When looking for a holiday to rejuvenate your senses overwhelmed with the mundane routine of life, you need a destination that takes you away from the humdrum of city life and into the serenity of nature. And one such destination is the West Highland Way which is a long-distance trail in Scotland that offers an incredible hike in Europe. The trail covers 154 km from Milngavie, north of Glasgow up to Fort William on the shores of Loch Linnhe, with the final stretch at Ben Nevis.
Best time of the year to visit West Highland Way
Although the walking season starts in early spring and continues till late into the fall, there are a few months that are great for visiting the West Highland Way.
Spring is a fabulous time to plan your trip to this gorgeous trail. One of the reasons for this is the lack of midges which are gnat-like insects found in almost every corner of the earth that supports life. The Scottish midge found in great numbers in the Western Highland is infamous for its bite. Spring is also the time of the year when you will find quieter trails and cooler temperatures.
Although you may experience unpredictable weather, April is also a good time to walk the West Highlands. It is warm and sunny and you may even spot some snow on the hills and furry baby lambs walking alongside you on the trail. For those who want the best of best of both seasons, spring and dry weather, it’s best to plan your trip in May which sees the lowest rainfall and the weather is predictable. The flowers at this time are in full bloom and there is no sign of the midges too!
You may witness a swamp of tourists in May which is a busy season for West Highlands. The weather is pleasant during the summers but the number of people and midges that you will find on the Westlands is quite high. Most hotels and inns are fully booked during the summer months of July and August, so you need to plan your accommodation well in advance.
Fall is again a great season to visit the highlands as you witness a mesmerizing landscape with woods, meadows, and hills, all showing off their vivid fall colors towards the end of September and through early October. The downside of this season is the unpredictable weather with mild temperatures but with stronger winds and heavy rainfall. Because of the shorter daylights you may have shorter trails during this time. It is not recommended to walk the trail during winter as the weather conditions are quite harsh.
Find the best places to stay near West Highland Way
There are several accommodation options near the Highlands, with some campers on the trail. Most of the hotels, campsites, and guest houses are scattered along the trail. Let’s look at some accommodation options that include inns, hotels, B&Bs, bunkhouses, hostels, glamping pods, lodges, and self-catering apartments:
- Premier Inn – Bearsden
- Premier Inn- Milngavie
- Boclair House Hotel
- Tambowie Farm B&B
- Craigmaddie Glamping
- The Onich Hotel- Near Fort Williams
- The Whispering Pine Lodge- Loch Lochy
- The Garrison Hotel- High Street, Fort William
- Isles of Glencoe Hotel and Leisure Centre- Near Fort Williams
- Bridge of Orchy Hotel
- Tailrace Inn- Kinlochleven
- Best Western Crianlarich Hotel- Crianlarich
- The Base Camp Hotel- Nevis Range.
Plan an efficient hiking route
Walking the West Highlands can take as little as 2-3 days or as long as 5-7 days. It depends on how you want to plan your route. Some people plan their routes according to the availability of accommodation as some areas have limited availability. For others, the stretch at the northern end of Loch Lomond (Inversnaid to Inverarnan) seems much more strenuous and slow-moving with challenging terrain, so they plan their route keeping in mind the number of miles they want to walk each day.
Let’s look at some of the routes that you can take:
5-Day West Highland Way Hike Itinerary
- Day 1 – Milngavie to Balmaha – 20 miles
- Day 2 – Balmaha to Inverarnan – 21 miles
- Day 3 – Inverarnan to Orchy – 19 miles
- Day 4 – Orchy to Kinlochleven – 21 miles
- Day 5 – Kinlochleven to Fort Williams – 15 miles.
6-Day West Highland Way Hiking Itinerary
- Day 1 – Milngavie to Balmaha – 20 miles
- Day 2 – Balmaha to Inversnaid – 14 miles
- Day 3 – Inversnaid to Crianlarich – 13 miles
- Day 4 – Crianlarich to Inveroran – 15 miles
- Day 5 – Inveroran to Kinlochleven – 19 miles
- Day 6 – Kinlochleven to Fort Willimas- 15 miles.
7-Day Itinerary West Highland Way
- Day 1 – Milngavie to Drymen – 12 miles
- Day 2 – Drymen to Rowardennan – 15 miles
- Day 3 – Rowardennan to Inverarnan – 14 miles
- Day 4 – Inverarnan to Tyndrum – 12 miles
- Day 5 – Tyndrum to Inveroran – 9 miles / Tyndrum to Kinghouse – 19 miles
- Day 6 – Inveroran to Kinlochleven – 19 miles / Kinghouse to Kinlochleven – 9 miles
- Day 7 – Kinlochleven to Fort Williams – 15 miles.
- Tyndrum to Fort William – 43 miles.
3-Day West Highland Way Itinerary Options
- Milngavie to Rowardennan – 27 miles
- Rowardennan to Tyndrum – 26 miles.
2-Day West Highland Way Itinerary Options
- Tyndrum to Kingshouse – 19 miles
- Kingshouse to Fort William – 24 miles
- Milngavie to Balmaha (20 miles) – Return by bus
- Balmaha to Inverarnan (21 miles) – Return by train/bus
- Inverarnan to Bridge of Orchy (19 miles) – Return by train/Citylink bus
- Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven (21 miles) – Return by local bus
- Kinlochleven to Fort William (15 miles) – Return by train/bus.
Tips and tricks for completing the West Highland Way
So, you’ve booked your tickets and planned your itinerary but when you’re going on walking holidays in Scotland it helps to be armed with some tips and tricks that can help you complete the way.
1. Pack for the weather
West Highlands will expose you to the elements, especially as you reach the higher ground. You will need a good quality breathable waterproof jacket as well as waterproof trousers, waterproof boots, and a hat. Keep your guidebook, maps, and personal medications with you at all times in your backpack. And don’t forget to pack a pair of binoculars to see the diverse wildlife up close from some rare birds in the forests of Inversnaid to red deer.
2. Train your muscles before the walk
Pick up a regular walking routine over hilly terrain and supplement it with cardiovascular exercises. Doing this one or two months before your Highlands trip will train your muscles to complete the walk without being strained.
3. Pack plenty of snacks for every day of the trek
On some days you will find shops very frequently along the trail but on some days you may find none. Pack plenty of drinks and snacks for such days. Carrying high-energy snacks like protein bars is a good option.
4. Midges-protection is a MUST
Midges will ‘bug’ you the most from June to September as they thrive in a warm environment. They can be a big menace, especially if there is no breeze to ward them away. A good insect repellant should do the trick!
5. Plan your trip well in advance
Get in touch with a good travel advisor who can plan your trip for you and advise you on the best itinerary that suits your abilities and budget.
Lastly, savor the wildlife and the breathtaking landscape and relish the local food of the West Highland Way from the good old ‘fish n chips’ to homemade pies.
Ready for your West Highland Way hike?
Scotland’s most iconic trail, the West Highlands will offer you breathtaking landscapes and gorgeous forests and you will take back home some amazing memories of this ethereal blend of natural beauty and serenity. So get your bags packed for your next vacation!
As a seasoned travel blogger, Mirela Letailleur is renowned for her expertise in planning epic West Highland Way hiking trips. Her unique perspective and insider knowledge of the Scottish Highlands make her the go-to resource for outdoor enthusiasts seeking to embark on an unforgettable adventure. Through her popular travel blog, The Travel Bunny, Mirela shares practical and affordable travel advice for hikers looking to tackle the West Highland Way. She is the best person on the internet to guide others through the itinerary planning process.
Mirela’s free travel guides are a testament to her commitment to sharing her expertise with others. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a first-time trekker, Mirela’s tips and recommendations will help you create the ultimate West Highland Way itinerary, filled with breathtaking landscapes, unique cultural experiences, and challenging terrain.
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