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. 4098294
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 : 155.91km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 2870m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 2881m
Highest point Highest point : 548m
Lowest point Lowest point : 5m
Difficult Difficulty : Difficult
Back to starting point Back to starting point : No
Walking Walking
Location Location : East Dunbartonshire
Starting point Starting point : N 55.941273° / W 4.314146°
Ending point Ending point : N 56.820717° / W 5.106355°
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Rivière Orchy Vue sur les sommets Le sentier dans les herbages Loch Tulla

Step by step walk

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

From Milngavie to Drymen, West Highland Way

From Milngavie to Drymen, West Highland Way

The 1rst stage of the West Highland Way (WHW), which has no difficulty other than its distance, takes us through the Scottish countryside and the first hills of the Highlands.

From Drymen to Rowardenann, West Highland Way

This 2nd stage of the West Highland Way (WHW) is incredible! It includes three distinct parts. First, you walk through beautiful woodland. Then, after crossing the fields, walk up Conic Hill, from where you get large views of the Highlands et le Loch Lomond. After going steeply down toward Balmaha port, alternate walking along the lakeside then up and down through woodlands.

From Rowardenann to Inverarnan, West Highland Way

This 3rd section of the West Highland Way (WHW) goal is to walk up to Loch Lomond. You start by increasingly going up a beautiful forest, where you can spot incredible views of the loch. On the way, go past waterfalls coming from Ben Lomond. As soon as you get back along the lochside, follow it for quite a while, along paths going up and down and in between rocks. A brief climb between two beautiful hills and one way downhill towards Inverarnan to finish this stage.

From Inverarnan to Bridge of Orchy, West Highland Way

This 4th section of the West Highland Way (WHW) goes first along Falloch Riverside, then goes through a beautiful forest before going to the bottom of high hills. On this walk, you will encounter many bridges, including two of them that have been damaged during recent floods. Detours have been set and a fording site... quite refreshing.

This long section can be shortened by using public transport on the last part, from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy.

From Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse Hotel, West Highland Way

From Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse Hotel, West Highland Way

This 5th stage of the West Highland Way (WHW) takes us through some beautiful scenery! First, the ascent of the small hill of Màm Carraigh offers a beautiful view of Loch Tulla. Then, for about ten kilometres, we follow a very comfortable old military road while climbing gently and steadily towards a pass in the middle of the moor. The descent is made facing Buachaille summit with its unique pyramidal shape.

From Kingshouse Hotel to Kinlochleven, West Highland Way

This 6th section of the West Highland Way (WHW) reaches the highest point of this trek, an unnamed pass located at 550m in height. Following a nice walk at Beinn a' Chrùlaiste bottom, we access a pass going up the Devil's staircase, easier than its name sounds like. Then we go down the small old and industrial town of Kinlochleven following well-maintained paths or large tracks.

From Kinlochleven to Fort William, West Highland Way

The 7th stage of the West Highland Way (WHW) brings us to beautiful surroundings at the bottom of the Mamore massif. Afterward, you cross clear forests where you can spot some views of the highest mountain in Great Britain, 'Ben Nevis'. Then you arrive in Fort William city where the official end of WHW walk is located.

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

Walker
From Milngavie to Drymen, West Highland Way
distance 20.44km Vertical gain +136m Vertical drop -127m Durée 6h15 Difficult Difficult
Starting point Starting point in East Dunbartonshire

The 1rst stage of the West Highland Way (WHW), which has no difficulty other than its distance, takes us through the Scottish countryside and the first hills of the Highlands.

Organisation / Walking Club / Mountain guide
Kelvin Walkway: Milngavie to Partick
distance 17.02km Vertical gain +3m Vertical drop -47m Durée 4h50 Moderate Moderate
Starting point Starting point in East Dunbartonshire

This 10 mile route along the River Kelvin feels surprisingly rural when walked from North to South, with the hustle and bustle of the city becoming more apparent the further along you go. Rather poorly way-marked for the first half, signage is then very easy to follow for the remainder of the route down to the Riverside Museum, where the Kelvin meets the Clyde.

Organisation / Walking Club / Mountain guide
distance 30.75km Vertical gain +488m Vertical drop -517m Durée 10h10 Moderate Moderate
Starting point Starting point in East Dunbartonshire

The West Highland Way is the most established of Scotland’s long distance walking routes. This is the first of a five stage route, staying at prebooked accomodation along the way.

Organisation / Walking Club / Mountain guide
distance 149.63km Vertical gain +2960m Vertical drop -2983m Durée 5 days Difficult Difficult
Starting point Starting point in East Dunbartonshire

The West Highland Way is the most established of Scotland’s long distance walking routes. Officially opened on 6th October 1980, it celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2020. The WHW stretches 96 miles (154 Km) from Milngavie to Fort William, taking in a huge variety of scenery along the way, from countryside parks to loch-shores and open moorlands to steep mountains. This is a five stage route, staying at prebooked accomodation along the way.

Organisation / Walking Club / Mountain guide
The Whangie, Kilpatrick Hills
distance 4.41km Vertical gain +155m Vertical drop -155m Durée 1h40 Moderate Moderate
Starting point Starting point in Stirling

This massive and unique rocky outcrop seems to appear out of nowhere on an otherwise grassy hillside. Situated at an elevation of 300m (984 ft), the 10m high rocks have a narrow passageway through the middle, formed during the Ice Age.

Organisation / Walking Club / Mountain guide
Dumgoyne, Campsies
distance 4.2km Vertical gain +360m Vertical drop -360m Durée 2h15 Moderate Moderate
Starting point Starting point in Stirling

The prominent peak of Dumgoyne dominates the skyline from the villages below. It may be a small hill at 427m (1401ft), but it certainly packs a punch and makes for a very rewarding climb!

Organisation / Walking Club / Mountain guide
Earl’s Seat, Campsies
distance 10.79km Vertical gain +577m Vertical drop -569m Durée 4h45 Moderate Moderate
Starting point Starting point in Stirling

At a height of 578 m (1896 ft), Earl’s Seat is the highest of the Campsie Fells. Relatively unspectacular-looking, it fades into the background behind it’s impressive neighbour Dumgoyne Hill. That said, the summit is a great vantage point with panoramic views across to Loch Lomond and the Scottish Highlands on one side, and the city of Glasgow and beyond on the other.

For more walks, use our search engine.

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

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