Venturing along 96-miles of natural terrain, ascending mountains and descending river beds may seem daunting to those who are unfamiliar with long-distance walking, but the West Highland Way is suitable for everyone, even beginners.
If you’re looking to reconnect with nature, challenge yourself and take in the very best of Scottish heritage and culture, then walking the West Highland Way should be at the top of your must-do list. Whether you’re a solo traveller or a part of a group, there are many things to plan for when embarking on a memorable trip on the trail. This handy guide will help you plan your journey to a T so that your first experience on one of Scotland’s best-loved long-distance walking routes is comfortable and, most of all, fun!
“Wherever I wonder,
Wherever I rove,
The Hills of the Highlands
Forever, I love.”
– Robert Burns, Scottish poet circa 1700s
MAKE THE TIME
As with many things in life we’d like to do, finding the time for it can be tricky and often the first hurdle for any intrepid explorer! So, open up your calendar, look ahead and pen some dates in for walking the West Highland Way.
The route can be walked your way. Whether you want to take your time or cover the distance is a speedy time, consider how long you’ll need for your Scottish expedition. The West Highland Way trail is typically covered between five and eight days, so once you have your dates selected, your goal is set – time to start planning!
There is a wealth of information about planning your walk along the West Highland Way. However, there are additional considerations.
The 96-mile route begins in the town of Milngavie, north of Glasgow, and finishes in Fort William. It’s essential to plan your transport to and from the trail. There are many options, including trains and buses. However, some West Highland Way baggage transfer services offer return packages from Fort William back to Milngavie. If you require transport, this should be booked as soon as possible.
Fancy spending your nights under a canopy of stars, or cosied up in a warm bed?
The West Highland Way is lined with accomodation from campsites and wild camping spots, to traditional B&Bs, hotels and guesthouses, or perhaps a mix of both. When making your choices, consider your budget for the trip and the experiences you hope to have along the way. If you’re thinking of camping, take a look at our helpful camping guide, which offers some essential information and top tips. Alternatively, if you’d rather the comfort a proper bed, then head over to the accomodation directory for a comprehensive list of places to stay.
There are a wealth of West Highland Way services ready and waiting to make your trip even more memorable, comfortable and fun.
If you’d prefer to lighten the load and travel without all your luggage, then there are baggage transfer companies who operate from Milngavie to Fort William, transporting your luggage to each of your accomodation stops along the way.
Are you looking to enrich your journey with local and historical information? Then why not book yourself a guide? There are plenty of reputable tour guides who will lead you along the route, offering insider knowledge and useful tips for your stay in the Scottish Highlands.
Covering 96-miles may sound a little daunting if you’re not familiar with walking long distances. However, there’s nothing to worry about! The West Highland Way may challenge your endurance levels, but it’s not a technically demanding trail, so walking poles and hiking equipment isn’t necessary.
If you would prefer to hone in your walking legs, then do so gradually, starting with a mile and building up your walks to longer distances. Be sure to cover varying terrains, gradients and weather conditions as well!
Whatever the month of the year, you can be sure that Scotland’s quick-changing weather can present all four-seasons in any one day!
We recommend a layering system that allows you to build up the warmth when it’s chilly, but also allows you to easily remove items of clothing to cool down your body temperature. More information can be found in our clothing guide, but whatever you pack, make sure you have some waterproofs in there as well!
Having suitable footwear is essential because you’ll be covering long distances in varying terrain that will require a certain level of comfort, support and weatherproofing. Walking boots/shoes are most common on the trail, something with a durable sole, good grip and waterproof protection. When it comes to footwear, it’s always best to try before you buy as your boots will be your best trail-companion, so be careful when ordering off the internet if you’ve not tried them on first!
In addition to your clothing, you’ll need to pack some essentials as well. By checking the weather forecast and the midge forecast, you’ll be able to get a rough idea of what to expect from Mother Nature, and the wee pests.
It’s recommended that you carry a first aid kit, whistle, torch, high-energy snacks, paper map, compass and water, to name a few. For a more detailed breakdown of what constitutes as an essential item, take a look at the Kit Essentials Guide.
Did you even walk the West Highland Way if there are no photos? Get snap-happy on the journey to document the memorable experiences, the stunning landscapes and the people you meet along the way.
Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and tag your photos with #MyWestHighlandWay for a chance to be featured on our page!
The date is set. The accomodation and services booked. Your bags are packed. They only thing left to do is HAVE FUN!