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West Highland Way: Scotland’s Most Popular Hiking Trail

The West Highland Way is a 93-mile (150 km) long hiking trail that takes you through the country's historical heritage and into the heart of the Scottish Highlands.

When embarking on the journey, you should be prepared that the path goes through abandoned ancient roads, tracks, and military trails.

Walking West Highland Way (photo: Krisjanis Mezulis)
West Highland Way (photo: Krisjanis Mezulis)

The West Highland Way walking trail starts in Milngavie town. It can be reached in 25 minutes by train from Glasgow.

Part of the route passes through Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, where you can camp, go boating or fishing, water skiing, or rent a canoe.

The final point of the route will be at the foot of the country's highest point, Mount Ben Nevis.

From the first steps, tourists can enjoy picturesque views of unspoiled nature. A vacation in the mountains of Scotland brings truly inexpressible feelings.

During the trip, you can see Craigellian Loch and Loch Lomond and climb Cone Hill (1,184 feet or 361 meters in height).

Also, tourists will meet steep cliffs, forests, mountain streams, and waterfalls on the way. Many of Scotland's major attractions can be seen.

7 Stages of West Highland Way

Ben Lomond mountain (photo: Benjamin Roscher)
Ben Lomond mountain (photo: Benjamin Roscher)

Usually, the route is divided into seven stages, starting from Milngavie. This route is relatively flat, allowing you to enter the mountains easily.

Besides, there is a distillery, Glengoyne, in the first section, where you can pour whisky from a barrel on the road.

You can also start at Drymen and use the day to climb Ben Lomond (3,195 feet or 974 meters). It's well worth it.

So, a West Highland Way tour consists of seven stages:

1. Milngavie to Drymen (about 11.8 miles, 19 km)

This stage starts in the town of Milngavie, on Glasgow's northern fringes. The route passes through parks and beautiful scenery, including Loch Lubnaig.

The first stage is pretty easy and provides an opportunity to get used to long walks.

2. Drymen to Rowardennan (about 14.3 miles, 23 km)

The famous Lomond Lake starts from this stage. The path leads through the forests of Gargunnock and offers magnificent lake views.

At the end point of the stage is the village of Rowardennan, where you can refreshments and enjoy the views of Lomond.

3. Rowardennan to Inverarnan (about 13.7 miles, 22 km)

This stage of the West Highland Way starts on the south shore of Lake Lomond and passes through mountains and forests.

Particularly impressive is the crossing of the Drymen Moor, which offers spectacular panoramic views.

4. Inverarnan to Tyndrum (about 13 miles, 21 km)

The route goes through valleys, rivers, and hilly terrain. Perhaps one of the most memorable moments of this stage is crossing the Wirtle-Laoich Bridge, which offers spectacular views.

Lake in Kinlochleven (photo: Oliver Klamt)
Lake in Kinlochleven (photo: Oliver Klamt)

5. Tyndrum to Kingshouse (about 19 miles, 31 km)

This stage takes you through the Scottish Western Highlands, which means you'll take in some unique mountain scenery.

This is one of the longer stages of the route, but the panoramic views will surely reward you.

6. Kingshouse to Kinlochleven (about 8.7 miles, 14 km)

Here you will cross the famous “Devil's Step,” a high mountain pass that requires some effort to overcome.

This stage also includes a crossing to the village of Kinlochleven, which makes it easier.

7. Kinlochleven to Fort William (about 14.9 miles, 24 km)

The last leg of the route passes through the Lochy Linnhee Valley and ends in the town of Fort William, located at the foot of Mount Ben Nevis. This is the final stage of your journey.

Each stage of the West Highland Way offers a unique atmosphere and natural beauty, making it one of the most popular long-distance routes in the world.

Features of the West Highland Way

A backpacker walking the  West Highland Way in Scotland (photo: Krisjanis Mezulis)
Walking to Fort Williams (photo: Krisjanis Mezulis)

The route is not technically challenging. Most of the way is on a good road, and only the section along Loch Lomond is quite technical. There is even a ladder.

Otherwise, you can also go mountain biking, as many people do. The main difficulty is the distance. If you want to pass in 5-7 days, you must walk 12-19 miles (20-30 km) daily on stony roads.

The route passes through settlements and campsites at almost every section. You can stop at a store or eat in a restaurant, so you do not need to carry a stock of food.

Overnight stays can be in hotels (when available along the route) B&Bs, campgrounds, or wilderness sites.

If you like wild nature, you can stay in a tent, where it's allowed. There are plenty of campgrounds just where you need them.

These places are the wettest in Britain. It rains there 280 days a year. More than 2.5 meters of rain falls, four times more than in Edinburgh.

From the unpleasant moments, we can mention the presence of midges (in the evening), gadflies, and ticks.

There are many of them, especially along the lake, where the path is narrow and overgrown vegetation.

Therefore, it is obligatory to have a mosquito net on your head and a means of protection against ticks and devices for their removal.


Snowcapped mountains in Scotland (photo: Krisjanis Mezulis)
Snowcapped mountains (photo: Krisjanis Mezulis)

In the heart of Scotland's majestic landscapes, the West Highland Way is a testament to the enduring allure of nature's beauty and the human spirit's yearning for adventure.

As you traverse the 93-mile (150-kilometer) trail, you'll find yourself journeying through miles of untamed terrain, the annals of history, and the Scottish Highlands' rich heritage.

The trail's origins are evident from the outset, leading us along abandoned ancient roads, tracks, and military pathways.

Beginning in the quaint Milngavie town, a mere train ride from Glasgow, the West Highland Way beckons with promises of rugged grandeur and breathtaking vistas.

The journey through the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park is a symphony of outdoor activities – camping by tranquil waters, casting lines for fishing, gliding on boats, or even the simple joy of canoeing.

While the West Highland Way demands physical prowess, it generously offers the comfort of well-placed settlements and campgrounds.

The rhythm of civilization pulses beneath the wild exterior, offering sustenance, respite, and a connection to modern comforts.

Yet, amidst the damp embrace of the Scottish climate, we also encounter nature's trials – the steadfast rain, the twilight hum of midges, and the persistent presence of gadflies and ticks.

Yet, these challenges only heighten our connection to the land, reminding us that every experience is a part of the journey.


This story is brought to you in partnership with Bookatrekking BV.

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