What is the West Highland Way?

The West Highland Way (WHW) was opened in 1980 and became the first of four National Trails to be designated in Scotland. (The other three are the Great Glen Way, Speyside Way and Southern Upland Way.) EDIT: These trails are now called Scotland’s Great Trails of which there are 29. The 153km (95 miles) trail begins in Milngavie near Glasgow, finishes at Fort William and is waymarked with a thistle logo.

I made a short 4.5 minute video of my hike:

Scotland's Great Trails official thimble way mark

Scotland’s Great Trails official thimble way mark

West Highland Way - whole track - profile

West Highland Way – whole track

Guidebook – I used the Cicerone ‘Walking the West Highland Way‘ guidebook written by Terry Marsh which also conveniently includes an OS map booklet.

Handy websites about the WHW include:

Lunch break on the West Highland Way

Lunch break on the West Highland Way

I had some free time in June and was desperate to get out of the city and go for a walk where I could camp each night and wake up with the birds so this looked like a good option. I took the train from London to Glasgow (4.5 hours) then changed to a local train for the 25min journey to the beginning of the trail at Milngavie. (It’s also possible to walk from Glasgow.) Once I reached Fort William I decided to continue onto the Great Glen Way, then Speyside Way… blog posts to follow.

I didn’t blog while walking as I really was trying to get away and relax so what follows are a collection of photos with some notes from each day.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, so it would be selfish of me to not share what I learnt during the 7 days I walked this terrific trail:

  • As much as I love waking up to the birds, 3:15am is not a respectable time for any bird to be sitting on top of my tent whistling it’s cheery tune, yet 3am is obviously the new 6am in Scotland in June. Take earplugs if you’re a light sleeper and camping. And this would mostly be because of the next point:

  • The sun doesn’t set in Scotland in summer, or so I found out, so bring an eye mask if the light bothers you while camping.

  • Midges, oh midges, I’ve never seen thou gathering in thy millions before this time… up my nose, in my ears, in my eyes and this is while wearing a head net! I made the mistake of starting out without having any insect repellent on me, thinking I would buy it on the trail, but I actually really needed it the first night when setting up my tent at Easter Drumquhassle Farm. I detoured into Drymen the next morning and bought some ‘Smidge‘ spray from the Spar shop; others I met swore by ‘Avon skin so soft‘ (which smells the best) or ‘Jungle Formula.’ The worst area was around Glen Coe and Kinlochlevin where they were literally swarming and you just couldn’t stop walking. I can only talk about June so maybe other months and other years are better, but I would recommend bringing a head net and repellent from the very start.

  • I thought I would be wild camping, but in reality I ended up at an official campsite most evenings as this was just easier and I didn’t really see as many places to wild camp as I expected.

  • There’s at least one pub a day if you’re walking ~25km days so I was always able to have one cooked meal a day (I didn’t take a stove).

  • I didn’t expect the trail to be as busy as it was; most campgrounds were full and there were nearly always people in front and behind me on the trail. The Great Glen Way and Speyside Way which I walked after this were very very quiet in comparison, I only saw a couple of people on the Great Glen Way and none on the Speyside Way. Just a caution if you’re expecting the trail all to yourself during a sunny summer spell!

  • The trail was a terrific mix of terrain and scenery from lochs to woodland and wide-open landscapes. I got very lucky with a beautiful sunny day on the second day climbing Conic Hill but I also got thunderstorms and lightning walking through the most exposed section, Rannoch Moor.  Remember to pack for all seasons in Scotland, even in summer!

I had a wonderful time and made some wonderful friends, thanks Scotland!

Happy Trails!

Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond

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