Tips and Routes for Walking the West Highland Way
The West Highland Way is considered among the most iconic long-distance walking routes across the world. The trail is the favorite among hikers as it not only offers stunning scenery across the Scottish Highlands but follows a mixture of different terrains and characters. You will come across a mix of different cattle paths, some old military roads that take you through the forests and over moorland. In addition, ample support services, guesthouses, and campsites make the route even more popular.
West Highland Way is perfect for most hikers as it caters to all levels and abilities. Every year, almost forty thousand people complete the trail, which takes them to a little over 14,000 feet of elevation. If you love long walks, you must undertake the spectacular journey through some of the country’s most breathtaking landscapes.
West Highland Way stretches from Milngavie to Fort William and offers a rewarding experience, even to the most novice walker. Discover a diverse adventure on this route that takes you through lochs, glens, forests, and mountains. Given below are some tips and routes for walking the West Highland Way to make the most of your trip.
Planning and Preparation for the Walk
Pick the right time: The best time to walk the West Highland Way is from late spring to early autumn, which is between April and September. The reason behind this is that the days are longer, and the weather is more favorable, thus allowing ample daylight for walking.
Planning and booking in advance: As the route is very popular, it is a must to plan ahead and book accommodation well in advance, especially during peak season. The good news is that there are plenty of lodging options to pick from, such as hostels, B&Bs, campsites, and hotels that cater to the different preferences and budgets of various travelers.
- Pack sensibly and lightly: Your aim should be to pack lightly but with the right stuff for your hiking. Carry only the essentials and pack as lightly as possible to make your walking experience even more enjoyable and less demanding physically. Invest in good-quality lightweight clothing and use a backpack with good support and padding for extra comfort.
- Comfortable hiking boots: Before setting out for the trip, ensure that your hiking boots are well broken-in and comfortable. So, break in your hiking boots and avoid buying any new boots just before your trip to avoid any discomfort while you walk, or you may end up with painful blisters and discomfort.
- Build your stamina: As the West Highland Way is long and can be a challenging trail for some, what with its steep ascents and descents in some sections, it is always a good idea to train yourself and build your stamina. Go on regular hikes, and exercise regularly to build up your stamina by gradually increasing the distance and elevation.
- Pack some essential stuff: Along with the right mindset, good stamina, and comfortable gear, you will also need some important hiking essentials such as a first aid kit, map, compass, and plenty of water. In addition, carry a waterproof jacket, sunscreen, insect repellent, and some snacks. It is a must for every hiker to carry the essential equipment for a good walking experience.
Key Routes and Highlights
- Milngavie to Fort William – The Classic Route
The classic walking trail starting from Milngavie and going through the rolling landscapes of the Scottish Lowlands ends at Fort William. The traditional route West Highland Way route is the most popular as it goes through the Mugdock Country Park, passes along the banks of Loch Lomond, and then leads to the picturesque Glencoe Valley and the wilderness of Rannoch Moor.
- Inversnaid Detour- With the most beautiful views
The Inversnaid detour along the West Highland Way is optional but widely popular because of the great experience. Generally seen as a challenging route, the hike adds about seven miles to the walk but takes you through picturesque villages. There are some challenging sections with steep slopes, but the extra effort is worth it because of the beautiful views of the loch and the cascading Inversnaid Falls. The area around the trail is also popular for camping and mountain biking.
- Kingshouse to Kinlochleven Route- For stunning panoramic views
If you want to enjoy the most spectacular views of the West Highland Way, take the Kingshouse to Kinlochleven trail. The alternative route between Kingshouse and Kinlochleven is known as the Devil’s Staircase, and from here, you can enjoy stunning panoramic views of Glencoe and the surrounding mountains. Most people find the Devil’s Staircase a bit challenging, but the reward is the breathtaking scenery that awaits at the top.
- Ben Nevis Summit – For those with an adventurous spirit
Ben Nevis needs no introduction as the famous peak towers above the deep glacial valleys of Scotland. Those looking for an extra challenge and have a flair for drama can consider taking a detour to climb Ben Nevis. However, make sure that you have the required mountaineering experience to climb the UK’s highest peak. The optional route adds a significant elevation to your trek and adds more time and effort to your journey. So, be well prepared, carry the right equipment, and always check weather conditions before attempting this detour on the West Highland Way.
Pick from any of the above-listed walking routes on the West Highland Way to get that unique opportunity to experience the nature and culture of Scotland. Whether you are an expert hiker or a complete novice, there is something here for everyone. You will simply love those beautiful landscapes as you traverse this iconic trail.
Here are some extra tips to make your journey and experience even more enjoyable and unforgettable:
- As thousands of people head towards the West Highland Way each year, it means thinking ahead and planning the trip in advance.
- Pick a month based on what you are looking for and what you find most enjoyable. However, always pack for all seasons, no matter what time of the year you are there.
- Carry enough water to stay hydrated throughout your walk, especially on sunny days and during warm weather,
- As the weather here can change rapidly, be well prepared to safeguard yourself from different elements such as rain, wind, and varying temperatures.
- Wear comfortable clothing and shoes, always dress in layers, and carry waterproof wear.
- Pace yourself and take regular breaks to take a rest and pause to enjoy the stunning scenery along the trail and the flora and fauna.
- Be mindful of the environment and wildlife and respect the surrounding nature as the West Highland Way passes through protected areas and habitats,
- Familiarize yourself with the trail and its facilities to plan your stay and refreshment stops accordingly.