West Highland Way: Wikis


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West Highland Way
WHW Rannoch-Moor.jpg
Rannoch Moor on the West Highland Way, between Bridge of Orchy and Kingshouse.
Length 152 km (94 mi)
Location Scotland
Designation Scottish LDR
Trailheads Milngavie
55°56′28″N 4°19′05″W / 55.9411°N 4.3180°W / 55.9411; -4.3180 (West Highland Way, Milngavie trailhead)
Fort William
56°49′17″N 5°05′39″W / 56.8215°N 5.0941°W / 56.8215; -5.0941 (West Highland Way, Fort William trailhead)
Use Hiking
Trail Difficulty Moderate
Season All year
Hazards Weather

The West Highland Way is a linear long distance footpath in Scotland, with the official status of Long Distance Route. It is 153 kilometres (95 miles) long, running from Milngavie north of Glasgow to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands, with an element of hill walking in the route. It is managed jointly by West Dunbartonshire Council, Stirling Council, Argyll & Bute Council and Highland Council and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority. About 85,000 people use the path every year.



The trail was the first officially designated long distance footpath in Scotland. The trail was approved for development in 1974 and was completed and opened on October 6, 1980 by Lord Mansfield.[1]

The route

WHW route marker

The path uses many ancient roads, including Drovers' roads, military roads and old coaching roads and is traditionally walked from south to north. As well as increasing the sense of adventure, taking the route in this direction keeps the sun from one's eyes.

The route is traditionally walked in seven to eight days, although fitter and more experienced walkers do it in five or six. The route can be covered in considerably less time than this, but less hurried progress is the choice of the majority of walkers, allowing for appreciation of the countryside along the Way. Indeed, enjoyment of the natural surroundings of the walk are the primary motivating factor for many people following the route.

The path officially starts in Milngavie town centre, where a granite obelisk is located. Most walkers arrive at the railway station located close by. Milngavie is a town located on the northern fringe of the conurbation of Glasgow, and the path rapidly emerges into open countryside. It proceeds by way of country roads, an abandoned railway, the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and scenic Conic Hill on the Highland Boundary Fault, to reach Balmaha on Loch Lomond. From here, the route follows the isolated, wooded, eastern shores of the loch via Rowardennan and Inversnaid to Inverarnan. Rowardennan is the furthest north road access is available on the east shore of the loch from the south. Road access to Inversnaid is from the east, via Aberfoyle.

The Devil's Staircase

The Way follows Glen Falloch northward to Crianlarich then north west along Strathfillan to Tyndrum. North of Tyndrum the Way enters Glen Orchy before crossing the desolate yet beautiful Rannoch Moor and descending into Glen Coe. From here, the route climbs the Devil's Staircase before a great descent into Kinlochleven at sea level. The final stage skirts the Mamore Mountains on an old military road and descends into Glen Nevis. From there, it proceeds into Fort William.

The last stage passes the foot of Ben Nevis, and many walkers crown their achievement by climbing the highest mountain in Britain.

Due to the large number of walkers being constrained to a single track, some parts of the Way have become badly eroded. However a considerable amount of work is undertaken to maintain the route so where sections of the way appear to have been eroded into tracks wide enough to drive a vehicle along, these are where the route is following sections of old military road, as with all well documented long distance paths.

Walkers seeking solitude should consider starting their journey away from the weekends.

When deciding the time of year to attempt the Way, it is good to know that midges (biting flies) and mosquitos begin swarming in May and last well into August, some years even September. Also, Scottish weather can be particularly rugged and must be respected with proper forecasting and gear.


Stage 1: Milngavie to Drymen

The path officially starts in Milngavie town centre, where a granite obelisk is located. Most walkers arrive at the railway station located close by. Milngavie is a town located on the northern fringe of the conurbation of Glasgow. The path passes Mugdock Castle and Mugdock Country Park before emerging into open countryside and finally reaching the village of Drymen.

This stage is approximately 19 kilometres (12 mi) in length.[2]

Stage 2: Drymen to Balmaha

After leaving Drymen the path enters Garadhban Forest before reaching the first major summit of the route, Conic Hill (a site of special scientific interest[3]) at 358 metres (1,170 ft). The village of Balmaha on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond is the next settlement reached.

This stage is approximately 13 kilometres (8 mi) in length.

Stage 3: Balmaha to Rowardennan

The path heads in a northerly direction alongside the eastern shore of Loch Lomond passing through Rowardennan Forest before reaching the village Rowardennan.

This stage is approximately 11 kilometres (7 mi) in length.

Stage 4: Rowardennan to Crianlarich

The path leaves Rowardennan and heads in a northerly direction alongside the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, passing a cavern known as Rob Roy's cave , before reaching the village of Crianlarich.

This stage is approximately 32 kilometres (20 mi) in length.

Stage 5: Crianlarich to Tyndrum

This stage is approximately 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) in length.

Stage 6: Tyndrum to Glencoe

This stage is approximately 30 kilometres (19 mi) in length.

Stage 7: Glencoe to Kinlochleven

Glencoe (Gleann Comhann in Gaelic ) is a glen in the Highlands of Scotland. It is often considered one of the most spectacular and beautiful places in Scotland, and is a part of the designated National Scenic Area of Ben Nevis and Glencoe. The narrow glen shows a dramatically grim grandeur, shut in on both sides by wild and precipitous mountains. Towards Invercoe the landscape acquires a softer beauty.

This stage is approximately 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) in length.

Stage 8: Kinlochleven to Fort William

This stage is approximately 22 kilometres (14 mi) in length.

West Highland Way Race

Jez Bragg setting a new West Highland Way Race record of 15:44:50 on 24 June 2006

An annual race along the full south–north distance of the West Highland Way has been run in its current form since 1991. The race starts at 1 am on the Saturday nearest to the Summer Solstice.[4]

Bobby Shields (Clydesdale Harriers) and Duncan Watson (Lochaber) initiated the idea of racing over Scotland's most popular long distance footpath.

On the 22nd June 1985 the two set out from Milngavie. Their route differed in many ways from the route of today: it was shorter, at 85 miles (not 95), and had 10–12 miles more on tarmac, with around 2000 ft less of climbing. After around 60 miles, as they started over Rannoch Moor, they decided to cease competing against each other and ran together. They set a time of 17 hours 48 minutes 30 seconds.

In 1986 Shields and Watson opened up an invitation to some fellow runners to race in the opposite direction, Fort William - Milngavie. 1987 saw a return to the established direction of running, South - North. 7 from 11 starters arrived in Fort William. Jim Stewart took over the organisation of the event in 1991, as the footpath was now complete, the course was changed, increasing the distance to 153 km with only 15 km on road and more climbing was introduced. With this increased difficulty runners were likely to be out longer and now a bigger percentage may be out a second night.

Dario Melaragni, who had completed the race himself three times, took over as race director in 1999.[5] He developed the format of the race by involving local mountain rescue teams who provided emergency response during the event. He also inaugurated and developed the website, which has become a prime source of information for runners wishing to attempt the race. The race has gained status in recent years and entries fill within a few weeks of opening. In July 2009, whilst out running with friends, Melaragni suffered a suspected heart attack and died near the summit of Lochnagar in the Cairngorms.[6] His funeral was attended by many people wearing West Highland Way Race clothing.

122 runners finished in 2009. 514 have now completed the challenge. Jim Drummond has 14 finishes. The race record holder is Jez Bragg from Solihull with a time of 15:44:50, set on 24 June 2006. The female record holder is Lucy Colquhoun of North Berwick with a time of 17:16:20, set in 2007.

Towns, villages or hotels along the Way

Listed south to north, with approximate distances from Milngavie, the West Highland Way passes the following towns, villages or hotels:


  1. ^ The West Highland Way, Terry Marsh 2003 ISBN 1 85284 369 1 Cicerone
  2. ^ The West Highland Way, Terry Marsh
  3. ^ "SNH SiteLink". http://gateway.snh.gov.uk/portal/page?_pageid=53,910305,53_910314&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL&PA_CODE=397&NEW_WINDOW=false. Retrieved 2009-04-03.  
  4. ^ Race web site
  5. ^ Dario Melaragni -Herald Scotland 31 July 2009
  6. ^ Race Daddy' drops dead on hills -Herald Scotland 15 July 2009

External links

Approach to Glen Coe

Coordinates: 56°23′16″N 4°38′04″W / 56.3877°N 4.6344°W / 56.3877; -4.6344

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

This article is an itinerary.

The West Highland Way (or W.H.W.) [1] is a 95 mile (152km) long distance walk from Milngavie outside Glasgow, to Fort William in the Highlands of Scotland. It is one of four officially-recognised "Long Distance Routes" in Scotland.

Get in / Get out

Although it is of course possible to walk from Fort William to Milngavie, the general advice is to use the more gentle terrain in the south as a warm-up to the remote and dramatic mountain areas further north, plus you will have the sun behind you. Milngavie is best reached from Glasgow city centre. Regular bus and local train services depart throughout the day from Buchanan Street Bus Station and Queen Street Railway Station respectively. The Kelvin Walkway is the best route if you wish to cycle or walk from the city.

Fort William has a three times daily train service and three times daily bus service both to Glasgow. Prices are around GBP15 one way.

Buachaille Etive Mor - fortunately you view it from the bottom when walking the Way
Buachaille Etive Mor - fortunately you view it from the bottom when walking the Way

Generally, people take anything between 6 and 9 days to complete the W.H.W., with the position of overnight accommodation determining daily mileages.

The opening stretch of the walk from Milngavie to Drymen is a loosener through soft and pleasant agricultural countryside. The first section from Drymen to Balmaha takes you through the managed pines of Garadhban Forest, where you catch your first glimpse of Loch Lomond. From the forest you emerge into the Highlands, an unfarmable landscape carved by glaciers. Feast on the view from the top of Conic Hill.

The stretch from Balmaha to Inverarnan takes in the entire length of Loch Lomond's remote and wooded eastern shore. In May and early June the steep bank is wall-to-wall bluebells. When the sun is out, small sandy beaches invite you to swim.

Inverarnan to the Inveroran Hotel is possibly the easiest stretch of the walk. The path is wide and gently undulating. Peaks rise above you giving the first clue of the wild, mountainous scenery to come. From the Inveroran Hotel you walk up onto the unfeasibly beautiful Rannoch Moor. Lovers of lonely desolation will catch their breath. The path across the moor brings you out at the Kings House Hotel, a speck at the foot of the astonishing Glen Coe.

From the Kings House Hotel the "Devil's Staircase" takes you up and over into Kinlochleven. It sounds worse than it is. From Kinlochleven a steady climb takes you up into Lairigmoor, a pristine glacial valley. An optional scramble half way up one of the peaks on the northern side reveals the full beauty of this place. From Lairigmor the path snakes North into managed woodland. A couple of tiring but short climbs and the path takes you over into Glen Nevis, from where the going into Fort William is easy.

The Fort William end of the walk connects with the Great Glen Way, which runs a further 73 miles (118 kilometres) to Inverness.

Though it passes through mountainous country and fine scenery, the Way isn't a mountain walk. The path is generally very good and easy to navigate, and any given section of the Way would simply be a pleasant stroll. The difficulty comes with the endurance required to walk all day every day for a week.


There is a range of hotels, B&Bs, bunkhouses, simple shelters and campsites along the way. Expect to pay £20 - £40 per night, in the high season, for bed and breakfast at both hotels and B&B's. This option is available at:

  • Drymen (mile 12)
  • Balmaha (mile 18)
  • Rowardennan (mile 25)
  • Inversnaid (mile 33)
  • Ardlui (mile 37)
  • Inverarnan (mile 40)
  • Crianlarich (mile 46)
  • Tyndrum (mile 52)
  • Bridge of Orchy (mile 59)
  • Inveroran (mile 62)
  • Kings House Hotel (72)
  • Kinlochleven (mile 80)
  • Fort William (mile 95).

Highlights include the Inversnaid Hotel on the eastern bank of Loch Lomond, where in June 2006 a single room with ensuite and breakfast was a remarkable £20, and the historic King's House Hotel in stunning Glen Coe, where B&B starts at around £30.

You can expect to pay around £10 - £20 for a bunkhouse bed with breakfast. These can be found at

  • Balmaha (mile 18)
  • Rowardennan Lodge (Youth Hostel) (mile 26)
  • Inversnaid (mile 33)
  • Inverarnan (Youth Hostel) (mile 40)
  • Tyndrum (mile 52)
  • Glencoe Village (10 miles by bus from the Kings House Hotel at mile 72)
  • Kinlochleven (mile 80)
  • Fort William (mile 95)

A backpacker's pitch at a serviced campsite (i.e. one providing water, showers, toilets etc) costs around £5. These can be found at:

  • Gartness (mile 10)
  • Easter Drumquassle Farm (mile 11)
  • Millarochy (mile 20)
  • Cashel (mile 21)
  • Ardlui (mile 37)
  • Inverarnan (mile 40)
  • Auchtertyre (mile 49)
  • Tyndrum (mile 52)
  • Inveroran (mile 62)
  • Kinlochleven (mile 80).

If this is your preferred option, a choice must be made between a shortish (11 miles) or longish (20 miles) first day. If you choose the latter, conic hill around mile 17, whilst a first taste of the scenic beauty to come, is a heartbreaker. Also note that a long second day to Ardlui or Inverarnan then follows. After that the sites are well spaced. The pick of the bunch is Beinglass Farm at Inverarnan. Basically it's an excellent bar/restaurant with a campsite and camping shop attached. The Millarochy site is also recommended for its lovely spot on Loch Lomond.

Walkers may wild camp for free in small numbers except in enclosed fields of crops or near farm animals but all traces of the camp must be removed (see www.outdooraccess-scotland.com). Water presents the main difficulty with this option. Consuming water from the many streams (or "burns") along the way is said to be "high risk at low level" (i.e. unless there has been lots of rain) because of the cows and sheep on the hills, although boiling the water will provide a measure of protection. The safest option is to bring water from the nearest drinkable source. This means hauling a lot of weight but, if you pick the right spot, it can be worth it for the solitude. Designated wild campsites close to drinkable water can be found at Rowardennan Lodge, Inversnaid and Kings House Hotel.

Finally there are two bothies en route, Rowchoish and Doune, both on Loch Lomond. These are basically stone shelters without running water, i.e. offer wild camping without the need for a tent.

Eat / Drink

Shops on the route can be few and far between, but some are available (in Drymen, Crianlarich, Tyndrum, and Kinlochleven). Further north the shops disappear for long distances, however there are small public houses at reasonable intervals (Drymen, Rowardennan, Inverarnan, Crianlarich, Tyndrum, Bridge of Orchy, King's House, Kinlochleven). These establishments usually serve a range of hot food in addition to bar drinks.

Stay Safe

The West Highland Way is a very enjoyable and rewarding walk. The remote country, changeable weather and length which make it so also mean you could find yourself in difficulty. Appropriate emergency equipment should be carried, and all the usual mountain walking rules still apply.

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