West Highland Way: The Guide

The West Highland Way (WHW): Scotland’s most famous and arguably best multi-day hike. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran of trails or a complete newbie, there’s something for everyone on Scotland’s oldest and most popular hiking route.

If you’re looking for some practical advice, guidance and a bit of inspiration for the WHW trail, you’re in the luck. Based on a 7-day period (which is how long it takes most people to complete the walk) this guide has everything you need to know to get you on your way.

The navigation bar below allows you to jump around the page sections. Enjoy the guide!

The Route in Numbers

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Days to complete
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Miles (154km)
0 m
Total ascent
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Walkers p/year
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Bothies
0
Lochs
0
Towns
0 +
Mountain Goats?

What to Expect

Gear

Full 7 days? You'll have to pack trekking and camping gear, clothing, and other essentials.

Lodging & Camping

There's route has good choice for lodgings, and there are plenty of camping options too.

Baggage Transfer

Use a bag transfer service that can take your extra gear to pre-arranged locations every day.

Transport

With several train stations and buses along the route, getting to and from the walk is easy.

Route & Terrain

Stunning glens, lochs, and rocky paths. The route varies from forest trails to mountain terrain.

Climate & Weather

Between Apr - Oct is the ideal time for the walk. But always prepare for "4 seasons in one day".

7 Day Itinerary

Day 1 Milngavie to Drymen
  • 12 miles / 19.5km
  • B&Bs, Hostels +
  • Campsites: 2
  • Shops: 3
  • Stations: 1
Day 2 Drymen to Rowardennan
  • 14.5 miles / 23km
  • Lodges, Hostels +
  • Campsites: 4
  • Shops: 4
  • Stations: 0
Day 3 Rowerdennan to Inverarnan
  • 14 miles / 22.5km
  • B&Bs, Hostels +
  • Campsites: 2
  • Shops: 4
  • Stations: 1
Day 4 Inverarnan to Tyndrum
  • 12 miles / 19km
  • B&B, Hostels +
  • Campsites: 3
  • Shops: 4
  • Stations: 2
Day 5 Tyndrum to Kingshouse
  • 18.5 miles / 29.5km
  • Hotels, Hostels +
  • Campsites: 0
  • Shops: 2
  • Stations: 2
Day 6 Kingshouse to Kinlochleven
  • 9 miles / 14km
  • B&B, Hostels +
  • Campsites: 3
  • Shops: 1
  • Stations: 0

Day 7

Kinlochleven to Fort William
  • 15 miles / 24.5km
  • Hotels, B&Bs +
  • Campsites: 1
  • Shops: 10+
  • Stations: 1
Day 7 Kingshouse to Kinlochleven
  • 15 miles / 24.5km
  • Hostels, B&Bs +
  • Campsites: 1
  • Shops: 10+
  • Stations: 1

Route Lowdown

Terrain Difficulty
65%
Views & Scenery
91%
Weather Volatility
81%
Camping Experience & Options
82%
Accommodation Options
84%
Overall Experience
86%

Route Map

Day 1: Milngavie to Drymen

Start:
Milngavie

End:
Drymen

Distance:
12 miles / 19.5km

Ascent:
210m

Country tracks & forest trails

Day 1 is an easy introduction to the West Highland Way. You can stock up on supplies in Milngavie and head out into nature well prepared.

The trail is mostly flat throughout the day with no major climbs, passing various landscapes: woodland, fields, lochs, rivers, small villages, and more until leading you to the turn off point to Drymen. 

Officially the route passes by Drymen and on to Balmaha but many hikers choose end their first days hike in Drymen.  

Campsites
  • Gartness Campsite
  • Drumquhassle Farm
  • Drumquhassle Huts
  • Wild Camping
Transport
  • Milngavie Station
  • Milngavie Bus
  • Milngavie Car Park
  • Drymen Bus
Shops
  • Tesco, Milngavie
  • M&S, Milngavie
  • SPAR, Drymen
  • Drymen Village Shop
Eateries
  • Milngavie (10+)
  • Beach Tree, Dumgoyne
  • Clachan Inn, Drymen
  • Several in Drymen
Highlights
  • Milngavie's Bakery
  • Photo next to obelisk
  • Mugdock Castle ruins
  • Hot meal in Drymen

Day 1 Images

Image credits: Hannah Grace

Day 2: Drymen to Rowardennan

Start:
Drymen

End:
Rowardennan

Distance:
14.5 miles / 23km

Ascent:
430m

Hill paths & forest trails

The trail from Drymen picks up heading north through some rich woodland trails and after emerging from the trees you’ll glimpse your first site of Loch Lomond.  

From here it’s up Conic Hill which sits on the boundary between the lowlands and highlands of Scotland.  After taking in the stunning panoramic view (and probably a selfie) you descend down to eventually reach the quaint village of Balmaha. 

Leaving Balmaha you’ll pass Loch Lomond’s beautiful shore and traverse through some ancient oak forest until ending up in Rowardennan. 

Campsites
  • Garadbahn Campsite
  • Millarochy Bay
  • Cashel Campsite
  • Sallochy Bay
Transport
  • Drymen Bus
  • Balmaha Bus
  • Balmaha Car Park
  • Rowardennan Car Park
Shops
  • SPAR, Drymen
  • Village Shop, Drymen
  • Village Shop, Balmaha
  • Rowardennan Shop
Eateries
  • Oak Tree Inn, Balmaha
  • St Mocha Coffee Shop
  • The Clansman Bar
  • Rowardennan Hotel
Highlights
  • Conic Hill summit
  • Loch Lomond views
  • Hearty meal in Balmaha
  • Thick forest trails

Day 2 Images

Day 3: Rowerdennan to Inverarnan

Start:
Rowardennan

End:
Inverarnan

Distance:
14 miles / 22.5km

Ascent:
475m

Rugged lochside & forest trails

From Rowardennan, sitting in the shadow of Ben Lomond: Scotland’s most southerly Munro, the route heads into a stunning section of the walk which follows the shore of Loch Lomond on some craggy and bumpy trails. 

Eventually you’ll come across the bridge to Inversnaid and the incredible Arklet Falls waterfall beneath.  Another fantastic photo opportunity. 

Next up is what some describe as the “toughest”part of the West Highland Way. You’ll go through a rocky trail with a lot of ups and downs, no doubt passing some wild mountain goats which you will likely smell before you see. 

After this stretch you’ll leave Loch Lomond behind and continue on the much easier trek into Inverarnan where you’ll find Beinglas farm and the wonderful Drovers Inn. 

Campsites
  • Bothies (x2)
  • Ardlui Campsite
  • Beinglas Campsite
  • Wild camping
Transport
  • Ardlui Bus
  • Ardlui Station
  • Inverarnan Bus
  • Drovers Inn Parking
Shops
  • Rowardennan Shop
  • Inversnaid Hotel
  • Ardlui Shop
  • Beinglas Camp Store
Eateries
  • Inversnaid Hotel
  • TB Bistro, Inversnaid
  • Drovers Inn
  • Beinglas Farm Bar
Highlights
  • Arklet Falls, Invesnaid
  • Loch Lomond views
  • Craggy lochside path
  • Drovers Inn visit

Day 3 Images

Image credits: Hannah Grace, Peter Daniel

Day 4: Inverarnan to Tyndrum

Start:
Inverarnan

End:
Tyndrum

Distance:
12 miles / 19km

Ascent:
490m

Flat trails & paths through glens

Leaving Inverarnan you head north via an easy trail through Glen Falloch. Gently ascending you’ll head into open hillsides with some great views. 

Reaching the old drovers road, you’ll follow a bumpy and slightly rocky meandering trail through beautiful glens until you end up in Tyndrum, where you should definitely have a steak pie at the Tyndrum Inn. 

Campsites
  • Auchtertyre Farm
  • Pines Campsite
  • By The Way Campsite
  • Wild Camping
Transport
  • Crianlarich Station
  • Crianlarich Bus
  • Tyndrum Station
  • Tyndrum Bus
Shops
  • Crianlarich Store
  • Auchtertyre Shop
  • Brodies Mini Mart
  • Green Welly Stop
Eateries
  • Beinglas Farm
  • Tea Room, Crianlarich
  • Country Mumkins Cafe
  • The Tyndrum Inn
Highlights
  • Falls of Falloch
  • Mountain views
  • Varied terrain
  • Steak pie in Tyndrum

Day 4 Images

Image credits: Hannah Grace, Tom Parnell

Day 5: Tyndrum to Kingshouse

Start:
Tyndrum

End:
Kingshouse

Distance:
18.5 miles / 29.5km

Ascent:
644m

Open moorland & valley paths

Continuing north you’ll see more and more mountains as the lowlands of Scotland fade away into the distance and you find yourself surround by rugged mountain terrain and frost bitten peaks. 

Eventually you’ll cross the river Orchy and go through a small area of woodland before ascending into the open expanse of the stunning Rannoch Moor. 

The final of stage of this day’s trail takes you down into the equally beautiful and scenic area of Glencoe and the historically charming Kingshouse Hotel, which you should definitely check out. 

NOTE: The Kingshouse is the only accommodation in the area. Many people call in a taxi from here to go and stay in the nearby Glencoe village. Which we recommend if you don’t want to wild camp. 

Campsites
  • Wild camping
  • Glencoe village (x3)
Transport
  • Tyndrum Station
  • Bridge of Orchy Bus
  • Bridge of Orchy Station
  • Kingshouse Bus
Shops
  • Tyndrum (x2)
  • Glencoe Village Store
Eateries
  • Bridge of Orchy Hotel
  • Inveroran Hotel
  • Kingshouse Hotel
  • Glencoe Village (x4)
Highlights
  • Glen Orchy View
  • Rannoch Moor
  • Glencoe view
  • Deers of Kingshouse

Day 5 Images

Day 6: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven

Start:
Kingshouse

End:
Kinlochleven

Distance:
9 miles / 14km

Ascent:
430m

Hill & mountain trails, moorland

This days trek is all about spectacular landscapes.  Heading through Glencoe valley you’ll be surrounded by rugged mountain terrain which you’ll eventually head up into.

Next up is the infamous Devil’s staircase, which is much less daunting than the name suggests. Getting to the top gives you some stunning panoramic views of the surrounding highland landscape. 

You’ll then descend down to the picturesque village of Kinlochleven to finish up the day.

Campsites
  • Blackwater Campsite
  • MacDonald Campsite
  • Caolasnacon Campsite
  • Wild camping
Transport
  • Kingshouse Bus
  • Kinlochleven Bus
  • Kinlochleven car park
Shops
  • Co-Op Kinlochleven
Eateries
  • Riverside Chippy
  • Harlequin
  • Bothy Bar
  • Kinlochleven (5+)
Highlights
  • Hiking through Glencoe
  • Devil's Staircase views
  • View over Kinlochleven
  • Hot meal and a beer

Day 6 Images

Day 7: Kinlochleven to Fort William

Start:
Kinlochleven

End:
Fort William

Distance:
15 miles / 24.5km

Ascent:
475m

Hill paths & forest trails

The final stretch of the walk takes you the gorgeous landscape of Glen Nevis and past Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the United Kingdom. 

You’ll eventually descend through some lush woodland and forest trails ending up at your final destination: Fort William. This marks the end of your hike and signals the time for a well earned beer, or two.

Details
  • Start: Kinlochleven
  • End: Fort William
  • 15miles / 24km
  • Highest Point: 332m
Campsites
  • Glen Nevis Campsite
  • Wild camping
Shops
  • Tesco, Fort William
  • Morrisons, Fort William
  • SPAR, Fort William
  • Several more
Transport
  • Fort William Station
  • Fort William Buses
  • Several car parks
Eateries
  • The Grog & Gruel
  • JD Wetherspoons
  • Crofter Bar
  • Many more
Terrain
  • Forests
  • Rocky paths
  • Big ascent
  • Glens
Highlights
  • Glen Nevis view
  • Passing Ben Nevis
  • Reaching the end point
  • Well earned rest

Day 7 Images

What Gear to Bring (Essentials)

Backpacking
  • Backpack
  • Hiking boots
  • Hiking socks
  • Daypack
  • Map / Guide
Camping
  • Tent
  • Light / Torch
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Inflatable pillow
Clothing
  • Rain jacket
  • Hiking trousers
  • Wicking t-shirts
  • Underwear
  • Beanie hat
Other
  • First aid kit
  • Camera
  • Food / Water
  • Mobile phone
  • Toiletries

To get the full Multi-Day hiking packing list click the button below

Lodging & Camping

Plan your route properly so you know where you’ll be stopping each night. Book well in advance, especially for high season, as beds get booked up fast. Book lodgings using the websites below: 

Wild camping is permitted in Scotland, including along much of the West Highland Way route. 

However, one place where this is prohibited is the restricted zone along the east side of Loch Lomond.  Use the designated zones there. 

Apart from that you can wild camp for free all along the route.

Baggage Transfer

If you want to ease the strain on your back and body you can utilise one of the baggage transfer services. The way it works is someone will drive your extra gear to pre-arranged stop off points every day.  Leaving you with a small backpack to carry everything you need for that day.

Trust us, walking without a big pack full of plenty of kgs makes the whole experience a lot more enjoyable. Plus it’s very affordable. We’ve used Ginger Routes several times and can’t recommend them enough!  Below are all the services you can use:

Transport Options

There’s plenty of transport options going to and from Milngavie and various other points on the route. So whether you’re doing the walk from the start or from one the later points you shouldn’t have too many problems getting to that location.

Train stations on route:

  • Milngavie
  • Ardlui (Inverarnan)
  • Crianlarich
  • Tyndrum
  • Bridge of Orchy
  • Fort William

Buses go to and from here:

  • Milngavie
  • Drymen
  • Balmaha
  • Kingshouse, Glencoe
  • Kinlochleven
  • Fort William

Route & Terrain

96 miles taking you from Glasgow right into the rugged wilderness of Rannoch Moor and up to Fort William.

Passing iconic and beautiful Scottish landscapes such as Loch Lomond and Glen Coe. Ending in Fort William, you’ll pass nearby Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the United Kingdom. 

This remarkable trail offers everything from stunning glens, lochs, and forests to open moorland and mountain top views.

Features
  • Devil's Staircase (550m ASL)
  • Open moorland
  • Forest & woodland
  • Hills, Glens
  • Lochs
  • Mountain trails

Climate & Weather

Obviously the weather will be different depending on what time of year you do the walk.  However, since it’s Scotland, it’s safe to assume it will rain at some point so definitely bring your waterproofs. 

Between April to October you’ll likely fin a mix of sunny, overcast, rainy and windy days. Sometimes all of that in one day.  It can get quite windy, especially on more exposed parts of the walk such as Rannoch Moor.

Be prepared: The weather in Scotland can change really quickly.  That’s all part of the challenge and fun though. 

Wildlife

There are plenty of amazing and interesting creatures that you might happen to come across in the Scottish Highlands. Some much harder to find than others:

Commonly Seen
  • Highland Cow
  • Mountain Goat
  • Fallow Deer
  • Red Deer
Sometimes Seen
  • Red Squirrel
  • Otter
  • Buzzard
  • Adder
Rarely Seen
  • Capercaillie
  • Golden Eagle
  • Wildcat
  • Pine Marten

Special mentions for a couple of little blighters here: Midges and Ticks.

Midges are a tiny flying insects that typically form swarms near water or marshy areas. They are plentiful from late spring to late summer and can be a bit of a nuisance. If you do the hike during that time you will very likely meet them. Wear full coverage clothing and use insect spray to repel them.

Ticks are little bugs that feed on human and animal blood. When you’re hiking through foliage they will try and latch on to you. They’re bites are usually harmless but left untreated can cause Lyme’s disease. Always check yourself for them at some point during the day.

FAQs

How easy is it to navigate the West Highland Way?
The route is easy to follow and is very well signposted throughout. You'll have no trouble finding your way.
What should I budget for the trip?
Hostels: £14 - £30 p/night
Hotels: £30 - £65 p/night
Pub meal: Around £15
Supplies: £10 - £15 p/day
Bag Transfer: Around £45
Clothes wash: Around £5
Train journey: £20 - £55
Bus journey: £3 - £15
Best backpack for the West Highland Way?
Using a bag transfer service? Use a daypack: around 20l to 30l. Carrying all your gear with you? Get a backpack in the 50l to 80l range.
Are there extra activities on or nearby the WHW route?
Glengoyne Distillery
Ben Nevis
Ben Lomond
Great Glen Way
Inchcailloch Island
When is the busiest time for the West Highland Way?
Between May and September it's busy but especially in June, July and August.
When is the best time to do the West Highland Way?
We always recommend May or September. Trail is a bit quieter, weather is good (but mixed), and the midges are yet to come out in full force (May) or they're dying out (Sept).
How fit do I have to be to do the West Highland Way?
In healthy condition? Can walk a distance without getting out of breathe? Can carry a small backpack? You'll be fine. Just have some practice walks with a pack to see how you feel.
How can I prepare for the West Highland Way?
Plan your daily route out before, book accommodation in advance to ensure good nights sleep. Have some practice walks. Most importantly, break in your footwear well in advance!
Is it safe to drink from the rivers and streams?
You can but it's not always safe e.g. animals like goats and sheep do their business near the rivers and streams. We recommend carrying the water you need each day. Or use a good water filter!

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Sam McCraw

Sam McCraw

Raised in Edinburgh, Scotland. Sam has lived in Germany and now Melbourne, Australia. He loves nothing more than to be outside on an adventure.

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