The West Highland Way

The West Highland Way (WHW) is a very popular walking route in Scotland. At over 150 km in length, and with moderate elevations, it crosses the most western (as its name suggests) and the most southern (dare we say) regions of the Highlands.

A superb hike, marked by the diversity of landscapes, the omnipresence of water (lochs, rivers, streams, waterfalls... and the rain), and the wild beauty of the landscape. Last but not least, you are likely to make a few friends along the way!

Technical sheet
No. 2456809
A East Dunbartonshire walk posted on 20/08/19 by Netra. Update : 15/01/20
Author's time Author's time : 7 days
Distance Distance : 96.92mi
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 9469ft
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 9610ft
Highest point Highest point : 1798ft
Lowest point Lowest point : 16ft
Difficult Difficulty : Difficult
Back to starting point Back to starting point : No
Walking Walking
Area Area : Loch Lomond and The Trossachs
Location Location : East Dunbartonshire
Starting point Starting point : N 55.941273° / W 4.314146°
Arrival Arrival : N 56.820717° / W 5.106355°

Step by step walk

CThis walk needs several days, please find the details below.

Milngavie to Drymen

The first stage of the WHW which presents no other difficulty than its distance takes us through the Scottish countryside and a taste of the first hills of the Highlands.

From Drymen to Rowardenann

This second stage of the WHW is superb! It consists of three distinct parts. First of all, we cross a pretty forested area. Then, after a pleasant crossing of meadows, we climb Conic Hill, from where the panorama over the Highlands and Loch Lomond is very extensive. After a steep descent to the port of Balmaha, you alternate between the lakeside passages and climbs and descents in the forest.

From Rowardennan to Inverarnan

The third stage of the WHW consists of going up Loch Lomond. We start by climbing steadily in a very beautiful forest, for superb views of the lake, while crossing waterfalls that descend from Ben Lomond. Once back at the edge of the lake, follow the shore for a long time, more or less closely, on paths that lead you on a rollercoaster ride winding between the rocks. A brief ascent between beautiful landscapes and a descent to Inverarnan rounding off this long stage.

From Inverarnan to Bridge of Orchy

The fourth stage of the WHW takes us first up the Falloch river, then across a beautiful forested area and finally sneaks around the foot of high hills. There is much talk of bridges in this stage, two of them having been damaged during a recent flood, which leads to a detour and a ford that is... refreshing.

This very long stage can be shortened by taking public transport for the last section, from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy.

Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse Hotel

This fifth stage of the WHW brings us to yet more superb landscapes! The ascent of the small hill of Màm Carraigh offers a very beautiful point of view on Loch Tulla. Then, for about ten kilometres, we follow a very comfortable old military road and we climb gently and very regularly towards a pass in the middle of the moor. Ahead during the descent you will see the classic pyramid silhouette of the Buachaille summit.

From Kingshouse Hotel to Kinlochleven

The sixth stage of the WHW takes us through the highest point of the entire hike, an unnamed pass at an altitude of 550m. After a pleasant walk at the foot of Beinn a’ Chrùlaiste, you reach the pass by climbing the Devil's Staircase, an easier climb than the name of this path suggests. We then descend on good paths or wide tracks on the former small industrial town of Kinochleven.

From Kinlochleven to Fort William

The seventh and last stage of the WHW makes us evolve in a beautiful setting, at the foot of the Mamore hills. We then cross lightly wooded areas, from which we benefit from a prominent view of Ben Nevis, the highest point in Great Britain. Arrival in the city of Fort William marks the end of this long hike.

Useful Information

Equipment:
Bring the usual equipment for long-distance hikes, while taking care not to overload your backpack. Items which to me seem essential for the WHW:
- Waterproof hiking shoes.
Rain protection: rain cape, backpack protection, etc.
- Clothing to protect against the cold and/or wind.
- Midge repellent, can be bought locally.
- An electrical outlet adapter for the United Kingdom (in particular to be able to recharge your phone battery).
NB There are companies on site that organise luggage transportation from point to point, which allows you to hike with a small bag during the day and keep the rest dry.

Signage:
- The route is very well marked on site, mainly at major intersections and changes of direction, by three complementary means: sign posts with thistle flower; posts with a yellow arrow for changes of direction; signposts.
- Having the route instructions on your phone via the Visorando application is an undeniable plus. Remember to save the basemaps (OSM Hiking) of all stages before departure. This will allow you to precisely follow progress on a map regardless of the quality of your network connection and even in the absence of a network.
- Physical maps on a British map background (pdf file of each stage) are a back-up.
- A compass does not weigh very much and can very useful.

Water:
It is best to fill your water containers from the tap at your accommodation. There are no real water refilling points along the way. Admittedly, there are countless streams and torrents on the course but the potability of this water is not guaranteed (bring water purification tablets if you plan to use these).
In some places, especially along the first two stages, locals will provide bottles of water or other drinks at the side of the route which should be paid for by putting the amount indicated in an Honesty Box (the system is based on trust).

Supplies:
Details of opportunities to resupply are mentioned in the sheets for each stage.
- Shops: Glasgow; Milngavie; Drymen; Inverarnan (sundry supplies); Tyndrum; Kinlochleven; Fort William.
- Cash machines: Glasgow; Milngavie; Kinlochleven; Fort William.
- Some hotels offer packed lunches to order the day before for the next day’s trek.

Accommodation:
Hotel type accommodation (with bar-restaurant) or Bed and Breakfast are recommended, being more or less numerous depending on the stage. These suggestions do not claim to be exhaustive: for more addresses, use your preferred search engine. Remember to book well in advance.

Camping:
Many hikers follow the WHW while camping (bring a really waterproof tent). On the route, the camping is highly regulated, with official campsites, places where camping is allowed (for example near a hotel) and several sites where it is strictly prohibited. Inquire beforehand and respect the indications found on site. And remember to take your refuse with you to the next village.

Recommendations:
- The WHW crosses sensitive areas, nature reserves and national parks. Do not leave any refuse on site! Take everything with you to the next village.
- The moors and pastures of the highlands are grazed by (Scottish Blackface) sheep and, to a lesser extent, (Highland Cattle and Aberdeen Angus breeds) of cattle. The route therefore crosses many fields and hikers must open and close countless barriers: these are generally equipped with an automatic closing system, but it is considered responsible to check it has closed properly after passing through.

Breakdown of stages:

7-day trek - This is what is offered here and represents an average of 22km and 400m of elevation gain per day. As this is already a long daily distance, and a non-negligible elevation, that the whole route is classified as Difficult, even though the course itself does not involve any technical difficulty.
NB The longest stage (30.4km), from Inverarnan to Bridge of Orchy, can be reduced to 20km if you complete your last section by public transport. See the indications in the "Practical information" section of the corresponding hiking guide.

The 8-day trek - represents an average of 19.5km and 360m of elevation gain per day. Depending on the accommodation available, the route can be broken down as follows: Milngavie - Drymen - Rowardennan - Inverarnan - Tyndrum - Inveroran - Kingshouse Hotel - Kinlochleven - Fort William.

6-day trek (an average of 26km and 480m of elevation gain per day) or a 5-day trek (average of 31km and 575m of elevation gain per day) - Requires excellent physical condition and proven endurance.

In any event, plan a route in line with your own capabilities.

Useful links:
- Official site of West Highland Way.
- Trains: ScotRail website ScotRail.
- Bus: Citylink website Citylink.

'’Hiked by the author in August 2019.''

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

During the walk or to do/see around

The whole route goes through superb landscapes: hills, tall landscapes, lakesides, rivers and waterfalls, moors and meadows, etc. Wilderness lovers will be delighted!

For more details, see the different stages of the hike.

Other walks in the area

distance 12.7mi Vertical gain +446ft Vertical drop -417ft Durée 6h15 Difficult Difficult
Starting point Starting point in East Dunbartonshire

The first stage of the WHW which presents no other difficulty than its distance takes us through the Scottish countryside and a taste of the first hills of the Highlands.

distance 3.48mi Vertical gain +374ft Vertical drop -374ft Durée 1h55 Easy Easy
Starting point Starting point in Stirling

An early introduction to two classic Long Distance Routes, starting from the picturesque village of Drymen. The West Highland Way is a long distance route that runs from Milngavie, near Glasgow, all the way to Fort William, and it passes close to Drymen. The Rob Roy Way starts in Drymen and ends in Pitlochry.

distance 15.19mi Vertical gain +1729ft Vertical drop -1804ft Durée 8h30 Difficult Difficult
Starting point Starting point in Stirling

This second stage of the WHW is superb! It consists of three distinct parts. First of all, we cross a pretty forested area. Then, after a pleasant crossing of meadows, we climb Conic Hill, from where the panorama over the Highlands and Loch Lomond is very extensive. After a steep descent to the port of Balmaha, you alternate between the lakeside passages and climbs and descents in the forest.

distance 14.04mi Vertical gain +1270ft Vertical drop -1273ft Durée 7h35 Difficult Difficult
Starting point Starting point in Stirling

The third stage of the WHW consists of going up Loch Lomond. We start by climbing steadily in a very beautiful forest, for superb views of the lake, while crossing waterfalls that descend from Ben Lomond. Once back at the edge of the lake, follow the shore for a long time, more or less closely, on paths that lead you on a rollercoaster ride winding between the rocks. A brief ascent between beautiful landscapes and a descent to Inverarnan rounding off this long stage.

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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.