West Highland Way: Best Long-Distance Trail in Scotland

A dirt road surrounded by green trees and a few backpackers in the distance somewhere in the West Highland Way

Spanning over 96 miles (154 km) the West Highland Way is the most popular long-distance walking route in Scotland, the route connects the lowland town of Milngavie, situated on the outskirts of Glasgow to the regional highlands hub of Fort William, which is nestled at the foot of Ben Nevis.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, the West Highland Way’s impressive scenery, easy access, and abundant camping and accommodation options make it an exciting adventure.

It takes you on an unforgettable journey through diverse landscapes, from serene lochs to rugged mountains. It’s the best way to experience Scotland!

What is the West Highland Way?

The West Highland Way begins in Milngavie and extends to Fort William. The hike was established in 1980 and was Scotland’s first official long-distance hiking trail and is now part of the International Appalachian Trail.

While the WHW is not as popular as other long-distance trails like the Camino de Santiago from Sarria, the trail offers an incredible adventure through Scotland’s diverse scenery, becoming more striking as you venture deeper into the hilly highlands.

Quick Facts

    • Length: The trail covers 96 miles (154 km).
    • Duration: Most hikers take 5-9 days to complete the entire trail, depending on your pace and preferences.
    • Annual Hikers: Approximately 15,000 hikers walk the West Highland Way each year.
    • Ben Nevis Climb: You can even climb Ben Nevis from Fort William, adding a new challenge to the adventure.

Planning Your Trip

There are several things you need to consider if you want to walk the WHW, from preparation and fitness level to packing, transport, and itineraries.

Here’s what you need to know

Fitness Level and Preparation

While the West Highland Way is a long and fairly challenging trail, it can be completed with an average level of fitness, which means you can do it at your own pace without asking too much from yourself.

But if you want to be sure about your level, a month before you start your adventure. start walking every day for a few miles. Why?

The northern sections in the Highlands are more demanding, but the elevation gain is only about 1800 feet (550 meters), you’ll need to put a bit more effort into this section of the trail.

You don’t need to be an experienced climber to tackle the trail, but I highly recommend planning for a 7 or 8-day journey and preparing for walking an average of 12 miles (19 km) per day.

Guided vs. Self-Guided

    • Self-Guided: Many hikers opt for self-guided walks organized by tour operators, like OrbisWays. They handle accommodations and luggage transfers, allowing you to focus on the trail.
    • Guidebook Planning: Alternatively, you can plan your route using a guidebook and map.
    • Guided Trips: Joining an organized guided trip with other hikers and an experienced guide will give you the opportunity to learn more about the history, flora, and fauna of Scotland.


If you’re going to do the trail by yourself I highly recommend that you book the accommodations in advance as you go, especially during peak seasons. You don’t want to reach a stage of the trail without securing a place to stay.

There are several options you can opt for, from bed and breakfasts located along the route to hostels and hotels in small towns as well as designated camping spots!

Camping is a good option too, but research all the spots beforehand, you can’t pitch your tent

Guidebooks and Maps

I highly recommend you get your self physical guidebooks and maps that are specific to the West Highland Way, that’s the best way to keep yourself on track. Detailed maps are essential for navigation.

On the other hand, you can opt for hiking apps or websites with trail information and updates that let you use its services offline (in case you are out of the internet).

Trail Sections

This iconic route will take you through a landscape rich in history, heritage, and natural beauty. Most sections of the trail will make you feel like you’re in a medieval movie. Not only that but there are several highlights along the way.

From the Mugdock Country Park in Milngavie to the Devil’s Staircase in Glen Coe, here’s what you can expect along the way:

    • Loch Lomond: Tranquil shores and stunning views.
    • Rannoch Moor: Wild and captivating landscapes.
    • Scottish Highlands: Natural beauty that leaves a lasting impression.
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