The West Highland Way
Route Summary: Scotland’s first long distance route opened in 1980, and still remains its most popular Great Trail used by an estimated 120,000 people annually, with around 40,000 who walk the entire path. The route officially ends in Fort William, but many choose to cap the achievement by climbing Ben Nevis as well.
Scotland’s first long distance route opened in 1980, and still remains its most popular Great Trail used by an estimated 120,000 people annually, with around 40,000 who walk the entire path.
The route officially ends in Fort William, but many choose to cap the achievement by climbing Ben Nevis as well.
|149.75 km||3397 m|
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
Start and Finish: Milngavie to Fort William
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The West Highland Way Route Map and GPX Download
West Highland Way Guidebooks:
Summits and Places on this Route
- Conic Hill (361 metres)
The West Highland Way Details
The West Highland Way in Scotland, is one of the best known Long Distance Footpaths in the country. At 154 kilometres in length, it usually takes around 6-8 days to complete – plus a traditional ascent of Ben Nevis to cap it off. The West Highland Way was the first official LDP in Scotland, being designated as a Long Distance Route back in 1980, which are now known as Scotland’s Great Trails.
The West Highland Way is also by far the most popular of Scotland’s Great Trails as in any given year an estimated 80,000 people use the path regularly and out of those, more than fifteen thousand complete the whole trail. That the route is so appealing is no surprise considering that it passes through spectacular scenery in the Scottish Highlands as well as having excellent facilities along the way to ensure that the through walker is accommodated and well fed. The businesses on the WHW are geared up to support the walkers, and what were once simple fields with a toilet are now high quality campsites with bars and glamping – but still reasonably priced for the no frills camper. In fact, one of the criticisms of the WHW is that it is so popular and isn’t a route you’d take if you were looking for wilderness and solitude. You’ll probably end up seeing the same faces each day, and the walk becomes something much more sociable.
Many walkers choose to join a paid walking group, which takes away the problem of planning the route and even of finding your way if you’ve got a guided trip. However, as the WHW is so prepared for walkers, it shouldn’t be difficult to organise your own trip with so many accommodation options open to you. Route finding is also straightforward, which makes this a good first LDP.
The WHW starts off near the railway station at Milngaive, just north of Glasgow, and takes the walker through the varying terrain of the Scottish Highlands before finishing at Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis. Much of the West Highland Way follows tracks that were originally designated as military routes, withe King’s House at Glencoe so called as it was built by the army (hence the King’s House). These have now been superceded by the modern roads that often run in parallel with the WHW, but in places such as the Devil’s Staircase the old military roads take a totally different route to the modern one.
West Highland Way Distance (Mileage) Chart – Kilometres
An essential tool for anyone walking an LDP is a distance chart so you can work out your own itinerary.
Where to Stay on the West Highland Way
A note about wild camping on the West Highland Way. Due to the inconsiderate wild camping by what are drunken louts rather than outdoors people, The Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park have brought in a ban on wild camping on Loch Lomond and other selected areas between March and September (inclusive). That means that to camp in the affected places, you’ll need to apply for a permit beforehand and pay £3 for the privilege. More information can be found on the official Loch Lomond and the Trossachs Wild Camping page. It’s unfortunate that as much effort wasn’t put into preventing those causing damage in the first place as setting this up. On the plus side – it only affects the section of the West Highland Way along Loch Lomond between Drymen to a few kilometres north of Rowardennan as well as a section north of Inverarnan which are so close to roads that it barely counts as wild camping Mud and Routes style! The map for 2018 is here.
There’s plenty of choice of accommodation on the way – after-all it’s an exceptionally popular walking route completed by thousands every year. There are Youth Hostels at Crainlarich, Rowardennan and Glen Nevis as well as a selection of independent bunk houses and hostels on the way. Please note that the King’s House Hotel at Glencoe is currently closed! It’s due to reopen after refurbishment in early 2019 – but visit their website for more information – King’s House Hotel. Businesses wishing to be included should add themselves to our free business directory.
The West Highland Way Route Summary
The WHW can be walked in 8 days by following the schedule below- but this includes one easy day in the middle! You may well want to extend the easier first day, and walk the first three sections over two reasonably tough days. For a full selection of itineraries from 35 hours to 10 days, follow this link – Itineraries for the West Highland Way.
West Highland Way Section 1 – Milngavie – Drymen
Height Gained – 300 metres , Distance – 19 km, Time –6 hours
You’ll be wondering what the fuss is about as the WHW sets off along the lowlands between Milngavie and Drymen. Following former railways, footpaths and good tracks makes this one of the easiest sections and might lull the inexperienced into a false sense of security.
West Highland Way Section 2 – Drymen to Rowardennan via Balmaha
Height Gained – 620 metres , Distance – 23 km, Time – 7 hours
The WHW, after some further rural ramblings finally gets you up higher. It may only be along the flanks of the lowly Conic Hill, but the views over Loch Lomond are stupendous. The West Highlands are finally properly in view, and you’ll also complete the first stretch of the seemingly endless stretch along Loch Lomond. Note that there’s a wild camping ban on this section – see above. If you’ve got the time, then it’s worth climbing Ben Lomond from Rowardennan.
West Highland Way Section 3 Rowardennan – Inverarnan (via Inversnaid)
Height Gained – 550 metres , Distance – 22 km, Time – 7 hours
It’s a seemingly endless stretch along Loch Lomond ahead. This section leaves the Loch behind and into the hills proper to finish at Inverarnan. There’s a campsite here at Beinlas and a pub – The Drover’s Inn – a short walk away on the other side of the Falloch.
West Highland Way Section 4 – Inverarnan – Tyndrum via Crianlarich
Height Gained – 540 metres , Distance – 19 km, Time –6 hours
With Loch Lomond left behind, you’re now truly in the Scottish Highlands with this section along the River Falloch to Crianlarich (though the WHW doesn’t actually pass through) and on to Tyndrum through woodland and Strath Fillan. Youth Hostelers will need to end the day in Crianlarich, while campers can stop off at the Strathfillan Wigwam® Village at Auchtertyre Farm a few kilometres short of Tyndrum.
West Highland Way Section 5 – Tyndrum – Bridge of Orchy
Height Gained – 170 metres , Distance – 10.6 km, Time –3.5 hours
This is a short section, and can be tagged onto the previous or following sections. From Tyndrum, the WHW follows the Old Military Road over the pass and down along the Allt Kinglass to the Bridge of Orchy. The Munro of Beinn Dorain absolutely dominates this section as you walk towards it and along it’s base.
West Highland Way Section 6- Bridge of Orchy – King’s House
Height Gained – 490 metres , Distance – 19.5 km, Time – 7 hours
Rannoch Moor is one of the highlights of the West Highland Way, surprisingly for what you’d expect is just a bit of bog. There are wide expanses of sky and striking mountains to see – including the iconic Buchaille Etive Mor – probably the best photo opportunity on the entire trip. The section ends at the top of Glencoe at the King’s House – one of the inns built by the army when they built the military roads into Scotland. It is currently undergoing ‘a little investment’ or is a ‘barracks style, block design which is not in keeping with the area’ – depending if you want to listen to the landowner or the John Muir Trust. While it may not be in keeping with Rannoch Moor, it’s certainly in keeping with the other facilities you’l find on the West Highland Way. It reopens in January 2019. Wild camping is permitted near the river here.
West Highland Way Section 7- King’s House to Kinlochleven
Height Gained – 440 metres , Distance – 14 km, Time –5 hours
The mention of the Devil’s Staircase will fill many novice walkers with dread, but this climb that sets you off over to Kinlochleven should be savoured. It is barely a 300m climb, which after 116km under your belt (and incidentally only another 38km or so ahead of you) should be straightforward enough. Of course, by this point the ill prepared will be suffering with an overly heavy pack and blisters… It’s the views in all directions that make this section special, especially after all that valley walking.
West Highland Way Section 8- Kinlochleven to Fort William
Height Gained – 700 metres , Distance – 23 km, Time –6 hours
The final section heads off along the southern flanks of the Mamores, continuing on a good track before finally descending to Glen Nevis through the forest. You’ll have plenty of warning you’re near as Ben Nevis looms large ahead! A final few km into Fort William is along the road, but you probably won’t care by this point and just want to put your feet up.
Just remember that many walkers will supplement the WHW with a climb up Ben Nevis – just to cap the whole journey. We recommend capping it with a pint at the Ben Nevis Inn – they also have a bunkhouse that’s very popular with celebrating West Highland Wayers.
For more information, visit Walk the West Highland Way.