West Highland Way

Background Information

The West Highland Way is a 98-mile trail that runs through superb scenery in western Scotland. It runs from Milngavie on the northern outskirts of Glasgow, skirts the eastern shore of Loch Lomond before crossing Rannoch Moor. A steep climb takes the trail up to the highest point on the trail (548 metres) before skirting the southern edge of the Mamores to reach the coast at Fort William.

It is a well-walked route, and it is unlikely that you will be walking it alone in summer or autumn. For many people it is their first trail, and it is a particularly good first trail to choose - the scenery is excellent and their are frequent places to stay. Many Germans and Dutch walk the trail; indeed it is certainly the most international of Britain's trails.

Allander Water in Milngavie.

Map of the trail


Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format.

List of legs

LegDistance (miles)Ascent (feet)Descent (feet)Difficulty
Milngavie to Drymen12.211091083medium
Drymen to Balmaha7.210761076hard
Balmaha to Rowardennan7.713521319medium
Rowardennan to Inversnaid7.520672106medium
Inversnaid to Inverarnan6.816771644strenuous
Inverarnan to Crianlarich6.11368600medium
Crianlarich to Tyndrum6.59581004easy
Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy6.5643866easy
Bridge of Orchy to Kings House Hotel12.317881545medium
Kings House Hotel to Kinlochleven9.116112379hard
Kinlochleven to Fort William15.627532762hard
97.51640216384


Further information (books)

The following books detail the West Highland Way.

Further information (websites)

The following websites detail the trail:

Transport

Milngavie has easy access by train from the centre of Glasgow; trains run on a rough hourly schedule during the day. It is also served by bus services from around the local area.

Fort William also has a railway station that has three trains a day back to Glasgow. Some coach services also head back to the city.

There are several other railway stations either on or near the trail, especially in the middle of the trail (e.g. Crianlarich or Bridge of Orchy). Bus services are more frequent along the main roads that criss-cross the Highlands.

Traveline Scotland is an excellent resource for planning public transport journeys.

Map information

1:25,000 maps

       
Explorer 342 (Glasgow)  Explorer 348 (Campsie Fells)  Explorer 347 (Loch Lomond South)  Explorer 364 (Loch Lomond North)  
 
     
Explorer 377 (Loch Etive & Glen Orchy, Dalmally, Tyndrum, Bridge of Orchy & Taynuilt)  Explorer 384 (Glen Coe & Glen Etive)  Explorer 392 (Ben Nevis and Fort William, The Mamores and The Grey Corries, Kinlochleven and Spean Bridge)  

1:50,000 maps

       
Landranger 64 (Glasgow, Motherwell & Airdrie)  Landranger 57 (Stirling & The Trossachs)  Landranger 56 (Loch Lomond & Inveraray)  Landranger 50 (Glen Orchy & Loch Etive)  
 
 
Landranger 41 (Ben Nevis, Fort William & Glen Coe)  

Suggested schedules

The following scedules are advisory. They indicate various ways that the trail can be split up into walks of several lengths, with convenient end-points for each day's walk.

Naturally, you may want to alter this according to whether you are staying in B&B's, hostels, camping or are doing the walk in sections and are relying on public transport. Your own walk will probably vary from the itineraries shown below.

Night   Leisurely   Good   Fast
PlaceDistance (m)PlaceDistance (m)PlaceDistance (m)
0Milngavie Milngavie Milngavie 
1Drymen12.2Balmaha19.4Balmaha19.4
2Rowardennan14.9Inversnaid15.2Inverarnan22
3Inverarnan14.3Crianlarich12.9Bridge of Orchy19.1
4Tyndrum12.6Bridge of Orchy13Kinlochleven21.4
5Bridge of Orchy6.5Kinlochleven21.4Fort William15.6
6Kings House Hotel12.3Fort William15.6
7Kinlochleven9.1
8Fort William15.6

The West Highland Way is a trail that deserves to be taken slowly; there are plenty of things of interest to be seen on the way. Many people choose to climb Ben Lomond from Rowardennan, and there are several other Munros near the trail that can be climbed. As always, pick a schedule that will allow you to enjoy yourself and get the most out of this wonderful trail.

Tourist Information

The West Highland Way is well served by tourist information offices. As it starts near Scotland's biggest city and ends at one of the largest towns on the western coast, the trailheads both have large tourist information offices. Tourist information for the trail can be obtained from the following places:

When to walk

People generally consider two factors when choosing when to walk the trail. The first is the obvious one: weather. Although the trail is not especially hard, parts are remote and high. For this reason walking the trail in winter should only be considered by the experienced and well-prepared. Additionally some accommodation closes over the winter period.

The months of April, May and June tend to have the lowest rainfall, the amount slowly increasing from June to reach a maximum in December. July and August tend to be the warmest months, and January and February the coldest.

The second factor are midges. Parts of the trail are infamous for the way they suffer from midge attacks. The midge season tends to last from April to September, with the largest numbers occurring between June and August, although this varies according to the weather. Although the nuisance caused by midges can be overstated, they can easily ruin the walk for the unprepared, especially if the walker is spending the nights under canvas. For this reason many people choose to walk the trail in April, May and September to avoid the worst of the midges.

The Scottish Midge Forecast provides not only information on what parts of Scotland are currently plagued by the wee beasties, but also some good facts about them.

At the height of the season (especially during May) be prepared to book your accommodation many weeks in advance, especially if relying on B&B's or hotels. Obviously these restrictions are lessened if camping, and especially if you are willing to wild camp.