The Great Glen Way is an excellent introduction to walking in the Scottish Highlands. The route traces the Caledonian Canal as it makes its way from Fort William in the…
The Great Glen Way is an excellent introduction to walking in the Scottish Highlands. The route traces the Caledonian Canal as it makes its way from Fort William in the south to Inverness in the North. The walk is designated as one of Scotland’s Great Trails, notable both for its stunning scenery as well as historical interest.
Along the way trekkers will enjoy relatively easy access to services and accommodation. This includes some excellent options for camping, both in developed campgrounds as well as great wild camping spots. These campgrounds are the focus of this guide where we’ll walk you through all your options for camping on the Great Glen Way.
In this Great Glen Way Camping Guide
- Great Glen Way Must Know
- Great Glen Way Camping
- Stage-by-stage Itinerary for Camping on the Great Glen Way
- What to Pack for Camping on the Great Glen Way
Great Glen Way Must Know
The Great Glen Way is a relatively new trail having been established as one of Scotland’s Great Trails in 2002. The route follows the Great Glen, a series of three lochs (Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, and Loch Ness) that all connected by the Caledonian Canal. While less popular than its nearby neighbor, the West Highland Way, the Great Glen Way offers easier walking and less crowded trails.
The route begins in the beautiful town of Fort William located on Loch Linnhe before makings its way to northeast along the Caledonian Canal all the way to Inverness. Along the walk you’ll enjoy beautiful loch side hiking, stunning Highlands views, and visits to several quaint towns along the path.
Generally speaking most walkers will complete the Great Glen Way is 5 – 8 days, with six days seeming to be the most common. The Great Glen Way camping itinerary we’ve described below is based off a well-paced 6-day itinerary, although there are plenty of options to shorten or extend your walk.
How long is the Great Glen Way?
The Great Glen Way is approximately 125-kilometers or 74 miles from the start in Fort William to the finish at the Inverness Castle.
However, walkers and especially campers, should expect to cover a bit more distance than this as a few of the campgrounds are located slightly off the main trail. Add in a side trips to the local pub or to visit a shop and you should plan on walking well over 75 miles on your own Great Glen Way trip.
In addition to the standard route, the Great Glen Way features two excellent high-routes that leave the loch shores and venture into the hills. These high-routes occur between Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit and are highly recommend for their stunning views.
How difficult is the Great Glen Way?
In terms of Highland walking the Great Glen Way is a very approachable walk. The route is a great introduction to the longer walks in Scotland and should be suitable for a wide variety of abilities and experience levels.
Generally speaking, the southern half of the walk will be much easier than the northern half as it is mostly flat walking along the lochs. As you venture north you encounter more hills and the difficulty will increase, although it never gets too strenuous.
However, as with any long distance walk those attempting the Great Glen Way will want to be sufficiently prepared for long days on their feet, especially for some of the longer stages towards the end of the walk. Those camping on the Great Glen Way will also be carrying a heavier rucksack, which can significantly increase how difficult a given stage is.
We think most reasonably fit walkers will adjust just fine to the Great Glen Way, but we do recommend a little extra preparation for those camping. Try to take few walks with your fully loaded backpack prior to heading out as a way to prepare your body and adjust to carrying the weight.
Great Glen Way Weather & When to Hike
The Scottish Highlands are known for their fickle weather. One minute you can be enjoying brilliant sunshine while the next you’re slogging through a torrential downpour. In general, you can expect to experience some rain during any month of the year you plan to walk the Great Glen Way, but rest assured that is just part of the experience.
Besides just the weather you’ll also want to think about Scotland’s most famous pest, the mighty midge!
These tiny, biting creatures, have the potential to wreak havoc on your trip and are especially pesky for campers. They are most present during the peak summer months of July and August, although with a little preparation you can avoid the worst of them.
Below we’ve included general information on when to walk the Great Glen Way by month.
Unpredictable weather, but very few crowds and midges. Walkers will need to be prepared for shorter days and therefore fewer daylight hours for walking. You’ll enjoy an uncrowded trail and plenty of places to pitch your tent.
May is a great month to walk the Great Glen Way as the temperature warms and the wildflowers come into bloom. Midges are also not yet at their peak, making this one of the best months to complete you walk. However, given these circumstances you can expect the trail to be quite busy and accommodation should be booked in advance.
July & August
Crowds, midges, and rain are all plentiful during peak summer these months. It’s still very possible to have a wonderful time if you trek in July or August, just be sure you’re prepared for the midges and don’t mind sharing the trail with other walkers and tourists.
This is a fabulous time to walk the Great Glen Way, although it can be quite wet especially near Fort William. The trail is relatively quiet and the midges tend to be less of a problem later in the season. Be aware of the increasingly shorter days as the month progresses.
Great Glen Way Camping
Camping on the Great Glen Way is a wonderful way to experience this incredible trail.
Many of the campsites along the route are designated wild campsites allowing campers to experience this stunning environment first-hand and sleep out under the stars. In addition, you’ll save significantly on accommodation costs and have more flexibility in your itinerary.
We can’t recommend camping on the Great Glen Way highly enough!
In the sections below will give an overview of all the campgrounds on the Great Glen Way as well as provide some information on wild camping. In addition, we’ll also include information on how to utilize some of the facilities along the Caledonian Canal that making camping a much easier endeavor. Finally, we’ll provide a detailed stage-by-stage itinerary for camping on the Great Glen Way complete with distances, where to camp, and more!
Campgrounds on the Great Glen Way
The map and list below show all of the campgrounds that are in the general vicinity of the Great Glen Way. This includes both developed campgrounds as well as wild camping pitches along the route (known as Trailblazer sites, more on that below). We’ve done our best to include all of the relevant campgrounds, but if you see any missing let us know!
The list and map are designed to give you a general sense of your options for Great Glen Way camping, but we recommend utilizing our full Great Glen Way camping itinerary in the following section when planning your own trip.
Campgrounds are listed in the order you’ll reach them when walking the route from south to north.
- Glen Nevis Camping & Caravan Park
- Located south of Fort William at the base of Ben Nevis this large, well-equipped campground is your best bet for camping prior to starting the Great Glen Way.
- Moy Bridge Wild Campsite
- The first campsite you’ll encounter is the Moy Bridge wild campsite. Located next to the Moy Bridge over the Caledonian Canal this is a good option for your first night if you don’t want to stay in a developed campground.
- Gairlochy Holiday Park
- The Gairlochy Holiday Park is a good bet for your first night on the Great Glen Way. It is located just up the road from Gairlochy and has good facilities for campers.
- Glas-dhoire Wild Campsite
- This is our recommend campsite for your second night. Located on the shores of Loch Lochy.
- Leiterfearn Wild Campsite
- Located adjacent to the shoreline of Loch Oich, this wild campsite is a good place to stop at the end of Stage 3.
- Kytra Lock wild campsite
- One of the Trailblazer designed wild campsites along the Great Glen Way, this site is located adjacent to the canal.
- Inver Coille Campsite
- A popular campground on the shores of Loch Ness, this is the perfect place to stop at the end of Stage 4.
- Borlum Farm Campsite
- The Borlum Farm Campsite is located on the outskirts of Drumnadrochit and is our recommend stopping point at the end of Stage 5.
- Abriachan Campsite
- The Abriachan Cafe and Campsite is located in the hills above Loch Ness. A good place to spend the night if you’d like to split up the final stage.
- Bught Caravan & Campsite
- The Bught Caravan & Campsite is located in Inverness and is the perfect place to stay at the end of your trip. That is of course if you don’t plan on splurging for a hotel after walking 75+ miles!
Caledonian Canal Facilities
One of the great features of camping on the Great Glen Way is the ability to make use of several restrooms along the Caledonian Canal. These facilities are typically locked, but walkers, boaters, cyclists and others users of the canal can get easy access for just £10.
To do so, simply head to the Scottish Canals Corpach (near Fort William) or Inverness office during their opening hours to pay your fee and get a key. You’ll then need to return the key at the Scottish Canals Office in Inverness.
Alternatively, you can also arrange for the key to be posted to you by calling the canal office directly.
You can find more information on accessing these facilities on the Great Glen Canoe Trail website here.
Wild camping on the Great Glen Way
Wild camping is a staple of the Scottish wilderness experience. This type of camping seeks to minimize your impact on the surrounding environment by only staying for a single night and by limiting the size of your group.
Although the length of the Caledonian Canal is considered a Scheduled Ancient Monument, which typically prohibits wild camping, there are luckily several informal wild camping spots provided along the Great Glen Way.
These campsites can be broken into two broad categories: Trailblazer rest sites and canalside informal campsites. For all intents and purposes there isn’t much difference between the two, just be sure to only stay for a night and always practice Leave No Trace principles.
Outside of these designated wild camping spots you are not allowed to wild camp along the route of the Great Glen Way.
For anyone interested in wild camping along the Great Glen Way we always recommend reviewing the Scottish Access Outdoor Code as well.
Stage-by-stage Itinerary for Camping on the Great Glen Way
The following guide is based on a moderately paced 6-day itinerary. Starting in Fort William and finishing in Inverness, there is camping available every night of the route. In addition to the itinerary described below it is also possible to shorten or extend the time you spend walking the Great Glen Way by utilizing the campgrounds between stages.
Reservations are recommended for all of the formal campgrounds along the trail and prices are listed to the best of our knowledge.
Stage 0: Fort William
Distance & Elevation: N/A
Where to stay: Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping Park
The Great Glen Way officially begins in the center of Fort William. The town does not have a campground, but the nearby Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping Park provides a convenient option. Keep in mind that the campground is approximately 45 minutes walking from the center of Fort William.
For those who plan to camp here prior to starting the Great Glen Way you’ll want to plan on some additional time/distance for Stage 1.
Services at Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping Park
- Potable water
- Hot showers
- Dishwashing area
- Small shop
- Electronics charging
- WiFi (£2.00 per hour/£5.00 per day)
Nearby Glen Nevis and Fort William: There is a visitor center and a few restaurants in the village of Glen Nevis. Fort William is approximately 45 minutes away by foot. There you’ll find supermarkets, banks, a pharmacy, a hospital, restaurants/bars, an outdoor retailer, a post office, a library, and bus and train connections.
Stage 1: Fort William to Gairlochy Holiday Park
Distance & Elevation: 11.8 mi // +625 ft, -428 ft
Where to stay: Gairlochy Holiday Park
The first stage of the Great Glen Way is just under 12 miles and is a great introduction to the walk. The route is relatively flat and will let you get accustomed to hiking with your fully loaded backpack.
You’ll have two options for camping at the end of the first stage, the first being the Moy Bridge wild campsite and the second being the Gairlochy Holiday Park.
Moy Bridge does not have any amenities or restroom facilities and requires stopping a bit earlier in the day, so we recommend that most walkers opt to stay at the Gairlochy Holiday Park. This campground is approximately 15 minutes up the road from Gairlochy.
Services at Gairlochy Holiday Park
- Hot showers
- Dish washing area
Stage 2: Gairlochy Holiday Park to Glas-dhoire Wild Campsite
Distance & Elevation: 9.9 mi // +1,306 ft, -1,233 ft
Where to stay: Glas-dhoire Wild Campsite
The second stage of the Great Glen Way takes walkers to their first wild campsite of the trip, and an excellent one at that! Leaving Gairlochy hikers will follow the shore of Loch Lochy as they make their way to the Glad-dhoire wild campsite. This campsite is situated beautifully on the shores of the loch.
Be warned that the midges can be pretty bad here!
Services at Glas-dhoire Wild Campsite
- Small shelter
- Composting toilets
Stage 3: Glas-dhoire Wild Campsite to Leiterfearn Wild Campsite
Distance & Elevation: 7.1 mi // +902 ft, -866 ft
Where to stay: Leiterfearn Wild Campsite
Stage 3 of the Great Glen Way is a relatively easy one, covering just over 7 miles. The trail reaches the end of Loch Lochy and transitions to following the shores of Loch Oich. You’ll be headed to another excellent wild campsite, this time located at Leiterfearn.
Situated just up from the shore, the Leiterfearn wild campsite has space for eight tents, log seating, and two composting toilets.
Services at Leiterfearn Wild Campsite
- Composting toilets
Stage 4: Leiterfearn Wild Campsite to Inver Coille Camping
Distance & Elevation: 11.51 mi // +1,488 ft, -1,537 ft
Where to stay: Inver Coille Camping
Stage 4 takes walkers to the end of Loch Oich before tracing the route of the Caledonian Canal to Fort Augustus at the tip of Loch Ness. Just past Fort Augustus you’ll have the option to take the first high-route variant of the Great Glen Way, which we recommend.
However, do keep in mind that taking the high-route here will require some backtracking on the main trail to reach the Inver Coille Campground. We think it is worth it for the excellent views, but be sure to consider your own situation before opting to take the high route.
Your campground at the end of Stage 4 is the Inver Coille Campground, a lovely spot on the shores of Loch Ness. Keep in mind that given the current situation it is advised to inquire ahead at the campground, as they are unsure if they will be able to accommodate tent campers in 2021.
Services at Inver Coille Camping
- Hot showers
- Fire Pits
Stage 5: Inver Coille Camping to Borlum Farm Camping
Distance & Elevation: 17.11 mi // +2,731 ft, -2,759 ft
Where to stay: Borlum Farm Camping
Stage 5 presents walkers on the Great Glen Way with another high-route option. This alternative leaves the main trail just past Invermoriston and rewards hikers with excellent views of Loch Ness. Keep in mind that Stage 5 is over 17 miles long, so if you opt to take the high-route be prepared for a full days walk.
Your campground at the end of Stage 5 is the Borlum Farm Campground, located on the outskirts of Drumnadrochit. This large campground can accommodate caravans as well as tent campers and features excellent services.
Services at Borlum Farm Camping
- Laundry facilities
- Dish washing area
Price: Varies. See details here.
Stage 6: Borlum Farm Camping to Inverness
Distance & Elevation: 20.1 mi // +2,052 ft, -2,083 ft
Where to stay: Bught Caravan & Campsite
You’ve made it to the final stage of the Great Glen Way!
The route saves the hardest stage for last, with the final day’s walk covering over 20 miles! Early in the stage you’ll leave the shores of Loch Ness and turn inland where a fair amount of climbing awaits. About midway through the stage you’ll pass the Abriachan Cafe & Campsite. This is the perfect place to stay if you want to break up this long final stage, or at least stop to enjoy a cup of tea.
Upon reaching Inverness you’ll have the option to camp at the Bught Caravan & Campsite on the edge of town. Alternatively, Inverness is a great place to splurge on a hotel after spending the past several nights in your tent!
Services at Bught Caravan & Campsite
- Laundry facilities
- Small shop
What to Pack for Camping on the Great Glen Way
Packing for a camping trip along the Great Glen Way is an exercise in balancing needs vs wants. While having a few creature comforts can certainly make camping a more enjoyable experience, you’ll want to keep your pack weight as light as possible.
It’s simple- the heavier your pack, the harder your effort.
As such, we recommend focusing on bringing high-quality, lightweight equipment. With a little planning and strategy, you can keep the weight of your backpack manageable while still ensuring you have everything you need for your trip.
We’ve provided some general packing information for camping on the Great Glen Way below.
In general, you should be able to get by with a 40L – 60L backpack and the following essentials:
- Tent – we recommend this lightweight version from MSR
- Sleeping bag – best to be prepared for chilly Scottish nights.
- Camping stove + cook set – part of the allure of camping is getting to cook your own meals
- Good socks – we recommend Darn Tough socks for all long-distance hikes
- Rain jacket + rain pants – essential for campers hoping to stay dry!
- Hydration bladder – way easier than water bottles!
- Midge hat – An essential for any Scottish camping trip!
You’re well on your way to an incredible camping experience on the Great Glen Way. However, you still have lots of preparation before you’re truly ready! Be sure to read our entire series on the Great Glen Way to learn everything you’ll need to know for your trip!