Visiting Scotland for a walking holiday is always a special way to spend valuable leisure time. People come from far and wide to experience the unique landscapes, ever-changing weather conditions, local fayre and friendly hostelries.
Of course, there is a wealth of walks available across Scotland, for which BCH Camping
can supply a wide range of kit and supplies, but the West Highland Way stands out with its extensive variety of lochs, rivers, woodlands, mountains and moorlands. It is no surprise that it is used by approximately 80,000 walkers each year.
Walkers can either complete the entire 96 miles, or take short routes along its path. Of the 80,000 walkers, over 15,000 undertake its entirety.
The history of the West Highland Way
The trail was the brainchild of Tom Hunter from Glasgow who received approval for its development in 1974. It was finally completed and opened on 6th
October 1980 by William Murray, the 8th
Earl of Mansfield. It was the first officially designated long-distance footpath in Scotland; an honour that other routes such as the North Highland Way have yet to achieve.
In June 2010, along with Greenland, the West Highland Way was co-designated as part of the International Appalachian Trail
of Maine and Newfoundland, followed soon after by other sites in Europe.
West Highland Way Terrain
The route uses many ancient roads, including drovers' roads
(historically used for moving livestock), military roads
and old coaching routes
, passing through many different terrains ranging from lowland moors, through dense woodland, rolling hills and up to high mountainous regions.
If you’re considering completing the entire route, you may want to take spare footwear
to ensure you always have the most appropriate boots for the conditions under-foot.
The West Highland Way is traditionally walked from south to north so that the more difficult stages are at the beginning which will prepare users for the later, more demanding northern stages. The additional benefit is that heading in this direction keeps the sun out of the eyes.
On average it takes seven to eight days to walk the route, although it is possible to complete it in five or six, but this doesn’t give much time for taking in the sights and sounds of nature and the stunning landscapes.
The path officially starts in Milngavie
, to the north of Glasgow, where there is a granite
obelisk in the town centre. Most walkers arrive by train at Milngavie railway station
, which is a 25 minute journey from Glasgow Central.
The route then tends to be sectioned as follows:
- Milngavie to Drymen, a fairly simple start (12 miles)
- Drymen to Balmaha where you will see standing stones, Duntreath Castle and Glengoyne Distillery (8 miles)
- Balmaha to Rowardennan. Boat trips are available from Balmaha to Inchcailloch, part of Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve (7 miles)
- Rowardennan to Crianlarich with Rob Roy’s Prison and the RSPB reserve (20 miles)
- Crianlarich to Tyndrum where you’ll see the remains of St Fillans Chapel, which was restored to a Priory by Robert the Bruce in 1318 (6 miles)
- Tyndrum to Glencoe, home to the Glen Coe Ski Centre (19 miles)
- Glencoe to Kinlochleven includes The Devil's Staircase which, at 550m is the highest point along the way. The Ice Factor (National Ice Climbing Centre) is located at Kinlochleven (9 miles)
- Kinlochleven to Fort William. This section boasts 11 Munros - mountains over 3000 feet. (15 miles)
Highlights include Loch Lomond, Rannoch Moor, the Devil’s Staircase, Glen Coe, Glen Nevis, Fort William and Ben Nevis. Throughout the route, the variety of environments provides habitats for a diverse range of wildlife species, some of which are more common than others, and some are rarely seen.
What should I take on a walk along the West Highland Way?
For the less experienced walker, this brief guide will help you to prepare for this fabulous, multi-terrain walk.
Shall we get the least pleasant items out of the way first? To help preserve the beauty of the landscapes you will enjoy along the route, you must take rubbish bags with you, as well as a small spade to bury any solid toilet waste. You’re at one with nature folks, live the dream!
A map of the West Highland Way is one of the first items you should pack (but not too deep down in your bag!). It can either be a separate map, or part of a guide book. A map that displays the route in multiple images on a single sheet can be the easiest visual format to use. For large sections of the walk there is no telephone signal, so you should never rely on smart phone map applications to get you along the route. Yes, people still do that!
If you intend to camp along the walk, you will need a back-packing tent
and a rucksack
large enough to accommodate your tent, sleeping bag
, cooking utensils
and food and changes of clothing. The recommended rucksack size for all of this is 65 - 75 litres and you should take a waterproof cover
to protect the rucksack and its contents
For those who require the home comforts of a B&B in the evening, you will only need to carry essentials such as, clothing, toiletries, first aid kit, maps, compass etc. For this, a rucksack
of around 30 – 40 litres should suffice.
You should take only the most essential of toiletries, some toilet paper in a protective bag, sun cream in the summer, and insect repellent to combat the tenacious Scottish midges.
A first aid kit is a must, to include – but not limited to – paracetamol, plasters, blister treatment, sterile dressings for wounds, antiseptic cream and wipes, adhesive tape, safety pins, scissors and tweezers. Alternatively take one of our travel safety first aid kits
which provide all the essentials you need.
Additional safety items that should be taken are a whistle
, a water bottle
with the capacity of at least one litre, a torch
with spare bulb and batteries, emergency high energy food, a penknife
or multitool and a watch with an alarm.
For the more rugged parts of the walk, a pair of hiking poles
can ease the strain on your knees and help maintain your balance.
Whatever your level of hiking experience, this is a walk that can be enjoyed by all, either by selecting sections that appeal to your walking party, or taking on the challenge of the entire trail. We hope this article has given you the appetite to explore what is one of the UK’s most celebrated, stunning trails.
If you’d like any further advice on the products that you may wish to purchase to help you complete this walk, please do get in touch