Steeped in Scottish culture and heritage, the magnificent West Highland Way is more than just a favorite long-distance walking trail; it features in blockbuster films, plays hosts to challenging events and has a few other tricks up its sleeve. While it’s rewarding to learn the history and landmarks of the trail, it’s fun to brush up on some trivia to impress your walking companions with also! Here are a few of the West Highland Way’s fun facts.
The West Highland Way is known in Scottish Gaelic as “Slighe na Gàidhealtachd an Iar”
The trail was first conceived by a Glaswegian, Tom Hunter who secured approval for development in 1974. After 6-years of hard work, the route officially opened on October 6th, 1980 by Lord Mansfield.
FIRST OF ITS KIND
When the West Highland Way was officially in operation in 1980, it was Scotland’s first designated long-distance route.
The highest point along the West Highland Way is at the summit of the Devil’s Staircase which elevates you to a height of 548m above sea-level. If you walk the whole 96-mile route, you’ll gain over 3,000 metres in elevation, that’s just over 10,000 ft!
Approximately 120,000 people use the West Highland Way each year, with around 36,000 visitors walking the whole trail.
In June 2010, the West Highland Way joined the International Appalachian Trail. This international route runs from Mount Katahdin in Maine, USA through New Brunswick, to Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec and onto Newfoundland. However, in 2009, the IAT worked with the British Geological Survey in Scotland to incorporate trails all over the world.
Not only is the West Highland Way home to Scotland’s history but it’s home to a variety of wildlife. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot feral goats, red deer and golden eagles, oh, and not to mention the wee pests for which Scotland is famed for!
THE WHW RACE
If you thought walking all 96-miles of the West Highland Way is a challenge, then consider what it would be like to run that distance in a race! Each year, the West Highland Way race takes place around the Summer Solstice. Originating in 1991, this iconic event is now part of the Scottish Ultramarathon Series.
THE FIRST WOMAN
In 2016, Caroline Mckay became the first woman to complete the West Highland Way in one go during winter. Caroline endured 18 hours of darkness during the challenge to finish in just over 24 hours.
It comes as no surprise that when you have vast wilderness, varying terrain and the majesty of the Scottish Highlands showcasing outstanding natural beauty, filmmakers flock to use the mountains and valleys as backdrops in their films. Here are a few notable movies which you may recognise on the trail…
Mel Gibson played the Scottish legend, William Wallace, in this epic blockbuster. Sections of the film were shot around Loch Leven, Glencoe and in the Mamores mountains near Fort William, all of which are along the West Highland Way trail.
Despite a majority of this film being set in the city, some parts were filmed on Rannoch Moor and the train station used in the movie is Carrour Railway station near Loch Ossian and Loch Treig. The station has since been converted to a restaurant, a great stopping place for a cuppa and some food.
Harry Potter (2001 – 2011)
We all remember the Hogwarts Express steam train, taking the students to and from school, and now you can travel the same journey too! The Jacobite steam train departs each day from Fort William and crosses over the incredible Glenfinnan Viaduct.
Rob Roy (1995)
Scottish outlaw turned local here, Liam Neesom’s portrayal of Robert Roy MacGregor was set in the late 1600s with much of the location being on and around the West Highland Way trail.