, these include:

  • Good socks
  • Blister kit
  • Backpack
  • Map, compass
  • Waterproof and windproof jacket and trousers.
  • Good Hiking/ walking boots
  • Drybags
  • Water bottles
  • First aid kit
  • Extra Warm layers
  • Hat and gloves
  • Sunscreen, insect repellent, midge net
  • Toilet Roll – read our No paper no problem article.
  • Snacks
  • A knife
  • Flashlight / headtorch.
  • Powerbank for charging phone
  • Phone

For camping you will also need a solo camping kit, the lighter the better.

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping mat
  • Stove, pot, plate, gas, cutlery.
  • Basic wash kit and toiletries

More camping gear check out our Camping Gear Guide

Also our Swim packing gear guide has lots of similar backpacking solo camper kit.

Now you are ready for adventure in the Scottish Highlands.

Once you have your gear packed, it’s time to hit the trail. The West Highland Way starts in the town of Milngavie (pronounced like Mull-Guy), just outside of Glasgow, and ends in Fort William, at the foot of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Scotland and the UK. Along the way, you’ll pass through some stunning landscapes, including the Trossachs National Park, the beautiful Loch Lomond, visuals of Glen Coe, The Green Wellie Stop, The Bridge Of Orchy and the wild and remote Rannoch Moor.

West Highland Way’s main sections

The West Highland Way is divided into several sections, each with its own unique character and challenges. Here’s a brief overview of each section:

Milngavie to Drymen:

The first section of the West Highland Way is relatively easy, with mostly gentle terrain and a few small hills to climb. This section passes through the wooded Kilpatrick Hills and along the shores of Loch Lomond.

Drymen to Rowardennan:

This section of the trail offers some of the most scenic views on the West Highland Way, with towering peaks and sparkling lochs. The terrain is more challenging here, with some steep hills and rough paths to navigate.

Rowardennan to Inverarnan:

This section of the trail takes walkers through the heart of the Trossachs National Park, with its rolling hills and forests. There are some steep climbs and rough paths along this section, but the views are well worth the effort.

Inverarnan to Tyndrum/ Bridge of Orchy:

The fourth section of the trail is relatively flat and easy, with some beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. This section passes through the pretty village of Tyndrum, where you can stock up on supplies and grab a bite to eat at the Green Wellie Stop, you can even pan for gold here.

Or you can carry on a few more miles to the bridge of Orchy to camp wild.

Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven:

The final section of the trail is the most challenging, with some steep ascents and rocky paths. However, the views are spectacular, with stunning vistas of the surrounding mountains.

Kinlockleven to Fort William:

This section ends at the foot of Ben Nevis, where you can celebrate your achievement with a well-deserved pint at the nearby pub. Or you can take a break before conquering the UK’s highest peak the next day.

West Highland Way History

The West Highland Way is Scotland’s first long-distance walking route, stretching from Milngavie near Glasgow to Fort William in the Highlands. It was conceived by Tom Hunter, a local businessman and outdoor enthusiast, who saw the potential for a trail through some of the country’s most spectacular scenery. The idea was taken up by the Scottish Ramblers Association, who worked with local councils and other organisations to establish an official route. Established and officially opened in 1980 the WHW became one of Scotland’s great outdoor adventures. Over the years, it has become increasingly popular with hikers from all over the world looking to experience Scotland’s stunning landscapes and unique culture. Today, it remains one of Britain’s most iconic trails and is a must-do for any outdoor enthusiast.

Conclusion/ Summary

In conclusion, the West Highland Way is a truly unforgettable experience. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or novice. The west highland way is Scotland most well known multi day walk. Folks travel from all over the world to walk the route from Glasgow (Milngavie) to Fort William up the North West coast of Scotland.

Along the way, there are plenty of interesting stops to explore and enjoy. In the south, walkers can explore the village of Drymen and its 12th century church. Further along is Loch Lomond which offers stunning views and plenty of opportunity for swimming, fishing and other water activities. The town of Tyndrum is another popular stop with its old inns and whisky distillery. For those looking for a wilder experience, remote Rannoch Moor offers an isolated wilderness with opportunities for bird watching and wildlife spotting. Finally, Fort William marks the end of the trail where you can enjoy spectacular views of Ben Nevis and surrounding mountains before heading home and for the super adventurous you can continue via The Great Glen way up to Inverness.

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If driving north for more adventures check out our Single Track article.

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