West Highland Way: The Ultimate Travellers Guide
The West Highland Way was Scotland’s first long-distance route, established in 1980. Also, it is the most popular route with 36,000 individuals walking the route each year.
The route beings in Milngavie a small town at the edge of Glasgow. The course finishes at the outdoor capital of Scotland, Fort William, located at the foot of Ben Nevis.
In total, the route is 151 kilometres (94 miles) long. Along the way, you can enjoy incredible scenic views across the Scottish Highlands, including Loch Lomond and Glencoe.
Moreover, there are awe-inspiring views across the Campsites and the rugged and majestic landscape of the Scottish Highlands.
The West Highland Way follows a mixture of cattle paths, old military roads and drover tracks through forests, past Loch Lomond and over moorland.
Milngavie is the official start for the West Highland Way, however, keen walkers can start in Glasgow and follow along the Kelvin Walkway.
Once walkers reach Fort William, they are in the heart of the Highlands and embark on the Great Glen Way to continue to see the gorgeous country.
The route is split into eight sections. The sections are between 14 and 25 kilometres long and take between 4 and 7 hours to complete.
These sections can be completed individually or all together. The West Highland Way is one of my favourite multi-day hikes.
Tom Hunter is a passionate hiker and outdoor lover from Glasgow who helped plan the trail.
In 1974, it was approved for development and in October 1980 the official opening occurred by Lord Mansfield. There now has been a development of decent service infrastructure along the way.
It is so easy to get public transport to the start of the trail and end of the trail. Milngavie and Fort William are both accessible by rail and bus from Glasgow.
A Citylink bus service runs from Glasgow and Fort William, with ongoing buses to Inverness and Skye.
The bus can be reached at various stops along the route including Inverarnan, Crianlarich, Tyndrum, Bridge of Orchy and Kingshouse.
A train from Glasgow to Milngavie only takes approximately twenty-five minutes. There is a sign at the train station telling you how to get to the start of the route.
West Highland Way is one of the most popular routes in Scotland.
There is plenty of accommodation options and services along the way to ensure that everyone’s journey is special.
Make sure to book your accommodation in advance. Especially when there has been torrential rain for a few days, accommodation options will fill up quickly.
Below is a list of where you can stay.
Milngavie: West Highland Way Rooms, West Highland Way Campsite, Glamping Pods
Drymen: Clachan Inn, Braeside Guest House, Oakwoods House, Dunroamin B&B
Balmaha: Birchwood Guest Lodge, Loch Lomond Waterfront Luxury Lodges, Balmaha Lodges & Apartments
From Balmaha to Rowardennan, there is a wild camping restriction zone between the 1st March and the 30th October.
This ban is on the east side of Loch Lomond and a permit is required to camp here. There is plenty of signs to show where wild camping is not permitted.
The ban is in place due to the large number of people that camp here during the summer months.
There is a small section at Sallochy, where camping is permitted. Also, there is a permit-only area at Lochan Maoil Dhuinne.
Sallochy: bed and breakfast, Sallochy Campsite and Sallochy Bay
Rowardennan: hotel and SYHA hostel, Rowardsennan Lodge Youth Hostel and Blair Cottage, Loch Lomond Blair Byre
Inversnaid: Inversnaid Bunkhouse, Garrison of Inversnaid
Inverarnan: Ardlui Church, The Drovers Inn, Beinglas Farm Campsite
Crianlarich: hotel, bed and breakfast and SYHA hostel, Crianlarich Youth Hostel, Glenbruar House, An Caisteal Chalet
Tyndrum: hotel, bed and breakfast, hostel and a campsite, By The Way Hostel and Campsite, Muthu Ben Doran Hotel, Crombie Cottage
Bridge of Orchy: hotel and wild camping, Bridge of Orchy Hotel
Inveroran: inns and wild camping, Inveroran hotel
Kinlochleven: hotels, bed and breakfasts, hostels and campsites, West Highland Lodge, Tigh Na Cheo, Blackwater Hostel, Glamping and Campsite, Macdonald Hotel & Cabins
Fort William: hotels, bed and breakfasts, guest houses and hotels, Banff House, Lochview House Apartment, Fort William Backpackers.
There are plenty of places to get supplies along the way. You will not have to carry days worth of food as you are only a couple of days maximum from a shop.
Some of the campsites even offer little shops. Some of the B&B or hostels will make up packed lunches for you.
The following list is where you can re-stock.
Milngavie: Co-op, Tesco and an M&S food
Balmaha: Village Shop at The Oak Tree Inn
Crianlarich: Londis Village Shop
Tyndrum: Brodies Mini Market & Green Welly Shop
Milngavie to Drymen
Length: 19 kilometres
Time: 5 – 6 hours
The first section of the West Highland Way features the gorgeous lowlands of Scotland.
Say goodbye to the urban landscapes, and view the gorgeous landscapes including lochs and woodland.
Then the route leads into Strathblane in the shadow of Campsie Fells.
Milngavie to Mugock Country Park
A stone obelisk on the pedestrianised Douglas Street marks the beginning of the West Highland Way. The beginning of the route is a five-minute walk from Milngavie rail station.
Milngavie is a small interesting town with plenty of places to grab a bite or buy snacks for the trip. Cross the parking area and road beyond, then follow the walkway which is marked by the West Highland Way sign.
Keep following the pass straight, pass under a bridge and keep going straight ignoring the turn-off from the library. Keep following the thistle logo to stay on route.
The first part of the walk runs along the Allander River, the path heads north along the left side of the river.
Follow the signs on Riverside to Allander Park, on the route you will see some of the finer houses in Milngavie, and walk through Mugdock Country Park.
Also, there is a viewpoint that gives you one last great view over Milngavie. Mugdock Country Park is treasured by the locals and is a lovely place to walk.
There are birds of all kinds singing in the trees and wildflowers dancing along the side of the trail. After walking through Milngavie Woods, emerged on a minor road nicknamed the Khyber Pass.
Soon after the track runs past the west side of Craigallan Loch. At the northern loch, there is a memorial to the Craigallan Fire.
A campfire burned here continuously from 1920 to the outbreak of World War II. At a time of poverty and mass unemployment, this monument shows solidarity.
Mugdock to Drymen
From this point, the views out to Campsie Fells and Drumgoyne are brilliant. On the left, there is Carbeth Loch, follow the track and bear right onto Cuilts Road, then turn right onto a footpath after 400 metres.
The footpath heads north over Camphill Burn then head over Blaine Water. The next part of the West Highland Way follows the old railway line route through Strath Blane.
To the right, the foot of Dumgoyne can be seen over Glengoyne Distillery. Eventually, the path reaches the busy A81. Where the West Highland Way crosses the A81 there is the Beech Tree Inn which sells refreshments.
The past continues to follow the A81, then crosses the A81 once more. The path turns left onto Gartness Road and leads over a bridge on Endrick Water.
Follow Gartness Road all the way to Drymen. You will pass many accommodation options, including Drymen Camping.
- Devil’s Pulpit
- Queens View Whangie
- Mugdock Castle
- Craigend Castle
- Glengoyne Distillery
Drymen to Rowardennan
Length: 23 kilometres
Time: 6-7 hours
The second part of the route has some amazing views from Conic Hill across Loch Lomond. Discover the beauty of walking along the east coast of Loch Lomond.
Drymen to Conic Hill
This part of the route begins at the Old School House just outside Drymen. The route follows Stirling Road west then cuts left onto a footpath across from Blarnvaid Farm.
Follow the path past Buchanan Forest and through Garadhban Forest. There is an option to walk down to Milton of Buchanan and follow the relatively flat road round to Balmaha.
This is a low-level route and is an option in bad weather. However, the road will miss the scenic Conic Hill.
Walkers should continue on and follow the main path over Conic Hill as the views from here can not be missed.
The footpath to Conic Hill has bridges which cross a couple of burns. Then there is a steady climb, and wonderful views of Loch Lomond are revealed as you ascend the hill.
Conic Hill is located on a fault line which separates the Lowlands from the Highlands, this change in landscape is obvious. Conic Hill stands proudly at 358 metres and the views of the islands on Loch Lomond are outstanding.
Conic Hill to Rowardennan
After descending Conic Hill you will reach a large car park and Loch Lomond Information Centre with toilets on the left at the far end. This is the small village of Balmaha, looking over the banks of Loch Lomond.
This a good area to stop and relax, there are accommodation options and places to eat. If you are wishing to spend more time at this location, a boat trip to the lovely island of Inchailloch is recommended.
Along this route, there are many viewpoints of Loch Lomond. Follow the shoreline path around Arrochymore Point, there is a car park here with toilet facilities.
Next, keep walking on the road past Milarrochy, then head onto the path which is signed for Ben Lomond Memorial Park. Walk past Anchorage Cottage, then head left through the trees.
There is a basic campsite coming up and a car park at Sallochy Bay. From this part of the walk, you can enjoy gorgeous views of Ben Lomond and Arrochar Alps in the distance.
The route has a mixture of boardwalks and small bridges to cover the swampy area at the loch side.
The area sits in a 50,000-acre Queen Elizabeth forestry park, one of six parks in Scotland, created in 1953 for the Queen’s coronation. Marked paths follow through the tree-covered peninsula.
Also, the route passes a chalet park and Rowardennan Hotel. Continuing on, walkers will reach a car park at Rowardennan with toilets and an information centre.
- Conic Hill
- Loch Lomond
- Inchailloch Island
- Tom Weir Statue
- Milarrochy Bay
- Ben Lomond
Rowardennan to Inverarnan
Length: 22.5 kilometres
Time: 6-7 hours
Rowardennan to Inversnaid
From Rowardennan follow the loch side path north for a couple of minutes to find the Loch Lomond National Park Memorial Statue.
This is a compassionate reminder that the forest and Ben Lomond is a memorial parks for those who gave their lives in World War I and World War II.
Follow minor roads north and ignore the turnoffs for the Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel and Ardess Lodge. Keep walking as the track climbs through forestry.
At the signpost, turn left, and follow the well-maintained path close to the shore. The views here are stunning, keep on the path as it enters the plantation forestry.
On the left, there is a path which leads to Rowchoish, an open bothy maintained by volunteers on the Mountain Bothy Association.
Continuing on the path, you will witness outstanding views across to The Cobbler, a distinctive mountain in the Arrochar Alps.
At Cailness Burn, go over the bridge and you will reach a pretty cottage and the Craigrostan Woods.
Do not underestimate how long it takes to walk the length of Loch Lomond, there are some points where you will have to use your hands to get over tree roots etc.
Inversnaid to Inverannan
Soon, you will reach Inversnaid. There are more leisurely-paced walkers here, tourist boats drop visitors off here for a few hours so they can explore.
There are a couple of bridges across a burn which providprovidees good views of Inversnaid Waterfall. At the front of the hotel, there are refreshments for walkers and there is a bunkhouse.
Just beyond the hotel, there is an old boathouse which is passed on the right before leading onto the RSPB Nature Reserve. This is a good extra stop to explore if you have time.
The next part is described as the roughest section as there are many stones and large tree roots to overcome.
There are a few rough steps, at the bottom you can take a detour to Rob Roy’s Cave, where the famous outlaw allegedly held his captives.
Continuing on, the path comes across a nice beach which offers lovely views across Island I Vow.
Once you have crossed the bridge and gone up the steep wooden steps, the path leads away from the loch over easier, grassy terrain east of Creag a’Mhadaidh.
The path then begins to descend where you will get lovely views of a ruined house and another bothy- Doune Byre.
At Ardleish, there is a jetty for the ferry across to Ardlui. Also, there is a campsite, shop, pub, accommodation and train and bus stops.
On the short climb just east of Cnap Mor, there is a memorial to Dario Melaragni, organiser of the popular West Highland Way Race and the fastest runner who has competed the race in 15 hours and forty-five minutes.
Look back and admire the views. The next part continues past the ruins of Blarstainge, then the path reaches the footbridge and Beinglas Farm.
There is a small shop, camping, B&B, and camping just off route on the A82. Also, there is an information boards near the campsite.
- Inversnaid Waterfall
- RSPB Nature Reserve
- Island I Vow
- Creag a’Mhadaidh
Inverarnan to Tyndrum
Length: 19 kilometres
Time: 5-6 hours
Inverarnan to Crianlarich
This part of the route begins at Drovers Inn at Inverarnan. Turn right to the Beinglas Farm Campsite, after the campsite, at the bridge turn right onto the riverside path to skirt all the way round the edge of the field before reaching the West Highland Way.
At the information board, turn left to follow the West Highland Way and head along Glen Falloch.
The route follows through the remains of ancient semi-natural woodland. This was an important area during the industrial revolution for timber and charcoal production.
Walking through the glen there are a few stony paths and bridges crossing the burn. This next part of the walk goes along the riverside, there are some small waterfalls.
Through the trees, you might get a glimpse of the Falls of Falloch. Although, the falls are much easier to view from the west side of the river.
After the Falls of Falloch, there is a narrow section of the river where the water has eroded massive circles in the rocks.
Descend and walk past the farm buildings and house at Derrydaroch. Bear left to cross the bridge and turn right immediately onto the woodland path.
The path continues to run alongside River Falloch, then the West Highland Way goes under the A82 via a tunnel. The next part of the route gently climbs across grazing land, then goes through Ewich Forestry is reached.
Walkers can take a fifteen minute detour to Crianlarich where there are restaurants, a well-stocked shop, a railway station and accommodation.
For those who don’t need some respite, continue left steeply uphill. At the picnic bench, there are great views back towards Ben More, Stob Binnein and Cruch Ardrain.
Crianlarich to Tyndrum
Continue following through the path over Hervie Burn. Eventually, the path descends and passes under the stone viaduct of the railway and under the A82 and follows the path to Kirkton Farm.
Turn right to cross the bridge over the River Fillan, then before the farmhouse take a left to pass St Fillan’s Priory. St Fillian’s Priory dates back to the 13th century and has links back to Robert the Bruce.
Also, the graveyard is older and dates back to the 8th century. The trail passes Auchtertyre Farm and then leads to an underpass to cross the A82.
Follow the riverside path, then at the minor road on a path passing on information board about Tyndrum Community Woodland.
The route follows River Conosish, and walkers will pass a bench which commemorates the Battle of Dal Righ, or “Kings Field” where Robert the Bruce was defeated by English Troops in 1306.
The track then leads onto a bridge which crosses the Crom Allt and leads into a sparse woodland.
Walkers pass the lochan where apparently Robert the Bruce and his men abandoned their swords to try and hasten their escape.
In Tyndrum, there are two campsites – Pines and By The Way, a hotel, two train stations and a shop – Brodie’s Mini Market.
- Falls of Falloch
- St Fillan’s Priory
Tyndrum to Inveroran
Length: 14 kilometres
Time: 4-5 hours
Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy
From Tyndrum, the West Highland Way leaves Tyndrum at the north end of the village. The route follows uphill next to Brodie’s Mini Market on the north side of A82.
A short walk north passes the Tyndrum Cemetery, two bridges are closed and walkers will head onto the path to Strath Fillian. The first mountain on the right in Beinn Odhar and then Beinn Dorain comes into view.
Soon after, the West Highland Way descends into a ‘sheep creep’ under the railway. This railway line has been described as one of the most scenic journeys in the world.
The railway route runs from Glasgow to Mallaig. This part of the West Highland Way follows the line of the Old Military Road.
A viaduct which is for the railway can be seen to the east. Go through a gate to cross the stone bridge over the Allt Kinglass River.
The route traverses the bottom of Beinn Dorain and eventually, the Bridge of Orchy Hotel comes into view. Again, you will cross the railway as you approach the railway station.
Bridge of Orchy to Inveroran
Cross the River Orchy and follow the signposted footpath on the right. This path climbs up to a gate and enters the forestry.
There is a second gate, where paths continue to climb into the moorland. Eventually, the West Highland Way reaches the southern banks of Loch Tulla.
There is a cairn on the route which offers brilliant views across Loch Tulla, across towards the route of Black Mount as well as back to the Beinn Dorain range. Eventually, the path reaches Inveroran Hotel.
- Allt Kinglass Viaduct
- Loch Tulla
Inveroran to Kingshouse
Length: 15.5 kilometres
Time: 4-5 hours
One of the classic stages of the West Highland Way is the crossing of Rannoch Moor.
This section of the West Highland Way follows the line of Telford’s Parliamentary Road. The route consists of vast wilderness surrounded by mountainous landscapes.
Inveroran to Rannoch Moor
The beginning of this part of the route begins at the old coaching inn at Inveroran, dating back to 1707.
The West Highland Way follows west to past Inveroran Cottage and crosses the bridge over the Allt Tolaghan.
This area is an informal campsite for walkers. This route will pass a car park and Victoria Bridge.
The path to Kingshouse on the old Parliamentary Road is a well-established and maintained path. Little navigation is required along the path.
The landscape here opens out into the vast, gentle wilderness of Rannoch Moor – 50 square miles of peat bogs and lochans. Usually, this part of the route is exposed to bad weather.
Rannoch Moor to Kingshouse
The next plantation has good views towards the peak of Stob a’Choire Odhair. The West Highland Way net leads to Ba Bridge, a stone arch over the River Ba.
Along this part of the route, there are a few mountain peaks on show – Clach Leathad, Creise and Meall a’Bhuiridh.
Continuing through the moorland you will be surprised by the superb views. Further on the route, the most iconic of all Scottish mountain Buachaille Etive Mor is revealed.
You can take a detour to the Glencoe/ White Corries ski area which has a cafe. I would recommend getting the ski lift to the top of the mountain.
The ski lift is open all year round and there are amazing views from the top. Buachaille Etive Mor stands guard of Glencoe.
At this point in the walk, you will pass the white cottage which is one of the most photographed buildings in Scotland. The whitewashed cottage is a club hut for the Ladies’ Scottish Climbing club.
The next part of the route crosses onto the overside of A82, make sure to cross with care. The last kilometre of this part of the route leads to Kingshouse Hotel.
Kingshouse dates back to the seventeenth century. In 1746, after the Battle of Culloden, the Duke of Cumberland’s troops used this as barracks.
Again, this is a perfect place to sit and soak in the views.
Kingshouse to Kinlochleven
Length: 14 kilometres
Time: 4-5 hours
Kingshouse to Black Reservoir
Starting at Kingshouse, there is the River Etive behind the building. The West Highland Way crosses the River Etive by a stone bridge.
The route passes an informal campsite and the path moves left where Buachaille Etive Mor is directly in front of you. Now, you will be back on Wade’s military road.
Walkers will get a clear view down Glen Etive. The nest part of the route is the highest point on the entire route.
Turning away from the A82, the route follows upwards in line with the Old Military Road. This part of the route is also known as the Devil’s Staircase.
From Kingshouse, the climb is 305 metres and a cairn marks the peak at 550 metres. From the peak, there is a wonderful view across the mountains of Glencoe.
The Blackwater Reservoir can be seen to the right. The Reservoir was completed in 1909 and is the longest reservoir in the Highlands, standing at 13 kilometres long.
One of the burns leading from the reservoir needs to be crossed by stepping stones.
Blackwater Reservoir to Kinlochleven
Moving on, the peaks of the Mamores beyond Kinlochleven come into view with Ben Nevis in the background.
The route continues to a bridge over Allt a’Choire Odhair-mhoir then leads to Kinlochleven. There is a stony track leading 300 metres down to Kinlochleven, the massive pipeline can be seen to the right.
The aluminium works closed in 2000 and the hydro system provides electricity for the remaining Reekie Linn smelter in Fort William.
Interestingly, the Reekie Linn works employed 800 people at one point and are largely responsible for the growth of Kinlochleven.
Moreover, there has been an increase in tourism giving the village and the surrounding area a new lease on life.
There is the Grey Mares Waterfall, Atlas Brewing Company, and Ice Factor climbing centre located in the old Alcan buildings.
In Kinlochleven, there are several accommodation options including Blackwater Hotel, Glamping and Campsite.
Kinlochleven to Fort William
Length: 24.5 kilometres
Time: 6-7 hours
From Kinlochleven, continue along Lochaber Road, then turn right through the woods, signed ‘Public Footpath to Fort William via the Lairig’.
The path leads to the attractive birch woodland, keep left when the path forks. Keep walking along the path, cross a stream then ascend upwards leaving the trees behind.
From here, there are superb views back over Kinlochleven and down Loch Leven. Eventually, the West Highland Way keep back onto a track which is the Old Military Road.
Soon ahead, you will be able to see the conical mountain of Beinn na Caillich, a subsidiary peak of Mam na Gualainn. Head through a gate and pass a large cairn as the track heads up the glen of Allt Nathrach.
Soon, the track passes the ruins of Tigh-na-sleubhaich, with Stob Ban towering behind. Continue past the ruin of Lairigmore then the route climbs the northern side of the glen.
Next, the path leads through an area of forestry and then the path leads alongside a lock on the left. Once you pass through a felled area and cross a footbridge over a burn.
Ben Nevis comes into distant view ahead. The track then reaches another forestry area.
Walkers can take an optional turn off to the top of Dun Deardail, a grassy hill and an iron age fort which is a superb viewpoint.
The path leads into the Glen Nevis, and soon, the route passes the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre. The West Highland Way used to finish at the fringes of Fort William.
Now, the route continues along the length of the High Street to the far end of the pedestrian section. A bronze sculpture of a weary but triumphant walk marks the end of the journey.
- Glen Nevis
- Ben Nevis
- Dun Deardail
- Allt Nathrach
West Highland Way Tips
Carry loose change
Carry loose change for the honesty boxes that you will find along the way.
You can purchase little cakes, drinks, flapjacks and crisps. Take pound coins as most of the showers in the campsites only accept pound coins.
Be aware of midges
If you are walking from mid-May to September, make sure to carry midge-repellent supplies. The midges are out in force and they bite, so anything from a head net to spray should be sufficient to deter the mini beasts.
Be aware of Ticks
As well as midges, be aware of ticks, especially in the summer months. Pack a tick removal device and check yourself regularly.
Organise baggage transport
If you do not want to carry your bag or have a suitcase as well as your backpack. You can organise a bag transfer service to drop off your luggage at Fort William or at a campsite, B&B, hotel or hostel along the way.
Carry a map
A map is not required to navigate this route as there are the West Highland Island thistle signs and information boards along the route.
However, it is handy and safer to have one. The map was useful to name certain mountains that you see en route and to track how far you have to go until the next stop.
Take a dry bag and waterproof
It does not matter what time of year you make your trip to Scotland. There is a high chance that it will rain at least once during the West Highland Way trek.
Loch Lomond in the highlands are one of the wettest parts of the United Kingdom with over four metres of rainfall each year.
Carry a water filter
There are plenty of water and streams to collect water from. However, the water is not safe to drink straight from the streams.
Also, this will reduce the load you will have to carry as there are always streams to top up on water from.
How long does it take to do the West Highland Way?
West Highland Way is a 151.5-kilometre route from Milngavie near Glasgow to Fort William.
The route takes 40 to 48 hours of walking and can take anywhere between five to nine days depending on your fitness and how many detours you will take on the route.
Is the West Highland way difficult?
The West Highland Way is considered a good long walking route for beginners. It is an easy trail which is not very technical and not a lot of map-reading skills are required for this walk.
You will have to be relatively fit to do the trail, i.e can walk for hours. There is an ascent to Conic Hill (361 metres) and the highest point on the route is 550 metres.
Can a beginner do the West Highland Way?
The West Highland Way is considered an easy long-distance walking route and is suitable for beginners. The route is not too technical, with almost clear paths all the way and regular signage to keep you on track.
Minimal map reading skills and a good sense of direction are all you need to complete this trail. In saying that, walkers should be at a good level of fitness where they can walk a long distance with a large backpack.
What is the best month to walk West Highland Way?
April is a good month to walk West Highland Way. During the summer months, the route is extremely popular and accommodation options may be limited.
During spring and autumn months, the route is extra beautiful and is not as busy as in summer.
It is hard to predict the weather in Scotland, always expect rain and make sure you always have extra layers packed even during summer.
The West Highland Way has been Scotland’s favourite long-distance walking route for over 40 years now. The route showcases the best scenery in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, a moorland near Glencoe and Glen Nevis.
This guide gives you an itinerary and tips for completing the route. The best thing about this route is that is it well established, you feel very isolated and remote but there are services and supplies nearby.