Hiking the West Highland Way in Scotland

The West Highland Way is one of the most renown long distance trek in Europe. It goes through the gorgeous Scottish Highlands, from Glasgow to Fort William, and makes you experience every kind of landscape you would expect to find in this country, and more.

mountain loch

You don’t need any prior experience to walk the West Highland Way, other than being in good health. I did it as a complete newbie and I managed. The trail is well-marked and there’s so many people doing this trek that, if you run into trouble while being alone, you would only have to wait for about 10 minutes before another hiker shows up. That’s how long I had to wait in September when I felt skittish about going alone through some Highland Cattle that blocked the trail.

cattle animal path funny

cattle animal path young funny

For the story, after me and the three guys that had caught up with me spent 20 minutes going around the cattle, scraping our legs in the bushes and freaking out every time an animal looked our way, we turned around and saw this guy in the background laughing his head off looking at our progress. He then opened the gate, waved his arms and all the cattle left the path. I mean …

If you go there in July-August, I heard there’s even more people on the trail. It would be a shame in my opinion, since some of my best memories there where when I was completely alone in the highlands, with no sign of human activity anywhere and just the endless trail in front of me. That’s an impressive sight.

mountain solo path

Conic Hill, my legs were hurting in anticipation when I saw that.

How long does it take ? There’s several itinerary available. Usually, it takes between six to nine days to complete it. I chose the six days option. Most people I saw along the trail were doing it in six or seven days, but half of them decided to take a bit more time after the third day (the hardest one on the legs) !

Side note : every year in June is the West Highland Way Race, where people run the trail in less than 35 hours ! But these people are obviously crazy. Thinking back on some hard parts of the trail, it seems completely impossible to me to run instead of slowly dragging your feet while hyperventilating …

mountain mud path river

That’s actually the path, not a river.

To end with the practical side of this post : there’s an amazing company called Travel lite that will take your backpack or suitcase and deposit it every night where you intend to sleep. No matter how many days it takes you to do the trail or how heavy your luggage is, it’s only 45£ by bag. Even for a budget traveller like me, it was well worth it rather than having to carry my tent and all of my stuff with me. You might not need it if you choose to stay in guesthouses and hotels rather than camp out, but I’m pretty sure it will cost you more in the end. (I’m saying « amazing company » because they truly were amazing and very nice, not because I have some kind of partnership or discount with them). Here is the Travel lite website.

Now, here are some pictures that will express better than I can the beauty of it all :

loch lomond shore beach

The shores of Loch Lomond, so peaceful, one of my favorite parts.

 

The view from the top of Conic Hill, it was well worth the climb.

The view from the top of Conic Hill, it was well worth the climb.

 

I saw a red deer right here, but it was so quick I couldn't take his picture. Kind of felt like I was Snow White, with this beautiful animal in the middle of this fairytale forest.

I saw a red deer right here, but it was so quick I couldn’t take his picture. Kind of felt like I was Snow White, with this beautiful animal in the middle of this fairytale forest.

The third day « path ».

The third day « path ».

 

Hello there !

Hello there !

 

Looking back on Kinlochleven the morning of the last day.

Looking back on Kinlochleven the morning of the last day.

 

Alone on the trail.

Alone on the trail.

My one regret is that I had to miss out on the fourth day because of a knee injury (not related to the trail, I had a bad knee before). I walked through the pain the rest of the way, and I don’t regret it, but because of this I don’t think I’m done with the West Highland Way. I will come back one day and do it in full !

 

Watching the sunset on Loch Lomond from my tent.

Watching the sunset on Loch Lomond from my tent.

You only need one book to walk the West Highland Way, it’s the one by Charlie Loram. There’s hand drawn maps really easy to follow, indications of every accommodations and places to eat on the way and every thing else you might want to know about the trail. You can buy it right HERE.

Beware of the midges !

For your Pinterest board on amazing hikes!

For your Pinterest board on amazing hikes!


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2 Comments on Hiking the West Highland Way in Scotland

  1. Awesome and very inspirational! I want to to the West Highland Way next year as part of a longer trip around Scotland – I hope to take at least a month off work in Glasgow and then just start walking 🙂

    • Sounds amazing 🙂 If you want to keep going after the West Highland Way, you have the Great Glen Way starting in Fort William as well! Have fun!

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