Walking the West Highland Way

West Highland Way Signpost - Charity Walk

The West Highland Way

The West Highland Way is one of the most popular long distance trails among those interested in hiking in Scotland. The walking route is 96 miles (154 km) long. Starting in Milngavie north of Glasgow it then travels along the eastern shores of Loch Lomond, continuing north through the Scottish Highlands to Fort William.

The route is split up into 8 sections (each 9 – 15 miles), some walkers choose to do 1 section per day, while others plan longer days completing the route in 7 days or less. Estimations on how many people walk the full trail vary but it’s believed around 100,000 people walk parts of the trail each year, with the possibility that around half of those completed it.

Many people choose to raise money while they hike the West Highland Way since it is such a difficult task. We are very proud of our colleague Sam and her team who are currently doing just that.

They are raising money for Recovery Across Mental Health (RAMH) a local charity and have raised an excellent amount so far. You can view their fundraising page for more information on their walk and follow their daily updates on our Facebook page.

While they complete their walk we wanted to explore a little more about the route and its history. We may even inspire you to join in and complete the walk yourself.

Sam and her team at the start of the West Highland Way

Conic Hill, Balmaha Bridge of Orchy Black Rock Cottage, Glencoe Buachaille Etive Mor cdn_helper cdn_helper cdn_helper cdn_helper


How difficult is the walk?

It’s described by many as a moderate to difficult trail. Many people who complete the walk have a reasonable level of fitness but there are many parts of the trail that aren’t too difficult. Accounts often mention it’s the length of the trail, in addition to the often uneven surface that makes it tiring over time.

When was the route created?

The route opened in 1980 and was the first official long distance walking trail in Scotland. A Glaswegian Tom Hunter who had served in the RAF during World War 2 is thought to have first thought of the idea.

What is the fastest time anyone has completed the trail in?

There is actually a West Highland Way Race which is held annually therefore the record holders come from that event. It normally starts at 1am on the Saturday closest to the Summer Solstice. The first race was in 1991.

At the moment the current record holders are Rob Sinclair who completed it in 13 h 41 m 8 s, in June 2017 and Lucy Colqhoun who set the female record in 2007 of 17 h 16 m 20 s. It’s fair to say these athletes are a lot faster than the everyday hiker!

Do you have to carry all your belongings while you hike?

No, thankfully there are services you can hire that will take your bags for you. They hold them for you while you hike and drop them off at your chosen overnight location each day. This allows many people to bring some more home comforts and certainly saves them a lot of energy too! Everyone does need a bag with the necessary food, water and safety equipment but that is a lot lighter.

Where do people stay while walking the West Highland Way?

There are many options along the route due to its popularity. Many people choose to camp, whether that be at official campsites or wild camping. Please note however that permits are required to camp in certain areas, particularly in the Trossachs National Park in peak season. There are also B&B’s and Hotels in the towns & villages on the way too.

Can you only walk the trail in summer?

Scottish weather can be unpredictable so most walkers choose to complete the trail in the fairer weather. Many sections such as rannoch moor are very rural. These areas can get deep snow in the winter so we would advise only very experienced walkers tackle those conditions. In 2016 however, Caroline McKay is believed to be the first woman ultramarathoner to complete the trail in one go in winter. During her hike it would have been dark for 18 hours of her 24 hour journey!

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