Head to the Highlands: Hiking the West Highland Way

Fancy a long distance hike that takes in amazing scenery, great food, and unique wildlife? Look no further than the far north of Scotland.

Opened in 1980, the West Highland Way was Scotland’s first long distance walking route and remains the most popular to this day, with more than 15,000 hikers tackling it each year.

Stretching 96 miles from Milngavie to Fort William, the West Highland Way passes through a variety of stunning landscapes, from lochs and open moorlands to steep, snow-capped mountains. And don’t forget the occasional wee dram of whisky, hearty plates of lamb or fresh seafood after a long day’s hike, and the photogenic hairy Highland cows to keep you company.

Stretching 96 miles from Milngavie to Fort William, the West Highland Way passes through a variety of stunning landscapes.

On average, it takes six to seven days to walk the route making it ideal for a week-long vacation. Most people hike south to north, as the southern stages are flatter and a bit easier making a great warm up for the hillier and more demanding stages further north.

How to get there

The closest big city to the start of the West Highland Way is Glasgow. There are nonstop flights to Glasgow from a variety of US cities or it’s easy enough to get to from London. From there, the trailhead at Milngavie sits less than 10 miles away and is served by regular train services from Glasgow. Once you have finished at Fort William, simply hop on a train again to return to Glasgow and celebrate a successful journey.

Where to stay

Many people choose to camp along the route as under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, wild camping is permitted almost anywhere. Other people may choose the B&B option, with comfortable accommodation always available within a day’s walk — be sure to book in advance as they fill up quickly during the popular summer months.

Many people choose to camp along the route as under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, wild camping is permitted almost anywhere.

Or if you would rather have someone do all the heavy lifting for you and just enjoy the hike with a nice daypack, there are tons of self-guided booking services available. These outfits book your accommodation for each day, deliver your baggage from one hotel to the next, give you a guidebook, maps, and plenty of information on what to see and do, as well as emergency contact details should anything go wrong.

READ: INTERVIEW WITH PROFESSIONAL ADVENTURER, ALDO KANE

When to go

While you can hike the West Highland Way year round, you can expect winter conditions in the higher altitudes from November to March. Most people choose to hike from late spring to early fall, with May being a great month to watch tiny lambs frolic in the fields and see the trees and flowers in bloom. Beware the midges as mosquitoes are called in Scotland. These tiny insects with a mighty reputation can be a big problem from June until August. But don’t let that deter you — simply bring some repellent and wear appropriate clothing.

For more information on all things West Highland Way, check here.

Still not convinced? Check out our latest trek through Scotland, The Highland Way:

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