Preparation

Venturing along shorelines, through thickets of forests, mountain passes and open glens, the West Highland Way is a walker’s dream with changing landscapes at every turn. With a few essential items and essential know-how, you’ll be well prepared to embrace the Scottish Highlands.

The West Highland Way is commonly travelled from South to North which eases you in with the flatter and more gentle southern sections before the trail gradually becomes more demanding as you journey towards the northern regions. When planning your journey along the West Highland Way, there are a few things that you need to consider.

When To Go

The West Highland Way is often travelled between spring and autumn with the peak season beginning April and continuing through to early October. Typically, the most popular month is May, this is mainly owing to the delicate balance of variables that can affect your journey such as weather and midges.

Spring brings with it not only some remarkable growth of fresh life but some unpredictable climates as well. While it may be warm and sunny on occasion, the highlands are prone to blustery days and spring showers. As the valleys and landscapes begin to come to life again, it’s too early in the year for you to bump into any midges. If you’re looking for the new bloom of wildflowers, then May can be an excellent time for walking the West Highland Way as the temperature grows warmer, the weather tends to be relatively dry and clear – perfect for observing the spectacular views.

Summer brings the sunshine, warmer weather but not forgetting the occasional brooding sky that Scotland is so well-known for. With school holidays in full swing, the West Highland Way welcomes many tourists from all walks of life to journey along Scotlands best-loved long-distance walking route.

Autumn sees the end of the summer holidays and begins to return to a slower pace of life. From September onward, the crowds grow smaller, which can often be a great time to travel if you’re looking for some peace and quiet. By this point, the midges become less bothersome as well as they’ve, no doubt, had their fill from the summer.

Fitness & Ability

Often when one thinks of walking 96-miles, it can appear a little daunting. However, each year, the West Highland Way is explored by thousands of people, many of whom are first-timers who arrive to enjoy this well-rewarding long-distance route.

While the route is clear and well-worn in, the terrain can be uneven in places, and although the West Highland Way is not technically demanding, it does require a certain level of endurance. If you did want to train for walking the West Highland Way, then it’s best to start small and build up your fitness gradually. If you don’t walk very often, set yourself a 5-mile walk, to begin with. See how you feel and next time, set the goal for 8-miles, and continue until you feel comfortable walking similar distances to those you would expect to do on the West Highland Way.

What To Wear

It’s important to consider what clothing you’ll need to travel along the West Highland Way because an uncomfortable choice can impede your day. It’s advisable that you wear comfortable clothing that breathes, offers support where it’s needed and provides protection from the elements.

Using a layering technique works best as you can wrap up warm to get started, then once your body begins to warm up, along with the weather, you can remove outer layers to cool down and keep your core body temperature regulated.

For most of the 96-mile path, the trail is well-maintained with a few purpose-built areas to keep the ground surface hard-packed, so comfortable footwear is a necessity. They ought to be waterproof too as there’s nothing worse than wet socks!

For more information on what to wear, see our detailed clothing guide.

What To Pack

Packing your bag for walking the West Highland Way requires a little strategic planning to keep your walking bag light, packed with essentials and comfortable to wear for long adventurous days on the trail.

Essentials include the following: a first aid kit, drinking water, high-energy snacks, additional layers of clothing, waterproofs, sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, gloves, whistle, map and torch. However, there are a few extra items that may come in handy as well, such as pest repellent or netting to keep the midges at bay.

For more information on what to pack, read our kit essentials guide.

WHW Services

The West Highland Way has many local businesses providing goods and services to help make your journey as memorable as possible.

You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to accommodation as there are plenty of fabulous hotels, B&Bs and lodges to stay along the route with warm hearty meals and cosy beds to recharge your batteries in. However, if you’re looking for a more outdoorsy setting, why not try camping under the stars of the West Highland Way? There are plenty of campsites dotted along the route with wild camping permitted also. If you do plan to camp, please respect locals by leaving no trace behind: take away all your litter, remove all traces of your tent pitch and any open fires. It’s worth noting that within the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, camping bylaws operate between March and September.

Tour agents are handy to use if you’re short on time or would like an expert to help plan your perfect West Highland Way adventure to your liking. Holiday packages are available if you want to keep things simple and leave all the booking, itineraries and logistics to someone else – head over to the Tours & Services page to choose a tour operator.

You can also upgrade your WHW experience by booking a Private Transfer that can pick-up and drop-off in exclusive company and comfort.

Baggage Transfer

If you’re wondering how to walk the West Highland Way and carry all your luggage with you at the same time, then local baggage transfer providers are an ideal solution. Alleviate the stresses of carrying all your belongings with you and reduce your big bag to a smaller one by booking your luggage on a transfer service.

Your bags will be collected and dropped off each day at your chosen accommodation, leaving you to explore the trail in comfort and with peace of mind.

Walk It Your Way

Explore all 96-miles of natural beauty along the West Highland Way in your own time and your own way.

Here are a few suggested itineraries to help you plan your walk:

8-Days 7-Days 5-Days
Day 1 Milngavie to Drymen – 12 Miles Milngavie to Drymen – 12 Miles Milngavie to Balmaha – 19 Miles
Day 2 Drymen to Rowardennan – 14 Miles Drymen to Rowardennan – 14 Miles Balmaha to Inverarnan – 19 Miles
Day 3 Rowardennan to Inverarnan – 13 Miles Rowardennan to Inverarnan – 13 Miles Inverarnan to Bridge of Orchy – 19 Miles
Day 4 Inverarnan to Tyndrum – 12 Miles Inverarnan to Tyndrum – 12 Miles Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven – 20 Miles
Day 5 Tyndrum – Inveroran – 9 Miles Tyndrum to Kingshouse – 18 miles Kinlochleven to Fort William – 16 Miles
Day 6 Inveroran – Kingshouse – 10 Miles Kingshouse to Kinlochleven – 9 Miles
Day 7 Kingshouse to Kinlochleven – 9 Miles Kinlochleven to Fort William – 16 Miles
Day 8 Kinlochleven to Fort William – 16 Miles

Cycling the West Highland Way

If you’re a keen cyclist or looking to travel the West Highland Way a little differently, then you can cycle the 96-mile trail. Choose your own pace and enjoy Scotland’s best-loved long-distance walking route with every pedal stroke. Here’s a suggested itinerary for cycling the West Highland Way.

Cycle Route (3 Days)
Day 1 Milngavie to Rowardennan – 27 Miles
Day 2 Rowardennan to Bridge of Orchy – 32 Miles
Day 3 Bridge of Orchy to Fort William – 34 Miles

If you’re planning to cycle the West Highland Way, you’ll need to ensure you have a suitable bike. The terrain is hardpacked but can be uneven and loose in places which is why it’s recommended to cycle a mountain bike which has nobbly tyres for better traction and possibly suspension to help cater for the rough terrain. Some sections, such as Milngavie to Drymen, can be ridden comfortably on a hybrid bike as the terrain is very flat and well paved.

You can find more information on cycling the West Highland Way here.

Add-ons

Glengoyne Distillery

Situated just 8-miles out from Milngavie, is Glengoyne whisky distillery. Specialising in single-malt whisky, Glengoyne doesn’t use peat to smoke dry their barley, but instead uses warm Highland air. So why not stop in for a dram to help you along your way?

Conic Hill

Conic Hill will greet you shortly after you depart from Drymen, approximately 5-miles out, and it will be your first real taste of breathtaking scenery as you reach its summit. The Conic Hill climb ascends roughly 350m over 2.5-miles, exposing you to one of the most beautiful landscapes before sweeping you down the trail and into Balmaha.

If you would prefer to bypass climbing Conic Hill, then there is a flatter route that skirts around its base to rejoin with the West Highland Way trail in Balmaha.

Ben Lomond

Upon leaving Balmaha along the shores of Loch Lomond, the mighty Munro of Ben Lomond begins to emerge in the distance. Rowardennan is the starting point of the Ben Lomond climb, and also a common stopping point for an overnight stay. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not set aside a day and give the Munro a climb. Ascending 974m over a distance of 7-miles, this climb requires a reasonable level of fitness, but the reward is well worth it as the views from the top are some of the most spectacular.

Buachaille Etive Mor

A few miles after departing from Kingshouse, you’ll pass through Altnafeadh which is the starting point for climbing Buachaille Etive Mor. This climb covers a distance of 8.25-miles while covering over 1,100m of elevation. From the A82 road, the mountain looks quite unassailable, but with a steep and rocky ascent, passing over a bouldery ridge, the views are undeniably glorious from the top. This particular Munro is one of the most photographed sights in Scotland.

Ben Nevis

The English translation of Ben Nevis is: Venomous mountain or mountain with its head in the clouds

If you have still have some energy left and you’re keen to explore more, then why not summit Britain’s highest peak? Standing at 1,345 metres above sea level, Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles, and it’s located at the end of the West Highland Way, near Fort William. The Mountain Track to the summit remains the simplest and most popular route of ascent which begins in Achintee on the east side of Glen Nevis.

The Great Glen Way

The Great Glen Way extends beyond the end of the West Highland Way with an additional 73-miles of adventure walking. Setting out from Fort William, the Great Glen Way weaves its way along the east coast shores, through forest tracks and canal paths before running down through the suburbs of Inverness to finish at Inverness Castle.